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Review: MV Agusta F3 800
Driven December 2016
The last time I made a trip to the MV Agusta office in Pune, it was to meet the F4. It has been hailed as a work of art by all and although it is a decade old, it manages to look like something that can make a style statement today. However, it showed its age mechanically and wasn’t the easiest to ride, especially in the pouring rain. This time around though, we are here to be handed to keys to the most accessible motorcycle in MV Agusta range, the F3. It is an 800cc, three-cylinder motorcycle that screams performance and has the goodies too. It also inherits the F4’s beautiful design with a bit of mesh adorning the scoops and a deeper excavation for the saddle to make for a slightly less aggressive riding stance than the F4. This also allows for you to put both your feet on the ground comfortably and a lower kerb weight means it is easier to handle at stand still as well.
Swinging a leg over the F3 and finding a snug spot on the rather thin, hard seat is easy. Your feet land flat on the floor and the mass of the motorcycle settles in nicely between your, err, legs. Reach out for the handlebar and it is a fairly easy stretch with the controls falling easily to hand without demanding a superbly aggressive riding stance. Pull in the clutch and thumb the starter and the three-cylinder, 798cc motor comes to life with a rather gravelly idle. Traction control set to maximum assistance, ABS on normal and throttle maps on Normal, I set off. Bottom-end response is pretty weak and you have be mindful about using enough throttle as you start from a standstill and it isn’t difficult to notice how the ECU attempts to keep responses smooth. A few kilometres in and I realise the ride is unlikely to get any better as the stiff suspension blurs my vision over every rough patch that I come across, you know the kind where the top layer has been scrubbed off. The heat coming off the motor is also becoming noticeable by the time I reach the final traffic light before I manage to get out of the city.
But then, the lights turn green and I am afforded a bit of an empty stretch of road. Off the line smoothly and a slight wring of the right wrist, tap your toe to get second and then third. I realise I’ve been using only about half the revs that the engine allows and it already feels quick. The quickshifter works beautifully as you tap your way through the six-speed gearbox and I can’t wait for the broad open highway. I start fiddling with the engine maps with my right thumb to get to Sport. The difference in response is evident. It gets a bit choppy at mid-input levels and then lets a bark out when you get a chance to whack it open. Getting to higher revs and listening to the three-pot motor howl is an experience with no apparent let up in power delivery and an incremental factor of smoothness as the revs build. If it sounded like a box of nails till about 4000rpm, it smoothened out to a good natured thrum around 7000 before taking off on an incredible combination of a scream and howl past 12000. Acceleration is rapid, from the 148bhp motor, and there is no let up as the quickshifter allows you to move through the gearbox seamlessly to keep power flowing thick and fast. Triple-digit speeds are achieved before you can count to four and it carries on at a similarly incredible rate after that. While Sport feels exhilarating, you need to be sure of the surface you are riding on and the lines that you are likely to pick as it does not react too well to edgy inputs. I decide it best to move back to Normal have scrolled past Rain (massively muted responses) and Custom. However, this time around I pull over to reset traction control levels to a far less aggressive setting scrolling toward a lower number on the 8-level set up (you need to turn the key off and on for it to take effect).
Needless to say that it is quick, but at the same time it doesn’t feel too scary. Especially when you get to a set of corners. Lean in and you are likely to forget that it is an 800, it feels more like a smaller capacity bike as it changes directions with ease, requiring little more than you to think what should happen next. A set of Diablo Rosso Corsas keep good company and massive lean angles are easy to achieve on this Italian motorcycle. Throw it into a corner and roll on the throttle the F3 just keeps going, the speeds building steadily with a lot of reassurance from the available grip. Hit a bump though and it is transmitted straight to your spine with little loss in composure of the motorcycle. Whack the throttle open and it will do a gentle power wheelie, depending on what level of traction you have set, and generally just continue to be an absolute hoot. If you ever wonder how fast you have been travelling, too fast would be the correct answer, however, reeling it in takes only a slight dab of the front brakes. Feedback from the twin-disc set up is strong and it leaves you wondering why you got on the brakes so early, every single time.
It doesn’t take much to realise that the F3 is almost impossible to ride peacefully. The stance may be easier than the F4, but it is still aggressive and its incredible light handling makes you want to crouch a bit lower, get up on the balls of your feet constantly and stay there while getting the triple to scream at every empty stretch of road that you can find. Yes, it is incredibly stiff on the suspension, although you can adjust it to some extent, and your back takes a real beating over rough surfaces; the throttle responses are quite choppy in the Sport map unless you keep rolling on the gas constantly and the seat is about as comfortable as a hardwood stool. Not to forget that it is still expensive at 16.78 lakh (ex-showroom Pune), although it is the most affordable MV you can buy, till the Brutale 800 is out anyway. All of that said, it is a delight to rev through the broad powerband, the chassis is absolutely brilliant as it is easy to use effectively through corners and the brakes pack a bite that is difficult to comprehend. And, if you need another reason, it is designed like a piece of art, just like the F4 and sounds absolutely ballistic as well. Essentially, if you want something exotic that rides superbly, the F3 800 is the only bike for you.
Words: Debabrata Sarkar
Photographs: Parag Parelkar
Engine: 798cc, petrol, 148bhp, 88Nm, 6M
Performance: Top speed: 269kph
Tyres: 120/70 ZR17 (fr); 180/55 ZR17 (rr)
Kerb weight: 173kg
Beautifully sculpted, like the F4, in a package that feels like a much smaller motorcycle and is incredibly easy to use. Not to forget that howling exhaust note.