2004 MV Agusta Brutale S on the Track, Dyno & Street


As people stare with mouths agape and unabashed lust in their eyes, there's no denying the fact that this is one sexy and exotic motorcycle.

However, as a "professional motojournalist" - (cough!), it is my job to test these things and tell you about them, without the rose-colored glasses and the dribbling spittle of a rabid motorcycle fanatic. As with most jobs, some days are easier than others.

Today, I'm finding my job to be a little tougher than most. You see, I have to give you the straight poop on one of Massimo Tamburini's finest pieces of lustworthy moto sculpture. You do know Tamburini, don't you? He's that guy who co-founded Bimota, helped bring us the original Ducati Desmoquattros and penned the stunning and oft-imitated 916 family of motorcycles. His touch was sorely missed, when Ducati replaced the 916 series with the Pierre Terblanche designed 999 family. However, Ducati's loss was CRC/Cagiva/MV Agusta's gain and the stunning MV Agusta F4 and Brutale serve to underline all that is "right" with Italian motorcycle design in the 21st century.

Part I - The Track and Dyno
My first exposure to Buzz's Brutale came at Willow Springs Raceway's "Big Track". A sun and wind blasted wide-open expanse of asphalt snaking through the Mojave foothills, Willow Springs isn't what one would call an "ideal" place to evaluate streetfighter type motorcycles. However, Willow does allow one to concentrate on a motorcycle's steady-state suspension feedback, not to mention the motor's ability to pull the bike through various 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th gear stretches.

During my racetrack ride, the Brutale amazed me with its ability to feel very light, while remaining stable everywhere around the track. It amazed me with its powerful six-piston Nissin brakes and ability to repeatedly scrub speed like a racebike (Believe me, I can burn the stock brakes off most bikes in about 12 laps, but these Nissins were every bit as good as the best Brembos I've tested.) I was likewise amazed by its super-compact dimensions and racebike aggressive footpeg position.

You'd think all this amazement would result in my loving the Brutale on the racetrack. Alas, somehow I found the bike a little disconcerting at speed. It did sound nice, and it sure was eager to wheelie out of the pit lane. It even remained quite fun on track right up to a 90% pace. However, once the tires were warm and I started probing max lean angle, I found it hard to decipher what the bike was telling me. This feeling never caused any scary "moments" but it did keep me from pushing any harder. Some of this is no doubt caused by not having the suspension completely dialed-in, but that doesn't explain all of it. The problem isn't the "standard" upright style handlebars either, because I've won more than 30 Expert roadraces on motorcycles equipped with similar handlebars, so it's safe to say that I'm used to the differences between clip-ons and regular handlebars, when it comes to front tire weighting and feedback.

Buzz's Brutale was set-up with way too little compression and rebound damping for truly fast riding. After awkwardly tiptoeing around for my     first four laps, I came back to the pits and maxed the rebound damping adjustment. I also added a few clicks of compression damping. This made a noticeable improvement during subsequent sessions, but I still think the bike needs more rebound damping or perhaps a set of lighter springs.

I've heard quite a bit about MV's radial-valve 750cc inline-four and not all of it was positive. The gist of it being that the bike sounds awesome, but pulls more like a strong 600, rather than a modern 750cc "Superbike". My firsthand racetrack experience served to validate those rumors, as the bike does indeed feel a bit soft on acceleration and the engine seems to prefer that you rev it to the moon, while tap dancing on the shifter. When you comply with its wishes, the Brutale rewards you with a healthy pull and some seriously sexy sounds. Some people say "Ferrari", when they describe the engine's note, but to me it is more of a raspy high-revving four cylinder snarl-wail, than a sonorous V-12 howl.

There is little doubt that the engine sounds cool as you troll through the pits blipping the throttle. However, even when properly warmed-up, the engine has a tendency to stall if you let the revs fall back to idle too quickly. It stalled on me three times in the pits at Willow and once more rolling up to a stoplight in LA traffic. It would seem that the fuel injection mapping needs a few more hours of fine-tuning. This impression was further reinforced when I ran the Brutale on MO's Dynojet Dyno, as there is a noticeable hitch around 4,000RPM and considerable smoke on overrun when the throttle is chopped. I suspect an overly rich fuel map to be the culprit, but then again I'm no mechanic.

Even with the wonky injection mapping, the 750cc Brutale generates 107.2Hp and 52LbFt, with both peaks arriving at 11,000-RPM. More relevant for street use, is the fact that the Brutale stays above 40LbFt, from just above 5,000RPM, all the way to its 13,000-RPM rev limiter. For comparison, the 636cc Kawasaki ZX-6R generates 108.3Hp @ 12,700-RPM and 47.1LbFt @ 11,000-RPM, with a noticeably softer low-mid range than the MV's 750 motor. With the slightly puzzling racetrack handling and the under achieving motor, it's really no surprise that my personal recommendation is to look elsewhere for your next "naked" track day bike.

