APRILIA TUAREG 660 RIDE REVIEW | IS THIS A TENERE KILLER?

Facebook
Twitter

Leatt’s all-new Adventure gear, your adventure protection against all elements.

 

Perfect for whatever journey you have ahead, Leatt’s all-new adventure range is designed for all seasons. With a selection of premium adventure gear to suit your riding preference, whether you need to keep cool or dry the Leatt lab has been engineering the science of thrill for you. The all-new gear is adaptable to any changing weather so you can continue your journey in safety and comfort.

 

Begin Your Journey »

ADVERTISEMENT

The Aprilia Tuareg 660 lineup in its three colours

The Aprilia Tuareg 660 has been launched in Australia.

That’s an interesting event for me; if I may take a moment of personal exposition.

I know less about Aprilia than I did about Harley-Davidson when I tested the Pan America. Coming from the dirt side of motorcycling, I’ve had nothing to do with core road brands and I’ve never shared a trail nor paddock or shed with an Aprilia.

I have no touchpoint for the brand to influence me one way or another and it’s been interesting watching road brands find a slice of the distant past to present now as proof of offroad roots.

Ducati is pointing to the late 90s Cagiva Elefant which ran a Desmo engine to give a historical reference to the Desert X. Meanwhile, MV Agusta is imploring you to remember the same bike, but it wants you to think mostly about Lucky Strike, forget that the bike was a Cagiva and somehow think of it now as an MV Agusta – which is currently 49% Russian owned – and embrace the bike’s Italian heritage.

I know we’re living in a time when you can have two dads, but Jesus…

The Martian Red is kinda nice yeah?


So, I say forget that Aprilia built a Tuareg four decades ago. Who cares? Things were a bit shit back then anyway. You had to wind your car windows up and down, get out of your chair to change the TV channel and left-hand kick starters hadn’t yet been hunted and melted down.

Further to that, let’s just slide straight past Aprilia’s Caponord. A bike that looked like a bag of dog food with handlebars.

Let’s just slide straight past Aprilia’s Caponord. A bike that looked like a bag of dog food with handlebars.



To its credit, Aprilia hasn’t leant too heavily on models built in an era that viewed Pacman as a technological marvel. It’s presented the new Tuareg 660 as a fresh machine born from contemporary needs and wants and although it hasn’t played in the adventure world for decades, it has dropped a motorcycle that shows it did its homework well.

A simple and clean cockpit – USB outlet on the bottom left of the TFT

TUAREG 660 VITAL STATS

The Tuareg was released a little while ago in Europe, so I won’t labour numbers that have been freely thrown around for weeks. These are the most important statistics that you need to know when compiling a mental picture of the bike though.

The engine is a 270° parallel twin that throws down a claimed 82Hp at 9300RPM and 70NM at 6600RPM. The same engine can be found in Aprilia’s Tuono 660 and the RS 660 which itself pumps out 100Hp, suggesting there’s more mumbo to mine for should you need extra poke from the Tuareg.

The bike weighs in at a claimed 204 kilograms fully fuelled which is about the same as Yamaha’s Tenere 700. It has a seat height of a very reasonable 830mm (Tenere is 880mm), but still offers excellent ground clearance of 240mm.



The suspension is Kayaba front and back with 43mm forks and 240mm travel on offer at both ends as well as a 21/18-inch wheelset to complement. The brakes are Brembo with dual 300mm discs up the front and a 260mm disc at the rear.

The TFT screen is easy to read, and the controls are simple enough to learn and use from the first ride onward.

The four modes include Urban, which offers the least aggressive throttle response coupled with the lowest degree of engine braking and is suited to commuting or general road riding.

Explore mode adds more aggression with a medium level of engine braking for more dynamic road excursions.

The two road modes are not customisable beyond the traction control setting.

Off-Road mode is fully customisable with a default setting of full aggression output, the highest level of engine braking, low-level traction control and ABS off at the rear.

Individual mode is as the name suggests, completely customisable and ready for you to set up in a style that suits your riding.

Somewhat similar to the KTM switchblock offering

My ideal set-up was full aggression, medium engine braking, no traction control and ABS off at both the front and the rear.

