Mvagusta Brutale 800 RR SCS
Unique technology and a new (and reputable) importer, same heady mix of style, performance and desirability. Is now the time to finally dive into MV ownership?
Having SCS on the side is not because its seat is made by the sofa company. No, the acronym on the Brutale 800 RR stands for Smart Clutch System and means you can ride the 798cc triple without ever touching the clutch lever.
It’s not an automatic. You select gears manually and it doesn’t have the slushy response of a Mk2 Ford Granada. Instead, it’s a centrifugal system developed with American company Rekluse, who have been making similar system for off-roaders for years. An ‘expansion’ disc has wedges that slide in and out; when revs dwindle below a certain point they retract and the clutch disengages, then slide out to smoothly engage drive as revs build. Yes, like a slam ‘n’ go Honda Cub.
It genuinely works. Sit in neutral with the engine running, press down on the gear lever and first engages seamlessly, then open the gas and the Brutale pulls away smoothly. Repeated fast starts are supereasy and it’ll merrily pull away in second or third too. Gearshifts can be done with the slick two-way quickshifter, and the clutch automatically jumps in when you stop. A second rear brake lever locks the brake on, as leaving the MV parked in gear won’t stop it rolling off down a hill.
Clever... but the novelty wears off. We’re soon using the clutch lever as normal, and when doing so it sometimes pulses while slowing. It makes us question paying £800 extra for SCS on top of £13,880 for a normal Brutale RR. ‘The clutch is clever and I’m sure it’s useful in Milan while gesticulating at drivers,’ says Andy. ‘Feels like a gimmick here, though.’
Clutch musings are forgotten when you untether the MV’S engine, mind. Growly, dry and raspy it drives proper hard from 8000rpm – with a claimed 138bhp it feels faster and edgier than the Triumph, with a haunting racket like a Vulcan on take-off as it scorches past 13,000rpm. In terms of revs and delivery it’s the sportiest motor here.
Fuelling isn’t quite as silky and predictable as the Triumph or Yamaha, but is a huge stride on from finicky, glitchy MVS of a decade ago. There are four engine modes: Rain, Normal, Sport and Custom, each with preset response and electronic settings (choose your own set-up in Custom). Sport allows for the full might of the 798cc triple and lofty wheelies under acceleration; repeatedly press and hold (and press and hold) the mode button to choose Rain and the 800 behaves like its airbox is full of expanding foam.
Some traditional MV traits remain, including a rather firm ride. The Brutale certainly handles and turns eagerly, though as with the Yamaha there feels like a very slight mismatch between front and rear suspension. The MV hasn’t quite the balance and corner poise of the two other European bikes.
Being plonked close to the ’bar gives good control and means there’s nothing of the Brutale in your view forward. ‘Not having any bike in my line of sight needs more acclimatisation than the auto clutch,’ reckons Andy. Ride on the balls of your feet and more stereotypical Mv-ness is highlighted by pillion ’peg mounts that interfere with boots. They’re set wide to clear the single-sider and honking exhausts, so you sit pigeon-toed. It’s not uncomfortable, just a bit strange – and doesn’t help confidence when lobbing the Brutale at corners.
Given it costs the best bit of 15 grand, the 800’s dash looks years behind the times, its switchgear feels dated and, as Andy points out, ‘where the Triumph’s bellypan makes it look purposeful, the one on the MV looks like a Ford Transit sump guard.’ But the 800 counters with serious loveliness – from neat adjuster wheels on the Nissin brake and clutch levers and natty action of the twin-pedal rear brake, to the classy paint, perfect stance and beautiful cast subframe (with burger transportation hole). I like the steering damper’s symmetry too, aligned with the top yoke - the one on our on-test Ducati Panigale V2 is at a slightly wonky angle and annoys me every time I look at it.
Despite this allure, its best-yet dynamic and the fact it’d be a glorious thing to own there’s still something about the Brutale that doesn’t click. ‘Yeah, the MV’S really nice,’ says Andy. ‘But I prefer all the others.’
‘Growly, raspy… and a haunting racket like a Vulcan on take-off’
Left: it’s a shame the dated dash doesn’t have the same class and glamour as the rest of the 800
Above: take some time to soak in the lines, the stance and the details – shonky it is not