Part II - The Street
Ok, so now KPaul can proceed to tell all of us why the Brutale is inferior to a GSX-R750 on the Price:Performance chart. While he is busy babbling away, it is important to note that for real world street motorcycling, the underwhelming engine performance will still be way more than sufficient for sport riding. Not to mention the fact that the Brutale still makes more power than 1000cc sportbikes did 15 years ago. Trust me, the Brutale isn't slow.

On the street, the Brutale's rough edges are somehow less obtrusive. I don't think they are any less pronounced, it's just that the lower dynamic demands of the street team with the sexy engine sounds and cause the rider to overlook the bike's shortcomings, as he is distracted by the bikes' overall attitude and overwhelmed by the simple joy of piloting a great looking motorcycle that's blessed with an abundance of "character". Much like Aprilia's     stellar Tuono, the MV Brutale has an innate ability to turn the mundane into the extraordinary and the minor moving violation into a 1st degree felony.

I'm not really sure which of the bike's traits are most offensive to the local constabulary. Is it the "less quiet" nature of the Brutale's intake and exhaust, or is it the fact that while riding in any gear lower than 4th, the bike -more likely than not- is wagging its front tire about three feet off the pavement? These are real problems that cause genuine traffic citations and generate grouchy neighbors. These are EXACTLY the problems that hooligan bike buyers pay good money to obtain.

On the street, the Brutale doesn't disappoint. I was smiling in my helmet, every time the bike would make that rough transition through 4-5K RPM, because I knew that it was about to stretch my arms and time-warp forward to the next group of caged sheep. Between playing with the sound, the acceleration and the wheelies, there is little consideration left for officer avoidance. Giggles ensue.

On a more practical note, Like most bikes in its class, the Brutale offers a good view of traffic and the handlebars work well with the taut chassis, giving the bike a nimble feeling that encourages the rider to shoot those  ill-advised gaps and generally carve-up surrounding traffic in an antisocial, non-PC manner. That quick witted nature and comfortable riding position is precisely the stuff that makes a hooligan bike so well suited to life as a commuter or courier bike. However, in the Brutale's case, mundane commuting or god forbid courier's ratbike duty would border on sacrilege. The fragile aluminum wheels probably wouldn't last a month on LA's freeways and surface streets. Furthermore, the high-and-tight pegs would turn knee replacement surgery into a semi-annual event, while the harsh and choppy suspension would earn your chiropractor a new Rolex every week. No, the Brutale's ideal place is to be parked in a place of honor, where it can be admired between the occasional fling. It really should be the second or third bike in your garage, not your daily thrasher. It's a bike for the accomplished rider who is mature enough to stay out of jail (most of the time) yet still spry enough to treat her like the spicy Italian slut that she is.

Part III - Living with the Brutale, An Owner's Perspective
Story by Buzglyd

"She'll burn your house down and crash you car, but one night with her will be worth all of it." Have you ever met a girl like that? (Yes, and they were all redheads -Sean) I have and she was gone, after a ten-day whirlwind romance. The MV Agusta Brutale is the motorcycling equivalent. My infatuation with the naked MV came upon me shortly after my purchase of a 2003 Ultra Classic Electra Glide. I triumphantly took down my computer's Harley-Davidson wallpaper after buying the E Glide, since my beloved Harley was now in my garage. After seeing her in person at the Long Beach Motorcycle Show, I decided to replace my HD wallpaper with a photo of the MV Brutale, rather than a pic of some big-breasted bimbo. This was a big mistake! I did not intend to actually buy another motorcycle. I already had a nice Ducati ST4 alongside the Electra Glide, making for the perfect V-twin harmony in my garage. But she just kept calling me. I had no room in my life for such a temptress, but I couldn't get her out of my brain. I closed my eyes and her image would be in front of me.....Oh wait! We're talking about a motorcycle here, aren't we? Sorry.

Blame it on Yossef then. His Brutale ride report and description sent me into a frenzy. I was now stalking the MV- magazine articles, bike shows, and finally a visit to GP Motorcycles in San Diego. One test ride and I was smitten. I rode home on my Ducati and drove back the next day with my truck, slipping my checkbook into my back pocket, before walking into the dealership. Upon loading the bike into the back of my truck, a car stopped in the middle of the street, a girl leaned out the window and said, "Damn you look good sitting on that bike." Of course, she was talking to Paul Lima of GP Motorcycles rather than me, but the point is, the Brutale leaves people slack-jawed.

I appreciate the "ART" of a motorcycle, more than performance statistics. This helps to explain why no Japanese liter bikes take up space in my garage. The MV is simply an absolute stunner. The lines, materials, colors, sound and shape all morph into moto-perfection. People talk to you at stoplights. You can park it in front of a restaurant and watch motorcyclists and non-motorcyclists alike circle it slowly like some ancient mating ritual. I sneak into the garage at least once a day to make sure she's still there.

