Iconic Italian motorcycle marque MV Agusta has a rich history in road racing. Granted it’s been a decade, or four, since it was a true player, but it hopes to get back to its championship-winning roots with its 2012 MV Agusta F4R superbike.
The MV has that old school Superbike feel from the late ‘90s/early 2000s. It’s a tall motorcycle and the fuel tank is long, wide and flat. Plus the seating position is demanding and the most elongated (similar to the previous 1098/1198 generation Ducati). It’s also heavy, tipping the scales at 475 pounds (heaviest in class) with a full load of fuel (4.49 gallons).
Railing around the racetrack reveals that the ergonomics function acceptably and the bike feels natural at speed; problem is, so does every other bike in this test. And since it’s so large feeling—some riders didn’t get along as well compared to some of the smaller, more contemporary-feeling machines.
“It doesn’t feel awkward by any means, but it is more of stretch to reach the controls,” says 5’8” Hutchison. “It’s also pretty heavy and takes more effort to get pointed in the right direction.”
(Top) Once laid over in mid-corner, the MV really showed its confidence inspiring front end grip. (Center) The chassis feels more rigid than some of the other bikes which took some time to get used to. (Below) With a price tag of $19,498, the MV is the third most expensive bike of the class.
“I didn’t really get along with the ergonomics of the MV,” agrees the voice of taller riders, Neuer (5’10”). “The bike felt tall and the seating position was just wrong to me.”
The MV was one of the heavier steering bikes as evident by its maximum flick rate of 42.5 degrees/second (fifth slowest) measured in Turns 11/12/13, left/right/left chicane. While it takes a bit more muscle to get pointed in the right direction, once leaned over the MV surprised us—offering a reasonable degree of stability. It steamrolls over bumps like a tank (in a good way), which in turn inspires confidence in the front end.
“It took a lot of bar input to get to turn,” explains Siglin. “But once turned and the suspension settled it felt fine mid-corner. For me it was the transition from side-to-side which hurt it the most. If it steered faster I think it would be more competitive.”
The MV maintained above average corner speed in each of the three measuring points (Turn 2, Turn 8 and Turn 14) netting a 69.4 mph average, good for sixth best. The chassis feels more rigid than some of the other bikes which took some time to get used to. This may be one of the reasons why it recorded the lowest maximum lean angle of 48.9 degrees as measured atop The Cyclone (a left-hand corkscrew-type corner similar to Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway). Our biggest complaint however was that the shock damping was inconsistent after just a few hard laps, which made the rear of the machine pump excessively during acceleration.
Of all the bikes in this test, without question the MV has the hardest-hitting powerband. Bottom-end and mid-range is nothing to write home about with it delivering the lowest torque curve. But get the engine zinging near its 13,500 rpm redline and the powerband spikes dramatically. In a window of just 500 rpm horsepower jumps from 139 horsepower to upwards of 171 before the rev limiter shuts things down. It’s a two-stroke style hit that makes for a challenging, but exhilarating ride. We also encountered a fuel-injection/ignition glitch with the engine randomly cutting out at high rpm which may explain its abnormal power curve on the dyno.
(From full stiff)
Preload: +5mm from stock
Low-Speed Compression: 6
High-Speed Compression: 12
“It’s a strange powerband,” recalls Neuer. “It felt like the MV had a turbo and it had to spool up before it went anywhere. Then once it started accelerating hard the engine was like, ‘okay you’ve had enough fun; I’m done now.’”
“It made it hard to be aggressive with the bike coming out of the slower corners,” adds Siglin. “You had to be on your toes when you got on the gas because you were waiting for the power hit.”
Out of Turn 6—a long series of two sweeping left handers the MV posted the lowest maximum acceleration force (0.68g). It was also at the back of the pack (0.61g) at exit of Turn 15—the final corner that leads you onto the long fifth-gear front straightaway. And since it takes so much time for the engine to spool out good power its corresponding top speed before applying the brakes was also relatively low (156.7 mph at the end of the front straightaway—second slowest and 142.1 mph down the back straightaway—second slowest, again).
“That thing is wicked cool,” shares Earnest. “It’s got a really raw feel to it. It’s a bit unrefined but some people might actually like that. Once you got the motor revving it was surprisingly fast—problem is the powerband is so narrow—plus the engine vibrates a little bit much.”
(Top) Railing around the racetrack reveals that the ergonomics function acceptably and the bike feels natural at speed. (Center) The MV was mechanic friendly according to Motorcycle-Superstore.com mechanic, Garrett Sweigert. (Bottom) Tipping the scales at 475 lbs. the MV was the heaviest in the class.
Unlike the other European bikes (with exception of the KTM), the MV doesn’t come stock with an electronic quickshifter. That cost it time during acceleration as the rider had to let off the throttle for a split second before lifting the shift lever into the next gear. We had no issues with the gearbox and the slipper clutch performed adequately too but since it lacked that one simple electronic upgrade it was rated toward the back in the Drivetrain category.
Like many of the other bikes, the MV employs premium-grade Brembo braking components. Its stopping package performed satisfactorily yet didn’t blow us away with the optimum amount of feel or power. And in a class of motorcycles that are this evenly matched, a small difference can be the difference between excellent and just mediocre score. However the brakes did record acceptable maximum braking force numbers into Turns 10 and 14 (-1.30g and -1.35g)—good for sixth best when averaged.
“They feel kind of petrified,” comments Montano. “They didn’t have a whole lot of initial bite and they were a little vague. It wasn’t bad by any means but they weren’t my favorite either.”
In Superpole, the MV failed to impress, recording lap times that put in toward the back of the group. For Siglin, it was his slowest bike, in excess of two seconds off pace. While the author’s lap times were closer, it was still his third-slowest bike. We all enjoyed our first MV experience and appreciated its raw Superbike feel and top-end biased engine. But the Italian entry needs a little refinement to be a true player in this class.
- Tremendous top-end power
- Good mid-corner stability
- Strong brakes
- Inconsistent shock damping (shock fade)
- Spikey powerband
- Large and bulky feeling
2012 Superbike Smackdown IX Track
2012 MV Agusta F4R Track Comparison
2012 Yamaha YZF-R1 Track Comparison
2012 Ducati 1199 Panigale S Track Comparison
2012 KTM RC8R Track Comparison
2012 Aprilia RSV4 Factory APRC Track Comparison
2012 Suzuki GSX-R1000 Track Comparison
2012 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R Track Comparison
2012 BMW S1000RR Track Comparison
2012 Honda CBR1000RR Track Comparison
2012 Superbike Smackdown IX Track Conclusion