Ultimate Superbikes 4th place: MV Agusta F4RR

By Michael Neeves -

First rides & tests

 14 May 2013 08:30

Lap time: 1:53.86
Top speed at end of straight: 163.6mph
Max braking (g): 1.19
Max lean: 41.62

Why it’s so special
MV Agusta F4s are the ultimate poster bikes. The iconic Massimo Tamburini-designed lines haven’t really changed over the years, just tweaked, refined and polished, but even today, 14 years after the original F4 750 was released, this latest evolution is unutterably beautiful. 

It wears the finest biking jewellery: Ohlins, Marchesini and Brembo, but the MV now has a ride-by-wire throttle system, which has allowed MV to equip the F4RR with variable riding modes, traction control, anti-wheelie, launch control and an auto-blipper – a world first. And like the Panigale the MV has electronically-adjustable suspension, linked to the riding modes.

On the track
In 11 years of road testing for MCN, I’ve been lucky enough to ride just about every modern-day MV. I’ve clocked up thousands of miles on MVs and like Spandau Ballet, I know this much to be true: you couldn’t wish to meet a nicer bunch of people who work at the factory.

MVs sound great, they’re achingly-beautiful, packed with the latest technology, thoughtfully designed and are built to a knee-trembling high standard. But they’re buggers to ride.

Early F4s had snatchy fuel injection, which gradually got better, but now, with the arrival of ride-by-wire, the throttle response is worse. The F4 RR’s throttle feels snatchy and disconnected, like last year’s F3.

This problem seems to be the -elephant in MV’s room. Sure, the bikes are so beautiful and they win countless design and desirability awards, but they don’t work properly. I have ridden nicely set up bikes, like from dealers Forza Italia, but out of the box, they can be frustrating.

The F4 RR’s power delivery is littered with peaks and troughs. At low rpm the short-stroke, 998cc inline four-cylinder ‘Corsacorta’ engine has little power, but once you’re past 6000rpm the F4RR gathers huge speed and momentum.

But this wondrous torrent of power is interrupted by a big flat spot around 10,000rpm, then all hell breaks loose, as it surges towards the redline and its claimed 195bhp.

You wouldn’t notice the inconsistent power delivery most of the time on the road, where you’re riding at lower revs, but on a track, mid-corner, not knowing what you’re going to get when you twist the throttle is unnerving and takes all your attention, when you should be thinking about where you’re going.

We were really excited about the F4 RR’s new auto-blipper, too. You don’t have to use the clutch or blip the throttle on the way down through the gearbox - just stamp your foot down on the lever and the gear snicks-in. Lots of top-level race bikes have them, but the MV is the first road bike to have one.

But it doesn’t work when you most need it, changing down from high revs, thanks to a 12,000rpm safety limit, to stop you over-revving the motor.

You need the auto-blipper to work on that first downchange at the end of a straight to steady the bike, coming off the throttle and on to the brakes, but the revs are too high.

Waiting for the revs to drop enough for the system to work feels like freewheeling and doesn’t inspire confidence. It’s best to change down normally, but the auto-blipper works at lower speeds and revs.

The unpredictable throttle made the F4 RR significantly slower than its rivals in Hodgson’s hands.

Not only was it the slowest 1000 here, it’s actually slower than its F3 younger brother, the ZX-6R 636 and Triumph Daytona 675R we tested here at the same time. And then it broke down – the dash looking blankly back at us even with the ignition switched on.

The motor’s inconsistent power delivery is such a shame because this latest evolution is fast and handles better than any F4 to date.

Despite being the heaviest machine here (211kg, fully-fuelled), it steers beautifully and has so much potential. If only the factory would sort out that throttle.

Hodgson says
There's nothing I like about this bike, it’s the worst bike I’ve ever ridden. It’s horrible. It’s like riding a video game – there’s no throttle connection. Whatever’s going on in your hand is not going on in the engine – it’s just weird. Even flat-out it’s unpredictable. Sometimes you’ll be halfway down the straight and the power dies, like a load of traction control has come on and then it suddenly clears itself and you’re off again.

There’s a flat spot when you first get on the gas, then it clears and suddenly takes off. The chassis is weird, too. It’s horrible. You feel every bump on the track, yet there’s a lot of movement like it’s too soft in places. It’s like the chassis is too stiff and the suspension too soft – not pleasurable at all.

The riding position is good for the track, but the screen is far too low. Not a fan!

Settings
Riding mode:
Track
Traction control: Off
Electronic engine braking: Set within riding mode
Suspension: Set electronically within riding mode