I'm currently writing this article from seat 14c in economy class somewhere over the Atlantic. I lucked out and my tall ass got a full row to myself for the longest portion of the trip. Destination: the lovely Spanish city of Marbella, right along the Mediterranean Sea, for the MV Agusta Brutale 800 World Press Launch. I'm killing the 15 hour flight with movies, countless cups of really good in-flight coffee, and reading up on the little Italian motorcycle company.
Amongst the many middleweight naked bikes, MV Agusta is a relatively exotic Italian brand that is most often compared to Ducati, but the majority of the company remains privately owned and is nowhere near as massive. MV Agusta's popularity in the United States is not quite as developed as its Italian cousin due to a lack of dealer network and low unit sales. MV Agusta’s CEO Giovanni Castiglioni told me that they only sold around 1000 units last year in the U.S.
Looking to turn those numbers around, MV Agusta partnered with Mercedes Benz' AMG division in 2015 and procured a sizable financial investment from an Italian financial group. MV Agusta is banking on that partnership and capital helping them increase brand awareness and overall sales, providing the relatively unknown Italian Motorcycle company with the ability to expand their reach into the United States.
Since its introduction in 2012, the Brutale 800 was plagued with ride-by-wire power delivery issues, which journalists and riders alike were quite vocal about. Many complained that throttle response and fuel injection was jerky and unrefined, ergonomics were a bit unpleasant, and to ride the bike well you needed to be a seasoned rider capable of handling the Brutale. It was not made for the novice.
MV claims that the 2016 Brutale 800 is the solution to those aforementioned issues.
"We have redesigned this entire bike from the ground up to make it more accessible to newer riders while retaining the same sense of character and excitement for seasoned riders," said Brian Gillen, MV Agusta's Director of Technical Development and R&D. "We've reworked the chassis, electronics package, and engine to provide all riders with one amazing motorcycle."
What’s New About the Brutale 800
The list of improvements is not short. MV really did re-engineer almost everything on this bike.
The chassis continues to retain the signature MV Agusta styling, but the front section is now made with ALS steel tubing and aluminum alloy side plates, which increases stability and handling. The wheelbase has been extended 20mm (a total of 1400mm), trail has been extended to 103.5 instead of 95mm on previous models, and the head rake has been adjusted to 24.5 degrees, thus adding to the Brutale 800’s ability to remain firmly planted and nimble.
Gallery: The 2016 MV Agusta Brutale 800 - An Unbelievable First Ride
The suspension has been developed to provide the best balance between performance and comfort. In the back is a single Sachs shock absorber and the front relies on a 43mm Marzocchi upside down aluminum fork with 125mm of travel. Both units can be adjusted for compression, rebound, and preload.
Braking is achieved with Brembo 320mm dual discs with four-caliper floating discs in the front and a single two-caliper 220mm disc at the rear. Braking systems also in incorporate a Bosch 9 Plus ABS system.
The engine has been completely overhauled, including new cam profiles and timing, new pistons, and an entirely new intake and exhaust system to comply with new Euro 4 standards. The new improvements allow for a 25% increase in maximum torque, delivering a claimed max 116 horsepower at 11,500 RPM. Though the new Brutale 800 produces less power than the previous model year, refinements everywhere else may make up for the drop.
I personally don't care about overall power, I care about how the package delivers an excellent experience. Much of this experience comes from how all the power is delivered. Throttle inputs are managed by the new MVICS Ride-by-Wire throttle management system, hydraulically assisted slipper clutch, and EAS 2.0 Up & Down quick shifter. The electronics package also features three ride modes (Rain, Normal/Touring and Sport), one custom setting with increased options, eight levels of traction control and switchable ABS. The Brutale 800 also incorporates a counter rotational MotoGP derived crankshaft (first introduced on the F3 675), which contributes to decreasing inertia and allows for faster directional changes.
While I never rode the Brutale 800's previous model, I do have a solid amount of saddle time with all the major players in this category—the Street Triple R, FZ-09, Z800 and Ducati Monster 821—so the bar is gonna be set pretty high for the Brutale 800 as far as first impressions go.
Our day begins at the lovely Villa Padierna resort in the heart of Marbella. Our route would take us along the main highway and up the winding roads to the picturesque town of Ronda where we'll enjoy a quick coffee and loop back.
