The Four-Thirds Shootout: Tre Cool – Video

MV Agusta Brutale 800 vs.Triumph Street Triple R & Speed Triple R vs. Yamaha FZ-09

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A shootout comprised of four motorcycles of inline three-cylinder arrangement displacing four dissimilar engine capacities from three manufacturers? An unthinkable prospect when Triumph brought the venerable Speed Triple stateside in 1995. Yet here we are today embroiled in this exact scenario, nearly crapping our britches in childlike excitement at the wonderful diversity of three-cylinder motorcycle models from which to choose.

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2014 MV Agusta F3 800 Review – First Ride

Triumph has long been the sole manufacturer of inline-Three motorcycle engine arrangements, but MV Agusta is now fleshing out the segment with five three-cylinder models: Brutale 675/800; F3 675/800; Rivale 800, with the forthcoming sport-touring Turismo Veloce 800 announced for 2014 making it six. Yamaha’s FZ-09 is the first Japanese Triple in three decades, but how long will the trio of other Japanese OEMs ignore the growing deuce-ace trend?

From 675cc to 1050cc, and $7990 to $15,999, these four bikes encompass the available variety of three-cylinder streetfighter fun.

From 675cc to 1050cc, and $7990 to $15,999, these four bikes encompass the available variety of three-cylinder streetfighter fun.

Yamaha Triples Retrospective

Displacing 847cc and boasting an MSRP of $7,990 the 2014 Yamaha FZ-09 smacks like a shovel to the face of other OEMs. Comparably priced 2014 models from Kawasaki and Suzuki, the Versys ($7,999) and SFV650 ($8149), are powered by significantly smaller 650cc Twin engines. When last tested, dyno numbers for these two bikes were 56.5 hp at 8250 rpm and 39.5 ft-lb of torque at 7250 for the Versys, and 65.8 hp at 8500 rpm and 42.7 ft-lb of torque at 7800 rpm for the SFV. The FZ-09 wallops those figures laying down 104.8 hp at 10,800 rpm and 59.5 ft-lb of torque at 8,300 rpm.

The FZ’s dyno runs in A and Standard ride modes mirrored one another, but in B mode power output is down 10 hp and 5 ft-lb. Check out the A/Standard vs B ride modes dyno chart here.

The FZ’s dyno runs in A and Standard ride modes mirrored one another, but in B mode power output is down 10 hp and 5 ft-lb. Check out the A/Standard vs B ride modes dyno chart here.

Against the bikes in this shootout, the 847cc FZ easily bests the 675cc Street Triple R but surprisingly is only 1.9 hp down from the 798cc Brutale and is up 9.1 ft-lb in terms of torque. Compared to the substantially larger 1050cc Speed Triple R, the FZ is down only 11.4 horsepower and 10.5 ft-lb of torque.

Factoring weight into the equation, the lithe FZ, at 414 claimed wet pounds, bests the 466-pound claimed wet weight of the Speed Triple R by 52 pounds. The Street Triple R is lightest of the group with a 403-pound claimed curb weight, with the Brutale’s curb weight second at 413 pounds.

Full Four Thirds Shootout photo gallery

“The Speed Triple R is the outlier of this quartet due to its noticeable bulkiness,” says Chief Hooligan, Kevin Duke. “An engine with one of the flattest sportbike torque curves ever is always ready with a considerable shove, but its outright force is blunted by its considerable weight penalty.”

Dyno testing reveals a lot more peaks and valleys in the MV’s lines compared to the other three. MV is presently attending to these fueling imperfections, but the Brutale as tested suffered from annoyingly imperfect fuel mapping.

Dyno testing reveals a lot more peaks and valleys in the MV’s lines compared to the other three. MV is presently attending to these fueling imperfections, but the Brutale as tested suffered from annoyingly imperfect fuel mapping.

At least the Speed Triple R and its smaller sibling, the Street Triple R, can boast the best fuel mapping of the group. The only two bikes here with cable-actuated throttles (not ride-by-wire), the Triumphs lack electronic ride modes, but their smooth power delivery makes them unnecessary – the STRs’ power inputs are easily modulated with nary a hiccup from their EFIs. Both the MV (exhaustively reported) and the new FZ, however, suffer from maligned fuel delivery.

instrument-cluster-yamaha-fz-09-mv-agusta-brutale-800-triumph-triple

Top to bottom: FZ-09, Brutale, Street/Speed Triple. The FZ’s instrument cluster is comprehensive but too small to effectively convey all the information. The Brutale’s GPI readout couldn’t decide whether it was in 5th or 6th gear. The Street and Speed have identical gauges but the Street has a GPI where the Speed, oddly, does not.

