Last week we posted a First Impressions ride review of MV’s hottest Dragster model, the new RR version. Today, our Euro correspondent, Tor Sagen, delivers a full review of the Dragster 800 RR.
MV Agusta’s leader, Giovanni Castiglioni, describes the Dragster RR as “the pure, radical Brutale.” Indeed, the Dragster RR is radical, with a high tune in both the engine and chassis. This makes for a particularly lively motorcycle, which is both good and bad.
The Dragster RR looks tiny and very athletic, and the 31.9-inch saddle barely accommodates me with hardly any leeway to move forward or backward. The stance is aggressive and, just like on a true sportbike, its weight bias is toward the front end.
Firing up the 798cc inline triple-cylinder engine awakens a deep growl reminiscent of a true racing bike. The MV Agusta Brutale 800 Dragster RR has received a full 15 horsepower more than the base Dragster (to a claimed 138 hp), while torque is bumped modestly to 63 lb-ft. Despite the rather large boost in horsepower, it’s the torque improvements that I notice straight away. The Dragster RR moves in a very smooth and predictable way as soon as you let the clutch out in first gear. The entire torque curve from beginning until end is meatier and makes the Dragster RR super fast in response times.
The Dragster RR with its new torque curve is the best MV Agusta Triple to date in terms of low-rpm response and controllability. That fact makes it a very good roadbike and the best around town in terms of engine performance. However, the hardcore chassis and riding position pulls it right down to the downright uncomfortable.
Riding on fast and more open roads, the Dragster RR is eye-wateringly fast and quick steering despite the wide 200mm rear tire. Throttle response is fast, and the Dragster RR builds up to its 13,100 rpm max power like a racing bike. Taking into account its incredibly light claimed dry weight of 370 lbs and a short wheelbase of 54.3 inches, the Dragster RR keeps its composure nicely on a smooth road surface. But the story changes if bumps and uneven road surfaces are brought into the equation. Riding fast over any bump in the road puts my manly bits into grave danger every time if I’m not careful to rise a bit in the seat.
Taking the Dragster RR all the way to max power over uneven surfaces produces a proper headshake. Hence, I preferred to set the standard adjustable steering-damper to its firmest setting. It’s worth mentioning the Dragster RR has a poor low-speed turning radius, much like a repli-racer sportbike.
The RR’s front end is rock hard and, for any feel at all, you need to go fast – very fast. The Dragster RR features all-new full aluminium forks from Marzocchi. These are very exotic on a roadbike and save 600 grams per fork leg in unsprung weight, which contributes to how quickly the Dragster RR changes direction. It’s blisteringly quick through hairpin corners, perhaps too quick and light sometimes for comfort. It’s important to keep some heat in that Pirelli Rosso II front tire, which can only be achieved by going fast and putting some load on it whenever possible. The Dragster RR really does like to shoot its front wheel into the air, and the great torque curve makes it all controllable.The Dragster RR is MV Agusta’s best three-cylinder wheelie bike.
I never gelled completely with the Dragster RR’s front end, and that’s despite the fact the riding position loads the front more than on the standard Brutale. I would simply have wanted a slightly softer front setup for me to get more feel. On a racetrack, I suspect the Dragster RR would be in a league of its own among nakeds, but we were on partly dodgy stretches of public road just after a stormy night, so it was difficult to approach its performance limits.
The chassis and handling capabilities are very highly tuned and will not be to everybody’s liking because it’s simply hardcore. The front brakes are a radial Brembo set-up with Bosch 9Plus ABS and RLM (Rear wheel lift-up Mitigation), and this brake set-up is extremely powerful and responsive. With ABS turned off, it would easily be possible to loop on the brakes, so you may want to keep ABS on at all times and let the RLM take care of business should you be a hard braker.
Acceleration is superb, helped even further by MV Agusta’s EAS 2.0 (Electronically Assisted Shift) which enables clutchless upshifts and even downshifts. This leaves your left hand pretty much unemployed if you get used to the downshifting. I found it to be more of a curiosity during road riding, but could see great benefits for trackdays. It’s worth noticing that the EAS clutchless downshift only works above 30 mph in Sport or Custom with Sport rpm-limiter selected modes.
The Dragster RR also has an eight-step traction control, which is a great feature on a motorcycle so powerful and light with considerable amounts of torque to weight. Set to level 2, I still experienced fairly long rear-wheel slides during acceleration from the lower gears on grubby corner exits. It’s probably advisable to start off with the TC set at a higher number if you’re not used to such a high power-to-weight ratio in an aggressive chassis. It’s also possible to turn off TC, which is also the case for the other electronics on this motorcycle. The Dragster RR really turns into one ugly frightful beast without them.
Let’s stop for a moment and talk about appearances, because this is a key point with any MV Agusta. When viewed statically, the Dragster RR looks like a mixture between a scared impala and an aggressive leopard in full leap. Beauty and the beast all in one stance. The bespoke spokes on the wheels add about 300 grams of weight, helping settle the RR over uneven roads.
Dragster RR vs. Brutale RR
MV also launched the new Brutale 800 RR on the same day as the Dragster RR, so here are some notes on how they differ. The Brutale RR has most of the good bits of the Dragster RR, such as the upgraded engine, steering-damper, TC and EAS 2.0 quickshifter. But the Brutale’s upright seating position and friendlier suspension setup proves to be a lot more comfortable than the Dragster. It’s also more civilized to a potential pillion passenger. However, it’s not quite as visually striking as the Dragster RR.
For pure ride enjoyment, there isn’t much in it, because the Brutale RR is also one damn fine motorcycle in almost all areas. I believe most riders would appreciate the Brutale RR a little bit more for its “milder” ride qualities, but nothing beats the savageness of the Dragster RR.
I have more love than hate for the Dragster RR. Aesthetically, it’s pure love. And while the handling is far from neutral, there’s certainly no hate here either. The MV Agusta Brutale 800 Dragster RR feels a little bit like that historical badboy, the Suzuki TL1000S, but with all the safety features to avoid it being labelled a “widowmaker.”
Traction control, sophisticated ABS brakes, steering-damper and quickshifter makes the Dragster RR civilized enough to recommend, but not to those fresh from motorcycle training. I’d personally like to soften the chassis a bit to gain more feel for when not going flat out. The MV Agusta Dragster RR would be my choice of weapon in a track battle against the best “hyper” nakeds out there. But the Dragster RR is a poor choice for long daily commutes.
All in all, the Dragster RR is a daring model from MV Agusta, which could cause some sales disruption for its very own Brutale base model. If it’s love at first sight, I reckon that alone justifies the Dragster RR, and it is, in my opinion, a better value than the standard Dragster.