Bikes

Not-A-Review: 2015 MV Agusta Motorcycles

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As promised, here is the second part of our trip down to Fontana, California to meet with MV Agusta USA, go over the company’s new business plan for not only America, but also worldwide, and to ride the current crop of their 2015 machinery.

I should preface right out of the gate that this is not a review in regards as to what you’ve come to expect from Asphalt & Rubber. I am not-so-cleverly calling this a “not-a-review” assessment of MV Agusta’s 2015 models. I say this because we had a very limited amount of time on each bike, as there was roughly 10 machines to divide our attention amongst.

Our course was the infield section of AutoClub Speedway, which is very tight and short. And to add to the mix, we had intermittent light rain, which made half of the course fairly slippery.

Think of this article as not far from someone test riding a bunch of motorcycles at a dealership, with similar duration and limits put in place…except that this someone rides motorcycles for a living.

MV Agusta F3 800
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The MV Agusta F3 800 is perhaps the best place for us to start, as it is the staple of Varese’s lineup. The F3 was originally designed to be an 800cc machine from its start, but Claudio Castiglioni put a higher priority on getting MV Agusta’s racing program together, and ordered that the de-stroked 675cc model arrive first for consumers.

In its 800cc format, the F3 feels at home. The engine is superb from an operator’s perspective, with plenty of torque, and I’m told by those who build and engineer motors for a living, that the MV Agusta triple is a real prodigy. The shame of course is that its attached to MV Agusta’s ride-by-wire system, which even in its updated state, is still with its quirks.

There is nothing more frustrating than coming out of the turn, whacking the throttle, and having nothing happen. This “false neutral” of throttle inputs is something I have seen on both the 675cc and the 800cc models, and it leaves you thinking the F3 800 isn’t quite done.

I don’t know if it is something that can be fixed in software, or if it requires a mechanical upgrade, but the throttle response certainly is the weak spot on the F3 800.

That’s the shame really, because the MV Agusta F3 800 is really a superb machine. Developed while MV Agusta was part of Harley-Davidson, it is hard to fault the larger brushstrokes of this painting, but it is the detail-work that lets you down. No better example of this is the dash, which is just a mess of numbers, some too small to read standing still, and certainly all of it too hard to digest while at speed.

Don’t get me wrong though…I lust for this machine, and would be willing to overlook some its quirks for the beauty and performance it provides otherwise.

MV Agusta F3 675
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The MV Agusta F3 675 is not that different from the 800cc model, which should surprise no one considering the only real different between the two machines is in the engine casings.

Naturally the supersport-ready F3 675 has less power and torque than its 800cc sibling, but what surprised me more was how much less engine braking the baby F3 had in comparison. The bike almost felt like a two-stroke going into the turns, just free-wheeling away.

That’s probably a good thing, since with the F3 675 you need to keep your cornerspeed up, in order to get drive out of the apex, as you don’t have the same cheater-power as you do on the F3 800 or F4.

Priced just above $14,000 USD, I like what the F3 675 has to offer, but for $1,500 more, getting the F3 800 is a no-brainer situation. For the amateur racers that want to stay in the supersport class, this is the machine for you…if you’re a street rider or track day enthusiast, just get the 800cc model and enjoy the extra grunt between your legs.

MV Agusta F4
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The last of the sport bike models at our test, the venerable MV Agusta F4 is nearing the end of its tenure. MV Agusta has not so subtly hinted that a new four-cylinder engine is coming down the pipe, and it would not surprise me to see the F4 updated for the 2016 model year.

At just shy of 200hp, a bike like the F4 is absolute overkill on a course like Fontana. Maybe if MV had opened the banked turns on the NASCAR track to our disposal, I could give a better assessment of the machine, but stuck in the infield, where shifting out of first is optional, it is harder to say.

I have always found the ergonomics of the F4 to be tough — it is a race bike with lights, and you are perched on top of it, holding on for dear life.

Colleagues that have spent more time on the F4 on proper circuits complain of the chassis, perhaps the worst in the liter bike category, but here at Fontana, as the rain is hitting us, I can neither confirm nor deny those thoughts.

A beautiful machine, to be sure, my $19,500 would be better spent on a Ducati 1199 Panigale though, or better yet, on an Aprilia RSV4 or BMW S1000RR (with money to spare).

