NEW Aprilia Tuareg 660 Review 2022

 

Back in the mists of time, or the 1970s as it was known, Aprilia – a company better-known today for its road racing and road bike success – had genuine off-road pedigree, winning competitions in motocross, enduro and trials, and building a range of road legal off-road machines. There was the Scarabeo, the RX range and the ETX125 – and, in the mid-80s, a range of Tuaregs: small-bore two-strokes, a 350 single and the daddy, the Rotax-powered 562cc single, named after a Saharan tribespeople, (not a VW SUV) and clearly stating the company’s intention to compete in the Paris-Dakar rally. A racing project was born and in 1989 a factory Aprilia entered the competition for the first and, so far, last time, finishing 20th (although a privately owned, factory supported RXV450 raced in 2010).

 

 

But by then Aprilia bosses were being seduced by the glamour (and expense) of Grand Prix racing – and that’s where they chose to put their efforts – with not a little success, as it turned out.

The Tuareg name continued to grace the fuel tank of a road bike into the early 1990s, but Aprilia’s interest in a desert replica had waned and the bike morphed into the softer Pegaso, with sporadic off-road models popping up from time to time – if you count the RXV450, a few small-bore enduro and motocross 125s and the CapoNord adventure bike.

Until now. With the development of Aprilia’s 659cc parallel twin, powering the RS660 sportsbike and Tuono 660 roadster, the Tuareg name is back.

BikeSocial is in Sardinia to ride it, on and off-road.

 

2022_Aprilia Tuareg 660_08
New Aprilia Tuareg 660 (2022) Review | On and off road

The Tuareg features Aprilia’s 660 parallel twin, retuned and housed in a new frame with long travel suspension for genuine off-road chops as well as on-road handling performance. It’s a direct rival for Yamaha’s Ténéré 700 – but can it match the Yam’s all-round brilliance?

For and against
  • Engine – lots of go in it
  • Induction roar – boy it’s loud and boy it sounds good
  • Handling – good for showing poorly ridden sportsbikes where to go
  • Tubeless rims – just less hassle, usually
  • Lack of beak – I can’t stop wondering where it’s gone
  • Plasticky look – too many black plastic panels and they look cheap
  • Non-detachable subframe – not alone in this class, but potentially a pain

 

2022 Aprilia Tuareg 660 price and availability

The Tuareg comes in three colours: Acid Gold and Martian Red, which both start at £10,600, and the premium Indaco Tagelmust, with nods back to the original 1980’s Tuareg, for £11,100 (a Tagelmust is the cotton headscarf worn by the Tuareg; Indaco is Indigo). A 47bhp A2 licence version is also available.

 

 

The Tuareg comes with a full roster of accessories including aluminium side panniers (mounted to a rack), an aluminium top box (also requires a mounting plate), crash bars, LED fog lights, a centre stand, shark fin, touring screen, ‘comfort’ seats with added foam (in three different heights: standard, adding 20mm or reducing by 20mm), and an up/down quickshifter.

Orders are being taken now, and the Tuareg will be in dealers by early December.

Yamaha’s Ténéré 700, the Tuareg’s obvious direct rival and the bike against which everyone (including me) will be comparing the Aprilia, is roughly a grand cheaper: £9502 in standard trim and £10,802 for the Rally version with a paint job, Akrapovic and cosmetic extras.

 

2022_Aprilia Tuareg 660_12

 

Aprilia Tuareg 660 power and torque

The Tuareg’s 659cc, 270° 8-valve parallel twin engine features the same basic architecture as the motor powering the RS660 sportsbike and Tuono roadster, but retuned with a bias to fewer revs and more bottom end to better suit off-road riding.

Peak power is 80bhp @ 9250rpm and peak torque is 52 lb/ft @ 6500rpm – that’s 20bhp less and 1250rpm down on the RS, but with 3 lb/ft more at 2000rpm fewer revs.

Yamaha’s Ténéré 700 motor makes a claimed 72bhp @ 9000rpm and 50 lb/ft @ 6500rpm, which is pretty close to, but definitely lower than, the Tuareg’s figures.

 

2022_Aprilia Tuareg 660_13

 

The changes to the Tuareg’s power delivery are a bit more than altering the engine’s fueling and ignition curves – reprofiled cams increase lift and reduce overlap (the length of time the exhaust and intake valves are open at the same time at the start of the intake stroke) which tends to limit peak power (it’s effectively throttling the motor at high revs) but can also shift peak torque peak lower in the revs – it’s compressing the engine’s ability to do work into a shorter rev range. It’s what manufacturers do to meet Euro 5 regs (because with less overlap there’s more complete combustion and less chance of unburned mixture getting into the exhaust) – but the 660 motor is already Euro 5, so the Tuareg is Euro 5+ (I just made that standard up). As an idea of how clean the engine is, the RS660 emits 116g of CO2 per kilometre; the Tuareg 99g. It’s not exactly the saving the planet, but at least the Tuareg is asphyxiating it more slowly.

