MV Agusta is eager to return to the top of the sportbike class and the proof is in its new F3 800 ($15,798). Powered by a long-stroke 798cc version of its rowdy Inline Three, the 800 also sports a bevy of second year platform refinements. But did the Italians do enough?
Swing a leg over it and the cockpit is more aligned with the Twin-cylinder Ducati than the Japanese bikes. It’s exceptionally narrow, light and has wide clip-ons which equate to a purely track-focused posture. While some of our testers preferred it, it wasn’t as unanimously accepted as the others.
“When I first hopped on the F3 800, it felt harsh and tricky to ride,” confesses Northover. “But that’s because I was riding it like a grandma. Get stuck in, ride it like you mean it and the MV feels incredible—fast, focused and exotic.”
Around the track, the MV felt the lightest, yet on the scale it wasn’t. True, it bests the Ducati by nine pounds but it carries four more than the ZX-6R and is up three on the Suzuki. Dip it into a turn and the chassis complies with the least resistance. In fact, it shocked us with its maneuverability. In both the second and third-gear transitions, the MV was the most nimble, registering the swiftest side-to-side flick rates. Not only does it turn quick but it’s bulls-eye precise, too.
“It’s so refreshing when a bike you thought would perform the least shines,” discloses Neuer, based on his skittish experience aboard the F3 during the Middleweight Shootout last year. This time however he was pleased, saying, “The MV handled great, very easy to transition from side-to-side.”
But its agility does come with price—stability. The F3 has a propensity to headshake severely during wide open acceleration over bumps at certain parts of the track.
(Top) Like the Panigale, the MV comes equipped with an electronic quickshifter from the factory. It saves time during upshifts but the transmission doesn’t feel as mechanically refined as the Ninja or Suzuki. (Center) The F3’s electronics are much improved over last year’s model. But the throttle response could be further smoothed out and the traction control isn’t advanced enough to help lower lap times on race tires. (Bottom) The F3 800’s brakes were rated closely with the Ducati’s. They did however prove to be the most powerful achieving the highest-average braking force.
Of the three sectors we measured, the MV carried the greatest corner speed twice. Oddly, it was the slowest through the bowl, 1.9 mph behind the Ducati and 1.5 down on the GSX-R. Yet it recorded the highest lean angle (58.9 deg.). Cranked over on its side the MV’s chassis is exquisite, delivering copious road and tire feel. This gives the rider the confidence he or she needs to explore the chassis’ true potential as well as the grip threshold of the tires.
We were satisfied with the function of the Marzocchi/Sachs suspension components, but they didn’t have as much controlled action through the initial part of the stroke compared to the Showa-equipped machines. It did however get the job done—it just takes fractionally longer for the suspension to settle when loaded. Nevertheless, it didn’t hold us back from cutting fast laps.
“I had no idea that I would go as fast as I did around here on that bike,” said a surprised Pridmore, after setting his fastest time of the test on the 800 (1’49.66).
Although the author didn’t have as favorable a result as the veteran racer and Star School instructor, his lap time of 1’53.24, was just 0.10 second behind the Kawasaki and 0.28 slower than the Suzuki. Upon averaging both riders Superpole times, the MV was awarded maximum points in the category.
“The MV Agusta 675 was a bike that I thought had the most potential,” continues JP. “And it seems what they’ve done with the 800 is taken all the little things that needed to be sorted out, and [now] it’s an unbelievable motorcycle to ride. It has power everywhere, it steers great. I honestly don’t have anything bad to say about that motorbike.”
In terms of power and overall engine ride-ability, the MV’s mill was preferred unanimously. Highlights include its wide spread of torque, punchy top-end, snappy response, and of course, crazy F1-like sound.
“It clearly feels like it has the most horsepower,” says Neuer. “You crack the throttle on the thing and you get some, it gets after it pretty quick.”
“The motor on it that bike is the strongest,” confirms Northover. “It’s got so much torque,
Preload: 9 (Turns in)
Compression: 1.25 (Turns out)
Preload: 2 (Turns in from stock)
Power Mode: Custom
Traction Control: Off
Gas Sensitivity: Normal
Engine Brake: Sport
Maximum Torque: Sport
Engine Response: Slow
RPM Limiter: Sport
so much drive, and it’s a real nice sound as well. It’s got a lot of character to it. The motor is the real high point for that bike.”
In spite of the Panigale’s 100cc larger engine pumping out six extra lb-ft of torque, you’d be hard pressed to feel it due to the MV’s larger torque curve. It did however generate 2.6 more peak horsepower with a total of 132.3 ponies arriving at 13,000 rpm, with another 500 revs of over- rev to spare.
The MV’s quickshifter-enabled transmission and optimum gearing help the rider make the most out of its incredible engine performance. Still, the set-up is as refined mechanically as the super smooth Kawasaki, or the Suzuki for that matter. But that didn’t stop the MV from achieving the highest acceleration G-forces off Turns 10 and 13 proving how potent it responds off turns. Despite the engine’s top-end ‘oomph, the MV didn’t net the fastest top speed at the end of the back straightaway (Suzuki). It was again slower than the GSX-R and the 899 off the bowl.
Another strike against the MV was its twitchy throttle response and traction control that lack the refinement of the competition.
(Top) Pridmore was in awe of the F3 800’s performance, setting the fastest lap of the test at its controls. (Center) The MV’s chassis is not only nimble but incredibly accurate, too. (Bottom)
The F3 registered the highest degree of lean angle through Turn 13.
“I didn’t like the mapping on it—it’s real abrupt. But you do get used to it,” complains Neuer.
“The only thing I couldn’t really get on with the MV was the throttle,” agrees Northover. “When you shut the throttle it runs on a little bit for the engine brake control. It was the one area that maybe took a bit more to get used to.“
As Chris mentions, the F3 employs engine brake control functionality like the Ducati. And judging by the braking data it’s clear the system works. The MV achieved the highest force into Turn 1 (-1.29g) and second-highest (-1.09) into Turn 8. This was remarkable as the MV’s brakes felt nearly identical to the Panigale’s set-up and actually rated one spot behind the class-leading Ninja on our tester’s notepads.
When its electronics and suspension is set-up properly the F3 is a stunningly effective track weapon. Highlights include a wide and hard-hitting powerband and a nimble yet super precise chassis allowing the rider to run it hard through corners. Though the suspension damping could use some fine tuning it wasn’t enough to stop it from stealing the fastest outright lap time. This, along with top scores in 11 categories, moved it to the top of the scorecard netting MV Agusta’s first-ever MotoUSA shootout win. There’s a new sheriff in town and its name is the F3 800.
- Ripping fast engine
- Quick and precise handling
- Excellent stopping capabilities
- Could benefit from added initial suspension damping
- Chassis is prone to severe headshake
- Throttle response could be smoother