MV Agusta Brutale 1090
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Talking about the MV Agusta F4 makes for a good transition to the MV Agusta Brutale 1090, which is a hard bike to get behind when the Italian marque has the Brutale 800 as well, just 4hp shy and easily the better machine.

The Brutale 1090 RR makes a better distinction, however. With 158hp and higher-spec components, the 1090 RR is by far worth the added price tag. I thoroughly enjoyed riding all the Brutale models (sans the Dragster 800, but I’ll get to that in a minute), and on the tight infield circuit, the brakes, suspension, and wheels shined.

I think any street rider would be able to tell the added value of these better components on the RR models, which is not something I normally say. Like the F4 though, the Brutale 1090 is long in the tooth, and it shows, especially when jumping onto a Brutale 800 right after; or worse, a Brutale 800 RR.

MV Agusta Brutale 800RR
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Like with the F3 800, I enjoyed the Brutale 800 — especially in its RR version. That being said, what you get for those extra R’s isn’t as large on the 800 as it is on the 1090 — I think riders would genuinely be happy with a base model Brutale 800, whereas upgrading from the base model Brutale 1090 is an absolute must.

On the Brutale 800 RR, I spent most of my time trying out the new EAS 2.0 system. This is MV Agusta’s acronym for electronic shifting, with the 2.0 version sporting clutchless upshifts and downshifts. The features works as advertised (mostly), and combined with the slipper clutch, it makes “imprudent” downshifts a fairly uneventful affair.

That being said, I still like having to use the clutch for massive downshifts and clutch dumps — modulating the transmission to the rear wheel with my left hand. MV Agusta’s electronics make massive downshifts a jerky affair — a reminder that this is clutchless shifting, not seamless shifting.

Otherwise I found the Brutale 800 a fun bike for our tight race course, especially as the rain dried out and we could start pushing the limits of the machine.

All-in-all, the Brutale 800 is a good little bike. Would-be Ducati Monster owners should swing a leg over one of these machines, just to check it out…leave your wallet in the car maybe.

MV Agusta Brutale Dragster 800 RR
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There isn’t too much to say about the MV Agusta Dragster 800 RR, other than I need a glass of water after every time I say that name. I think MV Agusta was trying to give Aprilia a run for its money in the alphabet soup naming scheme, but I digress.

On paper the Dragster RR is a Brutale 800 with some different pieces — a shorter tail, wire-spoked wheels, and a couple different plastic parts. Getting on the bike though shows a completely different beast.

Where as one can move around on the Brutale seat, the Dragster seat holds you firmly in place. I found the front-end of the Dragster RR to be really vague in its feedback, with substantial understeer, which is weird as MV Agusta claims only slight differences between the machines’ technical dimensions.

Chalk the issue up to tire pressure or suspension settings perhaps, as I’ll never know as we didn’t have that kind of time to drill into each machine with that level of details. It left a sour taste in my mouth though, on what is otherwise a striking bike.

I’m not sure where the Dragster fits on MV Agusta’s product lineup. I think it was meant to go head-to-head with the Ducati Diavel, which it doesn’t really do. Instead it crowds the Brutale range, which is already three different models of confusion.

MV Agusta Rivale 800
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The MV Agusta Rivale was perhaps the machine I was most looking forward to riding, for my own personal amusement, and it was the machine I spent the most time on during our test at Fontana.

You see, my daily rider is a Ducati Hypermotard SP, and the Rivale is obviously MV Agusta’s attempt at a similar machine. Priced right between the base and SP models from Ducati, the Rivale 800 is an intriguing bike not only for its three-cylinders of hoon, but also its price point.

To that end, I think most riders would be impressed with the Rivale. It is a tall and upright bike, a shock after coming off the compact Brutale models, but it has lots of power (again, that beautiful 800cc triple), and the chassis inspires elementary schoolyard things to occur — I am pretty sure I spooked one of my fellow colleagues the first time I let the rear get squirrelly going into a turn. Sorry for partying, John!

You’re going to either love or hate the looks of the Rivale, there is just no way to get around that; and the machine comes with the obvious faults I have mentioned before, sans the dash…which is actually laid out like how a sane person would read it.

Would I trade my Hypermotard SP in for one though? That’s the question…and the answer is probably no, though that has less to do with anything being wrong with the Rivale, and everything to do with just how done right the Ducati is.