So what's she like to own? Beyond the looks, there is the sound. This is one of the sexiest sounding four cylinder motors ever. I can't believe this thing is street legal, because it is quite loud. The 750cc four has a nice raspy exhaust note and the intake honk right around 6,000 RPM is pure 60s Ferrari (Not a chance! Sure, it sounds great, but no four cylinder will ever sound as nice as a Colombo or Lampredi designed 60° V-12 sucking     through six twin-choke Webers. But we digress... -Sean). The suspension is a bit harsh, but it gets better the faster you ride the bike. I softened it up too much prior to our track day, leaving Sean a little disappointed. However, trust me the firmer settings would have been perfect. True to its name, the Brutale is quite brutal on Interstate 5 though. Bring your kidney belt. The bike changes direction quickly and upon changing the tires from stock Michelin Pilot Sports to Pirelli's excellent Diablo Corsa (thank you Pirelli!), she sticks like glue. As an added bonus, wheelies are a breeze with the short wheelbase.

Dealers are few and far between - just two in California. My experience with the local dealer "GP Motorcycles" has been excellent. They've taken care of my Ducati and were quite fair during my purchase and subsequent break-in service of the MV. The bike runs a little rich and we'll see about a possible remap and perhaps a few more ponies! Fuel mileage is a dismal 25 mpg, so you'll be a frequent customer at your local filling station. I recently purchased a Marsee tail bag to add a little luggage capacity, but a sport tourer it is not. The tough seat and stiff suspension limit your days to about 150 miles or so.

Listen fellow MOFOs, life is short and we only get few opportunities to own something truly special in our lives. You can argue that the Brutale is way more expensive than a Kawasaki Z1, but it's still cheaper than a new Hyundai. Go ahead, take the plunge. You can always buy a new house and car.

F4 BRUTALE S
SPECS PROVIDED BY MV AGUSTA
MSRP $13,995
ENGINE
Type Four cylinder, 4 stroke, 16 valve
Timing system "D.O.H.C", radial valve
Total displacement 45.7 cu. in.
Compression ratio 12:1
Starting Electric
Bore x stroke 2.9 in. x 1.7 in.
Claimed Max. horse power - r.p.m. (at the crankshaft) 93,4 Kw (127 CV) at 12500 r.p.m. - Lim. 13100 r.p.m.
Max. torque - r.p.m. 7,9 Kgm at 10500
Cooling system Liquid cooled, oil cooler
Engine management system "Weber Marelli" 1,6 M ignition - injection integrated system; induction discharge electronic ignition,"Multipoint" electronic injection
Clutch Wet, multi - disc
Gear box Cassette gearbox; six speed, constant mesh
Primary drive 47/81
Gear ratio First gear: Speed 13/38 64.2 mph at 13100 r.p.m.
Second gear: Speed* 14/31 84.8 mph at 13100 r.p.m.
Third gear: Speed* 18/32 105.6 mph at 13100 r.p.m.
Fourth gear: Speed* 20/30 125.1 mph at 13100 r.p.m.
Fifth gear: Speed* 22/29 142.3 mph at 13100 r.p.m.
Sixth gear: Speed* 19/23 155.3 mph at 13100 r.p.m. electronically limited
Final velocity ratio 14x41
ELECTRICAL EQUIPMENT
Voltage 12 V
Alternator 650 W at 5000 r.p.m.
Battery 12 V - 9 Ah
DIMENSIONS AND WEIGHT
Wheelbase 55.65 in.
Overall lenght 79.75 in.
Overall width 32.28 in.
Saddle height 31.70 in.
Min. ground clearance 5.32 in.
Trail 4.00 in.
Dry weight 407.9 lb
Fuel tank capacity 4.16 Brit. gal. ( reserve fuel: 0.88 Brit. gal. )
PERFORMANCE
Maximum speed* 155.3 mph electronically limited
FRAME
Type CrMo Steel tubular trellis (TIG welded)
Rear swing arm pivot plates: material Aluminium alloy
FRONT SUSPENSION
Type "UPSIDE - DOWN" telescopic hydraulic fork with rebound-compression damping and spring preload adjustment
Rod dia. 1.97 in.
Travel on leg axis 4.65 in.
REAR SUSPENSION
Type Progressive,single shock absorber with rebound - compression damping and spring preload (F4 SPR, F4 Agostini and F4 Brutale rear suspension fully adjustable)
Single sided swing arm: material Aluminium alloy
Wheel travel 4.72 in.
BRAKE
Front brake Double steel floating disc
Flange: material Steel
disc dia.; caliper piston number and dia. 12.2 in.; 6 with 0.89 in. dia.; 1.00 in. dia.; 1.19 in. dia.
Rear brake Single steel disc
disc dia.; caliper piston number and dia. 8.27 in.; 4 with 1.00 in. dia.
RIM
Front: Material / size Aluminium alloy 3,50" x 17"
Rear: Material / size Aluminium alloy 6,00" x 17"
TYRE
Front 120/65 - ZR 17 (56 W)
Rear 190/50 - ZR 17 (73 W) or 180/55 - ZR 17 (73 W)
FAIRING
Material Thermoplastic

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