2014 MV Agusta Dragster Test
Our European corespondent, Tor Sagen, recently piloted the MV Agusta Brutale 800 Dragster – the fifth model in the Italian company’s 800 lineup – at the bike’s launch in the south of France. Though nursing a broken thumb from the track session at Paul Ricard Circuit near Marseille, France, Sagen was able to provide us with a review of MV Agusta’s latest naked missile.
MV Agusta’s newest motorcycle features the same 800cc triple engine as the Brutale 800 and Rivale 800, which means 125 horsepower and plenty of fun. Add a fat 200mm rear tire and new ergonomics and you have the meanest MV Agusta to date – the Dragster 800.
The new Brutale 800 Dragster was especially mean to me while testing in less than ideal weather conditions in the south of France. I lost and saved the front during the road test, but then I lost the Dragster in a corner at Paul Ricard Circuit later that day, which caused a broken thumb.
The Dragster 800 has a somewhat cramped seating position that is comfortable for cruising, bu not ideal for active sport riding. The small hump at the back of the seat doesn’t restrict your movement, but it hinders you a little. The 34.7-inch (811mm) seat height is pretty much the same as the Brutale 800, but the saddle itself features some beautiful stitching not found on the now-base model Brutale 800.
The Dragster’s handlebar gives a rider optimal control, and enables very quick directional changes. The front is more stable than its less aggressive cousin, the Brutale 800, and the rear is also sure footed with a very wide 200mm tire. The ergonomics are very good for a static riding position, and throughout the test, I always felt in control.
We tested the Dragster on slippery and damp French mountain roads. The situation was ideal to test MV Agusta’s new ABS brakes and the eight-level traction control, but terrible for cornering.
I couldn’t get enough heat into the Pirelli Diablo Rosso II tires. At the first photo corner I lost front grip, but luckily the lean wasn’t greater than could be saved by straightening the Dragster. From this point and back to the Paul Ricard circuit the road test only centered on ABS brakes and comfort for me. The ABS brakes have two modes with the ability to shut the system off completely, which we did at the track.
The Brembo brakes are very powerful for slick conditions, which makes the ABS handy during a slippery day. Modulation is smooth and precise, and as long as the tarmac isn’t too slippery, there is minimum intervention from the ABS. When I turned the ABS off at the track, I locked up the rear to make sure the ABS was truly off. During this process, I found the rear caliper liked to stick onto the disc longer than preferred. Perhaps a bit of bronze lubricant on the sliders would solve this issue.
Wheelies and burnouts are second nature for the Dragster 800. Due to this, the Dragster is much more the hooligan than its more docile Brutale 800 sibling. The stubby rear end and handlebar-end mirrors from the Rivale gives the Dragster a naughty stance straight away. The Dragster is just as much at home in Paris as at Paul Ricard Circuit. It’s a fine handling motorcycle with a Brutale headlight, F3 DNA and Rivale naughtiness.
The traction control and ABS functions can be scrolled through and adjusted from the left handlebar. It’s easy enough to scroll, but the selection process is awkward if wearing gloves – it’s best to make selections before you start riding.
The 125-horsepower triple is still an aggressive engine, which likes to be revved. But there is enough torque to seriously distinguish it from the smaller 675cc engines. I prefer the full 148-horespower version in the F3 800 supersport, but this doesn’t mean the Dragster is underpowered. The engine quickly responds to throttle input, and acceleration is impressive for its size. A quick shifter further adds to the acceleration. Part of this is due to the high-tech triple only taking up 115 of the bike’s total weight of 368 lb.
Down the start/finish straight on Paul Ricard, we’re almost hitting the Dragsters top speed of 158 mph. The top speed is almost repeated on the Mistral straight – despite the fact we’re not even using half of the power.
The MV Agusta Brutale 800 Dragster is sportier than the standard Brutale 800 in the handling department. More stable is the keyword, and that massive 200/50-17 Pirelli rear tire makes certain more rubber is available to burn on corner exits. In theory you should be able to get on the throttle sooner, but conditions again were not ideal even on the circuit. We tested on a drying circuit, and by third session the racing line were pretty much dry.
Inside my helmet I smiled as I knew this would be fun. Finally the sun had been out long enough for us to have a dry run around the fast Paul Ricard HTTT circuit. Old Bernie Ecclestone owns this piece of land in Provence and it’s a place favored by F1 teams for testing. The circuit has plenty of run off and high grip surfaces outside of the white lines.
After a damp session of testing aboard the Dragster, and then a faster session on the F3 800 ABS, I knew I could attack the corners more aboard the bully version of Brutale. After a short drag-race out of pit lane, I hit the extremely tight stop-and-go Epingle corner, which is a right hander leading onto the Mistral straight interrupted by the Chicane Sud and Nord.
After tip toeing through the chicane, it’s full throttle down the last part of the Mistral straight ahead of the legendary Courbe De Signes, which apparently only Ayerton Senna ever did at full throttle. I believe it’s a fourth-gear corner, but I settled for third doing 100-115 mph. It’s an extremely fast right hander, and it’s not a place anyone on a motorcycle wants to fall off.
The Dragster is really stable at high speed, and much of what makes the F3 800 a great motorcycle is still present in the Dragster. I brake hard down from just over 110 mph – something to attack the ever tightening Doble Droite Du Beausset right hander before accelerating hard out. I’ve got time to grab another gear before I’m braking hard again, and then I hit the first fast left hander Virage De Bendor.
I’ve finished my braking, and enter the corner hot – now I really am desperate to lean this thing as much as possible. I settle into the corner, and add more throttle. But at a huge lean angle I wash out the front, and the Dragster 800 is gone underneath me. The bike stays close to me for a second, and somehow I’m chucked around from my left to my right. It feels like being in a giant washing machine with a drum made of abrasive wolfram.
I’m in the blue zone on my back. The Dragster suffered scratches and some bent foot levers on the left side and lost the left tucked-in mirror, which protected the clutch lever. I get up and run towards the bike and try to lift it up but I struggle. Then a marshal arrives and helps me.
I had intended to ride the bike back to pit lane and pick another one until the MV mechanics could fix the crashed Dragster, but my right hand wouldn’t quite obey my brains orders. Why? My thumb was broken in two places, which means the end of my riding sessions. I’m glad I had the guts to drag of my right glove while the adrenaline was flowing or it would have had to be removed with scissors.
Since I got to see the medical center at Paul Ricard I may as well tell you that it doesn’t get much better – it’s the full Formula One package. Thanks Bernie.
2014 MV Agusta Brutale 800 Dragster Test Conclusion
In many ways MV Agusta has built another ideal motorcycle, but I would still chose the Rivale due to its seat that allows me to move around more freely while riding.
The Dragster has great Brembo brakes, and the ABS is a very good addition. It’s priced at 13,490 Euro (over $18,000 USD), which is about 2,000 Euro more than the standard Brutale 800 ABS.
It certainly handles better than the Brutale 800, but it’s up to you if you’re willing to pay another 2,000 Euro for that pleasure. I can’t wait for the four-cylinder version – that’s when the Dragster will truly get brutal.
2014 MV Agusta Brutale 800 Dragster Positives/Negatives:
+ Exciting engine
+ ABS brakes
+ The style of MV Agusta in its rawest form to date
– Tiny seat
M- ode selection buttons too small and awkward to operate with gloves.
Photography by Milagro