Comparison test two-cylinder sports tourer, Aprilia SL 1000 Falco, BMW R 1100 S, Ducati ST 4, Honda VTR 1000 F Firestorm, Suzuki TL 1000 S
The fifth Element
So far, the world of the big V2 sports tourers has revolved around BMW, Ducati, Honda and Suzuki. Now the Aprilia SL 1000 Falco would like to add one dimension to our worldview.
Autumn. Cold, fresh air in the morning, fog over the valleys, golden leaves that also line the paths. A deep blue azure colors the sky and at noon the sun paints warm light over the landscape. What a time to ride a motorcycle: Now that the harvest has come in and the tractors are in the barn, now that the Sunday excursionists are crowded into the coffee house. Where there is silence over the country, as if created to stage the full-bodied singing of an engine. Lonely roads, moody cornering, eating kilometers, enjoying the views, the motorcycle adventure world.
An incomparable pleasure, which can be intensified with the right mobile pedestal. It has to be a driving machine, with a nimble, good-natured driving behavior, with an easily controllable, characterful motor, with a successful seating position for lonely and two tours, and with functionality without hidden spoilsport. In short: a sports tourer, and preferably one with a large-volume two-cylinder engine.
Such all-rounders do not have to be invented first, because the sports boxer BMW R 1100 S, the Diva Ducati ST 4 or the two Samurai Honda VTR 1000 F and Suzuki TL 1000 S have long been vying for the favor of pleasure bikers with outstanding qualities. All the more daring of Aprilia to venture into this well-saturated pool and launch the SL 1000 Falco.
It polarized from the start, and not just because of its name, the ?? probably involuntarily – reminded of a blessed Viennese bard. The design divides spirits with astonishing potential for controversy. Examples? A prominent test and tire luminary reacted extremely irritated, the MOTORRAD technician missed the clear line, while the author complained of great lines or a MOTORRAD graphic designer raved that the SL 1000 looked "like a piece of wind".
Well, as is well known, taste can be argued, sometimes loudly. Not about functional qualities, however, and the Falco is bursting with them. There would be the Rotax engine, from the sportsman sister RSV mille actually known as a bit crude. For use in the sports tourism Falco, the technicians modified the engine management map – or "mapping" in new German – the exhaust gas is also disposed of by a large-volume silencer. Modifications that support a harmonious performance curve, which in turn benefits the torque curve. So the Aprilia, closely followed by the TL 1000 S, sets the maximum power and torque. Less often than with the RSV Mille, the large-volume 60-degree V2 lets the chain whip at 3500 rpm. But it hangs softly, easily controllable and yet spontaneously on the gas, accelerates powerfully, vibrates only minimally and pulls powerfully.
The 118 horses measured by the SL enable excellent driving performance and pulling power. This is due on the one hand to the well-functioning and harmoniously stepped gearbox (compared to the RSV, the SL has a slightly shorter gear ratio), and on the other hand to the successful aerodynamics, which gives the Falco good wind protection in addition to the highest top speed. It is really remarkable how little effort the driver has to put up with the elements at speeds over 200. In addition, longer stages can be survived without physical agony, even though the composition of handlebars, pegs and seat is still comfortable, but quite stretched out in a sporty way. This applies all the more to the rear seat, but remains within the limits of the competition.
It’s nice that the equipment is also right around it: three powerful H7 headlights show the way through the dark, the cockpit known from the RSV provides information on several levels, the cranking of the handlebars and the narrow knees are right. Well, maybe you always need a level surface to park it safely, maybe more could be seen in the rear-view mirrors. Overall, the motorcycle looks very well thought out and is also well made.
The driving behavior confirms this great impression. The SL drives great, great, great, so great that, once said, would be too little. Handling? The reference. The Falco wags playfully from incline to incline, through the narrowest streets and wide, fast arcs. Cornering behavior? Top. She hits the targeted line precisely and casually, which she then holds stoically and leaves again on command, reliably and lightly. If the SL were alive, it would have to have been born in a curve, because it lives and celebrates the sloping position down to the deepest angles.
