This feels awfully familiar. Disembarking from my plane in Italy I know I've done this all before. The small group of American journalists were to be carted off from their hotel near Borgo Panigale-Troy Bayliss' second home-to the Misano Adriatico circuit to ride one of the latest offerings from one of the land's famous manufacturers. So far this feels like déjà vu. In fact, when we arrived at the track the vibe felt much the same. These bikes had trellis frames, were beautifully designed...and were red.
But this wasn't a Ducati.
Nope, the shade of red was slightly lighter, the trellis frame cradled an in-line four, and the badge on the gas tank spelled something entirely different: MV Agusta. The "other" exotic Italian manufacturer made big waves earlier this year when it was announced that it would be acquired by Harley-Davidson, but the question as to what, exactly, Harley's influence would be was still unknown. As the dust is settling it seems as though the iconic American brand has a largely "hands-off" approach to its Italian counterparts. The main difference that the folks at MV will notice is the renewed vigor that comes from having capital to invest in itself. Simply put, that means we can expect to see big things (read: new models) coming from MV in the years to come.
This view gives a good look...
This view gives a good look at the 310mm disks and Brembo calipers of the 990R. Ten millimeter larger discs come standard on the 1090RR with slightly larger monobloc calipers. Marzocchi forks measure 50mm and are fully adjustable. Much like the Ducati Streetfighter, the exhaust heat shield on the Brutale also protrudes outward, but it's not as extreme as the Ducati, allowing the rider to maintain natural footing. Note also the pillion grab handles integrated into the tail piece.
Ironically, what you see on these pages have been on the drawing board long before Harley stepped in. At the time, MV had to be careful where it invested its resources, and since the F4 line had exhausted the benefits of the 1078cc engine, it was time to turn the attention toward the Brutale. The result is two new bikes that seem similar on the surface, but are actually worlds apart: the Brutale 990R and Brutale 1090RR. Sure, you're looking at these pictures and thinking to yourself, "Hey, this Brutale looks just like the last one." Well...you're right; it does look like the last one. That was one of the design goals set forth by the legendary chairman and head of R&D for MV, Claudio Castiglioni. But in fact the 990 and 1090 are entirely new models-85-percent of which is completely redesigned. And if you own an older Brutale and think you can just swap on the new stuff-sorry, there aren't very many bits that are interchangeable.
We'll cover the changes to the two bikes in more detail in the tech sidebar accompanying this story, but in essence, MV realized that the major complaint with the older 910 and later model Brutale's was low speed fueling. "The engine characteristic was very 'on/off'," stated Andrea Goggi, head of engine engineering, with the accompanying hand motion mimicking that of the throttle. "So our focus was to improve low-speed driveabilitiy." He further stated that not much attention was paid to peak horsepower because the engine is plenty powerful as it is. Three other design goals were also in effect during this redesign: weight reduction through simplification of components, and a complete redesign of the cooling and lubrication system. Effective completion of these two elements would lead to the third design goal: reducing costs. So what's the deal with two separate bikes, you ask? Read on.
Believe it or not, the 990R is the more docile "street" based version of the two bikes. The obvious change is the bump in displacement to 998cc (from 982). MV claims horsepower and torque figures (at the crank) to be 139 and 76 ft-lb., respectively. Beyond that, both Brutale's come programmed for two EFI maps (wet and dry) and eight-position traction control.
On the chassis side, MV has continued its relationship with CRC in San Marino. The combination steel/chromoly trellis frame is TIG welded for strength and rigidity. It has been redesigned for stability, however, with a resulting half degree more rake than before (25 from 24.5 degrees). Front suspension duties are care of 50mm Marzocchi forks with full adjustment capabilities. A Sachs shock out back, also fully adjustable, handles the bumps in the rear. In keeping with the stability theme, the single-sided swingarm is 20mm longer, yet weighs 1.2 kg less than before. Stoppers are 310mm discs clamped by four-piston Brembo calipers, radially mounted, each piston measuring 32mm in diameter.
For Mature Audiences
There's no getting around it, size matters, and when it comes to naked sportbikes the only way to earn your keep is to bring the heat. And that's just what the 1090RR does. As the name would imply, the RR features a larger engine...but not a 1090cc mill. It is, in fact, the same 1078cc powerplant (via a 79mm bore and 55mm stroke) we've seen before only with the same improvements performed on the 990R. Other than the increased displacement, the 1090RR differs from its little brother with adjustable footrests, forged aluminum wheels (as opposed to cast units), a slipper clutch, 320mm discs with caliper pistons measuring 34mm in diameter, a steering damper, and a rear Sachs shock with a piggyback reservoir, needed for the high and low speed compression circuits. Dunlop Sportmax Qualifier RR tires are fitted standard to the RR, while Pirelli Diablo Rosso's come on the 990. The 1090RR is meant as the pinnacle in Brutale performance. A machine that is better suited to the more experienced rider who can meet its demands. So naturally we were curious to see if it would live up to the hype.
Circuit Misano Adriatico
MV Agusta chose the famed Circuit Misano Adriatico as destination for the world's press to put both bikes through its paces. Our time on the track would be followed by a street ride for a thorough evaluation.
