2012 MV Agusta F4RR Corsacorta Review
Elegance meets brute strength
With Ducati soaking up the limelight with its new 1199 Panigale, and Aprilia basking in the glory of its second World Superbike title with the RSV4 Factory APRC, another Italian manufacturer has been quietly toiling away on a machine hellbent on stealing the show from both of them. MV Agusta, winner of more than 60 world championships in its own right, has been on a resurgence lately. First with the Brutale, then the F4, and now with the company’s first middleweight three-cylinder, the F3, things are looking up.
Lost in the fanfare surrounding the F3 is a new and improved version of MV’s literbike, the F4RR Corsacorta. Just two years ago the F4 received its first major update in a while, but MV is calling the F4RR a major redesign with a singular goal in mind: making it the fastest, most powerful production superbike ever built with its centerpiece being its engine, capable of pumping out more than 200 horsepower.
How’d They Do That?
MV’s engineers thoroughly reworked the existing F4 engine to make it more powerful. In fact, according to MV, besides the cases, cylinder arrangement and a few minor parts, the new engine shares nothing in common with its predecessor. Bore has been increased to 79.0mm (from 76.0mm), while stroke is reduced to 50.9mm (from 55.0mm), creating a highly oversquare bore/stroke ratio, just 1mm down on bore from BMW’s fantastic S1000RR.
The shorter crank throws also make for a slightly lighter crankshaft. Cylinder head configuration is all new but retains MV’s signature radial valves, which now are all titanium (only intake valves were before). They also increase in size – intakes now are 31.8mm diameter (from 30.0mm), exhausts 26.0mm (from 25.0mm).
Four 49mm throttle bodies feed the air/fuel mixture to the cylinders and utilize MV’s TSS variable-length intake tracts – similar to those seen on the Aprilia RSV4 Factory and Yamaha YZF-R6. The iconic 4-into-2-into-1-into-4 exhaust arrangement is kept, now with slightly larger tapered headers.
MV listened to the complaints regarding manipulation of the eight-level traction control system, which can now be operated via buttons on the left switchgear. Previously, changing modes required navigating through a complicated procedure on the dash.
Interestingly, unlike other manufacturers, MV’s traction control system doesn’t rely on wheel-speed sensors. It monitors throttle position, gear position, and engine speed. The ECU then monitors spikes in engine speeds, as it deems those to be occurring as a result of the rear tire spinning. Should engine speeds spike quicker than the predetermined algorithm allows, the TC system will intervene.
The F4RR retains the trellis frame from before, but instead of the usual Marzocchi suspension components used on past MVs, the RR gets a 43mm Öhlins NIX fork with titanium-nitride coating and TTX36 shock in back. Rebound and compression damping on the fork are controlled by separate legs, while the shock has high/low-speed compression damping, as well as rebound, preload and ride height adjustment.
Forged aluminum wheels replace the old cast pieces and shave 2.2 lbs of unsprung weight. Radial-mounted, monobloc Brembo calipers are mated to a Brembo radial master cylinder.
All Bark and No Bite?
MV’s rather bold to be proclaiming the RR as the most powerful literbike on the market. So of course we had to call its bluff. Our test bike spun the drum to the tune of 172.4 hp and 74.6 ft.-lb. of torque at 13,500 rpm and 9500 rpm, respectively. If you account for 15% drivetrain loss, then the MV comes through on its 201 (crank) horsepower claim. However, chain-driven motorcycles typically only lose 10-12% from the crank to the rear tire.
Here’s the kicker: the last time we put BMW’s S1000RR, the current power king, on the dyno during our 2012 European Literbike Shootout, it churned out, get this, 172.4 hp and 74.7 ft.-lbs.! Virtually identical numbers! The Beemer hit its horsepower peak 300 revs sooner than the Italian, but reached its torque peak 1200 revs later. As far as numbers are concerned, it’s only fair to give the MV Agusta F4RR joint status as king of the literbike power hill.
However, our dyno chart reveals a huge difference in each machine’s trace. The S1000RR is a model for crisp, well-refined EFI tuning, with its power curve showing a clean, smooth arc. Meanwhile, the F4RR’s graph is all over the map, dipping and peaking constantly throughout the run. This was especially noticeable on track, as we’ll soon discover.
