First Look: 2012 MV Agusta F3

Triple X

The most anticipated sportbike to debut at this year's Milan Show had to be the all-new 2012 MV Agusta F3. Not only does this gorgeous 675cc triple extend the exotic Italian brand into the middleweight market segment, it also forges a spiritual connection to the glorious three-cylinder racebikes the great Giacomo Agostini employed to dominate the Grands Prix in the late '60s and early '70s.

The F3 engine isn't just a slice of the F4's 1000cc, four-cylinder mill, but an all-new design featuring an innovative backwards-rotating crankshaft-a production sportbike first, the company claims-and a novel transmission arrangement that relocates the clutch and gearbox even higher and further forward to make room for an exceptionally long swingarm. Ride-by-wire throttle activation, multiple power maps and traction control-a first on a middleweight-will be standard equipment. The F3 should be very fast with a claimed 140 horsepower, and reasonably affordable for an Italian exotic at around $16,000 when it's expected to appear late in 2011.

The lower price tag won't negatively affect quality or style-the F3 appears every bit as exotic as its big brother, with a similar cast-aluminum/steel-trellis frame, single-sided swingarm, spidery 10-spoke wheels and a distinctive, triple organ-pipe side-mount exhaust. The styling, expertly executed by senior designer Adrian Morton (formerly of Benelli and Cagiva), is unmistakably MV, but even slimmer and sleeker than the F4. Little wonder that the diminutive, gorgeously finished machine earned the coveted "Most Beautiful Bike of the Show" title at EICMA this year, capturing 38.5 percent of the total votes cast.

We didn't sit on the F3-it was high on a dais and guarded by an Italian supermodel-but MV Agusta claims this is the smallest supersport ever.