There are other changes to the Turareg’s motor over the RS660 – the oil sump is shallower with redesigned oil feed to the crank, to allow for greater ground clearance (it’s 240mm, same as the Ténéré ), while maintaining oil capacity.

 

2022_Aprilia Tuareg 660_15

 

Engine feel and performance

The Tuareg’s parallel motor is the lateral sawn-off front half of Aprilia’s V4 – same head, combustion chamber, cylinders and pistons. It even has the same stroke length. Some critics of the parallel twin’s character have jokingly suggested it’s a shame Aprilia didn’t cut the V4 in half along the longitudinal plane and make the 660 a V-twin, but with its 270°, V-twin-style firing interval the Tuareg is still an incredibly narrow, compact motor. It’s tilted back by a few degrees in the Tuareg’s frame over its position in the RS660, to increase front wheel clearance, get the correct exhaust length, and optimize centre of gravity for the Tuareg’s new frame.

 

2022_Aprilia Tuareg 660_16

 

The Tuareg engine has plenty of shout – the bwaaaarp induction roar from its central air intake at the front of the tank has a proper teeth to it and pinning the throttle is so loud I wonder if Aprilia forgot to put an air filter in. It’s deafening, in a good way. Maybe it’s the bike’s 48mm diameter throttle bodies giving good throat – they’re pretty wide and gulpy for such a small-bore engine.

The Tuareg’s motor feels livelier than the RS660’s engine, even though it’s making 20bhp less at the top end. The way its energy is compacted into a shorter rev range, accentuated by a shorter first gear and shorter overall gearing (with two fewer teeth on the gearbox sprocket over the RS660) gives the Tuareg a crisp, punchy, get-up-and-go drive from the moment the clutch is let out. This translates into a fair bit of wheelie-ability in first and second gear – it’s that pokey – and gallons of overtaking muscle. There wasn’t a lot of chance to spend time on the road checking out the Tuareg’s cruising ability – Sardinia has too many outstandingly twisty coastal and mountain roads to spend long with a bike upright – but the engine pulls around 5000rpm at 80mph and has plenty left to make that a useful cruising speed without any feeling of stressing the engine. As the Tuareg can be seen, among things, as an entry-level adventure bike, the ability to cruise and feel like the engine isn’t about to blow a gasket sitting on a motorway is an important asset.

The Tuareg’s motor bears interesting comparison to Yamaha’s Ténéré: the Yam has 30cc more than the Aprilia, they share similar bore and stroke figures, and make similar peak torque at the same 6500rpm. But they feel very different – the Yamaha’s central characteristic is fun; it’s a funky, smoothly-rounded, goofy kind of engine, always peppy and giddy on its internal combustion. The Aprilia motor is a bit faster and stronger with a deeper growl – and it feels a more serious motor; its central characteristic is a bit more sober and naturally focused than the ditzy Ténéré. On the road, I’d say the Tuareg has the legs on the Yam in terms of engine performance.

 

2022_Aprilia Tuareg 660_17

 

But on the road is only half the story – off-road, the Tuareg’s sharper, more raucous power delivery gives extends its operating range beyond novice and easy-time off-road riding to something a bit more serious and dedicated. The Ténéré’s softly-tuned motor makes it perfect for softly-softly off-roading; it’s benign and relatively docile. Both bikes have handy bottom-end performance and will dig in and grunt out of ruts and round tight hairpins; according to my memory, the Yamaha is the easier bike to trickle along in first gear picking the right path over rocks and rubble – the Tuareg is slightly more insistent to get the throttle open and, as a result, more likely to stall. But, in general, the Tuareg’s fuelling is perfect – no snatch, no hesitation, with a nice connection between throttle and wheel.

 

2022_Aprilia Tuareg 660_18

 

Gearbox and exhaust

The Tuareg’s gearbox is neat and tidy once it has some temperature (and possibly mileage) on it – the very first thing in the morning, with the engine still cold, it was impossible to find neutral. By midday, I realized it hadn’t been a problem since that morning, and wasn’t a trouble for the rest of the test ride. All other changes are flawless – but the bike I’m riding is fitted with Aprilia’s aftermarket up/down quickshfter, which is a good one (it revs up quite hard on the downshift).

The Tuareg’s exhaust has a deeper tone than the Yamaha Ténéré’s, but it’s hard to hear it over the row of the Aprilia’s induction roar.

 

2022 Aprilia Tuareg 660 economy

The Tuareg comes with an 18-litre tank and a cool – and doubtless cheap – old-style plastic filler cap (no hinge). Aprilia claim 58.8mpg which would give a tank range of 230 miles; reserve at 180 miles. The actual average mpg over the course of the test ride was 48mpg, meaning a full-to-empty of 190 miles and reserve at 150 miles. This ties up with the 140-mile test ride leaving the fuel gauge showing one bar left.

