We suit up and go for a ride on the newest member of MV’s 800cc Brutale naked bike family. See what it’s like to ride in the 2014 MV Agusta Brutale Dragster 800 First Ride Video.
For some motorcyclists, the expression of MV Agusta’s Brutale naked bike isn’t quite tough enough. It’s those riders the Italian brand wants to capture with its more threatening-looking 800 Dragster ($14,798). Powered by the same wicked 798cc Triple that propels the F3 800 sportbike, the Dragster is MV’s new vision of hardcore streetfighter.
MV isn’t afraid to admit that it’s capitalizing on the millions of R&D dollars spent on the shared F3/Brutale three-cylinder platform by recycling the powertrain and chassis. What’s new, however, is the Dragster’s erotic profile that almost makes the standard Brutale look dated (it’s only a year old).
Key differences include the adjustable (and exceptionally trick looking) machined handlebar, wider 10-spoke rear wheel (borrowed from the F4R Superbike) and larger 200-section Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa rear tire. There’s also a more compact subframe to support the gorgeous LED-equipped tail, and attractively stitched seat. A more intricately designed front fender, fly screen, and a pair of articulating rear view mirrors with integrated bark buster-like hand and lever guards complete the short, but well-thought-out visual enhancements. Lastly, like the rest of MV’s 2014 European line-up, the Dragster gets ABS that can be manually disengaged.
(Top) The Dragster gets an intricately machined top clamp that allows the rider to adjust the sweep of the handlebar. (Center) A 10-spoke six-inch rear wheel from the F4R was fitted on the Dragster 800. (Bottom) MV continues to push the design envelope by fitting this fabulous looking tail section to the Dragster.
Although saddle height is a smidge higher than the Brutale, it’s still short-rider friendly at 31.9 in. The handlebar gives a pleasant upright bend but is slightly narrower and has more rearward sweep in the standard ‘0’ setting. However this can be adjusted in 2.3 degree / 0.52 inch increments (forward and aft) with hex-head Allen keys via the beautifully machined top clamp set-up.
Even though much of its running gear is the same, on the road the Dragster feels considerably different than the original 800. The seating position is far more intimate and will be a tight squeeze for taller riders because of how short the seat is from front-to-back. While wearing a full-length leather suit at the track, the cockpit is restricted and feels slightly awkward at maximum lean. But in jeans, during a more casual street pace, it’s more accommodating to move around on, yet isn’t quite as cooperative as the standard Brutale. On the other hand, if you’re smaller than average there’s a good chance you’re going to love the Dragster’s tailored fit.
MV claims an identical dry weight between its Brutale and Dragster 800 at 368 pounds sans liquids. That should equal a 413-pound curb weight based on our recent comparison test. At a standstill and with wheels turning, the Dragster has lively handling in spite of the wider rear rim and tire combo. Its chassis responds immediately to rider input and offers an astounding level of accuracy much like the F3 sportbike. We also like the way the chassis feels through turns with it giving a fair degree of road feel through the controls. However, outright stability is an issue with it having a similar propensity for headshake as the other three-cylinder platforms over bumps during full-throttle acceleration. It certainly isn’t as crazy as the F3 but it would be nice if it came outfitted with a steering damper.
Speed is shed via a pair of 320mm cross-drilled discs that are pinched by two-piece four-piston calipers from Brembo. A 220mm disc and twin-piston Brembo caliper is used on the back wheel. The brakes are augmented through stainless-steel brake lines and a Bosch 9-Plus ABS controller (located under the seat). Both the front and rear brakes offer strong performance with a high degree of sensation at the lever making them easy to use and get a feel for. The ABS system performed flawlessly as well and we love that it can be manually disabled if desired.
(Left) Perhaps the best testament to how improved the Brutale family’s electronics are that you can actually carry a decent wheelie in the ‘Normal’ engine map. (Center) The Dragster 800 gets subtle styling updates including this flyscreen. (Right) The Dragster is a playful motorcycle that is easier to exploit with its improved engine and ride-by-wire mapping.
