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.
That nimble feel through the multitude of NJMP esses could very well be contributed to the F3’s counter-rotating crankshaft, which is said to have its greatest effect anywhere north of 10,000 rpm. Said rpm is where the MV really starts pulling, and it doesn’t stop building power until it nears the 15,000 rpm rev limiter, giving you a wide enough powerband to forgo the shifter through a multitude of sections. It’s been a while since we’ve had a 600cc bike out at the track, so we’ll hold off power comparisons for now. We’ll admit, however, that the F3 feels plenty potent up top, with maybe just a bit less grunt than the Triumph 675 through the midrange thanks to the varying bore x stroke ratios.
Despite the majority of my time with the F3 being devoted to getting the suspension working properly, I still had the chance to fiddle with a handful of the bike’s many electronic rider-aid options, primarily the traction control system and riding modes. The F3’s traction control system is an interesting addition simply because the bike’s chassis works so well that grip really isn’t ever much of a concern on the MV. I was able to get the TC system to intervene a handful of times through NJMP’s wide-radius turn seven when set to level 2 but the cut in power was so smooth that it didn’t seem to slow me down through the corner. There are eight levels of TC adjustment, plus off, leaving plenty of room for adjustment depending on skill, tire wear and road conditions. As for the power modes, I tested Sport and Normal, and found that the latter provided a more neutered feel, while the former offered immediate acceleration at the small expense of an abrupt off/on throttle. Safe to say I’ll stick with Sport mode.
The MV’s engine brake control can be adjusted between Sport or Normal, although we didn’t take the bike out of Sport for the duration of the F3 test. The more aggressive setting allowed the bike to slither side-to-side a small amount at the entrance of the corner, but almost perfectly concealed the fact that the bike’s devoid of a slipper clutch. The EAS quickshifter proved its worth coming up NJMP’s straight stretch, providing seamless shifts between gears.
The two-piece Brembo calipers up front have a good amount of power through the pull, as evidenced by the AiM Solo data acquisition box we toted to Jersey, which showed anywhere between .75 to 1 G of braking force through the tight stuff. Feel from the lever isn’t as communicative as we’d like, although the lever’s easy pull doesn’t tax your right hand as bad as the F4RR brakes do. We also noticed a bit of shudder from the rotors, although they were brand new for the launch and probably didn’t appreciate being abused from the word “Go.”
Roughly 27 million dollars...
Roughly 27 million dollars and 36 months went into developing the F3. The result is a jaw-dropping design with the performance to match.
Signs of Brilliance
It may come as a surprise to many to find that the only new 600cc contender for 2012 comes with an MV badge. The Italian company’s dedication over the last 36 months (the time it took to go from paper…er, computer… to final product) has resulted in a bike that’s clearly capable of running with the Japanese — and British — competition, however. And while I’ll admit the MV needs some fine tuning as far as the suspension goes, I personally wouldn’t rule the bike out in our forthcoming middleweight tests. Stay tuned as we gather the troops.
2012 MV Agusta F3
|$13,999 (as shipped with EAS)
|Type: Liquid-cooled, DOHC inline three-cylinder, 4 valves/cyl.
|Bore x stroke: 79.0 x 45.9mm
|Compression ratio: 13.0:1
|Induction: Mikuni EFI, 50mm throttle bodies, dual injectors/cyl.
|Front tire: 120/70ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso
|Rear tire: 180/55ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso
|Rake/trail: 23.6 degrees/3.9 in. (99mm)
|Wheelbase: 54.2 in. (1380mm)
|Seat height: 32.0 in. (812mm)
|Fuel capacity: 4.2 gal. (16L)
|Claimed wet weight: 406 lb. (184kg)
Your title here...
AiM Solo Data Acquisition
For years now we’ve ran our Racepak G2X GPS-based data acquisition system during multi-bike comparison tests, using the gathered data for a more in-depth look at each bike’s performance on the track. Due to the size of the unit and the fact that it needed a power source, however, we’ve been unable to bring you data for various bikes during anything outside of our own tests. In contrast, AiM Sport’s new Solo lap timer mounts effortlessly to the tank and can be easily packed away for press launches, enabling us to bring you performance data for a wider selection of bikes at a multitude of tracks. The MV Agusta F3 was our Solo’s first victim. During the bike’s launch we monitored speed along with braking, acceleration and cornering G forces, giving us a good idea of the F3’s track prowess. For those interested in data acquisition systems, we’ll have a more thorough review of the AiM Solo itself in an upcoming issue.
New Jersey Motorsports Park’s Thunderbolt course is a 2.25-mile track that’s relatively flat, with just a few rises to speak for in terms of elevation change. The front straight is a half mile long, and the F3 recorded an impressive 141 mph by GPS. Getting into the third-gear turn 1 caused a few problems for the MV, mostly because the two-piece Brembo brake calipers don’t give very much feedback through the lever. The F3 recorded between .75 g and 1 g in each of the braking zones despite this concern, proving that the Brembos have plenty of stopping power.
The speed trace shows where...
The speed trace shows where Bradley is able to carry speed on the F3 and where he's being forced to roll out of the throttle. Sections are separated by green, blue and red colors.
The MV recorded around 1.1 cornering g in most of NJMP’s turns, a tick less than the 1.2 cornering g that we recorded on the Triumph Daytona 675R at this year’s Streets of Willow test. Through the elongated esses that lead toward the track’s front straight (8800-foot mark) you can see the F3 build a good amount of speed, and Bradley only has to roll out a small amount before tipping into NJMP’s extremely fast last turn. This is a proper indication of where the F3’s counter-rotating crankshaft works best; high-speed transitions where the bike is going from near full lean in one direction to near full lean in the other. One thing Bradley noticed during the test, however, is that the F3 was quick to shake its head through this section, as indicated by a small flat spot in the speed trace just before the 9000-foot mark. More stability under acceleration would potentially improve lap times. Dips in the speed trace at the entrance/apex of many corners also highlight the fact that the Marzocchi/Sachs combo doesn’t feel overly composed at the entrance of the corner. A little setup will likely go a long way with the F3.