They say: “A technological revolution without limits.”
We say: “The only limit is your ability to hold on.”
MV Agusta’s F4 has always been the supermodel of superbikes—fun to lust after from a distance, but too demanding and finicky for any real-world, long-term relationship. Until now. Massimo Tamburini’s ultimate work of motorcycle art has been given a comprehensive overhaul in the form of the 2013 MV Agusta F4RR under the careful direction of MV’s American-born R&D engineer Brian Gillen that dramatically raises its performance and functionality. It’s a supermodel you really could settle down with, at last.
MV offers three distinct versions of its superbike platform: the base F4, the F4R, and the line-leading F4RR, distinguished by electronically adjustable Öhlins suspension and a 201-horsepower version of the ultra-short-stroke, 998cc Corsacorta inline-four that has been souped up with a lightened crankshaft, titanium connecting rods, and more. In addition, an all-new and ultra-sophisticated Eldor electronics package incorporates Mikuni ride-by-wire digital throttle control, eight-level traction control, and the MV Integrated Control System (MVICS) that allows the rider to alter throttle sensitivity, torque response, engine braking, rev limit, and more. There’s a quickshifter, too. MV also fitted a MotoGP-type electronic “auto-blipper” that facilitates clutchless down-shifting—a first on production motorcycles. Let’s see you paint the tarmac with black lines, then…
I got acquainted with this radically revised Latin lovely on a cold, late-January date at the freshly resurfaced Valencia MotoGP circuit in Spain. Four 20-minute track sessions—two on the base-model F4 followed by two on the F4RR—was barely enough time to even scratch the surface of the almost bewildering array of electronic options this motorcycle offers. In an attempt to focus on changes to the core motorcycle, I left the bike in the Custom engine map MV’s engineers had specifically constructed for Valencia and restricted my experimentation to toying with traction-control and ride-mode settings.
The dash looks beautiful, but deciphering all that data is almost impossible, especially a
Make no mistake, the many available TC and ride-mode adjustments are very much appreciated because the performance provided by the tuned-up Corsacorta engine is absolutely mental! The F4RR explodes off corners, with the lighter crank assembly spinning the engine up noticeably faster than the standard F4, so much that it’s a struggle to hold onto the bike with the throttle wound open. This is what traction control and wheelie control are for! It should also be noted that you are able to switch off the traction control completely, but that’s definitely an experts-only move. Even with new and improved electronics, however, power delivery still sometimes seemed layered, occasionally feeling abrupt when it came off the traction control—a sensation not helped by the somewhat lightswitch-like operation of the TSS variable-length intake system that delivered a noticeable extra rush of power around the 9500-rpm mark.
There’s not an excess of low-end power due to the short-stroke configuration, but serious torque comes on at 7000 rpm and doesn’t dip until just before the 13,500-rpm redline. As such, the bike feels surprisingly flexible, letting me comfortably lap the entire Valencia circuit in third gear, save for the front straight where I touched fifth. This was good, because action from the quickshifter seemed stiff, causing me to occasionally miss gears. The auto-blipper/slipper clutch combination, on the other hand, worked brilliantly—just kick the shift lever down one gear after another, without even touching the clutch, and you hear the engine make a slight blip as the transmission settles into the lower gear and the bike sails into the corner without any hint of chatter or instability. Just don’t try and use this feature with the revs higher than the 12,000-rpm threshold!
The handling is every bit as impressive as the acceleration, thanks to the Öhlins electronic suspension, which uses the company’s Mechatronic technology and a stand-alone ECU to automatically adjust damping on the fly in response to changing riding conditions. Again, due to the lack of testing time, I left the suspension set in the Custom mode defined by MV test rider Fabrizio Latini. The result was exceptional front-end feedback and rock-solid rear end stability, with none of the tendency to squat and understeer like I noticed on the standard, Marzocchi-suspended base model.
The latest MV’s steering manners are really wonderful, and nothing like the heavy, ultra-stiff F4s of yore. Capable, compliant suspension action and flawless front-end feedback let you bank the F4RR over much farther than before. Having the confidence to carry higher corner speeds and transition
side-to-side more quickly transforms the feel of the bike.
This is an extremely fast motorcycle. In the right hands it will be competitive in Superstock racing—especially with all the electronics already homologated for racing. No wonder Giovanni Castiglioni has already committed MV Agusta to World Superbike next year, anticipating that series’ move toward rules forcing bikes closer to stock form. The latest F4RR has what it takes to be a contender.