This is MV Agusta’s brand new 1000cc flagship superbike, called simply: the F4.
MCN’s Michael Neeves flogged the 2010 MV Agusta F4 around the Almeria circuit to get a feel for how the Italian marque’s new superbike stacks up against the competition.
It’s an evolution of the MV’s old F4 1000 and looks remarkably similar, but it’s completely redesigned right down to the last nut and bolt. Look closely and the shape is sleeker and the nose is a V-Twin-like 40mm narrower. There’s a new frame, swingarm, riding position, electronics package, rider aids and a 186 bhp inline-four-cylinder engine. Best of all, it’s shed a much-needed 10kg.
The new design has kept the £14,250 MV Agusta looking recognizable, but beautiful too. It’s been around for 12 years in one form or another, but the F4 still manages to pull off the rare trick of maintaining its status as bona-fide, stop-and-stare exotica.
F4s were always lightning-fast, but never that friendly to actually ride and live with, but the new F4 is different – it’s the best superbike MV has ever made.
Taking the F4 for a spin on the heavenly roads surrounding Almeria race circuit in southern Spain to start our test day, it’s a pleasant surprise to feel how easy it is to get on with. Gone is the harsh throttle, rough ride and a seat that trapped you resolutely between the tank and tail unit of the old bike. In its place is a seat you can move around in, spaciously-set clip-ons, a flawless throttle response, smooth gearbox, light controls and tactile brakes.
If you were ever going to take your MV out in the wet and risk getting it dirty, you can flick from ‘Sport’ to ‘Rain’ mode, which gives you a slightly softer power delivery and peace of mind.
The new F4 engine features an electronic injection system fed through 49mm throttle bodies controlled by a Magneti Marelli 7BM ECU.
The old F4’s motor revved as freely as a racing machine’s thanks to its super-light crank, but for normal road riding this meant the bike felt too ‘stop/start’ on and off the throttle. The new bike has a 2kg-heavier crank (MV says it weighs about the same as a Japanese 1000 now), which equates to 47% more inertia.
Now the power delivery feels smoother and more elastic thanks to the heavier crank and the new variable-length inlet trumpets, which helps boost the F4’s low and mid-range power, so you don’t need to dance on the gear lever to make good progress.
New aerodynamic mirrors give 70/30 view of elbow/view behind (better than a 1198 or RSV4) and although we didn’t get the chance to ride the F4 at night, MV tell us the new tiny, lightweight (and expensive to develop) xenon headlight pumps out a decent beam, too.
Build quality is superb and the F4’s deeply painted curves just cry out to be polished on a regular basis. The only part of the bike that isn’t perfect is the exposed welded seam of the exhaust collector box under the seat. On some of the test bikes this area looks grubby already.
The F4’s very tall 33.86 in. seat may cause shorter riders a problem. It’s one of the tallest seats on a sportsbike. A Suzuki GSX-R1000’s is 31.89 in., the BMW S1000RR sits at 32.28 in. and the saddle of the Aprilia RSV4 is 33.27 in. high. Some riders, short in the leg, have problems with three-point turns during our ride.
Despite the concessions to practicality that are going to make the MV Agusta far more pleasant to live with, you’ll be glad to hear it’s still an angry, growling, powerful, thinly-disguised racing machine. The ride is on the firm side of plush (far stiffer than its Japanese rivals) and the shrill exhaust note raging from the new square-section quad underseat cans and deep, bellowing airbox roar is pure aggression. From around 10,700 rpm the engine goes into atomic overload and fires you into the horizon. It’s epic stuff.
Road compound Pirelli Diablo Super Corsa SP tires are among the best you’ll find anywhere and give you grip and confidence aplenty. Even in these cold test conditions they’re always quick to heat up and ready for whatever you can throw at them.
The old F4 always made it clear it was happier on the circuit, but the new one now loves the road too, but has it lost its racetrack edge?
Out on the twisty, undulating and highly technical Almeria circuit the only changes to our test bike are medium compound SC2 Pirelli Diablo Super Corsa tires and a more radical suspension set-up from the 50mm Marzocchi forks and Sachs rear shock. This better suits the conditions and shows off the F4 in its full glory.
After being impressed on the road, the F4 is a real struggle to physically hustle around the track and disappointingly it feels as heavy as it always was. I’m sure the Blades, ZX-10Rs, R1s and GSX-Rs I’ve ridden here in the past aren’t this hard to work. But, the F4 has excellent quality suspension for a reason: to let you fine tune the bike to your weight and riding style.
I’m undoubtedly taller and heavier than the Italian MV racing snake-like test riders, so following the advice of their technicians, we add three millimeters more ride height (by lengthening the easily accessible ride-height rod) and a dash more high and low-speed compression damping, all to keep the rear front sinking with me onboard and sharpening the steering. The result? A completely different machine.
Now the F4 goes exactly where you want it, changes direction and hits every single apex with minimal effort. The grip from the tires, brilliant slipper clutch and the neutral, friendly steering make riding on the track a joy. The new gear position indicator on the big new dash is a brilliant addition.
The different suspension set-up made the difference between praying for the checkered flag to come out each lap to hoping the Alan the Almeria flag man would forget about me and let me carry on until the fuel ran out.
I tried the different levels of traction control, but to be honest I never felt the system work enough to give me the confidence to really lean on it. Using crank, not wheel speed sensors, the MV’s system is relatively basic, but with the grip from the tires and feedback from the chassis I never felt I wanted TC anyway.