Put Up or Shut Up
As MV Agusta’s flagship superbike, it’s only appropriate we flog it around the track to see if the bike lives up to the hype. Thunderhill Raceway Park would be our chosen venue to put the RR through its paces, as its variety of tight corners, long sweepers and straight sections will test all aspects of performance. Joining me on this test is newlywed editor Tom Roderick.
Ergonomically, the MV puts the rider in a committed position. The seat is high (32.6 inches) and the bars low. The pegs are adjustable, but don’t be fooled – if your plans are to ride long distances, this isn’t the bike for you. Thumb the starter and the inline-Four snarls to life, its intentions clear. Revs climb and fall quickly with each twist of the wrist, indicating very little flywheel effect. Oddly, despite being fuel injected, a fuel-enrichener lever still resides beside the throttle.
“The MV exhibits a willingness to turn in [thanks to the lighter wheels], but a reluctance to hold its line around tight corners,” says Tom about the bike’s responses around Thunderhill’s more technical sections. Despite our best efforts to dial in the suspension, we often struggled to maintain our intended arc. In long sweepers, like Turn 2, this was less of an issue, and once on its side the grip from the Pirelli Diablo Supercorsas left nothing to be desired.
Tom also called the MV’s Öhlins suspension “awesome” at soaking up T-Hill’s bumps. Then again, we wouldn’t expect anything less. Braking performance is also impressive, with powerful clamping power and good feel at the lever. Just like the Öhlins suspension, Brembo products are always impressive.
We were pleasantly surprised with the wheel-speed-sensor-less MV traction control, as its eight settings can eliminate slides altogether or let the rider wag the rear end loose. Intervention in the lower settings is hard to notice, while intrusion at higher levels is understandably abrupt.
So far we’ve learned the MV soaks up bumps with ease, stops on a dime, is light on its feet, and features good electronics. Yes, we had some chassis issues, but with more time to work on setup it could have been remedied. Which leads us to the F4RR’s biggest downfall.
Fuel mapping on the F4RR is astoundingly ill-refined, with Tom noting “on/off throttle can be abrupt.” Further, Tom and I noticed considerable lag when entering the straight and giving ’er full stick. Take another gander at the dyno chart above to see what we mean.
Notice the MV’s power curve peaks and dives with a few flat spots thrown in. In the real world the response is similar to turbo lag. With the throttle to the stop on the front straight, power feels lackluster for a moment until a surge of power suddenly leaps to the fore and activates warp drive. It’s just annoying on the straight, but downright spooky should it happen while leaned over.
This incredibly poor fueling ranks near the bottom of the numerous bikes we’ve tested in recent memory. When the feeling between the rider’s right hand and the rear tire is unpredictable, rider confidence takes a hit. That said, once the MV is singing at full song, it does emit an intoxicating bellow from the intake stacks which adds to its appeal.
There’s no denying the MV Agusta F4RR Corsacorta is a sexy machine. With supermodel-like curves it’s hard not to stare. However, at $25,000, there’s definitely a premium to be had to join such elite company. Is it worth it?
The MV surely delivers if it’s horsepower you’re after, but so does S1000RR, and for a much cheaper price. True, the BMW isn’t nearly as exotic as the MV, coming up way short on visual impact by lacking the sex appeal of Italian styling, a trellis frame and Öhlins suspension bits.
However, the new HP4 version recently reviewed here ups BMW’s ante with a higher-spec S1000 that includes a semi-active Dynamic Damping Control suspension. Ducati’s Panigale S one-ups the MV’s Ohlins componentry with its semi-active system with electronic adjustability. The Duc lists for $22,995, vaulting up to $27,995 for the Tricolore version.
But who cares if there are better options? The prospective MV owner accepts these quirks going in. The F4RR Corsacorta excels at getting our hearts racing each time we look at it or ride it, and for that moment in time it can do no wrong. Stay tuned as we compare the RR to another Italian, the Aprilia RSV4 Factory APRC.
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