“This,” I thought to myself when Aprilia’s 660cc, half-an-RSV4 engine broke cover at EICMA 2018, “is the perfect size and power for an adventure bike.” The brass at Aprilia were way ahead of me. Three new motorcycles were planned for the new mill from the start: the RS 660; the Tuono 660 that followed shortly thereafter; and finally a midsized adventure machine, the Tuareg 660. Aprilia invited Cycle World to Noale, Italy, the home of its design and engineering team, for a short ride on a preproduction unit, sight unseen. I like surprises. Let’s go.
Upon entering the front doors of Aprilia’s design studio, I was met by a covered motorcycle. A 1989 Tuareg Wind 600 sat across from the draped model. Under the veil I could see a 21-inch front wheel and Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR tires; a good start. After shaking hands with the Aprilia team, it was time to pull the cover and see what was underneath. Having been part of motorcycle development in previous roles at two manufacturers, I expected a fairly rough unit. But when the cover was drawn back, what I saw was a nearly finished machine.
It looked good. All the dimensions seemed right. There was adjustable suspension front and rear, tubeless cross-spoke wheels in off-road-friendly sizing of 21 and 18 inches, and a long narrow seat. At the front, LED headlights formed Aprilia’s signature three-light design below a nicely sized windscreen. Behind that, a 5-inch TFT dash, tapered handlebars, and tank that looked capable of holding some decent range. Although they were wearing masks, you could tell Aprilia’s head of vehicle engineering, Piero Soatti, and brand manager, Cristian Barelli, were smiling proudly.
Tuareg 660 Engine and Chassis
I was ready to hit the road, but simple good manners dictated we sit down and discuss the details of the Tuareg 660; work before play. There was no presentation, no marketing materials. Soatti asked us what we wanted to know, and we started with the engine, as it seemed the straightest path forward.
The Tuareg is powered by the same 659cc liquid-cooled DOHC parallel twin found in the RS 660 and Tuono 660. Differences are small and concentrated in the top end of the engine; the valve train features specific valve timing, lift, and duration, to coax more torque from the engine and lend the bike an ADV-friendly character. Soatti also pointed out the airbox, which features longer intake funnels for increased torque. Aprilia claims 80 hp at 9,000 rpm and 51.6 pound-feet of torque at 6,500 rpm. The RS and Tuono, in comparison, produce a claimed 100 hp at 10,500 rpm and 49.4 pound-feet at 8,500 rpm.
In terms of actual changes to the engine architecture, there are two: The oil sump is flatter to increase ground clearance, though oil capacity does not change; and the mounting points of the engine to the frame have been increased from three on the RS 660 and two on the Tuono to a total of six on the Tuareg. Two of them use a forged bracket at the front of the engine, attached to the cylinder and cylinder head. The swingarm pivot is the third mounting point, with the fourth and fifth above and below on the rear of the engine. The sixth and last is on the back of the cylinder head tying it to the frame with a triangular steel plate.
That engine has a full suite of ride modes and traction control settings for adventure riding. Our test unit did not display the full range of choices, as some settings are still being finalized, When it hits the market, four ride modes, Explore, Urban, Off-road, and Individual, will be tied to specific traction control and ABS settings with power delivery tailored to each of the three preset modes. Individual mode allows the rider to set their own throttle response, traction control, and ABS.
The chassis is where the Tuareg sets itself far apart from its 660-powered siblings. Rather than a twin-spar aluminum frame, Aprilia has fitted its adventure bike with a steel tube and plate frame which in turn incorporates a welded subframe. The decision to use steel came from the need to make the frame thin and light while providing the proper torsional and longitudinal flex character for ADV riding. This frame design also took the fuel tank into consideration, as fuel capacity had to be in the 18-liter (4.8-gallon) range, and to achieve that they needed the space between the top frame tubes and subframe structure for the tank and the centrally located airbox. A chunky aluminum frame would eat up too much space; the resulting bike would be too wide.
Fully adjustable Kayaba suspension is employed at both ends. Progressive-rate springs are used in the 43mm upside-down fork, while the piggyback rear shock is attached to a cast aluminum swingarm via linkage. Travel at both ends is 240mm (9.4 inches), a sweet spot for allowing off-road capability and the street performance that Aprilia says is important on any of its models.
Brand manager Barelli pointed out the goal for the Tuareg 660 was to create the best all-round Enduro (european for adventure motorcycles and dual sports), putting the target right between Yamaha’s Ténéré 700 and KTM’s 890 Adventure R. The right mix of power, weight, suspension travel, and cost would be crucial to the success of this new model. So what about the weight? Soatti proudly says it’s 187 kilos, dry. That’s 412 pounds before fluids, fuel, and battery. My guess-o-meter puts that right in the 455- to 460-pound range ready to ride. And the price? Barelli puts it around $11,500.
And then it was time to ride. Waiting outside, ready to go, was the latest preproduction unit. And just so you know, a preproduction unit, in the simplest terms, is the stage between the prototype and the actual production unit you’ll see on the sales floor. This may not have been a full-on production bike, but from 10 feet away you wouldn’t have known the difference. Some of the plastics were still missing their final texturing, but the overall shape and colors were complete. This is what the 2022 Tuareg 660 will look like. What’s missing is the traction control and ride modes. I get just one throttle response setting: Explore. ABS in the road and off-road modes were functional.
Let’s hit the road already!