The Ténéré 700’s tank is smaller than the Tuarag’s, at 16 litres – but the motor is a bit more efficient and averages in the low 50s mpg, taking the Yam 130 miles to reserve. So the Tuareg definitely has the advantage, and the more moderately you ride it the bigger that advantage gets.

 

2022_Aprilia Tuareg 660_19

 

Handling: frame, suspension and weight

The Tuareg’s frame is, of course, completely different to the RS660 and Tuono – it’s a steel tube trellis, with an aluminium swingarm. For reasons best known to Aprilia, the subframe isn’t detachable – which means, like the Ténéré, if you bend or damage the subframe – either in a crash or by dropping the bike awkwardly with metal panniers on – the whole thing can be written off.

Actually, they’re not reasons best known to Aprilia because I asked them: according to the engineers, one issue is maintaining the frame’s torsional stiffness with a removable subframe – and adding cross-bracing members to reinforce the weak areas apparently adds too much weight to the design. It all sounds a bit chinny-chin to me; I suspect the real reason is because it would add too much cost (although I can’t see how). When a manufacturer doesn’t do something so obvious, it’s not because they haven’t thought of it, it’s because it’s too expensive.

The Aprilia and Yamaha claim an identical 204kg wet weight. But the Tuareg feels the lighter of the two – maybe because it’s stiffer and taller; forks are 43mm fully adjustable KYB and the rear is a fully adjustable KYB shock (same as the Ténéré) but the Aprilia’s suspension has 240mm wheel travel compared to the Yamaha’s 210 and 200mm travel.

Achieving Aprilia’s signature on-road handling dynamic was a key target of the Tuareg’s development – and the Tuareg has a more controlled on-road performance than the Ténéré, with less fork dive and shock compression under acceleration and braking (and also when you drop your massive arse on it). It’s not a dramatic difference – the Yamaha has pretty decent handling on the road for a lanky off-road machine – but the Aprilia is definitely tauter and more athletic; on Sardinia’s twisting blacktop the Tuareg’s Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR’s dig in and grip to such a degree it’s almost easy to forget the front is a skinny 21in and really shouldn’t be doing what it is. The bike can boogie.

Off-road, the Tuareg’s greater suspension control, longer travel suspension, more aggressive motor and suite of electronics suggests it can go further than the Ténéré if the rider wants it too – both bikes are accommodating for enthusiastic amateur green-laners, but the Aprilia has the greater capacity to go with you as you improve; you’ll upgrade the Yamaha before you upgrade the Aprilia.

 

2022_Aprilia Tuareg 660_20

 

2022 Aprilia Tuareg 660 wheels, tyres and brakes

The Tuareg comes on Pirelli Scorpion Rally STRs – 90/90-21 and 150/70 R 18, as per the Yamaha Ténéré – but, unlike the Ténéré, they’re on tubeless rims. Whether this is a good thing off-road depends on your point of view but, on the road, tubeless wins every time.

The Aprilia’s brake spec sounds over the top: twin 300mm discs and four-pot Brembo callipers ought run the risk of overwhelm the front tyre – but they don’t. The Tuareg can be braked hard and deep into the apex and can also be feather-braked with good control. The Ténéré’s single 280mm disc doesn’t feel particularly under-braked, as I remember, but along with its softer forks I wouldn’t bet it pulls up quicker than the Aprilia.

 

 

Equipment, styling, ergonomics and comfort

This is where the Aprilia really scores obviously over the rival Yamaha – it inherits an off-road version of the same software and technology that inhabits the wires and silicon chips of its road brothers. The Tuareg comes with four rider modes – Explore, Urban, Off-Road and Individual. Explore is full-everything road mode, Urban has more TC and ABS, less throttle response and engine braking, Off-Road has the least level of TC, softest throttle response and ABS is switched off to the rear (and can also be disabled at the front, but comes back on after ignition off) and the final mode is customisable.

All this lot is managed via a 5in TFT screen, which is a step up (if you like that kind of thing) over the Yamaha Ténéré’s LCD pod. Switchgear is simple: button on the right for changing modes, everything else is via a set of four buttons for navigating, and a top rocker switch for setting cruise control or adjusting TC level on the fly. The switchgear is easy to figure out and navigate, and switching modes between road and off-road is quick and easy.

The Tuareg’s cruise control is a standard bonus and one up on the Ténéré. The Aprilia has no heated grips (not listed as an accessory, either). Centre stand and quickshifter are both extras. 

