Triple Punch

MC Comparo MV Agusta F3 vs. Triumph Daytona 675R Italy’s Latest Middleweight Takes On England’s Established Champ

By Zack Courts, Photography by Kevin Hipp

Traditional middleweight title bouts pit the major Japanese 600cc fours against each other, with Triumph’s charismatic 675cc triple hurling insults from ringside. And when the Daytona gets invited to the ring and has a chance to throw a few punches, it’s rarely a fair fight. The 675’s extra displacement compared to the Japanese mainstays moves it forward more than its lack of a cylinder holds it back—in fact, it was Motorcycle of the Year in 2006, and last year the somewhat spicier 675R defeated both the Ducati 848 EVO and the Suzuki GSX-R750 in our “Middle Ground” comparison (MC, Sept. 2011). Even so, it looked like the Daytona 675 was destined to jab away inside a displacement class of one.

Now, however, thanks to the new MV Agusta F3 the 675R has a fight on its hands. The F3 made a splash when it debuted at the EICMA show in 2010, being voted “Most Beautiful Bike,” and what started as anticipatory hype has been building momentum ever since. MV Agusta fueled it by saying that this three-cylinder middleweight is a tribute to the company’s championship-winning triples of the 1960s and ‘70s. The implied expectation is that it will be just as glorious.

That was then. Now we have the actual machine. From an art-appreciation standpoint, the F3 lives up to its billing. MV prides itself in creating exquisite machinery, something for the eye and the heart; it’s sleek, purposeful, and the pipe-organ triple-outlet exhaust adds unique Continental flair. Fortunately, MV has also given the F3 credible hardware, including huge 320mm rotors up front squeezed by four-pot Brembo calipers, a fully adjustable Marzocchi fork, and a similarly variable Sachs shock. The frame is a composite of aluminum and steel, like all current MVs. And since no modern sportbike is complete without an extensive array of electronics, the F3 gets complex throttle-by-wire engine management (including multiple ride modes), standard traction control, and a quick shifter.

Thumbing the starter brings to life a 675cc inline triple, just like the Triumph, but the MV mill has a couple extra shakes of pepper. Bore and stroke numbers are almost Panigale-level oversquare, with 79mm of bore and 45.9mm of stroke leading to a 1.72:1 bore-to-stroke ratio (the Panigale is 1.84). The Triumph 675R has a much more conventional 1.41 ratio (from 74mm x 52.3mm). If you think that the F3 will pack a fearsome high-rpm burst of power while the Triumph spreads the thrust around, you’d be right. (See the dyno charts on Page 64.)

A few more tricks lurk within the MV’s shapely engine cases. The F3 also employs a counter-rotating crank—the crankshaft spins opposite the wheels—a tactic intended to quicken the bike’s responses through reduced gyroscopic effect. Moreover, MV’s engineers admit to spending time making the F3 sound special—efforts that paid off with a lusty moan from the airbox and a skin-tingling wail from the exhaust. Is it quiet enough to be legal? If not, we don’t care.

With all of that bark comes significant bite, in the form of 112 horsepower at 14,500 rpm and 47 lb.-ft. of torque at 10,600 rpm delivered to the rear wheel. The F3 splits the horsepower/torque battle with the Daytona, which “only” makes 108.5 bhp at 12,500 rpm but grinds out 48.8 lb.-ft. of torque at 10,200 rpm. This Triumph is slightly down on power compared with other Daytona 675s we’ve tested, but the MV Agusta is comfortably clear of both its primary rival and the 600cc fours snarling at its feet.

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.

In addition to learning more about power delivery and engine dynamics, track testing exposes suspension shortcomings. To help us dial in both bikes, our first few sessions on track were overseen by Randy Acevedo at InHouse Suspension (951.741.4198). The Triumph was in good shape as delivered but we stiffened it up for racing speeds, adding compression damping to the fork while reducing rebound, and doing the same for the shock. The MV’s fork setup provided lightning-quick steering and needed just a turn of compression to add braking stability. But it took numerous sessions on track and diligent adjusting by Randy to get the Sachs shock to a comfortable place. As delivered, the F3 had the compression screw cinched all the way down, which is odd enough by itself, but we later learned that the valving overlap is uncommonly large. That is, adjusting the compression also has an effect on rebound rates; we discovered nearly no compression damping with the screw seated, but adding just 1/8th turn of rebound was akin to adding three turns of compression.

The fact that the F3 demanded so much attention to setup contrasts dramatically with the Triumph, which called for only minor tweaks. It also shows quite clearly that Triumph’s investment in the TTX shock is worthy of more praise. Öhlins says that one of the main benefits of the TTX technology is that it separates the compression and rebound circuits—what you set is what you get, with very little interaction. The 675R’s suspension responded predictably to the adjustments made, as it should.

Yes, the MV Agusta has taken a few hits, but it hasn’t been knocked down. Once both wheels are in line the MV carves through a corner beautifully and holds a line gracefully, yet has the ability to flick quickly from turn to turn. However, the F3 simply doesn’t put the power down as consistently as the Daytona, and can’t match the Triumph’s overall stability and predictability.

