MV Agusta F3 | First Ride

Living up to its looks

By Alan Cathcart, Photography by Kel Edge

Few motorcycles have received such immediate acclaim at their public debut as MV Agusta's svelte, sleek and sexy F3. When it was unveiled at the 2010 EICMA show in Milan, Italy, the 675cc triple stole the title for the "Most Beautiful Bike." But does the F3's performance live up to its looks? We joined the international motorcycle press at Paul Ricard Raceway in southern France to find out.

The Italian middleweight was late MV Agusta boss Claudio Castiglioni's tribute to Count Domenico Agusta's triples that took Giacomo Agostini to victory throughout the 1960s and '70s. It's built entirely at the MV Agusta (formerly Aermacchi and Cagiva) factory beside Lake Varese, and is laden with performance features. First and foremost is the backwards-rotating crankshaft that partially counteracts the rotational inertia of the wheels to help quicken steering. The bike also employs ride-by-wire throttle and has an eight-level traction-control system plus four power modes. Output is stated as 126 horsepower at 14,400 rpm, with 52 lb.-ft of torque at 10,600 rpm. Castiglioni's original design called for gear-driven cams and radial valves as on the F4, but chain drive and a paired valve layout were employed to reduce costs. As it stands, the F3 engine costs 40 percent less to manufacture than the 998cc F4 mill, which goes a long way toward achieving a competitive price of $13,498.

Although the temperature registered just 36 degrees when I mounted the F3 at the bike's press launch, the shivers I experienced were only partly due to the cold. Thumbing the starter sent a haunting howl streaming from the F3's triple-pipe exhaust, a sound MV engineers admit to spending a lot of time perfecting. The small, slim motorcycle feels similar to a 250cc two-stroke Grand Prix racer, but with a rational riding position that provides just enough space for a 6-foot-tall rider to tuck behind the small screen.

The payoff for the F3's low, compressed build is its amazingly quick handling. The wheelbase measures a scant 54.2 inches, but the incredibly compact engine makes room for a rangy 22.7-inch single-sided swingarm. With a claimed wet weight of just 406 lbs. the MV feels incredibly light and responds so quickly that it's easy to overwhelm it-just a small input on the bars is enough to take you where you want to go. And while the bike dives into turns, it also tracks without a hint of instability or nervousness thanks to a balanced chassis and firm-yet-compliant suspension. In many corners I was able to hold a tight line all the way round, just like on a 250cc GP bike!

Even with the frigid temps, feedback from the Pirelli Supercorsa SP tires fitted for the track was excellent and the F3's front end felt locked to the track surface. The only handling trait I didn't care for was a tendency to skate the back tire under hard braking. Part of the reason for that is the bike's short wheelbase, plus the fact that there's no slipper clutch. The optional slipper unit would certainly be worth investigating, but I wouldn't buy the optional quick-shifter just yet.

More work is needed with the ignition cut maps to yield smooth full-throttle shifts. Using the quick-shifter to pass between the bottom three gears felt pretty harsh and mechanically unsympathetic.

Overall the F3's handling is outstanding, but it still takes second place to that magnificent motor. The F3 spins smoothly and builds power quickly without any pronounced dips or peaks. The super-short-stroke triple is rev-hungry, but still boasts a broader power spread than an inline-four. Torque tops out at 10,600 rpm and remains high all the way to the 15,000-rpm redline, which means you can short-shift when necessary without sacrificing too much drive. Because of that, the F3 is likely to be a very forgiving and satisfying bike to ride on the street, just like the three-cylinder Daytona 675.

There are four different power modes-Sport, Normal, Rain and Custom-the latter allowing you to set your own parameters via a laptop computer. The ride-by-wire throttle offers a good combination of immediacy and controllability in the Normal mode, but switching to Sport results in jerky pickup off closed throttle. The eight-level traction-control program is simple and effective, and was very much appreciated during the cold test sessions. Switching TC settings can be accomplished on the fly using a set of buttons on the left handlebar.

The F3's lines are intoxicating. MV's tagline is "Motorcycle Art," and looking at the F3, there's no denying it is a design study worthy of a museum pedestal. The only area where form impedes function is with the elegant but hard-to-read dash. The bike is breathtakingly beautiful and displays MV's characteristic attention to detail. The new F3 is a worthy homage to Count Agusta's original three-cylinder racers, and performs every bit as well as its stunning appearance would suggest.

tech Spec

EVOLUTION
MV Agusta's new middleweight is a clean-sheet build that furthers the Italian company's reputation for beautiful looks and impressive performance.
RIVALS
Ducati 848 EVO, Honda CBR600RR, Kawasaki ZX-6R, Suzuki GSX-R600, Triumph Daytona 675, Yamaha YZF-R6.
TECH

Price $13,498
Engine type l-c inline-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
Claimed horsepower 126 bhp @ 14,440 rpm
Claimed torque 52 lb.-ft. @ 10,600 rpm
Frame Tubular-steel and cast-aluminum with single-sided aluminum swingarm
Front suspension Marzocchi 43mm inverted fork with adjustable spring preload, compression and rebound damping
Rear suspension Sachs shock with adjustable spring preload, compression and rebound damping
Front brake Dual Brembo four-piston radial calipers, 320mm discs
Rear brake Brembo two-piston caliper, 220mm disc
Front tire 120/70ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso
Rear tire 180/55ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso
Rake/trail 24.5˚/3.9 in.
Seat height 32.0 in.
Wheelbase 54.2 in.
Fuel capacity 4.2 gal.
Claimed curb weight 406 lbs.
Colors White, red/silver, black/anthracite
Available June
Warranty 24 mo., unlimited mi.
Contact MV Agusta USA
10 Canal St. #224
Bristol, PA 19007
215.781.1770
www.mvagustausa.com

VERDICT: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Claudio Castiglioni-and Count Agusta-would be proud!

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