And best of all, the Tuareg remembers your settings, even if you switch the bike off with the key.
The bike isn’t fitted with an IMU, which is a nervous system of sensors responsible for always tracking the bike’s angle and adjusting the delivery of ABS and traction control accordingly.

The Tuareg doesn’t need it. It’s not enough of a handful and fitting it would only add unwanted cost and complexity.

A quality Lithium Iron Phosphate battery keeps the whole thing powered with less weight than a lead battery and even has a test strip so you can check the charge levels.

The big air filter is very easy to reach and change, sitting in a similar position to the 890 Adventure’s just behind the steering stem. Massive thumbs up for that.

One of the longest bench seats you’ll find

STAR OF THE SANDPIT

The engine is gifted a remarkably throaty growl that builds to a deeply satisfying howl as the revs rise. It’s impressively smooth with barely any perceptible vibration and while it can be categorised as somewhat mild, it isn’t boring.

The Tuareg 660 is not a bike that derives its maximum forward momentum through the excessive use of the throttle. It’s fast offroad because it handles technical terrain better than almost every other adventure bike on the planet.

But it isn’t the star of the show. That’s the handling package which, at this point, will bound into the picture like an ebullient game show host.

Breaking news…Damo found water. Again.

You can have an engine built by Satan’s minions putting out all the horsepower the seventh circle of hell workshop can imprison in the available cubic centimetres, and it could crescendo at peak revs that would make a MotoGP bike clutch its pearls.

But if it has a poor suspension/chassis package then you’re just riding a gimpy mule with Phar Lap’s heart.

Our test day was held largely in the sands tracks around Mildura in Victoria. Now, the pairing of adventure bikes and sand can cause palpitations and we recommend you see your doctor before mixing the two.

The pairing of adventure bikes and sand can cause palpitations and we recommend you see your doctor before mixing the two.

A section of the single trail that the Tuareg aced

I’m generally lukewarm about riding in the sand; it can be the best of times and it can be the worst of times and for a manufacturer to back its product to impress in an arena many would fake their death to avoid, said a lot about how confident Aprilia is in the Tuareg 660.

The early road sections showed the bike to be comfortable with no changes needed to the ergos for me. The non-adjustable windscreen was OK for me, but anyone over the 6-foot mark will want an extension.

The grips felt decent (heated grips are an option) and the handguards are OK, but you’ll want a tougher set for vigorous offroad riding.

The enduro-style bench seat is the longest I’ve ever seen on a bike, and it affords you complete freedom to move about and is comfortable throughout a full day.

As we made our way into the first dirt section, a long, long straight with a light dusting of sand allowed us to open the throttle and feel how the bike behaved at speed on a surface that takes pleasure in changing your indented course without warning or consultation.

The Tuareg sat on top of the sand and tracked sweetly, giving the first indication of just how light the bike felt. As we transitioned to harder-packed tracks, the bike felt stable on the more skittish and marbled surface and reinforced how comfortable the ride is with the Kayaba suspension soaking up every little bump and rise.

Happy in the tight – happy in the open

Soon enough we found our first real challenge in a section of sandy single trail. And I mean true single trail that would occasionally open to about a foot-and-a-half wide but often only offered a track with a width of your rear wheel.

The track was dotted with whoops and bermed turns, low-hanging tree branches and varying depths and softness of sand. It was the sort of track that calls to a 350EXC-F rider but generally repels the adventure rider.

The Tuareg didn’t just handle it well, it obliterated the single trail. Without a single change to the clickers or preload, it blasted in and tore the track to pieces. I soon wound some preload on at the shock and sped the rebound up and then ducked back in…it got better. I then wound some preload onto the front and went back in again and the Aprilia continued to blow my mind.

Aside from KTM’s 890 Adventure R, I don’t think I could ride any other stock adventure bike like the way I rode the Tuareg on that long single trail.

Aside from the 890, I don’t think I could ride any other adventure bike like the way I rode the Tuareg on that long single trail.

This is a first attempt at a modern adventure bike, and I’ve already dismissed the Tenere 700 and allowed a comparison to an 890.

