After being unveiled to universal acclaim in its 750cc form back in '98, Massimo Tamburini's MV Agusta F4 went on to continue life for many years, including growing to 1000cc form in '05. Some were skeptical that Tamburini could recreate the same design magic that surrounded his previous masterpiece, a bike that has since become a sportbike icon: the Ducati 916. But the F4 has proven to possess the same lasting appeal with motorcyclists, with the styling remaining basically unchanged since its inception.
When Harley-Davidson purchased MV Agusta in '08, however, Tamburini abruptly retired. Sources say that a major rift developed between Tamburini and Claudio Castiglioni, CEO of MV Agusta, due to a remark Castiglioni made to H-D executives regarding Tamburini's penchant for slow development from concept to production. With its creator gone, MV faced a dilemma when it sought to update the F4 for '10. Could it renew the latest F4 without tampering too much with the design and upsetting the faithful?
Keepin' It Real
As associate editor Siahaan noted in his First Ride coverage of the new F4 ("Simple Elegance", June '10), MV Agusta managed to pull off a difficult makeover: creating a lighter, faster, and overall better machine, without losing the visual and tactile appeal of the original. Longtime MV engine designer Andrea Goggi wove his usual horsepower magic, taking many components from the numerous special edition models of the past such as the TSS (Torque Shift System) variable-length intake trumpets first used on the '05 F4 Tamburini Evo, and the 30mm titanium intake valves from the '07 F4 R312, but added numerous other hop-up bits (such as twin injectors per cylinder, hotter camshafts, larger airbox, the latest Marelli 7BM ECU and Mk II traction control, etc.) to boost performance well beyond the previous model.
Lead designer Adrian Morton had the much tougher task of updating the F4's styling. Anything approaching radical change was obviously not in the cards; one need only think "Ducati 999" to quickly deep-six that notion. Yet there had to be some sort of refreshment of Tamburini's 12-year-old design, as attempting to simply slap some new paint on the status quo would have counteracted any "all-new model" marketing campaigns despite the engine changes. Thankfully, Morton and the CRC (Centro Ricerche Cagiva, the design center previously headed by Tamburini) succeeded in creating a new F4 that largely retains the original's undeniably distinctive appearance.
One major development with the MV had nothing to do with any mechanical or styling updates. MV Agusta USA is now listing the MSRP of the '10 F4 at $18,500-which, in a new world of $13-16K-plus literbikes, suddenly makes the previously very exclusive MV a much more attainable goal.
Siahaan was obviously impressed with the F4 after his short stint with the MV out in Spain. But we finally got the opportunity to spend some time with one on the more imperfect pavement of our home shores here in the USA. So how much of a step up has MV Agusta made with the new F4?
Life With A Supermodel
Those short of inseam probably shouldn't apply for a seat on the MV, unless it's the passenger; the F4 continues its predecessor's history of a tall seat height, which in actual terms is a bit higher than the 32.7-inch number listed-especially if you start fooling around with the rear ride height adjustment rod. The reach to the bars is a bit shorter than on previous F4 editions, with the bars themselves seemingly positioned a bit higher for thankfully much less of a committed riding position than in years past. We tried to adjust the brake and clutch lever angle a bit lower for a more natural reach from the grips, only to find out that the lever mounts cannot be rotated on the bars; the clamps have a small tab that prevents any deviation from the stock location.
After the onboard diagnostic system takes a couple of seconds to determine that all engine systems are functioning properly, you're allowed to start the 998cc radial-valve four, which quickly lights off with a surprisingly loud-for a stock EPA-legal system at least-bark from the four separate square-shaped exhaust tips. The MV's throttle still has the cold-start fast-idle cam lever from the original F4, which we found a bit odd in this age of powerful engine management systems handling any cold-start idle/fuel requirements; regardless, we never had to use it, with the MV easily settling into a smooth idle and quickly warming up.