The 600cc class has been easy to neglect in 2012, especially with the literbike class offering no less than five new-or-updated models and the middleweight class…none. Even as we tip into the later part of ’12 there hasn’t been much to talk about as far as 600s are concerned, and zero manufacturers had announced an update to their middleweight package for 2013 by the time we went to press. An even better indication of the class’ current state is this: the last time we introduced you to a new 600cc sportbike was all the way back in the June 2011 issue when we threw a leg over the then-new 2011 GSX-R600. Fortunately for middleweight fans — and Euro exotica enthusiasts alike — MV Agusta has released its new 675cc F3. With an all-new engine, capable chassis and long list of electronics, the F3 could very well be the kick in the pants the middleweight class has long needed.
The fact that it’s MV Agusta whose shoulders the middleweight class currently falls on may come as a surprise to some. The manufacturer’s fate has come into question more than once over the last decade, with the most recent news being the transfer of ownership from Harley-Davidson back to the Castiglioni family. Now back to its Italian roots, however, MV Agusta is on a determined path to competitiveness, with more models available than ever before, a steady growth in production rates and an even steadier growth in sales. The F3 in particular represents the company’s move to a more affordable, yet still exotic, sportbike.
Tucked neatly inside the F3’s steel trellis frame mounts MV Agusta’s new ultra-compact 675cc three-cylinder engine, which runs a more oversquare 79 x 45.9mm bore x stroke configuration (compared to the Triumph Daytona 675’s 74 x 52.3mm measurements). “We went with an extremely short bore x stroke ratio because we wanted to have a three-cylinder that revved and could compete with four-cylinders up top,” says MV’s Brian Gillen. The 675cc powerplant has a larger range of usable power, with a wider spread between where peak torque is made and where peak power is made. To give a better idea, the F3 is claimed to produce 128 horsepower at 14,500 rpm and 53 foot-pounds of torque at 10,600 rpm (at the crank), which would easily make it the strongest bike in its category if true.
The F3 engine is the first production motorcycle to run a counter-rotating crankshaft. Utilized on race bikes such as Yamaha’s M1 MotoGP bike, this technology is intended to reduce the gyroscopic effect of the wheels and aid handling at higher revs. The bike’s balancing shaft has been placed between the primary shaft of the transmission and crankshaft. The single shaft works as the primary drive, cam drive, pick-up for the crankshaft position sensor and as a balancer, allowing MV engineers to keep the parts count — and engine weight — to a minimum. Water and oil lines are integrated into the crankcases for reduced parts and less weight. The bike’s water pump and oil pump are mounted within the engine as well, similar to the Yamaha YZF-R1.
The F3 engine is devoid of a slipper clutch, although the bike does come standard with an adjustable engine braking program that corresponds with the Eldor ECU to open the throttle butterflies a determined amount for smoother corner entries. Its eight-level traction control system works in a similar manner, but measures a derivative of crank speed (rather than using wheel speed sensors) to determine tire slip. The ECU recalculates every .036 seconds, reducing spark and closing the butterflies every time your skill succumbs to a heavy right wrist.
One of the F3’s downfalls...
One of the F3’s downfalls is its digital display, which is difficult to read. The tachometer numerals are about the size of a needle point for reference. Four maps are accessed via the starter switch on the right clip-on.
Four separate riding modes are offered (Rain, Normal, Sport and Custom) and made possible by the F3’s new ride-by-wire system (a first for MV). Each of the aforementioned modes varies in terms of throttle response, power output, engine brake control, engine response and rpm limiter interruption, most with just two levels of adjustment. Creating your own Custom map through the digital display allows you to personalize the parameters for each of the systems, but while there are a lot of options, there aren’t enough to completely screw things up. An MV Agusta EAS (Electronically Assisted Shift) quickshifter was fitted to each of the bikes designated for the F3 launch and comes standard on all U.S. models, upping the price of the bike to a still-reasonable (by MV standards) $13,999.
The F3’s chassis is typical MV Agusta, with a steel trellis frame bolting directly to cast aluminum side plates. The “single-sided swing arm concept is the same, but the design is completely different,” assure MV techs, who are also quick to tout the bike’s relatively short 54.2-inch wheelbase. When compared to our 2011 600cc shootout contenders, the F3 has the second shortest wheelbase, outdone only by the Honda but closely matched by the Yamaha. With a claimed wet weight of roughly 420 pounds, the MV should also slot in around second place when compared to that same group of bikes on the scale (we’ll wait until we get one on the scales to confirm, however). Where that weight is positioned was a priority, and the F3 carries its weight well thanks to its centrally located fuel tank and battery, which both sit just below the seat.
A fully adjustable Marzocchi...
A fully adjustable Marzocchi fork handles suspension duties up front, whereas two-piece Brembo calipers are tasked with getting the F3 slowed down. The brakes have enough power but a less communicative feel at the lever. The fork needed some attention in terms of setup as well.
The Sachs shock works better...
The Sachs shock works better than the Marzocchi fork, but needed some slight adjustment for track speeds. The F3 suspension shows signs of brilliance, but needs some attention before you can access that potential.
A fully adjustable Marzocchi 43mm inverted fork handles damping duties up front, whereas a similarly adjustable Sachs shock works to quell movements out back. Braking duties have been left to the capable hands of Brembo, although the radial-mount calipers up front biting on 320mm discs aren’t the one-piece bling you’ll find on the upgraded Triumph 675R.
Built for the track
While the F3’s plethora of electronics and impressive specs sheet suggest serious potential, we wouldn’t be able to fully understand its capabilities until heading out to New Jersey Motorsports Park for the bike’s official launch. Introduced to the AMA Pro Racing schedule back in 2009, NJMP is comprised of two tracks, Thunderbolt and Lightning — Thunderbolt being the track used to test MV’s newest middleweight.
A compact ergonomics layout and narrow tank/seat junction combine to make the F3 feel similar to a Yamaha R6 from the helm, but still much more comfortable and roomier for the average sized rider. Compared to its larger displacement sibling, the F4R, and — more importantly — to the Triumph 675R, the F3’s seat is much lower (.7 inches lower than the Brit bike to be exact) and provides a better sense of control for those short in the inseam. At full tuck, it was still nothing short of a challenge for me to get my 6-foot-3-inch frame tucked behind the windscreen.
The F3’s exhaust is one part...
The F3’s exhaust is one part form, one part function—as we’ve come to expect from MV—and could turn the head of any motorcycle naysayer with its malicious-looking three-muffler, slash-cut design. It doesn’t sound anything like a Triumph either.
While the three-cylinder powerplant and devilish exhaust note will admittedly steal the hearts of many, it’s the F3’s chassis that really has me impressed. I’d even go as far as to compare it to a 250 GP bike in terms of its nimble steering and composed feel at full lean. Much like the F4RR Corsacorta we tested elsewhere in this issue, the F3 chassis is difficult to upset at full lean, a testament to MV’s steel trellis/aluminum plate hybrid frame design. Unfortunately for our test bikes, however, it didn’t feel like the Marzocchi fork or Sachs shock were as well sorted as the chassis, and it took a good amount of time to get the F3 providing the confidence I was originally hoping for from its suspenders. Another contributing factor to the F3’s steering woes could be attributed to the fact that the test bikes were shod with Dunlop Sportmax Q2 tires for the track portion of the test rather than the OE Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsas. One thing’s clear, however, with a little bit of setup the F3 could potentially put a hurting on the competition.