Starting with the 990R, it's clear straight away that the improvements to the fueling have made a big difference. On previous generation Brutales, no matter how smooth one was with the throttle, there would always be a dead zone before the bike surges to life. Not anymore. Now gentle operation of the throttle was greeted by equal metering of the fuel, resulting in a much more linear power response. Thankfully, this is also true of the 1090RR. Both machines drive off of corners well, with the 1090 obviously having more punch. Not surprisingly, even the bigger bike seems to lose steam when the revs near redline.
For those times when one does decide to get greedy on the throttle the traction control system steps in with eight different levels of intervention. Unlike the Ducati Traction Control system that uses wheel speed sensors to determine wheel slippage, the Marelli electronics on the MV strictly detects spikes in engine speed. Then, judging by the rate of change in engine speed, first ignition timing is retarded, and if that's not enough then fuel is cut to the engine, but never does it run on three cylinders. Goggi explained that the goal with the traction control system was to make it as seamless as possible to the rider. Our brief time on the track didn't afford us much of a chance to really explore the limits of the MV system, but initial impressions are positive, with it seemingly working as advertised.
The headlight still keeps...
The headlight still keeps the same basic look and shape, but now turn indicators are relocated to the mirrors. Inside, eight LEDs on each side of the element create a "light strip" effect-a popular look on cars nowadays.
Speaking of corners, the longer wheelbase does make the bikes more stable, but at the cost of quick turn-in. The Misano circuit features a chicane immediately following the front straight and getting the bike from each side took some effort-especially the 1090 as the bigger engine required more muscle to fight its gyroscopic forces. Both machines were solid once leaned over, though. In comparison, however, the enhancements of the 1090 give it a more precise feel compared to its smaller sibling. Chassis flex was less and suspension stiffness felt more track oriented. And speaking of turn-in, with its dual side-mounted exhaust setup drawing comparisons to the Ducati Streetfighter was inevitable. On the Streetfighter we complained that the heat shield protecting the rider's boot from the exhaust protruded so far it restricted right foot movement and made it nearly impossible to keep it on the pegs while cranked over. While the Brutale's heat shield also extends into the foot's natural path, it's less intrusive and easier to adapt your riding style around. Braking on both bikes is incredibly strong though there isn't much travel in the lever, making modulation of the brakes especially tricky during trail braking. At racetrack pace we found that the longer shift lever does as advertised and provides more leverage, but at the expense of sloppy (and missed) shifts due to the lever being too close to the peg.
It sounds almost ludicrous, but there are terrible roads in Italy. And just to our luck, they happen to be near the Misano circuit. There the tarmac is narrow and slick, with four-wheeled traffic coming in both directions. The resulting degradation of the road by the cars makes it less than ideal, but it proved to be a good testing ground for the Brutale as both models were easy to ride, even the more track-focused 1090RR. The more relaxed seating position of the upright handlebars gives more leverage for those tight street maneuvers like U-turns (which both bikes do with ease, despite a relatively shallow steering radius typical of Italian motorcycles). Power delivery is still smooth, even while riding over the many bumps in the road. Braking force is strong as ever, especially in the rear, as seemingly little pressure was needed for lockup.
New And Improved
Without a doubt, the new Brutale lineup is a major step up from the previous generations. MV's focus on driveability rather than big numbers was the right move, despite having the added pressure of keeping to the original design. In a world of form over function thankfully there's a company like MV Agusta that still believes in both.
For the 990R, cylinder bore has actually decreased from 79 to 76mm, while the piston actually travels farther in the cylinder-stroke increases from 50 to 55mm. The 1090RR bore is 79mm with the same 55mm stroke. To quell vibrations, a balance shaft is now added to the front of the engine, driven directly by the transmission's primary gear. Stability is improved by way of a 20mm longer swingarm. Rear wheel sees a new cush drive to dampen driveline lash, as well as a new hub and bearing for less rolling resistance. Further weight savings for the water pump slices another 60 grams. The redesign also includes a redesigned impellor with new sealing that flows 65-percent more coolant than before. Cylinder head remains the same, with the same radial valves we're used to seeing on MVs, but now the Brutale gets a little help from Japan with new 46mm Mikuni throttle bodies. Injection is still via a single injector, calibrated with Marelli electronics. The new Marelli brain, coupled with the Mikuni throttle bodies is supposed to hold the answer to the abrupt throttle response. Improved lubrication was one of the design goals for the Brutale's. To do that, the oil filter was first relocated to the bottom of the sump, making filter changes easier. The oil pump intake was also located deeper in the sump for improved performance under heavy braking. The entire assembly shaves 0.6 kg from the previous version.
'10 MV AGUSTA 990R/1090RR
Type: Liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, DOHC inline four
Bore x Stroke: 76.0 x 55.0 mm/79.0 x 55 mm
Induction: Marelli EFI, single-valve throttle bodies 46mm dia. Single injector/cyl.
Front tire: 120/70ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso/Dunlop Sportmax Qualifier RR
Rear tire: 190/55ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso/Dunlop Sportmax Qualifier RR
Rake/trail: 25 deg/4.7 in. (104mm)
Wheelbase: 56.6 in. (1438mm)
Claimed dry weight: 419 lb.
Seat height: 32.7 in.
Fuel Capacity: 6.1 gal. (23.0L)