2010 MV Agusta Brutale 1090 RR
This charismatic Italian motorcycle oozes character, eats up curvy roads, yet doesn-t cost a fortune. If there-s one reason why the embattled company should survive, the Brutale is it.
New York-NY Boutique bike maker MV Agusta has a storied history that infuses its motorcycles with undeniable charisma. The company started as an offshoot to the Italian Augusta aviation concern, and its inexpensive 100- to 150-cc daily runners spawned a rich tradition of GP-winning bikes in the -60s and -70-s. Motorcycle production ceased in 1980, but Italian holding company Cagiva restarted the failing motorcycle business in 1991 with modest success.
Then Harley Davidson bought the company, and despite a string of well-received bikes, the Motor Company put the Italian firm for sale the same day it unscrewed the drain plug under Buell.
Several companies, including BMW, that are thinking of buying MV Augusta should swing a leg over the new Brutale. It-s a rolling example of why the company deserves a reprieve, and it could be the best bike in it-s lineup.
Fortunately, the backlash of the looming management change doesn-t seem to have affected things yet. The Brutale is a naked bike, derived from the frame and running gear of the race-replica F4. It-s available in two versions-the 139-hp 990 and the 144-hp 1090 (which actually displaces 1078 cc). If you think that an extra 8 percent displacement should give more than 5 hp, think again.
The 1090RR-s 85 lb-ft of torque are up almost exactly 8 percent from the 990-s 78. All this power is achieved with four watercooled in-line cylinders boasting radial valves. Radial valves?
The valve stems aren-t parallel to each other, which requires some fancy valvetrains. In the MV engine this is achieved by cam lobes that are machined at an angle to bear directly onto the splayed valve heads. Odd-looking, but it allows the intake and exhaust ports to have a straight shot into the hemispherical combustion chamber.
The Brutales- trellis frame is thin-wall chrome moly tubing, lovingly TIG-welded by an artisan who not only knew what he was doing, but cared. It puts even the best MIG welding to shame, and I speak as a certified welder. Like most limited-edition exotic bikes, the running gear is supplied by a menu of high-end companies: Magneti Marelli ignition/injection, Marchesini wheels, 50-mm Marzocchi forks exclusive to MV, Brembo radial-mount calipers squeezing 320-mm discs, Nissin radial master cylinder-the list goes on.
With a 56.6-in. wheelbase and a steering angle of 25 degrees, the chassis could be twitchy, but we-ll talk a bout that later. With 17-in. rims shod with 120/70 and 190/55 tires, there is plenty of grip. And when there-s not a lot of grip, or for pulling out of corners with healthy throttle inputs, there-s a standard traction control system.
Our 400-plus street-mile test opportunity came at the end of weeks of bad, snowy East Coast weather. Experience, disdain for personal comfort and a heated vest were sufficient to permit plenty of commuting in high-30-degree temperatures, but the countless potholes and a thin film of sand on the pavement were more than enough to discourage any real exploration of the 1090 RR-s performance envelope.
Having said that, 144 hp in a bike that weighs only 460 pounds with a tankful of gas is an eye-opener. The traction control allowed some margin for error, fortunately. One amazing observation is the MV-s ability to pull from 20 mph to blatantly illegal speeds in 6th gear at full throttle. The wet clutch uses a back-torque limiting slipper mechanism to permit downshifting at high revs, reducing rear wheel chatter.
Speaking of shifting, the shifter feels almost disconnected from the transmission internals. There is almost no effort necessary, just put the smallest pressure on the shifter and back slightly off the throttle. The shift lever might just as well be an electrical switch controlling a solenoid.
In fact, it reminds me of the paddle shifters on exotic cars like the Audi R8. We had no opportunity to investigate the claimed 164-mph top speed.
Ergonomics of the bike are excellent, although the saddle height has been raised 25 mm since 2009. 90-minute long commutes in heavy traffic seemed a lot shorter on this bike than on any other in our test fleet, even bundled up for the cold. The fit and finish and attention to detail on this bike are among the best we-ve ever seen, bar none.
The Bottom Line
MV Agusta Brutale 1090RRs and 990s will be available in dealerships sometime in July. Prices for the 990 and 1090RR are tentatively set at $15,000 and $18,000, respectively, making them slightly more expensive than the already pricey Ducati Hypermotard or Streetfighter. If exclusivity is any selling point, the MV has it in spades.
We pulled into a BMW/Ducati/MV dealer on a Tuesday afternoon to pick up some Ducati valve cover gaskets, and before we had the sidestand down, there were three people circling the Brutale, and even though none of them worked at the dealership, all of them knew what it was. We answered questions for an hour before we could finally make a hasty exit.
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