MV Agusta Brutale 1000 RR Review
Motorcycle test by Adam Child ‘Chad’
Photography Fabio Grasso & MV
Where do I start with the dramatic MV Agusta Brutale 1000 RR? It looks like it’s doing a million miles an hour stood still. I can’t remember a recent bike that is so dramatic, individual and, perhaps because it says MV Agusta on the fuel tank, exclusive. I spent nearly a week with the MV yet was still admiring it and finding new parts to fall in love with when I gave it back. From the front, the distinctive Porsche-like headlights make it immediately identifiable as a Brutale. The cut-away rear seat section featuring four-protruding silencers and a sculpted singled-sided swing-arm combine to make one of the best rear ends on the market… But, like everything exclusive and Italian, the MV comes at a price – an eye-watering $52,190.
It’s not just about the looks, though. The new MV Brutale 1000 RR is the most advanced MV to date, and its titanium rodded engine now wants to rev higher and create even more power: a quoted 208 Italian horses. I couldn’t wait to find out if the 2020 Brutale went as fast as it looks, which is why we headed to Italy to find out both on road and track, flicking between Pirelli Rosso Corsa 2 rubber and Pirelli SC3 Slicks to get a real flavour for this Italian beauty. Yes it’s a tough job but someone has to do it.
Even if you say it quickly, $52,190 is a lot of money, making the Brutale 1000 RR the most expensive naked bike on the market. Ducati’s Streetfighter V4 S, arguably MV’s closest competition, also comes with semi-active Öhlins suspension and 208 hp but is almost 20k less at $33,900 ride away. Aprilia’s factory Tuono, also with semi-active suspension, is even cheaper at $29,890 ride away.
Yes, you could argue the MV has more exclusivity and that with all its carbon and other goodies, and is the most eye-catching. MV though will say, ‘you’re buying into the image, brand and exclusivity. If you want a Rolex, you must pay Rolex money.’
Power and torque
It’s crazy to think that if you don’t’ have over 200 hp in the super naked class then you’re turning up to a gun-fight with a knife. MV has really pushed the boundaries with the 998cc Brutale which now produces a quoted 208 hp at 13,000 rpm. To put that in perspective, the new MV is on par with Ducati’s Streetfighter, which, remember, has a much larger capacity (1103cc), and is way ahead of Aprilia’s Tuono, which produces ‘just’ 173 hp.
That relatively small 998 cc capacity and the inherent engine characteristics of an in-line four-cylinder mean that maximum torque – 116.5 Nm at 11,000rpm – is reasonably high in the rev range, and only bettered by larger capacity bikes in this category. In comparison to other 1000 cc naked machines, it’s way ahead.
MV has achieved this impressive output through a series of engine improvements, the main and the most expensive being the introduction of titanium conrods, allowing the engine to spin faster and higher. There are also new valve guides and camshafts with altered timing on both the exhaust and intake valves. Lubrication has been improved while the amount of oil needed for the engine has been reduced.
The screaming in-line-four now breathes via a new air-box which is fed via longer air-intakes. The tuned engine now releases its gases via a stunning four-into-one-into-four exhaust system which is made in partnership with Arrow. There’s new Mikuni ride-by-wire fuelling with eight injectors and four rider modes (Sport, Race, Rain, and a Custom mode).
Time to ride
Thankfully the four-into-one then back-into-four exhaust sounds as good as it looks. MV doesn’t know how to make a bike sound dull. It’s passed Euro-4 homologation yet sounds fantastic. At low rpm there is a distinctive burble, it sounds mechanical, soulful and very Italian, not bland or near-silent like some Japanese bikes. On large throttle openings, from low in the revs you can hear the air-box breathe, you can feel it gasp for air, ready to fire you forward. Dance on the fluid and fast up-and-down quick-shifter, get the revs building, and boy does the RR let out a scream. The MV loves to rev, maximum power is at 13,000 rpm, but it will continue revving a little more. I’d forgotten how much in-line four-cylinder machines enjoy revs and, now with lighter internals like titanium rods and less friction from new pistons, this one is more than willing to sing a high-revving chorus.
However, there is a flip side to all this, and that is the lack of drive and torque lower down in the rev range. Below 6000 rpm there isn’t a lot going on and the party doesn’t really get started to 8000 rpm. Yes, it will pull away cleanly from low in the rpm, but not with any real urgency and it feels laboured. For rapid acceleration from low speed, exiting a low corner, or for a quick overtake past slow-moving vehicles, you need to flick back a gear or two.
