2014 MV Agusta F3 800 Review | Perfect Balance
2014 MV Agusta F3 800 Test at Misano
With nearly the power of a liter-bike, matched to the weight and handling of a 600, the new three-cylinder MV Agusta F3 800 takes the best of both worlds and puts it into a superb package.
Handily, despite it sharing the same MV looks and build quality as its siblings, the F3 800 also happens to be considerably less expensive than the F4, and potentially falls within grasp of those who want a superbike, but don’t have the desire to step up to the liter-class.
The secret to the success of MV’s 800 is that the (claimed) 148 horsepower peak output closely matches the capability of today’s tires. In other words, a 600 doesn’t quite have the horsepower, and a 1000 has too much. Both traditional choices are eminently rideable; the 600 rider has to focus on maintaining momentum, while the liter-bike pilot is constantly wary of
a highside. The MV F3 however, allows the pilot to focus on his riding technique rather than managing the machine.
Although the F3 is equipped with Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa tires for street riding, my testing was at the famed Misano World Circuit. Consequently, I had the F3 fitted with race compound Supercorsa SC01 tires, which just happened to have been developed at this track.
Even accelerating hard at full lean, the F3 never overpowered the excellent 180mm rear tire, and the traction control only intervened a couple of times. Strikingly, after each session, both front and back tires were equally melted right to the edge, demonstrating the F3’s perfect balance and my confidence in the handling. Normally, on a point-and-shoot liter- bike, I only melt the rear rubber, while the front stays pretty clean. With MV’s F3, I focused on my lines and braking points; that made the bike faster, as well as enormously fun.
MV Agusta’s rich racing heritage makes a triple a natural fit for the brand; by lengthening the 800’s stroke the 675’s capacity is increased to 798cc. The resulting motor is very willing to rev, yet it also produces a creditable 65 ft/lbs of peak torque. Low down, the torque is more than sufficient; however, with some MV magic, the F3 800 has some 30 horsepower more than the 675 in the crucial 6500-to-12,000 rpm range. This midrange boost helps the F3 feel more like a liter-bike.
Although the engine has no counter-balancing, vibration is minimal; it is not as smooth as a four, of course, but there is no high-frequency buzz that can be so irritating. Maximum power hits at 13,000, with the rev-limiter set only 500 rpm higher. The power builds so seamlessly that several times I was surprised by the rev-limiter cutting in—no tail-off in power hinted that I was near the limit.
The sincerity of the F3 800’s track aspirations is further proven by the incorporation of a transparent slipper clutch. Back-torque can be adjusted between two settings in the custom map mode of the Motor & Vehicle Integrated Control System (MVICS) electronics.
Certainly, the 800’s coup de grace is the contra-rotating crankshaft. Although not a new idea, it has rarely been used, with the current notable exception of Yamaha’s YZR-M1 MotoGP bike. The thinking is simple enough — the torque effect of the crankshaft spinning backwards counteracts the torque of the wheels spinning forwards. As a consequence, the reduced inertia allows the bike to turn easier, especially while on the throttle.
I was very impressed through the short chute of Misano’s Turns 5 and 6, where a quick transition is needed from opposite maximum lean angles while the bike is accelerating. I have ridden Misano before, and have never felt such a quick, precise turning machine as the F3 through these corners, especially while on the throttle.
MV Agusta’s MVICS electronics package is one of the most advanced available. It is a full ride-by-wire solution that handles fueling with three pre-set modes (plus one customizable power setting), Electronically Assisted Shift (EAS), and an excellent 8-level traction control. ABS braking is available as an option. Occasionally, I found myself giving the F3 800 a little gas when I didn’t intend to, as the ride-by-wire throttle feels just a tad too light for my taste. This is a minor gripe, and presumably a slightly heavier spring is an easy fix for an owner who feels the same.
The MVICS includes a bank angle sensor, and the traction control interrupts carefully. I was on setting four, which is normally too much. In the case if the F3, it was spot-on and proves my point about the motor being so well matched to the tires’ capabilities. The EAS system worked very well, and MV is apparently working on a clutchless downshifter using the existing hardware; it will be a free electronic upgrade when it arrives.
The six-speed gearbox action is okay; it is a little notchy compared to some I have used, and it needs a positive action at the short-throw lever. The ratios are well spaced and match the engine’s power; once I was comfortable with the track, the gearing was ideal.
For some reason, going from third into fourth was a little problematic, and several times the shift wouldn’t happen; it did not select a false neutral, it just didn’t upshift. I eventually noticed this occurred at peak revs, so perhaps the EAS doesn’t interact well with the rev-limiter. If I shifted before redline, the fourth gear selected with no problem.
Ergonomically, the 600-class dimensions of the F3 are ideal for my six-foot frame and it doesn’t feel small. Instead, the 800 is compact without being cramped, and the stretch across the tank is minimal, so the handlebars and controls fall easily to hand. Instrumentation is in an all-in-one pod with gray LCD graphics. It works and can be seen, though it is not as easy to read as some and, such is the willingness of the motor, I would like to see a shift light.
The 43mm Marzocchi forks and fully adjustable Sachs piggyback rear shock aid in the 800’s impeccable handling; the bike is stable in a straight line, and super-quick, yet neutral on turn-in. Running over Misano’s curbs, the suspension soaked up the bumps and rumble strips without any wallowing or pumping at the rear.
Coming back on the throttle the F3 doesn’t run wide; in fact, accelerating hard actually helps the F3 complete the corner. Although it feels planted, the F3 will easily change line mid-corner if need be. Even when I got it wrong, I still had the confidence to stay on the excel- lent Brembo Monoblocs and dial in more lean angle.
Twice, I overcooked my entrance into Turn 1, and the bike was so stable on the brakes I still managed to initiate the turn. Mid-corner, when I had scrubbed enough speed, I was able to hit the apex, long after I thought I’d blown it. In essence, the F3’s chassis is amazingly agile; clearly, the contra-rotating crank works.
While I didn’t change the excellent stock suspension settings, MV lists a steering damper as an accessory; I would like to see it fitted as standard equipment on the 800.
Unlike the F4, the F3’s MVICS omits wheelie control, yet the machine is not wheelie prone. Unfortunately, on hard exit from slow corners, the front tire stays slightly in contact with the tarmac and can cause the bike to shake its head. It is not terrible, but because you can’t float the tire, when it shakes you have to slightly come off the throttle. A damper will quiet that down.
At a claimed dry weight of just over 380 pounds, the F3 is simply a 600-class motorcycle with a much bigger engine, so the MV F3 800 fooled me into thinking I’d taken my riding to another level. As an ideal track day machine, novices will find it forgiving, and experts will find they ride it more consistently and can lap quicker on it.
The new MV F3 800 is a tightly focused superbike that has power that feels like a liter-class machine — without the associated fear factor — and yet, because it has the weight and handling of a 600, it can be thrown around with aplomb. MV Agusta has found the perfect balance and produced a brilliant, confidence inspiring package that does just about everything right.
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