“The Italian boutique brand has regularly disappointed us with ride-by-wire throttles that seem disassociated with what your throttle hand requests, and the Brutale 800 continues that unwelcome tradition,” says Duke. “Our feelings about the Brutale would improve markedly if it had the same reliable throttle response as the Triumphs’.”

The FZ-09 is fitted with the Yamaha Chip Controlled Throttle (YCC-T) ride-by-wire system, a technology incorporated on several of its previous models, making it even more remarkable how the company could fail when it comes to two out of the three ride modes available.

“A and Standard ride modes are practically useless in the canyons,” says Editor, Troy Siahaan. “B is definitely my favorite, too bad it chops off 10 hp. Standard is acceptable on the street, but I couldn’t find any situation where I wanted A mode.”

But that’s not to say the FZ’s motor wasn’t appreciated.

“If Yamaha could tune out the harshness of throttle application, this Triple would be one of my favorite engines of all time,” Duke observes. “I love how its front wheel comes up accelerating in first gear then, after a short shift to second, it’ll wheelie again as it crosses its torque peak!”

While Yamaha and MV are busy writing updated algorithms for their fuel mappings, no one complained about Triumph’s only tech, ABS, on both its Triples. In fact, tester demerits for the Street Triple R, our 2009 Bike of the Year and winner of numerous shootouts, were few and minor.

The FZ’s broad and powerful torque curve induces glorious wheelies at will. The gearbox is excellent with precise, short throws.

The FZ’s broad and powerful torque curve induces glorious wheelies at will. The gearbox is excellent with precise, short throws.

“It’s hard to fault the Street R, but compared to, say, the Yamaha, the Street R has narrower handlebars which takes a little more effort to throw it into a turn,” says Siahaan.

“There’s an obnoxious engine whine/whistle that masks some of the nice engine sounds,” gripes FNG Editor, Evans Brasfield. “And initial brake application is a little abrupt,” he adds.

Although the Street Triple R (front) and Speed Triple R share similar insignias and, at a glance, profiles, they offer completely different riding experiences. Both come with ABS, a technology unavailable on the Brutale and FZ-09.

Although the Street Triple R (front) and Speed Triple R share similar insignias and, at a glance, profiles, they offer completely different riding experiences. Both come with ABS, a technology unavailable on the Brutale and FZ-09.

Quite possibly our strangest gripe comes from the shootout pitting the Street Triple R against its arch rival, the Brutale 675 where we reported:

“In a strange twist of hooligan etiquette, the STR may be too genteel, as if Triumph manufactured the hooliganism out of its hooligan bike. Much of this is attributed to the bike’s new, taller first gear that stretches to 77 mph before hitting the rev limiter.”

2013 MV Agusta Brutale 675 Vs. Triumph Street Triple R – Video

The Brutale 800 handily won both the Appearance/Fit/Finish and Cool Factor categories on our ScoreCard, and at $12,498, placed third in the pricing department. When all the scores were tallied, though, Brasfield, Duke and Siahaan all ranked the Brutale last, albeit a skin-of-the-teeth victory by third-place finisher, the Speed Triple R: 82.87% vs 83.01%, respectively.

It was only yours truly who felt that by saving the $3.5k in MSRP between the Brutale and Speed R could I better resolve the Brutale’s poor fuel mapping and swap sprockets to stretch the crazy-short gear ratios, creating a better-performing Brutale. Try decreasing the width of the Speed Triple R between your legs or removing the nearly 60 pounds it has over the Brutale without spending any money. Making the same argument for the $12,799 standard Speed Triple, however, wouldn’t be as easy (see sidebar).

Triumph Speed Triple – The Bike We Really Wanted

By Troy Siahaan

112613-2014-triumph-speed-triple

This is the bike we wanted to include in this test. At $12,799, the standard Triumph Speed Triple is a whopping $3200 less expensive than its R-badged sibling. Of course, for that price you give up the Ohlins suspension, forged aluminum wheels, Brembo monobloc calipers and some carbon trim here and there, but the heart of the Speed Triple – the 1050cc three-cylinder engine – is still there and unchanged.

