2008 Moto Morini Corsaro Review

The naked Italian alternative


Comeback plots can take interesting turns and twists. More than 30 years after designing Morini’s first family of small V-Twins (remember the Sport 3 ½?), Franco Lambertini was called to the flag again.

The mission? Designing yet another Vee for the born-again brand. I don’t think that the old and respected Ingeniere ever dreamt that he’ll be called to close his creative cycle after retiring already, but regardless of his advanced age, one thing can be said up front about the result: This new Morini 1200 has got one mean powerplant!

So then, you may ask, another comeback from one more god-forgotten marque? Haven’t we had enough with Norton, Indian, Mondial and countless other half-hearted resuscitation jobs? Well, this time it does look different. For starters, it’s not powered by some Harley clone mill or an on-loan-from-Honda motor (Mondial). There’s a serious from-the-ground-up R&D effort here, and these Morini guys from Bologna don’t intend to make their fortune out of selling branded T-shirts first. Only two and half years after showing prototypes in the big motorcycle shows, the Corsaro (Corsair in Italian) 1200 has hit the streets, almost a record by Italian standards.

2008 Moto Morini Corsaro.
A grunty V-Twin stuffed in a red trellis frame isn’t uncommon, but the Moto Morini Corsaro puts a new spin on a proven formula.
Yossef attempts to put down a surplus of torque to wet Spanish roads.

So not a run-of-the-mill comeback, but why with yet another big V-Twin? For once, this one has plenty of innovative mechanical solutions as well as interesting features. And now that 1200cc Twins are allowed into WSBK, there’s even the potential for a race bike in there as well.

When you consider how small a set-up Morini is at the moment, their R&D effort is quite impressive. Even if Morini’s past fame was mainly with smaller-sized bikes (250s, 350s and 500s), Maurizio Morini, a descendent of the original founding family, quickly understood that to re-enter the current market, a proper flagship was needed. Signore Lambertni handled the engineering, Studio Marabese was hired to sculpt the bodywork, and when the bike was unveiled it created quite a stir. Well, at least in Italy where Morini did leave a mark in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. Personally, while I find the engine and the frame imposing and attractive, I feel that the end result is a bit too classic, too Monster-like, too sedate even. Marabese took very little risks while shaping this one, so don’t look here for KTM/BMW weirdness.

'Just to give you a more precise idea, between 5K and 9K the torque never dips under 72 ft-lbs, peaking with a heady 90 ft-lbs at 6500 rpm' 

In the time that has passed since the unveiling, I’ve build up a quite a desire to test ride the thing, but Morini’s PR offices have been moving kind of slow and, hence, a ride was hard to come by. Luckily, my chance to ride the Corsaro arrived by courtesy of Pirelli, who provided a very complete test fleet during the European Diablo Rosso launch in Barcelona.

Spoilt for choice by some 20 or so new models for our test ride, my eyes fell immediately on the Corsaro. I quickly placed my helmet on one of the 1200’s mirrors in a kind of “you’re mine, darling!” gesture.

Time to move, then. Turn the switch on, press the starter button, and the big engine does spin but doesn’t really want to start. After a few futile attempts, the Pirelli guys take over the starting and warming-up procedure, explaining that this one is a bit of a bastard to start from cold and they don’t want me to kill the battery like some dude did the day prior. Not a nice way to start the day, and that’s the when I recall that a colleague who was invited to the very first Corsaro launch told me that the problem was pretty common in all the test fleet at the time. As this specific sample is already from the production line, I’m inclined to comment: Looks like Morini skimped on the homework.

While the engine warms up in the chilly morning, I take my time to check the detailing. The gas tank and tailpiece look as if they’ve been dipped in a deep bath of thick red enamel – cool. But why does the digital display look so cheap and why are the pixeled graphics on it so ugly? The thinly painted top triple clamp, the unsightly welds on the exhaust system and the older Brembo equipment raise a similar perplexity for a bike costing as much as a Tuono or S4R. Hello, Morini! Is anybody listening there in Bologna?

'It’s very sure-footed and reassuring with plenty of good feedback from the front end when cranked over.'

The engine’s warm enough by now, so it’s time to move, and the Corsaro moves and how. It doesn’t really care that it’s frigging cold, the roads are wet and there are plenty of slick fallen leaves around. This thing kicks serious power in from 2000 rpm, and for a very long time I just don’t feel the need to ever push it beyond 5K. The engine’s response to throttle inputs is almost embarrassingly strong in these conditions; every turn’s exit is an invitation for a power slide.

As the miles pass, I do get used to the grunt but would seriously hesitate before recommending this one to beginners. As if the down-low oomph wasn’t impressive enough, on the drier stretches I finally let the engine rip and the 1200 “Bialbero” (that’s Italian for Twin Cam) continues to pull like a rhino up to the rev limiter at 9000 rpm and change. Just to give you a more precise idea, between 5K and 9K the torque never dips under 72 ft-lbs, peaking with a heady 90 ft-lbs at 6500 rpm. Add to that a more-than-respectable 140-hp peak and short-ish overall gearing, and you get a tool that will give any Ducati S4RS owner a serious size complex.