Thankfully the gearbox in partnership with the up-and-down quick-shifter is effortless and smooth, but on a few road occasions I felt short-changed and wished I’d flicked back another gear or maybe two. Not ideal for the road. While I’m knocking myself off the MV Christmas party list, the fuelling is okay but not perfect, which is not what you’d expect for a 52-grand bike. Race mode is too way too sharp and aggressive for the road, and Rain feels like you’re towing a caravan. MV has historically had niggles with fuelling and this has improved hugely over the years, their fuel injection has improved on every model I’ve ridden, but so has the competition, for whom fuelling isn’t even an issue. The Brutale RR has four Mikuni injectors supplemented by another four larger Magneti Marelli injectors for higher throttle openings.
Arguably, this F4 Superbike-based café racer, complete with bar-end mirrors, was never intended to for meandering about on or even for commuting into town. Instead, tuck in, lie on the tank and make it scream. On track, you shouldn’t really let the revs drop below 8000 rpm. Simply keep it pinned and ride it like a 600, only changing gear when you venture near the rev-limiter.
When the revs are in the top third of the range, this is one fast naked. 200 hp was enough to win in British Superbike a few seasons ago, now it’s driving an unfaired road bike. When you ride it hard acceleration doesn’t seem to tail off, it just keeps revving and accelerating. Even when you tap into top it shows no sign of tailing off. Occasionally I was seeing 165-170 mph on the full-colour digital speed and still accelerating, revs still rising.
Mind you, it’s not easy to see the updated TFT dash because it is too close to the fuel cap, angled up and hard to read. The dropped bars, however, work perfectly at high speeds, and you can get really tucked in, arse up against the sculpted pillion seat, toes on pegs. Even at 150 mph it was bearable, you can’t say that about most hyper-naked bikes.
Like the engine, there are two stories to the chassis and handling. Historically MV has always scored highly in the handling stakes, especially on the track, but have been let down in real world performance on the road. It’s a similar story for the new 2020 Brutale RR, despite being more user friendly than ever (if you can call a naked 208 hp superbike ‘friendly’).
It’s still harsh on the road. Even in the softest mapping Sport mode, the Öhlins semi-active suspension can be a little brutal, especially the rear. The front isn’t too bad – there is the odd jolt over large imperfections – but the rear I would struggle to live with on the road. This may be exacerbated by the narrow seat, or the lack of travel/sag in the rear shock – either way it causes uncomfortable jolting over bumps. I opted to soften the settings via the custom mode, which can be done on the dash, or via your phone using the MV Ride App. But again, even with the suspension softened, the rear was improved but still occasionally harsh and firm. On billiard table-smooth surfaces, up in the mountains on stunning roads which surround Mount Etna, it is not a problem. But in town, on poorly surfaced roads, it became a painful issue. Even on the motorway, I had to occasionally lift my bum off the seat to ease the pain whilst crossing poor over-banding on bridges.
Again, you could reason that few owners will be riding a new 52-grand MV around town, and that it belongs on mountain passes and fast smooth roads. And yes, the front-end feeling is good, there’s a nice connection and feel as you roll into a corner. The racy, dropped bar position feels more natural at speed, and encourages you to hang off the inside. But then you hit a series of bumps and the rear jolts and you lose the confidence to push on, despite the excellent rider aids keeping you safe.
On the track, where the surface is consistent and bumps are kept to a minimum, the MV comes together. It works. You can even flick into Race mode, which gives even more suspension support. Here the new Brutale is in its element and feels like a race bike with the bodywork removed. Ground clearance is huge, the dropped bars allow you to hang off naturally, knee brushing every apex. That huge power combined with taught suspension means the bike feels alive, though never unstable, even at very high speeds. There is a little movement in the bars, but nothing alarming which is impressive for a bike with a short wheelbase and so much drive.
You sit more in the bike, out of the wind, and it’s less physical than most naked bikes – the best compliment I can bestow is that it feels and handles like a race bike with the bodywork removed. Everything works: peg position, rear seat hump… you can really tuck in and carry enormous corner speed with no fear of understeer like some naked bikes which push the front. Excellent.
Time to stop
All the ingredients are there: huge grip generated by sticky Pirelli rubber, high quality Öhlins 43mm semi-active forks, and the very latest Brembo Stylema Monobloc four-piston calipers grabbing 320 mm discs, all backed up with cornering ABS. On the road, just a brush of the span adjustable lever is enough to haul it up with precision and feel, but on the track the ABS is too intrusive and the ABS cycling is too slow. On the road, in protective jacket and jeans, I never really pushed on hard enough to test the stoppers, and I had no complaints. But on track, the ABS didn’t quite match the ‘high-tech’ feel exuded by the rest of the bike.