But Triumph could only accommodate the R model in time for this test. We thought the upgraded suspension, wheel and brake advantages might make the big Triumph the clear winner in this test, but it didn’t turn out that way. Our biggest complaint with the Speed Triple R is its heft and forcing it through the tight stuff. Taking this into consideration, we can confidently assume the most noticeable difference would be the slower steering resulting from the non-R’s heavier cast wheels.

While not Ohlins pieces, the standard Showa suspension is plenty capable, and the standard two-piece Brembo front calipers aren’t too far behind the R’s monoblocs. The third-place-finishing Speed Triple R and runner up Yamaha FZ-09 came very close in our final standings; 83.01% vs 84.86%, respectively. If we had been able to test the standard Speed Triple, which would suffer less of a price penalty, the two bikes would have swapped places in our overall rankings.

Although the Street Triple R transitions somewhat lethargically compared to the frenetic Brutale, it’s our choice for best handling bike in this group. Its combination of a stable chassis and balanced suspension make it easiest to ride fastest. “The Street R’s well-tuned suspension is an excellent compromise of compliance and tautness,” says Duke.

MPG
Yamaha FZ-09 37.8 mpg
MV Agusta Brutale 800 33.6 mpg
Triumph Speed Triple R 33.4 mpg
Triumph Street Triple R 32.5 mpg

Next up, in the handling department is the FZ-09. Considering its relatively soft suspension, the FZ was a surprise to all editors when the going got twisty. Stiffer springs, heavier fork oil and a flatter handlebar will inexpensively upgrade the FZ’s performance while maintaining the bike’s civility. As is, the FZ will, after leaning farther than you’d expect with so much legroom, drag a footpeg through a tight arching corner then lift the front wheel on the exit – even while in its 10-hp-less B mode.

“It has soft suspension, soft brakes, soft seat, and tall bars, and yet the FZ-09 is my second favorite bike here,” says Siahaan.

Bloated with technologies such as traction control (TC), electronic assist shifting (EAS), four ride modes including a customizable one to tweak throttle sensitivity, engine braking, etc., the Brutale is a flagship of advanced electronics. Pile on its counter-rotating crankshaft, and the combined technologies of the other three bikes here don’t come close to matching the Brutale’s technological bounty.

One’s an $8k value bike, the other a $12.5k boutique Italian marque. Which engine is better packaged? When you tout your product as “Motorcycle Art,” the MV's small imperfections such as these haphazard breather tubes and ill-routed clutch cable are inexcusable.

One’s an $8k value bike, the other a $12.5k boutique Italian marque. Which engine is better packaged? When you tout your product as “Motorcycle Art,” small imperfections such as these haphazard breather tubes and ill-routed clutch cable are inexcusable.

When the bike swapping stopped, the riding fun ended and the ScoreCard filled out, there emerged an undeniable winner unanimously agreed upon by all four editors: the Street Triple R.

“We went out on a short limb when we awarded the Street Triple R our Motorcycle of the Year in 2009, but this shootout has solidified the prescience of this selection,” says Duke. “Even among its newly created and larger-displacement competition, the Street R remains exceedingly capable, fun and charismatic.”

From here, however, not all editors were of the same opinion. Brasfield, Duke and Siahaan all subjectively chose the Speed Triple R as their second place bike, while I preferred the FZ-09. It wasn’t until the objective scores of price and weight were factored in that the FZ surpasses the Speed R for an overall ranking of second place.

How in the hell is Yamaha able to produce and sell this bike at $8k and still make money?

How in the hell is Yamaha able to produce and sell this bike at $8k and still make money?

The voting discrepancy continued with third- and fourth-place standings where the majority ranked the Brutale last. I ranked it third above my last place choice, the Speed 3R. In this case, however, objective scores couldn’t save the Brutale from finishing fourth in this shootout. But it was close.

First-Third

Triumph Street Triple R
88.43%
☆☆☆3/4

triumph-street-triple-logo-DSCF9876

If money’s tight buy the FZ-09, it’s the best bang for the buck in this shootout and already a front runner for our 2014 Best Value award. However, if you’ve got the coin, drop it on the Street Triple R. If all bikes were this good, we’d be in motorcycle nirvana, and the R’s insubstantial $600 MSRP increase over the standard Street Triple relegates the standard to unconsidered status when cross-shopping the two.

“Compared to the other bikes in this test – and nearly any other motorcycle you can name – the Street Triple R is amazingly cooperative and trustworthy when sniping a twisty road. You’ll go around corners quicker on the Triumph,” Duke articulates.

