Usually, writing about the same manufacturer’s bikes over a short period isn’t an issue. But when it comes to testing MV Agusta’s fleet of metallic glamour and its ethos of basing most of its range on very similar engine and chassis combos, testing criteria is trickier to nail. It’s clear that my A-game is needed here.
Whether or not the recent AMG coalition and big-buck investment will manifest into significant sales remains to be seen, but the new Brutale 800RR should kick things off nicely, especially if you’re a bit of a tart. MV has certainly added some spice to the range with the RR, but first off, what is it? It’s a unique, mischievous naked bike with immense sporting pedigree, and a Gucci upgrade over the stock Brutale 800; plus snazzy lightweight wheels, more power and a feast of electronica adding to the drool inducing looks.
Over previous winters, riding any Brutale could be considered as a form of self-harming. Not any more – the 800RR has been wiped from Social Services’ danger list, yet maintains MV’s inherent involvement. Despite the RR suffix and sportier attitude, a culmination of the ride-by-wire’s refinement and a delicious throttle, topped off by a more accommodating chassis, has widened the Brutale’s usability. Dare we say it; it’s less brutal.
I could stare at this bike all day long – just like any (actually, most) MVs. The recent improvements to build quality at the Varese factory no longer leaves you frustrated, instead leaving you stiff or moist depending on gender.
From an ergonomic perspective, the 800RR is comfier than any other Brutale. There aren’t as many naughty bits snagging limbs or clothing. The riding position is still fairly aggressive; the front wheel convenes under your nose in archetypal MV fashion, and there’s a real sense of control with the, erm, controls. You feel you can achieve on this.
The problem with the Brutale isn’t its looks. It isn’t the handling. And it certainly isn’t the motor, nor the electronics. It’s keeping your licence clean and staying out of prison. When you’re presented with such a hysterical throttle so eager to be pinned to the stop, and a playmate like the MV’s 798cc motor’s insistence on redline abuse, it’s impossible not to ride like a complete twat, your honour.
It’s also impossible to heap enough superlatives on the triple, particularly the RR’s XLontheRR
Does a naked bike get any better looking than this?
A claimed extra 20bhp over the stock Brutale (probably half of that on the botty and Dynojet dynos) adds another dose of midrange mayhem, equating to third gear wheelies over any excuse for a crest. The first few gears are pure entertainment wherever you are, and while it still takes a while to gain momentum at the very bottom of the revs, the midrange hit and howl make up for it. It’s also discernably smooth and easy to pootle on.
But the sound, the noise, the character; it all points to angry. I reckon it’ll be mechanically impossible for an engine to spin (internally) any quicker without self-implosion. That now orthodox MV counter-rotating crankshaft gives an idiosyncratic take on the sexy tri-pot soundtrack. It’s not broken, it’s just angry – the Brutale makes a Street Triple feel like a castrated, slightly camp tomcat in comparison.
And then we’ve got the electronic onslaught. Regulars will know how much we love the auto-blipper (ensuring the clutch is redundant during downshifts) as well as the quickshifter – the pair do an ace job of masking any aimless shifting. I’m sure when sliced bread was released to an unsuspecting public everyone gaily jumped around like school kids for a while until the novelty wore off. The auto-blipper? It’s like Hovis laced with crack, meaning you’ll be riding round looking for excuses to change gear.
Personally, I’m not a fan of variable engine maps, although the latest crop of MVs warrant the usually pointless technology with distinctively different executions. Ultimately, the throttle is the primary point of engageable contact, so why not get it bang-on and nail personal preference? It’s the same for the rest of the electronics’ adjustability, with a minefield of parameters; everything from rev- limiter to engine braking, traction control to throttle sensitivity can be adjusted – although it has to be said MV needs to work on its switchgear and toggle/button options before someone goes postal in frustration.
The only other slight negative to the 800RR (aside from its price), is the fact it takes a while to get accustomed to its manners. It’s not as dynamically faultless, or as fluid, or as easy to simply jump on and ride as the Street Triple – its obvious counterpart. Dodgy conditions don’t suit the MV’s fickle requests, and while the inherent stiffness from the steel trellis/ally plates lend the chassis receptive sharpness and feedback, it’s certainly not as easy to spank as less complex rivals.
Then again, feed it dry Tarmac and the Brutale starts to make perfect sense, reading the road with precision and allowing the mechanical grip to flourish. Although it also feels slightly more rear biased, the RR has lost none of its front-end dexterity and there’s a real lightness and flickability to its stance on the hoof, though never too unwieldy.
According to MV, the 800 RR’s Marzocchi fork stanchions are aluminium – a world first – saving 1.5kg, and while I’m not going to sit here and wax lyrical about the spec sheet, the forks do have an overwhelming plushness that I’ve never previously experienced on an MV, and copes well with anything UK roads offer. The skittish, lively, dancing-across-the-road of yesteryear has vanished, though the yoke- mounted steering damper is an aesthetically pleasing security measure.
Corner entry is as adept as ever, ably stopped by top-shelf Brembo paraphernalia and a front-end on a laser-guided mission. This RLM (Rear Lift Mitigation) braking aid that prevents unwanted endos, as with many other bikes with the system fitted, is a bit of a safety gimmick, and has yet to find tangible benefits to riding with the system functioning. At least it’s all turn offable.
The last time I looked, the Euro wasn’t looking too rosy against the pound, meaning seafront apartments on the outskirts of Benidorm are going for the same money as a Brutale 800 RR. Granted, it’s brimming with blue-chip componentry and MV’s promise never to resort to making budget machinery is scant consolation regarding its price – but we’d want a little more bang for our bucks.
Pre performance and smiles-per-pound is a different story. While big, full-fat supernakeds can be a little intimidating on UK roads and suffer on circuit, and cheaper middleweight nakeds often leave you cold, MV has got the blend of power and control nailed with the Brutale 800RR. This Italian hotty is not only a go-er, it revels as being a show-er, too.