Even with both bikes set up as best we could on the stock components, grip was an issue. In preparation for the track, we mounted Michelin’s new Power Cup DOT-approved race rubber, which promised good times on these feisty middleweights, but we struggled to get keep the tires happy. On the MV, we found the eight stages of TC to be almost indistinguishable from one another, each equally keen to cut power in the wrong situation. The silver lining to the F3’s cloud of electronics (see Control-Alt-Delete, Page 63) was adjusting the Engine Brake setting. In Sport, the engine creates a great deal of compression braking during deceleration and we found the ensuing slides difficult to control. Switching to Normal made the slides easier to manage, though we would still like to see another setting with even less engine braking.

Sliding the rear tire around on corner entry has a certain charm, not least of which is making you feel a little more like Garry McCoy, but we have no love for uncontrollable shaking in the front end. Nothing could be done to keep away from the ferocious, almost-tank-slappers that the F3 would produce while on the power over bumps or in corner transitions. Nothing, that is, other than going slower or fitting a steering damper, which the F3 does not have.

Frantic and often unpredictable describe the MV Agusta’s track performance, while the Triumph is just the opposite. On track the 675R is incredibly poised and confident, the quick shifter is flawless, and the large analog tach needle combined with a broad spread of power make it unnecessary to venture near redline for the most effective corner exits.Also, the wide torque band provided choices in gear selection, where the F3 needs to be kept right on the power peak.

The Triumph’s unending willingness to please on the track does more than make its pilot feel good—it’s faster, too. The 675R posted a best lap of 1:36.26. That’s 1.5 seconds quicker than the MV’s best of 1:37.77, proving once again that top speed on the straights is no match for quick footwork in the infield. And then you add street function to the list, an area where the Triumph delivers blow after blow of pure superiority, in just about every functional category besides blatant sex appeal.

You could turn this argument around and say that the $800 difference in price—the MV sells for $13,498, almost an “everyman’s” ticket for an Italian exotic—is an imperceptible difference that buys a stunningly beautiful and almost rare machine, one you won’t see coming and going at the Rock Store or Deals Gap or Alice’s Restaurant. That’s fine if you want to ride your art. Might as well throw darts at your Pollock original. For everyone else, the Daytona 675R is the clear winner, a motorcycle so breathtakingly excellent that it’ll take more than fondly remembered GP championships to knock it out.

Ari Henning

Road Test Editor

BEST LAP: 1:36.26
Triumph Daytona 675R

Age: 27

Height: 5’10”

Weight: 177 lbs.

Inseam: 33 in.

When news broke of the new F3, I was floored. Triumph’s Daytona is one of my favorite bikes, and it looked like the MV would deliver more of everything that makes the Daytona great. If only! Either MV is delusional, or its engineers never actually acquired a Daytona 675 to test alongside their bike. It simply doesn’t compare. The electronics are a hindrance, the engine is peaky, and the chassis was a total pain to set up. The only thing the bike has going for it is gorgeous looks, and the Daytona is no ugly bird. The Daytona 675R is just outstanding in every way. I’ve recommended it to numerous riders, and wouldn’t be disappointed if it was the only sportbike I owned.




Zack Courts

Associate Editor

BEST LAP: 1:36.94
Triumph Daytona 675R

Age: 28

Height: 6’2”

Weight: 185 lbs.

Inseam: 34 in.

The F3 sure looks the part (I dig that stubby hot-rod triple-tipped exhaust), but it simply does not walk the walk. All of those electronics turned out to be almost completely useless. The motor feels like a bi-polar terrier on the end of a leash; half-asleep one minute and a snarling ball of teeth the next. Then there’s the punishing seat and hot air blowing on your legs in traffic. Everything the F3 does pales in comparison to the 675R, which is a terrific bike from top to bottom. It’s finished beautifully, with high-end components that make it a joy on the track and the street. In my mind it is alongside the BMW S1000RR as the perfect sportbike. I want one.




Control-Alt-Delete

When Good Electronics Go Bad

The more advanced on-board computers become, the more motorcycle manufacturers struggle to provide an interface that is functional and understandable. Interacting with all of the F3’s electronics is done through a somewhat dated dashboard. The F3 tachometer is a familiar sci-fi job from the 1980s with bars that move from left to right across the top of the screen until the shift light illuminates. Speed is shown digitally, but other information can be toggled via two familiar MV rubber-shrouded buttons to show trip meters, a lap-timer, and power maps/engine modes (we’ll get to that).

The F3’s eight levels of TC are clearly shown by a ring of bars encircling a “TC” logo—four bars for level four of TC, and so on. Power modes are marked by a letter—”S” for sport, etc—near the gear indicator, which is strangely confusing. As it happens, a digital S on the MV’s dash (for Sport) looks exactly like the number 5 indicating fifth gear, and the same goes for Neutral/Normal, so a quick glance down can cause a double take depending what mode the bike is in.

Beyond traction control the F3 has four power modes: Normal, Rain, Sport, and Custom, the latter offering adjustability of engine dynamics while modifying TC settings independently. This is where it gets tricky.