And the characteristic roaring engine makes the chassis sprinter, but it never robs it. It almost goes without saying that the spring elements have the right answer ready for every road surface and convince with damping reserves and responsiveness. Sure, actually, that the brakes underpin the good performance of the Falco, although they should bite a bit harder. Tilting tendencies when braking are kept within limits, as is criticism of the Metzeler ME Z 3 original tires, which interact extremely harmoniously with the Aprilia. Truly, these Noal can build motorcycles, and indeed, the SL 1000 is even more convincing than the super sporty RSV Mille due to its range.
A great debut that the competition throws at their proven qualities. The 90-degree V2 of the Suzuki TL 1000 S, for example, relies on its well-known abilities and is even more sophisticated than the Aprilia Twin. Starting at 2000 rpm, the TL gently and jerk-free pushes massive amounts of power into the asphalt, vibrations never disturb, it hangs great on the gas, a drive like velvet and silk that achieves the best torque on the bottom line and pleases with moderate drinking habits when driving quickly on country roads. The transmission shines like a brother thanks to its easy shiftability and precise locking. It is a pleasure to select the gear train stages in cooperation with the smooth clutch, which also prevents the dreaded rear wheel stamping when downshifting hard.
As much as the drive is pleasing, the rest of the TL 1000 proves to be average. Be it the extra-wide rear tire that, in conjunction with the insensitive steering damper, makes the line through the curve a slalom. Or the fork, which is adjustable in rebound and compression damping, but only gives you the choice between hardly any and flimsy damping. The rotary vane damper at the rear is also annoying, which has to be readjusted after driving ten kilometers on the country road, but actually never works satisfactorily.
In addition, there are the strong set-up moments when braking or on bumps, the Suzuki is bursting with features that work against sporting fun. The TL has quite sporty attributes, such as the crouching, elongated sitting position or the breathtaking freedom of leaning. Unfortunately, however, she cannot implement these talents as well as the others, at least in series. After all, their relatively low cost price leaves some financial leeway for modifications.
The ST 4 in the facelifted 2000 version already has a few better cards up its sleeve. Extremely comfortable and nevertheless pretty sporty, it underpins its good reputation, loves moody cornering, wonderfully swings stable through the bends, trumpets its pithy Ducati sound from the two silencers with great ease. And it is fast, runs stoically straight ahead, while also offering acceptable wind protection. Their impressive economy delights long-distance drivers on the one hand, and gives the engine management programming top marks on the other.
It is also gratifying that the Bolognese took a number of points of criticism to heart: The treacherous snap-in side stand, which has been the cause of many a failure, has had its day. Instead, it is supported by a lock and ignition breaker, a standard that has been tried and tested by the Japanese for tens of years. How to deal with the stiff clutch – so far a torture tool in everyday stop-and-go? From now on, a new pump with a smaller hydraulic piston on the hand lever is made easier. There are also new Brembo brakes, which for the first time offer no cause for criticism, as well as features such as a U-lock, a twelve-volt socket for the needs of the cell phone age, a 180/55 tire at the rear ?? the test motorcycle rolled very comfortably on Michelin Macadam 90 ?? and finally an electronic tachometer. Equipped in this way, the ST 4 leaves a really good driving impression. The high cost price, on the other hand, is a bit out of the ordinary.
The BMW R 1100 S, the third European in the test field, is also relatively expensive. The Bavarian gives the impression that the material has not been saved. The somewhat massive presence has less of an effect on weight than expected: With no special equipment – such as ABS, main stand or heated grips – this R 1100 S weighs a whopping 16 kilograms less than the previous full dressers. And, with all due respect, less seems to be more here.
The S drives noticeably more light-footed than before, offers plenty of ground clearance in an inclined position without the main stand and brakes, even without ABS, with a good bite and easy to adjust. In addition, the BMW comes up with a generous payload? almost 40 kilos more than the competition? and is recommended as a real travel vehicle.
