MV Agusta F4 RR............................
Bikes with an R prised onto their title are normally very special, but what about a machine with two R’s at the end of it’s name?
MV’s top of the range sportsbike gets a sound thrashing around Portimao to make it justify its rather large £20,000 price tag.
All too often, we (and I mean this collectively) just jump on a bike without drinking in its very essence. As good as even a spanking new rocketship like the Kawasaki ZX-10R is, or as brutal as a bahnstorming BMW S 1000 RR goes about its business (as two of many examples), it’s not as if you intentionally pore over every detail, get dry mouthed at the thought of riding them, feel blessed at just being able to straddle their seat. But that’s exactly what you do when presented with the MV Agusta F4 RR. This is a creation – it’s not merely a machine – that stops you in your tracks with its looks, its beauty and its underlying menace. To blindly hop on and ride off would be to insult the human devotion that was sunk into the design and construction of this sculpted missile. This is a moment to savour.
True, F4s have done this throughout their 16 year existence, but this latest RR seems to encapsulate all of the generations before. The MV strapline is ‘Motorcycle Art’ and while we normally mock this sort of marketing babble, the phrase is spot on in this regard. Its silhouette is lithe and sleek while its sultry fairings barely seem able to contain its prime beef of an engine that’s contained within – a 998cc inline four ‘Costacorta’ motor that generates 201bhp and 111Nm torque. This is certainly an iron fist in a velvet glove, and whether you decide to look at it from a design point of view or from a dynamic perspective, it can’t fail but to impress.
MV’s declared intention was to make the RR the most advanced sportsbike ever made. The stocker was hardly shy in this department, what with its proud 195bhp output, massive 50mm throttle bodies, single spring valve operation, variable length inlet tracts and clever in-house MVICS system. The R was then treated to an upgrade in the suspension and wheel department, keeping the stocker’s Marzocchi forks but replacing the Sachs shock with an Öhlins TTX unit. Forged aluminium alloy wheels are then added to create £1,500’s worth of clear water between the models.
But the big jump comes with the addition of a second R in the F4’s moniker. As if 195bhp at 13,400rpm wasn’t enough, MV pushed this to 201bhp at 13,600rpm (and the rev limit is raised to 14,000rpm) through the use of titanium conrods, a rebalanced crankshaft and work to the cylinder head. The RR’s frame is treated to being hand welded with TIG tech and the factory pushed the boat out and fitted the Öhlins electronic adjustable suspension and a set of M50 Brembo calipers. All this comes at a £5,500 price hike over standard, but at £19,999 it comes in around Ducati 1199 S and BMW HP4 Carbon money, so its in decent company.
Rolling down Portimao’s pitlane (MV had brought the RR in a van with them to accompany the F3 800 used in last month’s SBOTY test), the prospect of the next few minutes was mouthwatering – if not a little intimidating, too. The Pirelli Supercorsas had been simmering all morning in a pair of warmers, I was dialled into the track and the circuit was clear of all possible distractions. With the 60kph pitlane speed restriction behind me, it was time to add another 200kph to the mix and see what the RR was capable of.
A lot, as it happens. In ergonomic terms, the RR still possesses a hard edged feel, akin
MV's declared intention was to make the rr the most advanced bike ever...”
to any of its predecessors. Every human contact with the bike is purposeful and designed solely with speed in mind (although access to the MVICS system still needs a more tactile feel to it). The seat is hard, the pegs high, the bars are tucked in tightly. For popping down to the shops or posing in town I can’t think of many worse bikes. You’re a jockey on board this thoroughbred, and now it was time to crack the whip.
The motor just rips, it’s a staggering lump. It spins up so quickly that even with a quickshifter you’re still having to tap up and feed it gears like its 'box has an eating disorder. There’s no discernible midrange as it just flows into a dizzying top end that blends tremendous purpose with decent usability on track. If you closed your eyes, you’d swear it was a 600 in the way it rushes to the redline. There’s a wicked rasp to the exhaust note, a beguiling mechanical sound that made everyone sit up and take notice as it echoed between Portimao’s stand and pit complex. This is the greatest sound to ever emanate from a stock inline four.
And the speed it generates is out of this world. Sling shotting onto the start/finish straight, the RR needs a touch of back brake to keep the nose down over the initial crest, before comfortably snicking into top gear and heading off to generate over 280kph on the speedo. It was noticeable faster than all of the SBOTY bikes on test, to the extent that squeezing the brakes on at the same marker for turn one induced more than a missed heartbeat. It managed to stick 4mph over the BMW HP4 through brute strength alone.
