Power? Check. Manageable power? Um, not so much. Spurring the little MV engine is a ride-by-wire system with a light throttle spring and an extra light flywheel to match, so revs build quickly. However, fueling on our test bike was simply dreadful at low rpm; under 5000 revs the engine was unsteady and unpredictable. Once the motor clears 6000 rpm, the fuel map and the cams become friends and the motor responds as it should. And that’s just the beginning. If the fueling and cams start a serious relationship at 5000 rpm, they elope at 10,000 and produce an intoxicating rush of horsepower that doesn’t stop until the 14,500-rpm redline. Ah, young love: Barely under control, often messy.
Triumph’s long experience with the 675 shines in many ways: sophistication, overall performance, and value. In case you’re not familiar with the R-suffixed Daytona, for just $1700 more than a base $10,999 D-675, you get an Öhlins NIX30 fork and TTX36 shock, both fantastically bling-y and fully adjustable. Brembo supplies the top-line Monobloc calipers that pinch 308mm discs. Add to all of this a quickshifter, a few tasteful carbon fiber bits, and some red accents—trellis sub-frame and pinstriped rims—and the 675R more than justifies the premium over the base model.
While the Daytona’s engine is unchanged for the R spec, we’re not sure it really needs much. For starters, it is abundantly clear that the Daytona has undergone years of refinement. Its throttle response is superb, far better than the MV’s, and the engine pulls smoothly across the rev range. It chugs away from stoplights effortlessly, and goes on to create linear power all the way to the other side of 13,000 rpm. Even if it lacks the MV’s distinctive scream, the Triumph’s three-pot makes its own sweet sounds, a beautiful growl that never turns shrill or that ever lets you mistake it for any other engine configuration.
So, the Triumph’s engine impresses with real-world utility and polite manners; same story on the riding position and general bike/rider interface. The 675R has an aggressive riding position but the seat is soft, the handlebars are an easy reach, and the wind protection satisfactory. The F3’s ergos are what you’d call committed, with forward-slung bars, minimal wind protection, and an uncompromising seat. Somewhere in Rome, a basilica is missing a pew.
MV Agusta follows Italian rival Ducati in the embrace of electronics. MV’s digital suite is uncommonly flexible, with eight levels of traction control and four power modes, including a Custom mode that allows the rider to select preferred levels of engine braking and throttle response. Somewhere in there is probably Wi-Fi and a Twitter feed.
Even with the electronics in charge, the F3 is a real handful on a closed circuit. Over the course of two days of on-track testing at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA, we had the opportunity to sample every electronic preference, yet we went fastest with the TC turned off and all other electronics dialed down. The wave of power at 10,000 rpm turned from thrilling when just horsing around to unmanageable when attempting lap times at the track, and no level of traction control could keep the rear wheel in line when exiting corners. The F3’s tendency to kick the rider out of the seat became worrisome, and the frustration amplified when the TC would engage and kill power during transitions and over bumps while motoring down the front straight.