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?

Fast Bikes - - CONTENTS -

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.

Ver­dict

8/10

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?

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