Where’s the trick? The data sheet shows a very high and racy bore/stroke ratio (107mm x 66mm), which in theory shouldn’t explain the wide torque plateau. The huge pistons are a tad bigger than those found in the 1098R Duc race replica. The secret seems to lay in the very well designed combustion chambers and shallow included valve angle that provide plenty of squish and turbulence as well as smart and not-too-big inlet ports that keep intake velocity high.

It’s not hard to imagine that with some tweaking and tuning for top end, this motor could give a 1098 a run for the money. Don’t be surprised if we’ll see a super-sporty Morini at the upcoming Milan show in November. Other niceties include an 87-degree Vee angle to keep the mill compact and a special crankcase architecture where the crank is inserted from a side opening and shut closed by a thin cover. The ensuing structure should be very stiff and durable.

The cycle side of things is pretty impressive too. At 440 lbs or so, the Corsaro is not exactly a flyweight, but considering its mass it responds pretty quickly to rider inputs. In the conditions we were riding in, any handling deficiency would be amplified, but the Morini showed none. It’s very sure-footed and reassuring with plenty of good feedback from the front end when cranked over. Okay, the suspension is calibrated more towards sport than touring, so if you are looking for a nice and cute big roadster, then the Corsaro is certainly not your choice.

The non-radial mounted Brembo combo might not be the finest gear out there, but when required to slow down the plot, it does so with plenty of power and, above all, feel. A real shame that the conditions didn’t allow me to really push it, as the whole cycle package promises and delivers – until the tail started sliding about on the wet-ish roads, that is. Chalk one up for the new Diablo Rosso’s wet-grip prowess. Think about it: If I made it safely home after chasing a very mad Yamaha FZ1-mounted guide on his home turf, then the “other” guys from Bologna got the frame side of things right.

So is this Morini a naked bike aficionado’s dream come true? The power is there; even the new Kawi Z1000 and Yamaha FZ1 1000cc Fours would have to work hard to keep up with this one. Handling is more than fine, too, thank you. The thing is that competent bikes aren’t simply created by slotting a very good motor in a very good frame.

Not too long into the ride, my butt started hurting, and the seat felt almost wooden. The bare ally footpegs (why on a roadster for god’s sake?) transmitted quite a bit of vibration and felt too close to the seat.

As we got near to the sea shore and the temperatures rose a bit, I could feel plenty of heat coming up from the high-level silencers, toasting my thighs at stoplights despite the pre-summer conditions. Factor in a very abrupt response in on-off throttle situations, a less-than-perfect gear change, and things start to look a lot less rosy for our Corsair. When I swapped bikes later on with a colleague and swung a leg over the sweet KTM Super Duke, all of the sudden the Morini felt under-developed, rough at the edges and in need of fine-tuning.

So just in case anybody at Morini is listening, here is my request list: Improve fit and finish to a level worthy of this bike’s price. Make the power delivery just that little bit sweeter, which shouldn’t be a problem with all the current, programmable mapping-shmapping ECUs. Take some 1200-grit wet and dry paper to really smooth out all the edges and you’re there.

The Corsaro has the potential to be the mother of all naked, sporty big Twins, but as it is, it’s too much of a rough diamond waiting to be turned into a real gem. If those jagged Austrians at KTM, who just a few years ago knew no better than build savage ‘crossers can do it, then you can too. And, last, when it’s really sorted, please let me have one for a ride on some dry roads for a change. (And while we’ve got your ear, please send some to North America! –Ed.)

The Corsaro isn’t as refined as a Monster or Tuono, but it provides a fun alternative for the Italian roadster blues.

The Perfect Bike For...
An Italian roadster connoisseur who is looking for a really original alternative to Monsters and Tuonos.
 Highs:     Sighs:
  • Grunt!
  • Inspiring handling
  • Tons of character
  • Abrupt on-off throttle response
  • Disappointing fit and finish
  • Not as sorted as the Monster and Tuono

Specs for 2008 Moto Morini Cosaro

Engine Type

Bialbero CorsaCorta: 87-degree V-Twin, 4 valves per cylinder, liquid cooling, DOHC gear/chain combination timing system

Displacement

1187 cc

Bore/Stroke

107 x 66 mm

Power

140 hp at 8500 rpm

Torque

123 Nm at 6500 rpm

Fuel injection

Magneti Marelli fuel injection 54mm throttle body

Exhaust

Double silencer, 3-way catalytic converter and oxygen sensor

Emissions

Euro 3
 

Clutch

Multiple-plate clutch in oil bath with anti-skipping system and radial master-cylinder

Frame

Verlicchi high-strength steel tube trellis frame

Swingarm

Aluminum

Wheelbase

56.7 inches

Front suspension

50mm Marzocchi upside-down fully adjustable fork

Wheel

Brembo in light alloy

Front tire

Pirelli Diablo - 120/70ZR-17

Rear suspension

Sachs single shock absorber adjustable in extension, compression and spring preload
 

Rear wheel travel

5.1 in

Rear tire

Pirelli Diablo - 180/55ZR-17

Front brake

Brembo 320mm twin disc with 4-piston brake calipers and radial master-cylinder

Rear brake

Brembo (master cylinder and calipers) - 220 mm mono disc with 2-piston caliper

Tank capacity

18 liters

Dry weight (claimed) 

440 lbs

Seat height

31.7 in

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