On the track, braking from 160 mph plus down to 50 mph or less had the ABS behaving a little more intrusive than I would like. Sometimes there was a faint judder or pulsing in the lever occasionally when a few bumps were thrown in to really test the set-up. I wanted to brake deep into the apex, trailing the brakes but the ABS, with this inconsistency, wouldn’t allow me to do this.
Rider aids keeping the wheels in-line
As expected and in line with the competition, a six-axis IMU now sits at the heart of operations, and communicates with the traction control and ABS braking. There are eight-levels of TC, which can also be de-activated, again via the dash or your phone on the MV app. MV now call their anti-wheelie ‘front lift control’, rather than dramatically cutting the power when the front wheel lifts from the bitumen or the forks extend dramatically, it will now hover slightly as power is reduced to ‘hold’ the wheelie, rather than dramatically cutting the power. Launch control is also standard plus that up-and-down quick-shifter and cruise control.
The rider aids, particularly the traction control, are excellent. On track, you don’t ‘feel’ them working, which is usually an indication of a smooth system. It’s worth noting that on track we ran Pirelli slicks and, on the road, conditions were perfect, grippy Pirelli Diablo Rosso tyres were doing the work. It will be interesting to see how the rider aids perform in less than favourable conditions in winter. And as mentioned before, the full-colour TFT dash is lovely to look at and reasonably easy to navigate, but on the move is too close to the rider, and reflects the sunlight badly. This also makes it hard to see which mode you’re in and how much TC you’ve added or removed.
There is so much to love and appreciate about MV Agusta’s new Brutale 1000RR. The styling, for starters, is unique, it’s sculpted like a work of art. It’s exotic, and owners will be buying into a unique brand.
It is certainly the best MV Brutale to date with huge power and is thrilling engine performance towards the last third of the rev range. It handles like a race bike without bodywork, and the rider aids are the finest to grace an MV to date. On track it is wonderful to ride – exciting and involving – but there are drawbacks. On the road the rear is too harsh, even when you soften the electronic Öhlins suspension, the fuelling is far from perfect and the TFT dash, though attractive, is too close to the rider. And we’ve not mentioned the price. Yes, we always expect an MV to be slightly more than the competition, but 22k more than an Aprilia Factory Tuono is a big pill to swallow.
So yes, there is a lot to applaud. MV have clearly done their homework and have made a stunning-looking naked that works superbly on the track. Would I love to own one? Yes, but only for long enough to make my friends envious and for some fast blasts on smooth roads or track-days. Personally though, would I purchase one over the cheaper, more road oriented competition? Sorry, no. But then again perhaps the key is in the name, ‘Brutale’, as in English that translates best to Brutal and it certainly lives up to its name.
MV Agusta Brutale 1000 RR Specifications
|MV Agusta Brutale 1000 RR Specifications|
|Engine||998cc four-cylinder, DOHC radial valve|
|Bore x Stroke||79 x 50.9 mm|
|Claimed Power||208 hp at 13,000 rpm|
|Claimed Torque||116.5 Nm at 11,000 rpm|
|Induction||Eldor EM2.10, MVICS, 8-injector|
|Gears||Cassette six-speed,MV EAS 2.1 two-way quick-shift|
|Frame||CrMo steel tubular trellis|
|Forks||Ohlins Nix EC hydraulic, fuly adj. 43 mm, 120 mm travel|
|Shock||Progressive Ohlins EC TTX, fully adj. 120 mm travel|
|Tyres||120/70-17 (F); 200/55-17 (R)|
|Front Brakes||2 x 320 mm discs, radially mounted Brembo Stylema Monobloc 4-piston calipers with Cornering ABS|
|Rear Brake||220 mm single disc, two-piston caliper with Cornering ABS|
|Electronics||Cornering ABS, traction control, four rider modes, wheelie control, and launch control, cruise control, bluetooth.|
|Instrumentation||5-inch, colour TFT|
|Dry Weight||186 kg|
|Seat Height||845 mm|
|Rake / Trail||NA / 97 mm|
|Fuel Capacity||16 litres|
|Service Intervals||6000 kilometres|
|Warranty||Two years, unlimited kilometres|
|Available||Taking orders now|
|Price||$52,190 Ride Away|