There’s a very deliberate effort from Aprilia to lower mass in a way the Tenere 700 misses big time. The Tuareg’s 18-litre fuel tank sits low and spreads its load from the front to halfway back under the seat. This has a huge effect on the bike’s overall feel.

It clearly doesn’t go as low as the tank on an 890 but it finds a sweet spot right between the Yamaha and Kato in how it carries its weight and this is a masterstroke by the Tuareg 660 engineers.

The nimbleness of the Aprilia, the ease with which it flips from side to side and responds to inputs from the throttle, bars and body weight is astonishing. It feeds back to the rider like an enduro bike and most of that feel comes from the handling package which starts with a well-balanced set-up and accepts fine tuning well from there on.

Australians love that adventure/enduro hybrid and the Tuareg 660 was showing itself to be one of the very best examples of the concept.

We found a medium-paced track that was still easy to get caught out on. A lot of sand, some twisty stuff and very rough patches with large holes.

And every now and then an open stretch that let the bike wind-out and believe me, you can punt on the Aprilia and it will ride so stable only a check of the speedo will let you know you’re at a pace that will break an errant kangaroo in two.

Its not a bolter but the engine is brilliantly manageable

ENGINE ROOM

The 659cc engine is somewhat deceiving. It’s a moderate output but reminiscent of the 701 Enduro, it doesn’t try to jump out from under you and serves to be very easy to manage in the trickiest of terrains.

It’s well-fuelled and the gear ratios are spot on. It will sit happily on 120kph or rev hard through a soft surface in second and really only finds a drop-off right at the top after the 130/135kph mark.

The movement through the much-used mid-range is more of a push than a pounce which makes it perhaps less exciting but more focussed on maintaining traction and I suspect the guys that love to push the bush boundaries will appreciate that.

The exhaust offers a great note at revs

The measured output also allows you to switch off traction control without a worry about the back end going in its own direction. The traction control on board is pretty good, just not needed at all times.

And the exhaust note is brilliant. Particularly when smashing the revs in a lower gear where the wind noise doesn’t spoil the fun.

Damo jumping a gypsum hopper

APRILIA TUAREG 660 CONCLUSION

For a first effort (after 40 years out of adventure), this is an astonishing bike.

It’s priced at $22,230 ($22,530 for the Indaco Tungelmust colourway), which sits it right between its two closest rivals, the Tenere 700 and the 890 Adventure R.

It has more tech than the Yamaha, hence the greater price, but less than the KTM hence the lower price. The 890 is also a bigger, substantially more powerful bike and it really is the Tenere (ironically named after the desert where the Tuareg people lived), that the Aprilia has firmly in its sights.

I have no problem with the price, but with one proviso. The bike is better than the Tenere 700 across technical terrain and I prefer the Aprilia to the Yamaha in a number of ways. But is it as reliable in the long term?

Somebody is having a very good day

This is a question that only time, not a one-day launch can answer. The build quality looks to be excellent and I have no reason to doubt it, but Australians are hard on their adventure bikes and it will be tested. The next 12 months will be crucial in proving its durability.

The way we rode gave no true indication of the bike’s fuel range too. The claim is 450 kilometres but claimed ranges these days seemed to be based on the backside of a hill with a tailwind and heavy flatulence. I can see it hitting 350 with normal riding but that’s something I hope I can test more thoroughly sometime in the future.

Also, Aprilia doesn’t have a large dealer network like much of its competition. They assured us they have plenty of stock though so should you visit and feel inspired to bang the wallet on the counter, bikes are waiting to find homes.

Testing the waterproofing of the Giant Loop Fandango bag once again

There’s a decent array of optional extras available and no doubt the aftermarket vendors have sprung into action to add more. The three colours are vibrant and distinct with Martian Red my personal favourite. There is a lot to like.

So, are you after a low-weight, nimble adventure bike? If you are you just can’t make a purchase without considering the Tuareg. I can’t wait to ride this bike again. It was fun in a way adventure bikes generally aren’t and should it prove to be robust enough for Aussie conditions and its riders, it will kick some seriously dirty arse.