Carving the updated Brutale 800RR through a series of bumpy bends in the hills near Varese is much easier and more rewarding than doing the same thing on the original model’s launch in Tuscany in October 2014. The new bike is every bit as quick and agile but feels smoother, more responsive and much more controllable, and there are plenty of good reasons for that.
This Brutale might look almost identical to the original 800RR with which MV Agusta gave its three-cylinder family a more racy edge back then, aside from new graphics and wheels, but this is a substantially updated Brutale, with a revamped and Euro 4-compliant powerplant, a new chassis and a mission to lead MV Agusta’s recovery from a difficult past few years.
MV’s well-documented financial problems have resulted in boss Giovanni Castiglioni’s bold plans for expansion being put into reverse. But as well as focusing more on high-end models and developing a new four-cylinder F4 family (whose debut model will enter production next year), the firm is revamping its line of triples, starting with the Brutale 800RR.
“We had a clear objective at the beginning of this project,” says Brian Gillen, MV’s head of Research and Development. “The main focus was refinement. We wanted to maintain our performance while reducing noise and emissions by 50% [for Euro 4], so it was a massive change. When you have to reduce the emissions by that much it’s very easy to lose power, which a lot of other bikes on the market have. We’ve managed to increase our performance advantage and improve our quality at the same time.”
The 798cc, twin cam, 12-valve engine’s layout is unchanged, but a new cylinder head and reshaped camshafts give more consistent combustion, for smoother low-rev running. The intake system is tweaked, with one longer and two shorter bellmouths replacing the same-sized originals. The ride-by-wire throttle’s action is recalibrated with new software and a return spring that is stiffer in its initial travel, because the previous light spring made fine throttle control difficult.
At the bottom end, new primary gears and starter clutch assembly cut noise and improve reliability (the starter clutch was the biggest cause of warranty claims). The gearchange is improved with new cogs, for smoother shifting, plus quicker-acting software for the two-way quick-shifter that was ahead of its time on the original 800RR. The unchanged peak of 140bhp is now produced 800rpm earlier, at 12,300rpm.
A new chassis
Chassis updates begin with a new frame, which keeps the traditional MV blend of steel tubes and cast aluminium swing-arm pivot sections, and is modified to give more rake and trail, and a longer wheelbase. (Rake goes from 23 to 24.2º; trail from 95.3 to 103.5mm, and wheelbase from 1385 to 1404mm.) The trellis also gains rigidity by changing the previous long top engine mounting bolt for a shorter bolt on each side.
Suspension is revised at both ends. The Sachs shock is retuned with reduced high-speed compression damping, while the 43mm Marzocchi forks are reworked with tighter tolerances, to reduce friction. “We tried reducing damping at the front to make it work better, but found the problem was initial friction,” says Gillen. “When we reduced the friction we actually had to increase the damping.”
The changes might not sound dramatic, but they combine to make a considerably more rider-friendly, rideable and ultimately quicker 800RR. The old model’s light and over-sensitive throttle issue has been cured. The new MV runs smoothly at low revs, picks up through the midrange, then rips towards 13,000rpm while its rider flicks through the box with the aid of the excellent two-way shifter.
Throttle response is crisp but not snatchy in each of the three main modes, even the most aggressive Sport. (Custom, the fourth, can be programmed with any combination of throttle sensitivity, engine braking, engine response and hard or soft rev limit.) There’s enough power for a top speed of about 150mph, though despite its high-rev smoothness the flat-barred Brutale is no bike for sustained high speed.
At lower speeds its intake and exhaust systems create a stirring soundtrack, despite the MV’s new-found Euro 4 compliance, which is helped by slimmer engine covers with improved noise absorption. When the launch route ran through tunnels on the route circling Lake Maggiore, near the Varese factory, it was impossible to resist the temptation to give a burst of throttle, to feel the front wheel lift and to hear the stubby silencers’ tearing-silk sound bouncing off the walls.
If the MV’s improved throttle response made it quicker and more controllable the same was true of its updated chassis. The more relaxed geometry helped, because with its light weight and wide handlebar the Brutale could still be flicked into bends with little effort, and was more stable both through the turn and when accelerating out again, often with front wheel in the air (no anti-wheelie here!).
An improved suspension
But the main improvement came from the more compliant suspension, which coped effortlessly with bumpy back-roads that would have made the original model fidgety and harsh. The bike still felt well-controlled, too, though the twisty launch route didn’t allow full evaluation of its high-speed handling ability. This RR’s reshaped and lighter cast aluminium wheels wear Pirelli Diablo Rosso III tyres, which gripped fine. Brembo’s 320mm discs and four-piston Brembo calipers gave plenty of stopping power, but needed a firmer squeeze than the sharpest systems.
The more supple suspension also had the benefit of improving the comfort of a bike that is in some ways more practical than you might expect of an Italian naked middleweight. For a compact bike I found it roomy, despite being tall, and didn’t have any problems with the seat, whose pillion section incorporates removable pillion grab-handles. The fuel tank’s generous 16.5-litre capacity gives a reasonable range despite the triple motor’s thirst when used hard.
Practicality is almost a bonus because the Brutale 800RR has always been a hardcore naked middleweight. It has also always been expensive, and still is at £13,700 – considerably more than three-cylinder rivals from Triumph’s Street Triple and Yamaha’s MT-09 families. For that sort of money it should really incorporate the features such as TFT screen and cornering ABS that are now reaching the middleweight market.
But some MV enthusiasts won’t be too concerned about that, and nor will any riders who put naked style, three-cylinder thrills and agility above all else. The Brutale’s basics of throttle response and chassis performance have now been sorted, and this revamped triple is the bike that the 800RR should have been all along.
MV Agusta Brutale 800RR
|Engine type||Liquid-cooled DOHC 12-valve triple|
|Bore x stroke||79 x 54.3mm|
|Maximum power||140bhp @ 12,300rpm|
|Maximum torque||65lb-ft (87N.m) @ 10,100rpm|
|Front suspension||43mm Marzocchi usd telescopic, 125mm travel, preload, compression and rebound damping adjustment|
|Rear suspension||Single Sachs shock, 124mm wheel travel, preload, compression and rebound damping adjustment|
|Fuel tank||16.5 litres|
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