The cockpit of the F4 features a large digital display that includes a traction control level, lap timer and gear map.
With such precise handling and more power at your right wrist than you’ll ever really know what to do with, if you’re honest, the F4 is a trackday machine par excellence.
Despite its competence, the track did throw up a few small niggles unapparent on the road. For a six-foot rider like me the footpegs are much too high and the screen too low (although smaller riders didn’t have a problem) making it hard to move around the bike comfortably, get my toes on the pegs and get tucked in on the straights.
Again for taller riders, the seat still isn’t long enough, making it hard to sit far enough back when you need to, like when attacking flip-flops, or trying to get under that small, but perfectly formed screen.
Monobloc Brembo brakes, which are beautiful on the road, fade after hard track use, but MV says changing from the brake pads from road to race compound easily cures this.
Finally, for the niggles, my test bike had some problems downshifting, sometimes hitting a neutral and sometimes refusing to engage the next gear down altogether. One or two other testers had similar problems but some none at all. Maybe we can put it down to some heavy-footed testers who rode the bike the day before us?
MV’s new-generation friendly-but-still-mental Brutale gave us a clue as to what to expect from the new F4, and it doesn’t disappoint. The Italian firm has smoothed out all the old F4’s rough edges and created a thoroughly usable superbike for the road. Relatively, it’s still not as soft or cuddly as a Japanese 1000 and probably not as easy to get on and ride, but it has considerably sharper teeth and is a thousand times more exclusive and handsome.
Small riders are going to struggle with the tall seat and tall ones with the very high pegs, especially on track, so the F4 should suit everyone in between.
There’s never been a more mouth-watering choice of bikes to choose from in the 1000cc sportsbike class, with amazing bikes from Japan and stunning new models from Europe. The old F4 hasn’t been within a shout to competing for quite some time. It is now.
Box out: What’s the latest with MV Agusta?
Towards the end of last year new owners, Harley Davidson announced they were selling MV Agusta to concentrate fully on their own business. They’re still at the reins and continue to support MV in producing the new F4 and Brutale models, as well as keeping development going for new bikes, including the rumoured three-cylinder supersport machine.
Sales and Marketing Director, Umberto Uccelli, explains. “Things at MV Agusta are good. We are producing new models in the Brutale 990 and 1090RR and will shortly be delivering the new F4 to the UK via the importer MotoGB.
“Despite all the discussions about the future ownership of the company we’re continuing to work on sales, production and development of new projects. Things are going ahead as before, but of course people are wondering about our future. That’s normal. In MV’s history, we’ve had many ups and downs and that question has always been there at some point, but we’ve always survived. We have lots of companies interested in MV Agusta, so that’s not a big issue.
We’re expecting something will happen quite soon, maybe
in the next month or so.”
What’s new annotations:
Although it shares the same 998cc capacity and 76 x 55mm bore and stroke as the old F4 1000, it’s all-change for the new radial valve inline-four-cylinder F4 motor. Producing a claimed 186.3bhp@12,900rpm the engine has lighter crankcases and a redesigned crankshaft which is 2kg-heavier and has 47% more inertia (developed during the 2008 Italian superbike championship). The heavier crank, which has lighter conrods, allows MV to do away with a separate balance shaft.
Inlet tracts are shorter for extra high rpm performance. New 30mm titanium inlet valves (25mm steel exhaust valves) are stronger and lighter. The oil pump, deeper sump, cooling system and generator have all been honed and tweaked for improved performance.
One of the most noticeable changes to the F4 is its new four-into-one exhaust system. It has four removable square-section end cans inside of the infamous old ‘organ pipe’ circular ones.
Electronics and rider aids
Electronic variable inlet trumpets, seen for the first time on the old ultra-exotic F4 Tamburini (and before the R1/R6/RSV4) helps give optimum power through the rev range. A Magnetti Marelli 7BM ECU controls the engine map in each gear via a gear selection switch, the eight fuel injectors, inlet trumpets, exhaust valve, the two-way switchable power maps (Sport and Rain) and the eight-stage traction control system. New 49mm Mikuni throttle bodies with eight injectors are fed by a bigger airbox.
Clutch and gearbox
The F4 gets a new extractable cassette-type gearbox and a mechanical slipper clutch to reduce wheel-hop when braking hard and downshifting into corners.
The F4 still has the same distinctive trellis steel/cast ali mix frame, but it’s narrower, shorter, lighter and stiffer in all the right places. Weight distribution is moved forward (now 52% front, 48% rear). The new rear subframe is also lighter than before.
Extended by 20mm for more rear wheel grip, the distinctive single-sided swingarm is also 1.2kg lighter. The swingarm pivot and suspension linkages have also been redesigned.
New fully-adjustable 50mm Marzocchi forks have a quick release system for the front spindle.
Fully adjustable Sachs rear shock with adjustable ride height.
Brakes and wheels
Front: Twin 320mm discs with Brembo monobloc four-piston calipers and Nissin radial master-cylinder. Rear: 220mm disc with Nissin four-piston caliper. New cast wheels are 1.2kg-lighter.
The new, sleeker, redesigned bodywork weighs 4.9kg-less than the old F4. A shorter plastic fuel tank weighs 1.25kg-less than before, the fairing 3kg-less and the screen 300 grams. The new xenon headlight weighs 1.5kg-less.
Instruments and controls.
The old dash is replaced by a new slimline multi-function LCD item with a huge screen and shows all the usual data like speed, revs and also shows gear position, a lap timer and traction control level. Clip-on bars have been raised and positioned wider for more comfort and control.