Has the pilot once focused on the idiosyncrasies of the concept? always pulling on the rear wheel and little pressure on the handlebars? tea sports boxer can be chased so effortlessly through the mountains, wrapped around the serpentines so loosely, that it is a real pleasure. The wide handlebars and the upright, almost Enduro-like seating position make steering and control much easier for the BMW driver. In addition, it sits comfortably and is protected from the wind. And the torque of the boxer helps especially on narrow streets, although it vibrates heavily above 5000 rpm – which is particularly annoying on long stretches of the motorway? and only reluctantly pays out performance.
D.hat cannot be said of the 90-degree V2 of the VTR 1000 F. It does its job rough, but spares the driver from grueling vibrations. In addition, it shines with its bearish torque, which it cannot always use due to the relatively long lower gears, especially not against the ?? You already guessed? Aprilia. In view of the slim tank, the drinking habits of the exhaust-gas-cleaned 1000 series are annoying, because the Honda always limited the length of the stage in the comparison crowd. And finally, a sports tourer should offer better protection from the wind, but it works for the others too.
Annoying details that the Honda more than outweighs in other places, because in driving behavior it comes close to the Aprilia. The VTR is also child’s play and uncomplicated to drive, has no real chassis weaknesses, celebrates the interaction between the roaring engine and uncomplicated chassis with impressive ease, maybe loses a bit due to its long lower gears. Brakes? Flawless. Spring elements? Absolutely okay. Erection moments? Almost unknown. If it did not have these everyday weaknesses such as high fuel consumption, low range or moderate wind protection, in the battle for second to fourth place, it would set itself apart from its opponents with whom it fights such a head-to-head race. The real surprise of this illustrious test field is the Aprilia SL 1000 Falco. That is because it direct its opponents to their places right away.
4th place – Ducati ST 4th
The ST 4 lands a little ungrateful in fourth square? the gap to the second-placed Honda is very small. The Millenium-ST 4 is a first-class sports tourer that eliminates many of the criticisms of its predecessor: finally, flawless brakes, a smooth clutch, a practical side stand. The qualities of the engine and chassis have actually never been in question. Above all, the high price recommends the ST 4 to enthusiasts.
3rd place – BMW R 1100 S.
The R 1100 S crowns itself ?? in the slim basic version without ABS, heated grips and main stand ?? to the viceroy of the small mountain roads. Viceroy? Well, the Aprilia whizzes through narrow asphalt worms just as quickly. In return, the BMW plays out its comfortable seating position, which makes work easy for the casually enthroned driver. On the subject of tourers: By far the largest payload makes the S the number one long-distance travel recommendation. If only the engine were more sophisticated now…
5th place – Suzuki TL 1000 S
What a motor, the 90-degree V2 of the TL 1000 S. It pulls in powerfully and smoothly even from the lowest speeds, climbs the high-performance mountains in a cultivated manner and full of revving, guides its horses through a wonderful transmission. But propulsion isn’t everything on a motorcycle. The chassis also has to play along, and the Suzuki has deficits here: the suspension elements are too soft, the handling is too imprecise and problematic. The competition of the Suzuki is now ahead.
1st place – Aprilia SL 1000 Falco
Fire, water, air, earth – SL 1000 Falco, the fifth element. The Aprilia pushes into the sports touring segment so well-equipped that it outperforms the competition straight away. Even the greatest critics fail to find serious flaws. Well, it turned out to be pretty sporty. But the tourist also enjoys this supple, light-footedness, this casual sovereignty. Aprilia SL 1000 Falco, a new total work of art in the motorcycle world.
2nd place – Honda VTR 1000 F
With the indescribable ease of driving, the Honda conquered the second place. Easy going in every way, be it when cornering, braking or accelerating, the VTR is simply fun. However, she loses valuable points in the everyday rating: she drinks too much, does not use much fuel, has the worst wind protection and the poorest equipment. But it is the cheapest in comparison, and that’s really not bad.
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