The Tuareg is styled by the same gentleman who created Moto Guzzi’s V85 TT – the best-looking bike, in my opinion, of the last 15 years. His name is Mirco Zocco and the Tuareg is his baby; although the Tuareg was conceived at the same time as the RS660 and Tuono, work on it wasn’t started until later – and it proved to be a more difficult job for the design and engineering team than either of the other two road bikes (which is something else the Tuareg shares with Yamaha’s Ténéré – its project leader said the same thing). Aprilia’s problem was compounded by not having any modern off-road engineering, technical or testing experience with off-road bikes – and they had no family references visually, either, for the stylist to draw on. Apart from finding some similar colours as the original Tuareg, Mirko essentially started from scratch.

The result is a bit mixed bag. The lack of front beak is daring – I didn’t notice at first, but once someone pointed it out I couldn’t stop seeing it wasn’t there. It looks as if something is missing – and it is. The silver headlamp surround is a curious choice too – it adds a slightly robotic look – and, overall, there’s a lot of black plastic (rear side panels, kickplates, dash) and none of it looks premium. The Tuareg definitely looks a few quid short of the full Africa Twin.

But it’s nice to ride – the blunt, low screen is the right height and thickness for minimal buffeting, the seat is flat and narrow, but not flossing narrow – height is 860mm, 15mm lower than the Ténéré, with options for lower and higher seats.

 

 

2022 Aprilia Tuareg 660 Verdict

Aprilia say they don’t want the Tuareg to be compared to Yamaha’s Ténéré 700 because, they say, they’re different bikes – then they go on to say they’re different because the Tuareg isn’t a compromise and is loads better. Which they kinda would.

The Tuareg is very much up against the Ténéré – they’re the two bikes I’d be choosing between if I wanted a lightweight, multi-cylinder, mid-capacity road bike that could take panners and a top box and ride 600 miles in relative stress-free comfort, then go off-road with some degree of ability when I got there. Like a week in northern Spain.

And in those terms, there’s no question the Tuareg scores some big points over the Yamaha. It’s faster, fitter and leaner on the road, with tighter handling and tubeless tyres. It has a ton of electronic aids – which you might see as a pro or con, depending on your personal opinion. It’s also arguably a more capable off-road bike, although not by as great a margin.

But it’s not, for my taste, as successful on the looks front; the Ténéré has a more integrated and expensive feel to it, and is the better-finished bike. It also costs over £1000 less.

 

2022_Aprilia Tuareg 660_25

 

Aprilia Tuareg 660 (2022) Technical Specification

Capacity

659cc

Bore x Stroke

81.0mm x 63.93mm

Engine layout

270°parallel twin

Engine details

8v dohc, liquid cooled

Power

80bhp @ 9250rpm

Torque

52 lb/ft @ 6500rpm

Top speed

125mph (est, ish)

Average fuel consumption

48mpg

Tank size

18 litres

Max range to empty (theory)

190 miles

Rider aids

rider modes, traction control, engine-braking control, switchable ABS, cruise control

Frame

steel tube trellis

Front suspension

43m USD KYB forks, 240mm travel

Front suspension adjustment

preload, compression and rebound

Rear suspension

KYB rising rate monoshock, 240mm travel

Rear suspension adjustment

preload, compression and rebound

Front brake

2 x 300mm disc, four-pot Brembo callipers

Rear brake

260mm disc, single-pot Brembo calliper

Front tyre

90/90-21, Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR

Rear tyre

150/70-18, Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR

Rake/Trail

26.7°/113.3mm

Wheelbase

1525mm

Seat height

860mm (880mm or 840mm available)

Kerb weight

204kg

MCIA Secured Rating

Not yet rated

Warranty

unlimited miles/2 years

Website

www.aprilia.com

 

2022_Aprilia Tuareg 660_20

 

What is MCIA Secured?

MCIA Secured gives bike buyers the chance to see just how much work a manufacturer has put into making their new investment as resistant to theft as possible.

As we all know, the more security you use, the less chance there is of your bike being stolen. In fact, based on research by Bennetts, using a disc lock makes your machine three times less likely to be stolen, while heavy duty kit can make it less likely to be stolen than a car. For reviews of the best security products, click here.

MCIA Secured gives motorcycles a rating out of five stars, based on the following being fitted to a new bike as standard:

  • A steering lock that meets the UNECE 62 standard
  • An ignition immobiliser system
  • A vehicle marking system
  • An alarm system
  • A vehicle tracking system with subscription

The higher the star rating, the better the security, so always ask your dealer what rating your bike has, and compare it to other machines on your shortlist.

 

BikeSocial

Customer Quote

Bennetts direct insurance customers get membership for FREE, or you can become a member for just £6 / month and start getting rewarded today.

  • Discounted track days and rider training at some of the top UK circuits
  • Exclusive savings and discounts on everything you need from the world of motorcycling
  • Unique experiences and VIP access at the very best motorcycling events
  • Exclusive competitions and prizes all year round