I certainly wouldn’t scoff at a Rivale in my garage though, and you’d be certain to be the talk of your local bike night if you owned one. I’d call this bike a hit, if I didn’t already know that the naked bike / maxi-motard market is already so small in the USA.

MV Agusta Stradale 800
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If the Rivale is MV Agusta’s equivalent to the Hypermotard, then the MV Agusta Stradale 800 is Varese’s riff on the Hyperstrada. Hopping onto the Stradale, and I immediately had déjà vu to being on the Hyperstrada, as both bikes have this weird “high-chair” feeling, where your ass is high off the ground, but your feet are still pretty low.

This leaves you going through turns, certain that you’re going to drag your pegs through the turn, or catch a boot on something you shouldn’t. For as similar as the Stradale is to the Rivale, I found the ride less confidence inspiring — as the bikes feel remarkably different from each other.

I chalk the differences up to the riding position, and the subtle changes MV has made between the Stradale and the Rivale. On the positive side, I really liked the integrated tail lights on the panniers. That’s a pretty clever move from the Varese brand…expect other to copy it.

While the Rivale is your wheelie around town option, the Stradale is meant to be the weekend escape. MV Agusta has been smart enough to give the Stradale a larger fuel tank for that end, but the seat becomes uncomfortable rather quickly. True tourers will want to remedy this.

Like the Rivale, the overall market for a bike like the Stradale is fairly small. I don’t see too many of these machines selling, which is a poor reflection on the Stradale, as it’s otherwise a pretty nice machine.

I just hope that this isn’t a sign from MV Agusta that we’ll see other models with bags and screens attached, as the company hopes to hop on the “touring” trend in the USA and Western Europe. That’s one move Ducati made that MV Agusta needs not to copy.

MV Agusta Turismo Veloce 800
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I was really disappointed that we didn’t get a chance to ride the MV Agusta Turismo Veloce. I was in Milan for the bike’s launch, and ever since the I have been curious to see how this 800cc adventure-sport handles on the road. Adrian Morton certainly did a good job of drawing a continuous design path between the Turismo Veloce and the the F3 motorcycles, and at $16,000 the MV Agusta hits a good price point.

But how will an 800 fare in world dominated by 1,200cc+ machines? Will we be wanting more power? Or will we be impressed with the lightweight handling of a stout middleweight? We will have to wait several more months it seems to answer those questions.

For the mean time, the bike sits as a reminder as to why OEMs shouldn’t release models that aren’t ready for public consumption — the MV Agusta Turismo Veloce will be nearly two years old in the public by the time it finally gets to dealers, after all.

Conclusion

MV Agusta’s 2015 model year lineup of motorcycles by-in-large is a good set of bikes. Note though, I did not say they are great. The ride-by-wire setup needs to be reworked, which may be as simple as using a different parts supplier. I know for example on the Ducati range, the RbW can vary greatly depending on whether it is a Mitsubishi or Magneti Marelli unit.

I hate to be one of those journalists that nit-picks a seemingly innocuous design flaw — like I know some of my colleagues spend god knows how much ink about every horrible rearview mirror on every sport bike every produced — but for me the dash on many of the models is a problem indicative of a larger issue, and that’s an issue regarding attention to detail…and in the premium motorcycle market, details count for quite a lot.

I worry that by the time that MV Agusta fixes these more refined problems, the company will have wasted away any good faith it has left with motorcycle consumers, which is a shame because a lot of these bikes are really quite good (there is that word again).

With the kinks sorted out, I think the MV Agusta F3 800 could be bike of the year material. The Rivale is super fun to ride, but its face is perhaps too polarizing.

I’m genuinely intrigued to ride the Turismo Veloce, and see what 2016 has for the MV Agusta F4 superbike. Meanwhile, The Brutale line is full of good looking bikes that I think outshine anything on offer from the other OEMs in terms of aesthetics.

There are good bones here in the MV Agusta lineup. Hopefully the company can continue to raise its standards and be ready to compete on a level beyond one of a beauty pageant.

On the merits, MV Agusta is not there yet. But they are close, and that encourages me…and it should encourage you. If you have a dealer nearby, stop in for a test ride, and lets compare notes in the comments section.

Action Photos: © 2015 Jose Gallina / MV Agusta – All Rights Reserved

Jensen Beeler

Despite his best efforts, Jensen is called one of the most influential bloggers in the motorcycle industry, and sometimes consults for motorcycle companies, whether they've solicited his expertise or not.

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