MV Agustas used to be in the realm of high cost, high maintenance motorcycles ridden by the elite few who could afford them. To ride them you needed to be utterly in love with the marque and willing to put up with various foibles or so rich you couldn’t care less. What mattered was that you owned a real piece of Italian exotica. Much like owning a Lamborghini Diablo.
The exotica bit still describes the Brutale 800 but since 2016, the foible part has all but disappeared. Toned down and grown up, the Brutale now has the charm and usability to challenge the other supernakeds in its category. That’s not to say the Brutale has been watered down completely as it still has character to spare.
There can be no further discussion unless we touch upon the Brutales’ styling. Typically Italian, the Brutale is achingly beautiful, with subtle and not so subtle touches everywhere on the bike. From the full LED headlamp with its stylish bracketry to the hidden passenger grabrails, the MV manages to make form perform function. Witness the airy space underneath the rider’s seat, could it be used to store your gloves temporarily while you sip your latte at the corner boutique coffeeshop?
The composite frame consists of steel tube in a lattice formation mated to machined aluminium plates. The saddle frame, as MV calls it, is artfully designed as is the single-sided swingarm. The wheels look as if they belong in an art gallery and shod with Pirelli Diablo Rosso IIIs. But what matters is that the Marzocchi upside-down fork and Sachs rear monoshock are right up to par, with full adjustability allowing full use of those sticky tyres. The shapely trapezoidal fuel tank holds 16.6 litres. The LCD display is fairly normal nowadays but its worth noting that the Brutale doesn’t come with a fuel gauge, only a fuel warning light that comes on with around four litres remaining.
The Brutale is not just about physical style but the brief probably even extends to the aural style as well. The unique sound that emanates from the three exhaust outlets comes from the Brutales’ powerplant, a liquid-cooled three cylinder DOHC mill with 4 valves per cylinder. The inline three rotates counter-clockwise and produces 116 hp at11,600 rpm and 83 Nm at 7,600 rpm. Note that the Brutale is now more mid-rangy compared to its previous incarnation, which peaked torque at a heady 10,500 rpm. The whole engine was redesigned with new intake and exhaust cams and pistons to produce more accessible power for the rider. MV Agusta’s MVICS ride-by-wire engine management system meets the new Euro 4 standards.
Despite the improvements, the Brutale still exhibits a slight on/off reaction at a constant throttle at lower rpms but it doesn’t detract quite as much as before. Otherwise, in the higher rpm ranges, throttle inputs elicit a smooth predictable response. The lightweight crankshaft is under better control and you feel the Brutale much prefers to be accelerating rather than ridden at a constant slow speed. The addictive mid-range stomp certainly goads you to be aggressive but there is little point revving the engine hard. Use higher gears and listen to the aural delight the Brutale delivers between 5,000 and 8,000 rpm.
MVICS has 4 power maps with separate traction control settings (1-8). Normal, Sport, Custom and Rain maps can be easily selected via a button on the right handlebar switch. Normal allows enough engine braking to assist the radial four-piston Brembos. Sport and Custom will decrease engine braking as well but releases the quickshifter to an up/down setting. Normal will only allow the quickshifter on upshifts.
Speaking of the Brembos, they are mounted radially and bite on 320mm discs. Mated with a Nissin radial master cylinder, they have decent lever modulation and control. The rear brake is typically Italian, mounted next to the hot engine sump and spongy. Luckily, I don’t use the rear much. It’s a 2 piston Brembo on a 220mm disc. ABS is standard on both brakes and is unobtrusive.
The MV is light (175kg dry) and well balanced and easy to ride at low speeds, the sculpted seat tapers at the front making it easy to get both feet down and light clutch and throttle make it easy for less skilled riders. Unlike the earlier Brutale, the new one now has an extra touch of stability which gives you the confidence to tip it hard into turns. The wide handlebars allow great control but feel a tad too straight and stresses your palms. Maybe a more swept back design would be better. The suspension is firmly damped as standard, which is great for smooth roads but a bit too harsh for our bumpy KL tarmac. On smooth winding roads, the Brutale is a delight to throw around, responding as only an Italian thoroughbred can.
Overall, the MV Agusta Brutale 800 is a definite improvement on the old model, with the new styling and improved engine characteristics making it a viable alternative to the Ducati Monster or Triumph Street Triple. Why settle for a Ferrari when you can own the Lamborghini of motorcycles?