Preload: 5.5 (Turns in)
Compression: 3 (Turns out)
Preload: 5 (Turns in from stock)
Power Mode: Normal
Traction Control: 3
Suspension-wise the Dragster offers a good compromise between street and track habitat. Its balanced character was welcome and it helped us explore its true handling potential during corner attacks. Although its spring rate is toward the lighter end of the rider spectrum it still functions accurately when loaded and is generally well-damped. It also didn’t beat us up too bad on the street, though to be fair our route was abbreviated due to a rain-condensed schedule. Despite their gimmicky look, the flip-out style mirrors actually function well and although they get a little shaky at speed they get the job done and are easy to aim while riding.
(Top) MV Agusta knows it has an excellent chassis at its disposal. That’s why it uses it across so many models, including the Dragster 800. (Center) The wider 200-section Pirelli tire didn’t seem to slow down this Brutale’s quick turning manners. (Bottom) While the suspension spring rate is a little on the soft side the damping performance was accurate and well-balanced.
The most noticeable upgrade to the Dragster’s dynamic is its improved engine, ride-by-wire and traction control mapping. After a string of negative comments last year, engineers have been on a mission to progress engine ride-ability. And their hours spent hunched over a keyboard is paying off, as the latest version of the software (December, 2013) is the most refined yet. The biggest testament to its enhanced function is that you no longer have to scroll through the ‘Custom’ map settings and manually adjust each of the engine parameters (Gas Sensitivity, Max Torque, Engine Response, and RPM Limiter) to get ideal response from the electronically controlled throttle. Now, the ‘Normal’ setting provides smooth calibration. Of course, if you want to build a custom map, or run, either of the two settings (Sport and Rain) you can (by pressing and holding the red engine start button), however due to time allowances we stuck with the standard setting. The latest software will be released to MV dealers this month and will be compatible on all three-cylinder Brutales, free of charge.
The engine continues to sound like an absolute monster, screaming to life in a fury of mechanical octaves each time the throttle is wacked. The connection between the rider’s wrist and the engine remains direct but it’s not as hyper-sensitive as we’ve noted in the past. This is especially helpful when accelerating off turns at lean over bumpy surfaces. Another plus is the enhanced functionality and responsiveness of the traction control. Though more basic in architecture (still a rate-of-change based system with only one rear wheel speed sensor), it performed admirably by restricting power just enough to allow us to get comfortable on cool, damp and unfamiliar roads. We also like the ability to adjust the level of intervention on the fly while riding (though it’s a tricky menu setting to figure out).
Since the throttle is so much smoother the Dragster’s motor almost feels slower than what we remember. Still it’s certainly no slouch offering a fat, wide-spread mid-range. Top end power is strong too and we love how the engine doesn’t run out of steam through redline. The factory-installed quickshifter keeps the engine spinning in the meat of the power but the gearbox could be more precise-feeling during gearshifts. A slipper clutch would be a nice addition
- Looks gorgeous
- Broad powerband with direct throttle/engine connection
- Feels light and handles nimbly, too.
- Cockpit favors small riders
- Could benefit from a steering damper
- Transmission could have more precise feel between gears
too—if nothing more than to help goof off and slide the bike’s rear end around turns—but the two-way adjustable (Normal, Sport) Engine Brake control programming works excellently and helps mitigate the effects of back torque during fast deceleration.
Overall we’re really impressed with what MV’s done with its new Dragster. With a focused cockpit that favors smaller riders, it certainly won’t be for everyone. But the advancement of the electronics, specifically the improved response of the ride-by-wire throttle (in its ‘Normal’ setting), makes it a sharper tool and a night-and-day difference to the original Brutale 800. Factor in its sinister expression paired with a wild, rip-roaring character and the Dragster presents yet another lucrative option for folks that love riding naked.