Aprilia’s Tuareg 660 on the Street
Our route was a fairly short loop through the backroads and hills outside of Noale. First would be a series of roundabouts, motorway on-ramps, and curves to get a feel for the street handling. Aprilia’s head of testing for the Tuareg didn’t ease into it, either. This wasn’t an issue, however; the Tuareg fulfills the expectations of an Aprilia on the street. Turn-in is light and quick, and once in the corner handling remains light and nimble, with the ability to change your line with just a thought and small inputs. Despite the 21-inch front wheel and knobby-ish tires, the front-end feel is excellent and provides plenty of confidence while charging through the bends. Finishing a corner is a quick snap to upright without any front-end push or sluggishness. It also doesn’t care if you ride it like a sportbike, hanging off the inside, or a supermoto, pushing the bike down into the corner. It just works.
Power delivered from the parallel twin is satisfying, with noticeably more torque than the RS and Tuono, but you find yourself running out of revs quicker. Throttle response is snappy without being abrupt or jerking, at least in Explore mode. I personally would like a little more urgency and meat down low. The team at Aprilia says they are still working on the final power delivery in each mode, and the possibility for more is there. It’s good now; we hope it comes to market as great. On the street I found myself shifting at the 8,000-rpm mark to make the most of the torque and horsepower. Once you hit 9,000 revs, the engine is done doing its thing.
Ergonomics are excellent for my 5-foot-10 frame and 30-inch inseam. The seat height is a claimed 33.4 to 33.8 inches, but the reach to the pavement with both feet is easy thanks to a narrow seat front or back. Aprilia says the seat height is not the true indicator of how easy it is to touch both feet, but rather the measurement from the ground over the seat and back to the ground; after sitting on the Tuareg, I would have to agree. The tapered aluminum bars are wide, but not so much to cause you to stretch in full-lock turns. Legroom is ample from the seat to the large off-road-ready footpegs with removable rubber inserts. Wind protection from the windscreen works well for my height with just a small amount of high-frequency vibration found on my Klim Krios visor at highway speeds.
It was warm and humid, which led to one criticism: Heat from the dual core radiator pools around the backs of your legs at low and moderate speeds. Right behind the shrouds are radiator air exhaust events that are aimed right at your legs. It’s not painfully hot, but it is uncomfortable when the temp rises above 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Tuareg 660 in the Dirt
During my short ride on the Tuareg, I got the opportunity to hit a few gravel farm roads with speed, but this review cannot serve as a full assessment of the Tuareg’s dirt chops. I can, however, confirm that the chassis is balanced and a joy blasting down fairly tame dirt roads. It carries its weight fairly low thanks to the tank design, making it easy to toss around for quick adjustments while sliding and changing direction.
Laying down the power and modulating the throttle in the dirt is easy; the connection to the rear through the right grip gives excellent control on the marble-like gravel roads. Feedback and feel from the front tire is also very good, clearly communicating when you are nearing the limits of the Pirelli Scorpion Rally tire. The narrow seat and tank area gives plenty of room while standing and the Tuareg feels supremely skinny when off-road. In this limited test, it looks like Aprilia has been successful in creating a capable and competitive adventure bike for the dirt. What wasn’t clear is how well the suspension will cope with serious off-roading, but that will come soon enough at the official press launch.
Braking duties are handled by dual 300mm rotors matched to Brembo two-piston calipers in the front and a 260mm disc with a single-piston caliper in the rear. Overall the brakes have plenty of power and feel, even though the calipers are not radially mounted. On-road the ABS settings give plenty of margin before stepping in to right your wrongs. In the dirt, the off-road setting is a must and it works well. You can easily modulate and slide the rear end, while the ABS calibration in the front is confidence-inspiring, slowing the bike quickly even on the slickest gravel. Not once did I feel I needed to turn it off completely in the dirt.
Did Aprilia Succeed With the 2022 Tuareg 660?
Aprilia has shown its confidence in the Tuareg 660 by allowing me to ride it before all of the electronics and final details have been sorted out. After my short ride, I say that confidence is well founded; the Tuareg is going to be a real option for those looking at the Ténéré and Adventure 890 R. It has the power, chassis, and ergonomics needed for a worthy adventure mount. We look forward to riding the finished product. As it is, this first taste was very sweet.
2022 Aprilia Tuareg 660 Specifications (subject to change)
|Engine:||DOHC, liquid-cooled parallel twin; 4 valves/cyl.|
|Bore x Stroke:||81.0 x 63.9mm|
|Claimed Horsepower:||80 hp @ 9,000 rpm|
|Claimed Torque:||51.6 lb.-ft. @ 6,500 rpm|
|Fuel System:||Fuel injection|
|Front Suspension:||Kayaba 43mm inverted fork, fully adjustable; 9.4 in. travel|
|Rear Suspension:||Kayaba piggyback shock, fully adjustable; 9.4 in. travel|
|Front Brake:||Brembo 2-piston calipers, dual 300mm discs w/ ABS|
|Rear Brake:||Brembo 1-piston caliper, 260mm disc w/ ABS|
|Ground Clearance:||9.4–9.8 in.|
|Seat Height:||33.4–33.8 in.|
|Fuel Capacity:||4.8 gal.|
|Claimed Dry Weight:||412 lb.|
Helmet: Klim Krios Adventure Helmet
Jacket: Klim Baja S4 Jacket
Pant: Klim Baja S4 Pant
Gloves: Klim Dakar Glove
Boots: Alpinestars Tech-T Boots