The “Gas Sensitivity” menu, which we take to mean throttle response, offers three options: Normal, Rain, and Sport, with the latter offering the hardest hit of power. We settled on the Normal setting as it seemed to offer the best engine dynamic for riding on track, delivering the high-rpm shot of power slightly later in the revs but much more evenly. We learned that the “Max Torque” mode was best left in Sport, and the same was found for “Engine Response,” which was better off in Fast rather than Slow.

The F3’s quick-shifter is helpful but not perfect, as it requires a firm jab from your boot that doesn’t always yield a change in gear, and one miss means an unforgiving rev-limiter yanking back on the reins. The shift light is clear but not prominent, and is adjustable via the “RPM Limiter” menu in the Custom power mode. However, we found it only made the shift light come on a few hundred rpm sooner rather than change the dynamic of the rev-limiter. In other words, when the F3’s mill starts to spool up, you better get your foot under that shifter!

If you’re thinking to yourself that this seems unnecessarily complicated, imagine pouring over this information in 90-degree heat with only two rubbery buttons, an imprecise dash, and in full leathers.

Horsepower

Triumph Daytona 675R: 108.5 bhp @ 12,500 rpm

MV Agusta F3: 112.0 bhp @ 14,500 rpm




Torque

Triumph Daytona 675R: 48.8 lb.-ft @ 10,200 rpm

MV Agusta F3: 47.0 lb.-ft @ 10,600 rpm

The lump in the MV's horsepower curve is the oversquare bore/stroke and aggressive cams talking. From the saddle, the power curve is almost reminiscent of a two-stroke engine. It makes the MV a thrill to ride at around 10,000 rpm, but the power was difficult to use with precision. The Trumpet’s mill looks as good on paper as it feels to ride, with fairly linear power and a fat torque curve. The British triple produces within 1 hp of peak over a 1000 rpm span, and more than 48 lb.-ft of torque for a 1700 rpm span. That makes it more fun to ride on the street and track.

Ergos

Tech Spec

2012 MV AGUSTA F3

Engine type: l-c triple
Valve train: DOHC, 12v
Displacement: 675cc
Bore x stroke: 79.0 x 45.9mm
Compression: 13.0:1
Fuel system: EFI
Clutch: Wet, multi-plate
Transmission: 6-speed
Frame: Tubular-steel trellis
Front suspension: Marzocchi 43mm fork with adjustable spring preload, rebound and compression damping
Rear suspension: Sachs shock with adjustable spring preload, rebound and high/low speed compression damping
Front brake: Dual Brembo four-piston calipers, 320mm discs
Rear brake: Brembo 2-piston caliper, 220mm disc
Front tire: 120/70ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo SuperCorsa SP
Rear tire: 180/55ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo SuperCorsa SP
Rake/trail: na/3.9 in.
Seat height: 32.5 in.
Wheelbase: 54.2 in.
Fuel capacity: 4.2 gal.
Weight (tank full/empty): 426/400 lbs.
Measured horsepower: 112.0 bhp @ 14,500 rpm
Measured torque: 47.0 lb.-ft @ 10,600 rpm
Corrected ¼-mile: 10.85 sec. @ 133.25 mph
Fuel mileage (hi/low/avg.): 41/32/37 mpg
Colors: White, black/silver, red/silver
Available: Now
Warranty : 24 mo., unlimited mi.
Contact: MV Agusta USA
10 Canal St. Suite 224
Bristol, PA 19007 215.781.1770
www.mvagustausa.com

2012 TRIUMPH DAYTONA 675R

Engine type: l-c triple
Valve train: DOHC, 12v
Displacement: 675cc
Bore x stroke: 74.0 x 54.3mm
Compression: 12.7:1
Fuel system: EFI
Clutch: Wet, multi-plate
Transmission: 6-speed
Frame: Aluminum twin-spar
Front suspension: Öhlins 43mm NIX30 fork with adjustable spring preload, rebound and compression damping
Rear suspension: Öhlins TTX36 shock with adjustable spring preload, rebound and compression damping
Front brake: Dual Brembo four-piston calipers, 308mm discs
Rear brake: Nissin single-piston caliper, 220mm disc
Front tire: 120/70ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo SuperCorsa SP
Rear tire: 180/55ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo SuperCorsa SP
Rake/trail: 23.9°/3.4 in.
Seat height: 32.7 in.
Wheelbase: 54.9 in.
Fuel capacity: 4.6 gal.
Weight (tank full/empty): 422/394 lbs.
Measured horsepower: 108.5 bhp @ 12,500 rpm
Measured torque: 48.8 lb.-ft @ 10,200 rpm
Corrected ¼-mile: 10.74 sec. @ 130.12 mph
Fuel mileage (hi/low/avg.): 40/27/34 mpg
Colors: White/black
Available: Now
Warranty : 24 mo., unlimited mi.
Contact: Triumph Motorcycles of America, Ltd.
385 Walt Sanders Memorial Dr. #100
Newnan, GA 30265 770.447.5571
www.triumphmotorcycles.com

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