As you may have already figured out, I like vehicles and manufacturers which tend not to worship at the cookie-cutter temple. This is true even when I really don’t care for their designs or their products. I lamented the passing of Buell, and I applaud Citroen which certainly marches to a different drummer (although their WRC cars are fantastic if conventional-looking). This brings me to today’s topic which is superbikes. The two hottest bikes to enter dealerships going into 2010 are not Japanese, but European. They shake up the industry and offer a unique take on a very mature market segment. And, they are from two of my favorite marques, Aprilia and BMW.
The Aprilia RSV4 is from a small Italian manufacturer that is known for going its own way. The RSV Mille of the 1990s and the RSVR (which inhabited the garage for a while) were aimed at those who wanted something different. The new bike’s styling could be described as derivative from the RSVR, with its elegant but minimal tail section, and hornet-looking face. The engine, however, is derivative of a WSBK competitor. The V4 configuration is compact, unique in sound, and combines with the chassis to create stellar reviews from almost all who have ridden the thing. The V4 is not the choice of most manufacturers (Honda has the long-running VFR), but that may change. This will be a hot ticket on track and off.
It can be argued that the BMW S1000RR is another homologation special. It is BMW’s first true Superbike, and it proves that they have simply been choosing over time not to enter this segment. Performance is staggering at 193hp, and initial reviews are almost universally positive. The styling is well, pure BMW. Function over form, which dictates an asymmetrical face that only an engineer could love, and asymmetrical sides of the bike as well. There will be no mistaking this bike for anything else, particularly in neon lime green!
Having now seen both of these in the flesh. I say bravo to Aprilia and BMW. They have met the challenge of building a competitive bike in one of the toughest segments, and they have done it with character and style. Bravo.