Fresh off its first-ever victory in MotoUSA’s performance sportbike track shootouts, MV Agusta enters the street contest in a better position than ever with its F3 800 ($15,798). Armed with a refined electronics package to manage the punchy, torque- rich 798cc Triple, the MV is set to mop up the competition… or is it?
We’re attracted to the defined yet classic lines of the F3. It has a chiseled appearance highlighted by triple organ-style pipes and perfectly symmetrical face. While plenty elegant, it’s still missing the Panigale’s garish, ‘hey, hey look at me’ presence.
“Wow what an incredible bike,” thinks Northover. “It’s pretty stunning the styling on it. It looks gorgeous… but this one has a few other things you’d buy it for, too.”
Slide into the cockpit and the F3 feels the most racy of the group. The seating position is focused with relatively high footpegs and low, wide clip-ons. It’s certainly tolerable, but is the most demanding on the street.
The MV feels narrow between the rider’s legs and the height of its saddle is low and comparable to the GSX-R. However, it lacks the same level of padding, which is a source of discomfort during longer rides. Another strike is the level of engine vibration, which reduces the usefulness of the rear view mirrors. The MV’s dashboard display is feature-rich, but is tough to read while riding. It’s also taxing to navigate through various functions of the menu system.
(Top) In terms of engine character the F3 800 delivers in spades. It sounds even better than the V-Twin powered Ducati. (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 to be useful on the street. (Below) The F3’s engine is plenty powerful, however it’s throttle response isn’t quite calibrated correctly for street use.
With its hypersensitive throttle the F3 can be a little tricky to launch, even casually at stoplights.
“It has a lot of issues with the throttle,” Northover agrees. “You’re never quite sure what you’re going to get when you open the throttle.”
The ability to tune various parameters of the engine and throttle via the ‘Custom’ map certainly help (see the ‘settings’ for optimum set-up) but it wasn’t enough to completely mask the problem.
“On track it’s not a problem—when you ride it full gas, flat out racetrack-style it’s fine,” he continues to explain. “But when you’re riding on the road part throttle, transitional throttle it never quite feels connected.”
At the drag strip, the problem is compounded by a degree of clutch shutter at elevated rpm. In spite of this, it was able to out-accelerate the GSX-R to 60 mph (the MV employs a shorter first gear) but was slower than both the Ducati and Suzuki through the quarter-mile (10.98 seconds @ 135 mph).
“The motor is really, really strong. It feels so much more powerful than the other two bikes,” Chris notes. “I don’t actually think it’s much faster in a straight line than the GSX-R or Ducati. But the way it makes power, and the way it is so quick up through the gears [makes it feel faster].”
The MV’s six-speed gearbox features close ratios second to that of the Ducati. The transmission functions well but lacks the precise, thoroughly engineered feel of the Japanese bike. Its factory-installed quickshifter proved more responsive than the Panigale’s but not quite as sharp as the Suzuki’s aftermarket set-up from Bazzaz ($849.95). We did however loves the freewheeling function of its slipper clutch performing flawlessly just like the GSX-R’s unit.
Our testers liked the feel of the F3’s brakes. The Brembo monobloc front set-up are sharp with lots of power, plus the back brake is strong and responsive, without that overly mushy feel of the Ducati’s. Surprisingly, results from the braking test prove that the MV’s stoppers were the least effective during a simulated panic stop. Here, the MV required 10.3 feet more stopping distance compared to the GSX-R and 17 more than the Panigale (w/ ABS disabled).
Preload: 6 (Turns in)
Compression: 1.75 (Turns out)
Preload: 0 (stock, 25mm sag)
Power Mode: Custom
Traction Control: Off
Gas Sensitivity: Rain
Engine Brake: Sport
Maximum Torque: Sport
Engine Response: Slow
RPM Limiter: Sport
Dyno testing demonstrates that the F3’s Triple has a plump torque curve that’s ahead of the Suzuki. Its 58.95 lb-ft peak is generated at 10,800 revs, placing it ahead of the 750 but behind the Ducati’s torque monster Twin. However in measured horsepower the MV ranked supreme cranking out just north of 132 ponies at 13,000 rpm—two over the Ducati and 7.6 hp more than the Suzuki’s Inline Four.
In terms of fuel economy, we averaged 32.3 mpg aboard the F3. But considering the smallest-in-class fuel tank capacity of 4.22 gallons, it nets the shortest useable range of just 136 miles between fill-ups.
Despite its power advantage its snatchy throttle takes away from the engine’s potential. It also made it difficult to get an accurate assessment on the traction control system.
“It’s like there is a rubber band between the throttle bodies and the twist grip,” describes Northover. “Like a bad phone signal: you never quite get what you ask for. And once that does that to you a couple times your confidence drops.”
“On a sunny day, on a beautiful grippy mountain road it’s not so bad,” he continues. “In the wet, or on a cold day on low grip tarmac, you’d probably enjoy it less.”
(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 Suzuki. (Center) Although the MV has some handling quirks, on a smooth road its chassis delivers great feedback and rewards hard riding. (Below) The F3’s front and rear brakes were rated highly, but it action it took the longest distance to stop from 60 mph.
Regardless of road conditions, it’s undisputable how wonderful the F3’s engine sounds at full song. Even compared to the booming Ducati, the MV emits an even more devilish scream that taunts you to twist the right grip harder. In sound testing the MV ranked between the quiet and neighborhood-friendly Suzuki and the attention-grabbing Ducati.
On the scales the MV weighs 428 pounds ready to ride. That’s one pound more than the Suzuki but nine under the Panigale. Though to be fair the difference is negligible with all three bikes feel equally light on their toes.
“It’s a little stiffer than the Ducati,” notes Northover. “But if feels really good. It steers really well, holds a line.”
Stability during acceleration—especially on bumpy pavement is an issue with the F3 at times demonstrating severe headshake. It’s this reason why it was rated so low in the Handling/Suspension category.
The F3’s strong engine character and intoxication howl continue to mesmerize us. But it’s quirky on/off throttle response, and at times, severe headshake, made it the most challenging to ride at any pace. Pair that with an overly rigid chassis and uncompromising ergonomics and it was the machine we wanted to get off of the quickest. Still, it’s clear MV has something special, and with added tuning the F3 would likely rank much higher. For now though it’s relegated to a distant third.
- Engine and exhaust sounds excellent
- Powerful top-end and wide powerband
- Great drivetrain with slipper clutch and quickshifter
- Awkward-feeling on/off throttle response
- Least comfortable to ride
- Potential for severe headshake during acceleration over bumps