+ Highs

  • Refined
  • Easy to ride
  • Comfy
- Sighs

  • Cam chain whine
  • Too genteel?
  • Tall first gear

Second-Third

Yamaha FZ-09
84.86%
☆☆☆1/2

yamaha-fz-09-DSCF9845

For the majority of people purchasing this bike, the suspension shortcomings are less of an issue, as it’s only when hammering a canyon road when it behaves poorly. Also, upgrading the suspension can be done at a reasonable cost. The FZ’s poor fuel-mapping is another issue. Yamaha will certainly have a fix for the abrupt throttle response in A and Standard modes, but until then those two ride modes are almost unusable on this otherwise wonderful motorcycle.

“Factor in the cost and it’s fighting for top billing,” says Siahaan. “I’d love to spend the money saved on the FZ-09 and throw a good suspension package at it. That plus a pipe and EFI tuning (and maybe better brakes) and the FZ-09 would be hard to beat.”

+ Highs

  • Price
  • Performance
  • Comfort
- Sighs

  • Soft suspension
  • Fuel mapping
  • High handlebars

Third-Third

Triumph Speed Triple R
83.01%
☆☆☆1/4

triumph-speed-triple-r-IMG_0115

Despite its bulky impression next to the rapiers in this comparison, the Speed Triple is a delightful roadster with broad capabilities.

“If you’re looking to do 500-mile days on your three-cylinder roadster, you’d do well to purchase the Speed Triple,” Duke observes. “Its wide seat offers plenty of support, and its chassis and high-quality suspension are fully up to the task of burning comfortable miles on your way to remote twisty roads. And, as we proved in our Literbike Streetfighter Shootout, the big Triple performs admirably on a racetrack.”

“But the torque!” raves Brasfield. “Did I say that I loved the torque? And, well, then there’s the torque!”

+ Highs

  • Awesome engine
  • Torque
  • Top shelf components
- Sighs

  • Heavy
  • Wide between the knees
  • Expensive!

Fourth-Third

MV Agusta Brutale 800
82.87%
☆☆☆1/4

2013-triples-shootout-IMG_0060

The Brutale simultaneously thrills and annoys us. It enjoys being ridden aggressively, but its tricky throttle response and firm suspension exhausts its rider quickly.

“If you’re looking for comfort, look elsewhere,” says Duke. “The Brutale serves up the sportiest (read: most cramped) riding position and the most unyielding seat. But in terms of excitement, the Brutale is professional-grade fun. It feels feral and rambunctious, but it’s not for the timid.”

“I. Don’t. Like. This. Bike,” says Siahaan. “I really want to like the bike because it’s by far the best looking bike here, but it begs to be ridden at 9/10s or higher all the time. Any less and it feels like a lot of bike to manage for a simple cruise.”

+ Highs

  • Gorgeous
  • Technology
  • Relatively affordable
- Sighs

  • Fuel mapping (again)
  • Short gearing
  • Short wheelbase

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  • Craig Hoffman

    Ivan’s Performance recently hacked the FZ1′s ECU, which takes away the harshness and low end power limitations programmed into it. He will no doubt turn his attention to the FZ09.
    Yamaha seems to be in a habit of releasing really cool but flawed standard bikes. They are wonderful once sorted – I love my ’06 FZ1. The thing is a beast once the leash is off :)

    • http://motorcycle.com/ Tom Roderick

      In response to our 2011 Gentleman’s Sportbike Shootout pitting the FZ1 against the Ninja 1000 and Suzuki GSX1250FA:”Ivan’s $195 “Fuel Cut Eliminator” banishes all throttle response harshness from the FZ1.”

      Let’s hope Ivan turns his attention to the new FZ-09 because it’s in more dire need of a fix than the FZ1 once was.

      • Craig Hoffman

        Ivan has also unlocked the ECU on the Ninja 1000. In both the FZ1 and Ninja the timing and secondary butterfly opening rates are optimized and fuel cut is turned off. Not to sound like an Ivan commercial, but he has done some sweet work – the FZ1 guys sing his praises like a choir. The Ninja makes 145 hp and the FZ1 150, with an 15-18 hp increase from 5,000 to 8,000 rpm on the FZ1 with full exhaust.

