Time has come for the most brutal Brutale, and the only thing it likes to drag is your knee sliders. The Dragster 800 features the same 800cc Triple engine as the Brutale 800 and Rivale 800, and this means 125 horsepower (at the crankshaft) and plenty of fun. Add a fat 200mm rear tire and revised ergonomics, and you have the meanest MV Agusta to date, the Dragster 800.
Mean the Dragster is, and particularly on this day in less than ideal weather conditions in the south of France. I lost and saved the front on the road section of testing and then I lost the whole Dragster in a corner at Paul Ricard later in the day, causing a broken thumb.
The Dragster 800 has a somewhat cramped seating position, which is comfortable for cruising but less so for active riding. The small hump at the back of the seat restricts movement somewhat. The 31.9-inch seat height is pretty much the same as the Brutale, but the saddle itself features some beautiful stitching not found on the B800. The stretch to the handlebar is nearly perfect, and it’s adjustable over a 1.6-inch range. The handlebar gives a rider good control and enables very quick directional changes. Treacherous road conditions aside, the front end is more stable than its cousin, the Brutale 800, and the rear is also sure footed with its wide 200mm tire.
We tested on very slippery French mountain roads in the morning. The damp and cold conditions were ideal to test MV Agusta’s new ABS brakes and lots of traction control but were terrible for cornering grip. I just couldn’t get enough heat into the Pirelli Diablo Rosso II tires. And this caused the front end to lose grip during a photo pass. Luckily I saved it, but from this point and back to the Paul Ricard circuit, the road test centered on ABS brakes and comfort for me. The ABS brakes have two modes and can also be switched off.
The Brembo brakes are powerful, so on a slippery day the new ABS brakes come in handy. Modulation is smooth and precise, and as long as the tarmac isn’t too slippery, there is a minimum of intervention from the ABS. When I turned the ABS brakes off for the track part I locked up the rear to test ABS really was off and found the rear calliper liked to stick onto the disc for longer than I liked. Perhaps a bit of bronze lubricant on the sliders would solve this issue.
Wheelies and burnouts are second nature for the Dragster 800, and as such it’s much more the hooligan than its Brutale 800 sibling. The stubby rear and handlebar end mirrors from the Rivale give the Dragster a naughty stance straight away. The thing with the Dragster is that it’s just as much at home in Paris as at Paul Ricard. It’s a fine handling motorcycle with a Brutale headlight, F3 DNA and Rivale naughtiness.
The traction control and ABS functions can be scrolled through and adjusted from the left handlebar. It’s easy enough to scroll, but the selection process is awkward if wearing gloves. It’s best to make your selections before you start riding.
The 125-hp Triple is an aggressive engine that likes to be revved, but there is enough torque to seriously distinguish it from the smaller 675cc engines. I prefer the full 148-hp version in the F3, but I never felt the Dragster was underpowered. The engine quickly responds to throttle input, and acceleration is impressive for its size. A quickshifter further adds to the acceleration. Of the 368-pound claimed dry weight, only 115 pounds is that of the high-tech Triple.
Read our MV Agusta Brutale 800 Review
At Paul Ricard, we’re almost hitting the Dragster’s top speed of 152 mph. The Dragster is sportier in the handling department than the standard Brutale. More stable is the keyword, and that massive 200/50-17 Pirelli rear tire makes certain more rubber is available to burn in the corner exits. In theory, you should be able to get on the throttle sooner, but conditions again were not ideal on the damp-but-drying circuit.
Finally the sun had been out long enough for us to have a dry run around the fast Paul Ricard circuit. Old Bernie Ecclestone owns this piece of land in Provence and it’s a place favoured by F1 teams for testing. The circuit has plenty of run-off space and high-grip surfaces outside of the white lines.
After a damp session testing the Dragster and then a faster session on the F3 800 ABS, I knew I could attack the corners more and have more fun testing the bully version of Brutale. After a short drag-race out of pit lane, I hit the extremely tight stop-and-go Epingle corner which is a right-hander leading onto the Mistral straight interrupted by the Chicane Sud and Nord. After tip toeing through the chicane, it’s full throttle down the last part of the Mistral straight ahead of the legendary Courbe De Signes, which apparently only Ayrton Senna ever did at full throttle. I believe it’s a fourth-gear corner, but I usually settled for third doing about 105 mph. It’s an extremely fast right hander and it’s not a place anyone on a motorcycle wants to fall off.
The Dragster is really stable at high speed, and a lot of what makes the F3 800 a great motorcycle is still present even in the Dragster. Braking hard from 110 mph, I attack the ever tightening Doble Droite Du Beausset right-hander before accelerating hard out. I’ve got time to grab another gear before I’m braking hard again before hitting the first fast left-hander Virage De Bendor. I’ve finished my braking and I enter the corner hot because now I really am desperate to lean this thing as far over as possible.
Read our MV Agusta Rivale 800 Review
After settling into the corner, I add more throttle and – whoosh! – that’s the front and the bike gone underneath me at big lean angle. The bike stays close to me for a second and somehow I’m chucked around from my left to my right. It feels like being in a giant washing machine with a drum made of abrasive wolfram. I’m in the blue zone on my back. The Dragster suffered scratches and some bent foot levers on the left side and lost the left mirror which protected the clutch lever.
I get up and run towards the bike and try to lift it up but I struggle. Then a marshal arrives and helps me. I had intended to ride the bike back to pit lane and pick another one until the MV mechanics could fix this Dragster, but my right hand wouldn’t quite obey my brain’s orders because my right thumb was broken in two places. End of sessions and riding it was. I’m only glad I had the guts to drag of my right glove while the adrenaline was flowing or it would have had to be removed with scissors.
Since I got to see the medical centre at Paul Ricard, I may as well tell you that it doesn’t get much better. It’s the full Formula One package. Thanks Bernie.
In many ways MV Agusta has built another ideal motorcycle to my tastes, although I would still choose a Rivale that’s been up-fitted with the Dragster’s 200mm rear tire. Compared to the Brutale 800, it displays more solid handling. The Dragster has got great brakes, and ABS is a very good addition.
The Dragster, equipped standard with ABS and the quickshifter, retails for $14,798 in America, available in white or matt metallic gray. That’s a $2300 premium over the regular Brutale 800 (without ABS), so it’s up to you to decide if you’re willing to pay extra for the Dragster.
|+ Highs ||– Sighs |