Imagine that the body of the autocratic Count Domenico Agusta is spinning in his grave as you read this.
The patriarch of MV Agusta died in 1971, leaving behind a legacy of Grand Prix racing success that was driven by his attention to the finest details, and a determination that his motorcycles were never going to be made for everyone.
|AT A GLANCE|
|Engine: 675cc liquid-cooled dohc 12-valve inline triple with electronic fuel injection; 80.4kW (108bhp) at 12,500rpm and 65Nm at 8500rpm.|
|Transmission: Six-speed sequential gearbox, chain final drive.|
|Frame: Tubular tellis/cast alloy hybrid frame with cast aluminium single-sided swingarm, 43mm inverted front forks and Sachs rear monoshock adjustable for spring preload only.|
|Hot: Lowers the entry price to the MV Agusta brand by four grand yet is still capable of delivering a high-performance ride experience.|
|Not: Suspension only as good as an Asian budget street bike's; unfinished front mudguard, no ABS (yet), gear indicator can't tell 5th from 6th.|
So I wonder what the late and famously pernickety aristocrat would make of the latest MV Agusta Brutale 675? For it's clear with this bike that MV Agusta is no longer focused on making the best street bike possible. It has compromised on quality in order to achieve the most competitive price possible for the Brutale. That's a bit like Ferrari reaching down to the mass market by making a Prancing Horse-version of a Mazda MX-5 or a Toyota 86.
The entry price into what was once Italy's most exclusive bike brand is now $18,300, however those who imagine that Brutale 675 isn't a bike that maintains MV's values will be relieved to find they're mistaken.
You know that it is a product of the Varese factory as soon as you look at it and take in its diminutive dimensions, edgy good looks, and classic red/silver livery. Then you fire it up, and get greeted by lusty rasping sound that's a lot more endearing than the annoying cam-chain whine of a Triumph triple.
Like all MV Agustas, this one inhabits the outer reaches of bike engineering and design. The tri-exit exhaust is only just legal at 109dB at 100kmh, and the engine features some of the most oversquare bore and stroke dimensions in bikedom, with the diameters of the cylinders being almost double the distance of the frenetic journey of the pistons through them. That the Brutale also has a counter-rotating crankshaft and a full suite of electronic riding aids should also be of note - for these are major reasons why you should pay a bit more for the MV rather than the $17,990 asked by its most direct competitor - the Triumph Street Triple R.
The Brutale's engine is dumbed down from that of the F3 sports bike, but you only know it when the revs reach five figures on the digital linear tacho. With a single fuel injector instead of dual stokers per cylinder, heavier steel valves instead of titanium, milder camshaft grinds, a lower compression ratio, and a lower rev limit, the Brutale shouldn't feel as frisky to operate as the F3 at four-figure engine speeds, but it does. Shorter gearing certainly helps, as does a kilogram or three less mass (MV claim 163kg dry for the Brutale). The softer cams also allow the Brutale to reach its furious zone 1000rpm earlier than the F3, the extra surge arriving at 6500rpm instead of 7500. You only know that you bought the cheaper 675cc MV at 12,500rpm where the Brutale pumps out a maximum of 108bhp, and the rev limiter cuts in. The F3 will kick on to an output of 126bhp at 14,400rpm, and will happily provide a handy over-rev facility beyond that engine speed thanks to its lighter valvetrain.
Both bikes sound fabulous at full noise, and both suck fuel like it's their mechanical mother's milk. With a 16.5 litre tank, a rider on the Brutale is always making mental notes of the location of the nearest fuel station, especially after a judicious sampling of the engine's high performance zone.
You notice the cheapest MV's attention to reducing costs most when traversing bumpy back roads, where the suspension only feels as good as that fitted to other budget street bikes. Spring movement control is sadly lacking and there are no adjustments to be made at either end of the bike other than the preload of the rear monoshock. With the Brutale sharing same surgical steering effects of the F3, and possessing a similar wealth of stopping power and an almost as willing engine, the basic suspension really stands out as the retarder of the whole dynamic package.
The bare black plastic front mudguard is also a wart placed on the nose of the MV. These are things easily fixed as there are plenty of after-market suspension upgrades available and a flashy carbon-fibre front guard is one of the many factory-approved accessories available for the cheapest Brutale. However neither fix will come cheap, and you'll soon blow-out the overall cost of the bike to a figure more usually associated with an Agusta. Perhaps the spirit of late count will have the last laugh after all.
- © Fairfax NZ News