Physically, this bike oozes sex appeal and I would expect nothing less from the Italians. The design lines and aggressive nature are said to mimic a closed fist, but I see so much more and its beauty is evident from every angle.
Straight on, the Brutale looks like a disco-passionate dragon ready to feast on the meat and bones of its crisped victim. Directly from the front, it's poised and streamlined, the newly designed headlamp with LED integration is retro, yet futuristic. Its signature slash cut triple exhaust pipes are eye-catching, and the trellis frame and the angular tank add loads of appeal. The Brutale's slim saddle with negative space underneath adds style and class. The tucked away tail light and svelte design make for a very sexy package that's delightful to behold.
I'm not going to lie, the Brutale 800 makes me horny. Remember the story about the guy that tried to sue BMW because he claimed his bike gave him a perpetual erection for a year? Well he would have died from that erection just by looking at this motorcycle. The new Brutale 800 is simply stunning.
Jumping onto the Brutale 800 one thing is clear, this bike fits me. At 6'5, most bikes are not built to accommodate a man of my size, but the Brutale 800 fits me the best of any naked bike I've sat on before. Whether you are 5’8 or 6’5, the Brutale 800 nails it in fitment. Being 20mm narrower due to its new design, it feels remarkably closer to a Supermoto than a fairing-less sportbike.
The upright handlebars are easy to reach and make for a good blend of standard and aggressive positioning. Clutch, brake, and controls, everything else in between are well positioned and are comfortable to access. Engine map modes are intuitive and easy to adjust while stopped and on the fly when riding.
As we set out, the first leg of our ride took us past the urban center of Marbella through a number of roundabouts, and along the highway. From stop-to-go, the Brutale 800 feels a bit twitchy on the throttle and there is a lack of feedback at low speeds. However, once I acclimated to the bike’s inputs things smoothed out.
On-ramp to the highway, bang! The Brutale 800 has some zest and gets up to speed in no time at all. This engine has character and retains a voracious grumble, which also means it's bit buzzy at highway speeds no matter what gear is selected. However, I'm not sure how much that will matter because that's not why you're going to buy a Brutale 800. You buy it to do what I'm about to do: Get totally fucking moto loco along twisty roads, or go balls out on a race track. That's where everything about this bike shines and I was totally unprepared for the marvel that was about to cast its light upon me.
For those that do not know this road, it has a lot of sweeping corners and not a lot of tight technical turns. It makes for a relatively fast ride and it's definitely possible to get a knee down in some sections. I accidentally took a left hander aggressively and tore my REV'IT jeans (Oops). Luckily I had my CE armor knee pads in the pockets.
I'm not the fastest guy, and if anything I've slowed down in the past year to really focus on my fundamentals to become a better rider. There is really something to be said, however, when Italian World Superbike racer and factory test rider Frederico Sandi leads the pack toward the end of the day at a spirited pace and I'm capable of staying on his ass the entire way. I was never past my own limit—Frederico was only at about 30% of his—but a lot of my ability to keep up that pace had to do with how comfortable I had become on the Brutale 800 toward the end of the ride.
I lived in third and fourth gear for the majority of the ride, second gear remained usable on the few tight sections, and I punched into fifth and sixth along some straights. Speed limit laws were easily broken a number of times and there was more than a wheelie or two popped.
What's truly fantastic about the new Brutale 800 is that MV has broadened the power delivery in the middle of the rev range where most riders ride and this makes the bike incredibly friendly, yet zesty to pilot. The new fuel injection algorithms have smoothed out power delivery and the jerkiness and lag reported in the past models are gone. Some of the other journalists I rode with confirmed the improvements. The new system provides generous power and torque between 6000 and 12000 RPM, and it's simply there when you want it with just the right dose.
Braking was also incredibly forgiving. The group came around a corner where we needed to apply braking to avoid running into a car, and in that instance, the brakes provided just the right amount of feedback and control when leaned over while pulling the bike up to a more upright position. Later in the day, I performed a few panic brake procedures just to test out the ABS and found the system to be very, very good.
The three most impressive features I came to enjoy on the new Brutale 800 were the hydraulically assisted slipper clutch, EAS 2.0 quick shifter, and the Pirelli Diablo Sport Rosso III tires. You won’t find that trio stock on any other motorcycle in this class. Not once in the canyons did I pull the clutch lever, except to remind myself that it was there. Shifting was effortless and spot on. The Brutale 800 did a fantastic job at matching engine speeds and rear wheel rotation on aggressive downshifts. Never once did I miss an upshift or experience rear wheel hop when downshifting into a corner. Bravo MV, bravo.