But by the next pump of the ventricles, reassurance returned. The Brembo M50 brakes haul the bike up with remarkable effectiveness, and while the back hovers over the Tarmac thanks to the front’s minor capitulation, there remains a brilliant balance to the bike that enables corner entry to remain unflustered. The bike owns Bosch’s 9 Plus ABS system with RLM (rear lift-up mitigation), and its operation is fluid and unobtrusive. Allied to this, the bike boasts the first auto-blipper to be fitted on a production bike. It only works under 12,000rpm, so you can’t bash the valves by stamping into first, but once you get used to its function it’s another string to the RR’s bow as you clutchlessly snick down each gear as simply as you do on the way up with the excellent quickshifter.
The Öhlins electronic suspension is not semi-active like the Sachs stuff on the HP4, but it is set sublimely in Sport mode. The front end sniffs out an apex eagerly, and though the bike feels wider and a little more ungainly than its F3 cousins the path to the inside kerb is hindered by nothing. Bumps are managed beautifully, and the bike moves as one, recovering quickly over the little compression that greets you just before the apex of Portimao’s turn two.
Then it’s a case of flooding the freshly tuned combustion chambers and hanging on to squeeze as much acceleration to the slow turn three. First to second snicks in easily, and then another forte is exposed, MV’s traction control system. The system uses three gyroscopes and three accelerometers, as well as wheel speed sensors to deliver accurate intervention. This isn’t a bragging tool that you can tell your mates about down the pub, as there’s no light illuminating its use. Even so, the off camber blind and uphill turn four is a real test for any stuttering system, but the MV’s equipment – in conjunction with the 200-section Supercorsa SP rear – offers as much oomph out of the turn as you can muster. The anti-wheelie was more intrusive over Portimao’s unique lip, but this could have been dialled out with time.
And you never feel as if you’ve fully explored the RR’s capabilities. There is so much to change on the bike. Electronically, you have all the power modes, throttle response, torque settings, engine braking, steering damper, suspension and ABS levels. Then you’ve got the mechanical inputs, like steering pivot point and head angle adjustability. We like adjustability, but this is a bamboozling array of modification.
Hard braking into the bumpy downhill turn five mirrored turn one’s experience. The slipper clutch and engine management systems were much more of a tool than on some SBOTY test bikes, and the apex was easily met – before the most triumphant exit I’ve ever experienced…
With some positive camber and the relative safety of an uphill exit, tapping the MV’s power on in second produced an epic drift to the kerb. You can feel the rear gripping just enough to provide propulsion, but you’re aware that it’s not solely in a forward direction. With the front barely able to keep in touch with the Tarmac much of the steering is left to the rear – and it feels utterly fantastic.
The rest of the lap disappears in a series of stoic braking, destroyed apexes and mind bending speed in between. This isn’t coming easy, but it’s not as hard as I was thinking it would be.
The clumsy penultimate turn is dealt with efficiently before it fires to the last, requiring
Tapping the MV's power on in second produced an epic drift to the kerb. you can feel the rear gripping, but
you're aware you're not solely going forward...”
a touch of brakes just to get the front wheel working before the big tip in. Massive lean, enormous speed and eerie levels of feedback from the front (it’s picking up the bumps in the same way as the F3 800 did) soon give way to the all consuming job of accelerating on to the straight once again.
Another ridiculous amount of speed is then greeted by the application of the brick wall-like stoppers – and then nothing. The bike has slipped into a limp mode with a pressure sensor warning light stymieing the entertainment. It’s a terminal problem, for today at least, and the curtailment of what was up to then a fantastic maiden voyage. The problem is easily fixable, but not here.
Though built before the factory’s move to WSB, it’s clear that as a base package this is something with huge potential. Now that the factory is in control of racing activities, it’s likely that the RR will become even more focused in time – if that’s possible. MV’s commitment to the project is admirable, and ongoing changes to the bike, like the switch from Marelli electronics to Eldor, proves that the tiny factory is trying to attain perfection. The commitment to the customer is also honourable, and the plug and play updates to all the software systems not only brings refinement, but a better customer relationship with the brand.
The RR is a stunning bike, in every way imaginable. But it’s also hard work, in every way imaginable. You don’t just buy this bike, you invest in it. Not just your money, but also your time, skills and patience. £20,000 will buy you a faster bike, in the form of the BMW HP4 Carbon, or it will buy you an icon in the form of the sultry Ducati 1199 Panigale S. But the MV F4 RR is what the heart would choose. You’ll love it, you’ll hate it but once you’ve got one you couldn’t imagine life without it.
Technically brilliant, you can’t help but feel lost in the myriad of parameters available to you. + Motor, brakes, style - Adjustability, reliability, paint scheme
track 9 Blistering pace fast road 8 So long as its smooth hooligan 6 Turn everything off new rider 1 No worse bike about desirability 10 Kidney, anyone?