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First test on production MV Agusta Brutale

Published: 06 May 2001

Park a bike as stunning as the new MV Agusta Brutale outside a bar in the town of Varese, northern Italy and out they swarm for a look and a fondle.

Italians love motorcycles and style in equal measure and the sight of the latest and very naked MV with its startling red get-up and extravagant curves, has the locals cooing a collective chorus of " bellissima " . If this bike were a woman it would have had its behind well and truly pinched by now

The MV is the latest creation from genius designer Massimo Tamburini the man responsible for the 750 F4 with which MV was reborn a couple of years ago (and, of course, Ducati’s 996). Tamburini always planned to strip away the F4s fairing and broaden the MV range with a naked bike using the same frame, with its distinctive combination of cast sections and steel tubes.

The Brutale’s liquid-cooled engine is identical to that of the F4, which means its twin camshafts operate 16 radial valves. (MV engineers claim this gives better breathing then conventional parallel valves.) Overall gearing is lower but the racing style six-speed cassette gearbox is retained, not that you’re likely to want to change ratios on a roadster. Mods to the Weber-Marelli fuel-injection system, plus the new exhaust system with its high-level pipes on the right, improves low-rev response while peak output drops by 7bhp to 127bhp at 12,000rpm.

This particular bike is even more special than the majority of the Brutales that will be built at MV’s new Varese factory. Like the 750 F4, the Brutale will first appear in this exclusive Serie Oro (Gold Series) version, of which a total of just 300 bikes will be produced, starting in September. With magnesium instead of aluminium frame parts, swing-arm and wheels, the 15 examples due in this country will cost just over £20,000: slightly less than the F4 Serie Oro, but roughly twice as much as the " normal " Brutale S that will follow early next year.

In typical Tamburini fashion, not only does the naked machine feature striking new shapes, but it is crammed with neat and intricate details including numerous carbon-fibre parts.

Certainly, the Brutale lives up to its name by looking thuggish enough to poke you in the eye at first sight. Its engine is angled forward behind a substantial radiator. Its shape is bold and barrel-chested, from the large, curiously shaped headlight and broad-topped petrol tank right the way back to the slender tail unit with its blended-in red pillion seat and tail light.

This bike’s 179kg dry weight and 1398mm wheelbase put it squarely in the territory occupied by the sharpest sports bikes. It feels compact and stubby when you throw a leg over the fairly low seat, thanks to slightly pulled-back bars that sit you very upright and forward, almost looking over the clocks and down at the front wheel.

On firing up the engine I am pleasantly surprised to discover that MV have managed to make the Brutale sound improbably throaty for a modern four. Blipping the throttle produces an audible intake slurp and exhaust rasp above the typical whir of the chain-driven overhead cams and valvegear. The inline motor might not have the lumpy charm of a V-twin, but the MV certainly has some character to match its visual presence.

The throttle and hydraulic clutch are light, and the fuel-injection’s response superbly crisp. In top gear the bike accelerates from as low as 2000rpm and 25mph without complaint, though the slick six-speed box meant this was never necessary.

Much more usefully, coaxing the Brutale into life at slightly higher revs was simply a case of tweaking the throttle and hanging on tight. I expected a high-revving motor borrowed from a super-sports bike to feel peaky in a naked machine like this, but that simply isn’t the case. From 5000rpm onwards the MV is brilliantly responsive, lifting its front wheel in first at the slightest provocation.

At 9000rpm the motor kicks again, ripping towards a rev-limiter that cuts in, with a flash of the dashboard warning light, at 13,000rpm, a few hundred revs earlier than the F4.

The Brutale will do 155mph if your neck could cope.

Given the Brutale’s F4-based chassis, I’m not surprised to find the bike handling superbly on some tight and twisty roads in the hills. With 24 degrees of rake and 104mm of trail its steering is sports-bike quick, and this bike’s agility is doubtless helped by the fact that its six-inch rear rim wears a 180/55-section Dunlop Sportmax instead of the optional 190-section radial. Despite heaps of grip, ground clearance wouldn’t be an issue on a racetrack, let alone the road, and the front brake blend of six-pot Nissin calipers and 310mm discs slows the bike with the ferocity of a crowbar through the spokes.

On the bumpy and winter-ravaged hillside roads the bike’s firm yet reasonably comfortable ride was welcome. The multi-adjustable Sachs shock was compliant without feeling the slightest bit spongy. So too were the 49mm upside-down Showa forks, though this was misleading because production Brutales will use 50mm Marzocchis with titanium-coated sliders, in place of this bike’s F4-style units.

Rarely have I returned a test bike so reluctantly, or had as much fun on the way.

More from this test in MCN on sale May 16

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