MV AGUSTA F4RR
You can’t really conduct a European superbike comparison without including MV Agusta’s F4. Penned by Massimo Tamburini and powered by the howling, 1000cc Corsacorta (short stroke) four that sounds even more ferocious now that new titanium rods allow the rev limit to be safely raised to 14,000 rpm, this bike comes closest to the traditional definition of an exotic superbike. Like revered exotics, the F4 is easy to love from a distance. The 15-year-old silhouette remains improbably striking, and fine detailing makes good on the firm’s “Motorcycle Art” claim. From the saddle, however, MV puts the “temperamental” in “temperamental Italian Superbike.”
The 167-bhp F4RR is furiously fast, but clumsy engine dynamics make it difficult to ride well. The most vexing problem remains the abrupt power spike when the variable-length intake stacks snap open right before 10,000 rpm; this jarring hit, coupled with glitchy injection, makes throttle management challenging. This power spike also causes the traction control to cut torque too severely, so much so that some riders preferred to ride with the TC deactivated! We’re informed that MV recently signed an agreement with the same engineering firm behind Aprilia’s excellent APRC system, but we’re tired of MV saying “wait until next year.” Speaking of, what about the advertised auto-blip downshift programming? Not activated on our bike, or any U.S.-bound models, we’re told—though perhaps available for download “later.”
For as big and bulky as the 469-lb. F4RR is—even with new forged wheels and a 4-pound-lighter muffler—it handles surprisingly well. High-speed stability is its strong suit—it razored Chuckwalla’s high-speed bowl—but it also has light, responsive steering.
One complaint that MV did address was a lack of legroom, adding adjustable footrests this year. The F4RR is still ergonomically demanding, however, with a high, board-like saddle and a long reach to low bars. Considerable vibration and that underseat heating unit are annoying as well.
Such glitches and gremlins were once expected on a European exotic, but Aprilia and BMW prove this is no longer the case. MV Agusta has charisma and character, not to mention, the outright power and performance to compete. If the company would refine its current technology to work as advertised, it could be a contender.
Motor & Vehicle Integrated Control System
MV Agusta’s Motor & Vehicle Integrated Control System (MVICS), which incorporates multiple power maps and traction control, uses a complex “inertial platform” consisting of three gyroscopes, three accelerometers and two potentiometers to gather an unprecedented amount of data. MVICS also invites an unprecedented amount of adjustability: a Custom mode allows everything from throttle sensitivity to torque response to engine braking to rev limit to be individually fine-tuned. The F4RR model also features Öhlins electronically adjustable suspension, offering 24 rebound and compression damping settings in the Custom mode. Supercheesy wiring leads, which flop over unattractively and are covered by a rubber boot that doesn’t stay seated, look utterly out of place on an otherwise exquisitely finished bike. A quickshifter and Öhlins Mechatronic steering damper are icing on MV’s electronics cake.