As for the new rubber, the Pirelli Diablo Sport Rosso IIIs, holy fuck balls—sticky, sticky, sticky, grabby, grabby, grabby. And this was in temperatures that never rose above 68 degrees the entire day. The feedback and grip allowed me to push harder and faster than I had previously thought possible once I became familiar with the bike. Simply wow. The Brutale 800 is the first production motorcycle to feature this rubber. MV execs said their decision to utilize these tires was due to their high-performance ability in dry conditions, but also their ability to retain grip in wet weather, making for the perfect all-around tire for Brutale enthusiasts.
For the majority of my time in the saddle my traction control setting stayed at level 4, ABS stayed on, and I jumped back and forth between Sport and Touring/Normal mode. As much as I wanted to fiddle with all the options, especially the increased options in the custom map, I wanted to focus on riding the hell out of this bike. Don't worry, I'll get into all the guts with a long term loan. Traction control engaged only once on myself and every other journalist in the group when we were capturing our press photos along a wet and tight corner behind the resort.
This was the only time any of us realized the activation of traction control. With the back end stepping out just a hair, I could feel it engage and diminish power only to regain traction within a fraction of a second. It worked very well.
One journalist in our group even joked, “Wouldn’t that be such an ego bruise to lay this bike down at 10mph after hitting the back roads at the speeds we were going.” All I could do was smirk because sadly, I know that feeling too well.
Areas for Improvement
I have to reach deep to find something to complain about with the Brutale 800 bike. If I had to nitpick, my complaints would be as follows:
1) The saddle is too firm and could use a little more cushioning.
2) The engine buzz at highway speed can (and will) get annoying after 30-45 minutes in the saddle.
3) I don’t like digital tachometers...but I say that all the time.
4) I would have enjoyed the addition of a programmable shift light.
Pricing for the 2016 MV Agusta Brutale 800 is expected to be $13,499 and is available in three colors: Ice Pearl White / Matte White Metallic, Red / Matte Silver, and Black Matte Metallic / Matte Silver.
Final Thoughts on a First Impression
I waited a few days before writing this conclusion because I feared my objectivity would be clouded by the excitement of this being my first world launch for RideApart as well as attaining redemption for when I broke my ankle in Marbella a year and a half ago.
I can say, without equivocation, that the 2016 MV Agusta Brutale 800 is one mind-blowing motorcycle. It was so good that I have had dreams about it for the last three days, and that rarely happens.
I cannot wait to get more time with this bike as my lust for it remains.
I will even go a step further and say that the 2016 MV Agusta Brutale 800 has intermittently dethroned the Triumph Street Triple R as my favorite naked middleweight. And with the Brutale 675 coming out in April of this year, I'm even more excited to see what MV brings to the table next.
Of all the naked bikes I've been on, the MV Agusta Brutale 800 fits me the best. I think it looks marvelous, it exudes a palpable character in the cockpit, and the handling characteristics are magnificent. I also enjoyed the multitude of options offered with the new electronics package (all of which work very well).
Every single time we stopped to regroup there was a smile on my face followed by a "WhooHoo!" That's how a motorcycle should make you feel. That's why we ride—to experience moments of voracious love and excitement. The Brutale 800 delivered all of that in spades.
If I had to pick one naked bike to have in my garage, I would put my money down in a heartbeat to have this new Brutale 800. I do hope MV succeeds in expanding their dealer network in the United States in the coming years, and making service and availability of their bikes more accessible to interested motorcyclists.
Lastly, if I had one phrase to describe this bike it would be: A work of visual art that is refined, yet enthralling to ride and exudes character like no other naked bike on the market today.
MV Agusta succeeded in putting their money where their mouth is with the 2016 Brutale 800. Kudos, guys, you have succeeded in gaining this journalist’s undivided attention and appreciation for your motorcycles.
2016 MV Agusta Brutale Spec Sheet
Photos and Video footage courtesy of Gigi Soldano and MV Agusta.
Sam's Riding Gear:
REV'IT! Red Hook Jacket
Racer Mickey Gloves
REV'IT! Lombard Jeans
AlpineStars SMX Plus Boots