The attractive MV Agusta F3 is on sale now, but don’t buy one just yet …
Stunning: the F3 is beautifully put together but spoiled by fuelling issues
By Kevin Ash| The Telegraph
MV Agusta has been going through interesting times in recent years, with various ownership changes including a firefighting sale by Harley-Davidson when the American company was hammered by subprime recession debts and had to shed assets fast. Ownership returned to the inspirational Claudio Castiglioni, who had revived the historic brand during the Nineties, and happily he was left with the legacy of substantial investment when Harley had been at the helm.
The long-running F4 superbike had been effectively updated and work was well under way in the development of a new middleweight sports bike, the three-cylinder F3, hugely anticipated because of its high specification and stunning good looks.
The F3 is now on sale. I was about to say “ready”, but that wouldn’t be accurate or fair to anyone thinking of buying one. I’ll come to that shortly.
The bike is built using established MV engineering, which means a steel trellis frame married to cast aluminium side plates at the rear of the engine, clothed in bodywork which is sleek and feline and, if anything, even better looking than the F4 which inspired it. The wheelbase is the shortest in the class and the weight the lowest at 381lb, according to MV’s claims, and high-quality suspension is fitted, with forks from Marzocchi and a Sachs rear shock.
The sophisticated electronics package includes an eight-level traction-control system, launch control, anti-wheelie system, electronic engine-braking control and quick-shift gear changing, much of which is made possible by the full ride-by-wire throttle. This all helps tame the huge 126bhp output from the 675cc, three-cylinder engine – that’s almost 190bhp per litre – which has a backward-rotating crankshaft to help counter gyroscopic effects on the handling.
Sadly, it’s not these advances you notice when riding the bike, but the dreadful fuelling at low revs. The bike fires up readily and barks eagerly when you blip the throttle, yet the motor also coughs when you’re riding. Pulling away demands some concentration to prevent it stalling, but grab more twistgrip to prevent that and the amount of revs you get is unpredictable. You’ll struggle to trickle through traffic because the engine won’t hold a steady speed, instead surging or dying and causing the bike to lurch.
Work it harder and things improve, with the power delivery smoothing out as the revs rise. By 6,000rpm it’s starting to feel as it should, pulling hard and backing that up with a ripping-fabric wail that climbs seductively with the revs. It keeps on spinning eagerly, accelerating as hard or possibly harder than any other bike in the 600 supersport class (which sets 675cc triples against 600cc fours on the track, with the categories spilling over into road bikes). But you get some annoying dips in the torque delivery, as well as splutters and kicks when opening the throttle from closed.
It would probably be fine on the track, but this is a road bike and therefore that poor fuelling is not acceptable. Quite simply, the fuelling maps (you get a choice of four) are not ready, and MV has admitted as much. The first revised maps will have been completed as you read this, with more planned, but all this should have been done before the bike went on sale.
Sport mode throws up an additional quirk, an occasional sensation that the bike has dropped out of gear when you’re approaching a corner. In fact this is the engine braking system cutting in, opening the throttle slightly to prevent rear wheel lock-up, but it’s overeager and gives the feeling that you’re accelerating into a turn rather than braking. I’d advise not using the Sport setting on the road for this reason, as it’s the only mode in which the braking control operates.
These problems are such a shame on what is otherwise a fabulous bike. The handling is agile and tactile, if a little too lively on bumpy roads, while the riding position is surprisingly spacious, even for a taller rider. The suspension is firm for road use, but this is a hardcore sports bike and that’s fair enough, and there’s plenty of adjustability if you want more compliance. It’s also beautifully put together and its looks alone are almost worth the £10,000 asking price.
MV August F3
Price/on sale: £9,999/now
Power/torque: 126bhp @ 14,400rpm/52lb ft @ 10,600rpm
Top speed: 160mph
Fuel tank/range: 3.5 gallons/n/a miles
Verdict: A fabulous motorcycle which isn’t finished yet. Give MV another six months to get the electronics right and this could well be the best bike in the class, but don’t buy one at the moment. We’ll be revisiting the F3 at a later date
Telegraph rating: One out of five stars
Suzuki GSX-R600, £8,799
Lacks the glamour of the MV but it’s the best bike in the class. The engine drips with mid-range torque and still manages a top-end kick, the handling is delightful, the brakes powerful, it’s well made and also benign and easy around town.
Ducati 848 Evo, £10,995
An extra £1,000 gets you the most road-usable of Ducati’s superbikes. It’s well proven, fully developed and boasts exceptional ride quality. It’s also searingly fast and outstanding on a track. Running costs are surprisingly low, too.
Triumph Daytona 675R, £9,999
The Daytona triple might be long in the tooth but the high-spec R is a close match for the MV. It lacks the exotic looks and badge but the 675R is smooth, sophisticated, exciting and very fast. You get Öhlins and Brembo equipment, too.