        Here is an FZ09 with a full exhaust on it, the bike picked up 8 hp, peaking at 115 and sounding awesome all the way.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hJshn3NE500

        Over on the FZ1 board, one of the guys got an 09 and had Traxxion Racing do the forks. They have a conversion which gives compression adjustment on one side and rebound on the other. Per Lee at Traxxion, the 09 has very basic forks with light damping and springs. They can be greatly improved. The same guy added a Penske shock to his ’09. We are all drooling.

        The FZ09 is a cool bike, reasonable to acquire, Japanese durability, responds well to suspension and engine mods. As an owner, seeing a bike come alive with self added personal mods is rewarding in itself. The FZ needs us – standards can rock :)

  • http://www.motorcycle.com/ Sean Alexander

    I’m pretty deep in the throes of lust for the new MV Rivale in the digital camo theme with the red frame and wheels. Might make me trade my Versys.

    • toomanycrayons

      As a bonus you will be able use your new bike to secure the perimeter of your neighborhood. The MV is a perfect reconnaissance fighting platform; as proven by extensive testing by Italian Spec Ops.

      • http://www.motorcycle.com/ Sean Alexander

        But the stealth only takes effect if your neighborhood has bright red curbs and mailboxes…

  • Bira

    Interesting on the rider modes of the FZ. When I test rode it, I found that the “A” mode was the only one I liked! Go figure.

  • sospeedy

    And to further your insights about the Speed… Wow, the torque! Gotta love it!

  • toomanycrayons

    Triples are notorious for poor fuel consumption and they are woefully loud. This is a pathetic ploy by outmoded corporations to create interest in a dying industry. Anyone that falls for it deserves what they get; mark my words!

    • CrashFroelich

      There are at least two things I don’t give a flying handshake about when I’m engaging in misdemeanor hooliganism. To be brief, there’s nothing like the music of refined hydrocarbons burned in anger by a high-performance engine.

    • Vrooom

      Interesting, that’s completely not my experience with Triumph Triples in the past. Have had a Sprint and Tiger, both were reasonably quiet (well, until exhaust replaced) and average on fuel efficiency.

      • toomanycrayons

        I was just being histrionic – that’s my shtick. I actually love triples and am sad that I won’t be an edgy fringe motorcyclist anymore :)

  • Vrooom

    Would love to see Yamaha develop a few more bikes from that basic platform. Maybe a sport tourer, adventure model, and something with a windscreen. I love naked bikes, but they aren’t terribly practical in the Northwet.

  • Funguy

    You guys are really getting smooth at the video discussions. I have no idea how many takes & how much editing are required, but the finished product is VERY nice. Good work!

    • Kevin Duke

      How many takes? You mean some people get more than one…?

  • DickRuble

    How important is it that the engine be a 3 cylinder? The KTM Duke R is a two cylinder naked bike. It weighs about the same as the bikes listed above, is probably cheaper than the MV and a bit more expensive than the others, and clearly crushes them in all other aspects. Given that it competes in the same segment (naked), who in his right mind would opt for one of the bikes listed above? Once you’re done redoing the suspension on the FZ-09 and fixing the fuel mapping you’ve added $1500 to the purchase price, making it $9500.

    • http://motorcycle.com/ Tom Roderick

      To which Duke R are you referring? The 690 Duke is a Single and the Super Duke R, while it is a Twin, is rumored to around $17k – far more expensive than these bikes (we should know for sure by this weekend).

      • DickRuble

        The Super Duke R. Let’s see the price… I am betting (and praying) less than $15k.

        • http://motorcycle.com/ Tom Roderick

          KTM today confirmed the price of the Super Duke R to be $16,999.

          • DickRuble

            Guess i won’t rush to get one yet.

  • Rick Vera

    I really enjoyed this review, both the video and the literature. I must say, I was kind of surprised and a bit disappointed to hear about the fuel mapping issues with the Yamaha. When the FZ-09 first came out, I thought it would be a clear winner over the now-too-overpriced Suzuki SVF650. The aluminum frame (and 414lb) to steel (446lb), 105hp to 65hp, 4-piston brakes to two, seemingly better forks, etc. all pointed to the Yamaha’s superiority. With this information, I’d actually be quite eager to see how the FZ-09 compares to the new Gladius. Too bad Kawasaki doesn’t bring the ER-6n stateside any longer, that would be a great shootout.

  • Dsvob87

    Actually the 2014 Speed Triple R shown in this video isn’t $15,999. Triumph dropped the price of these this year to $14,699 (along with the $1300 you also lose the PVM forged wheels). While this bike is still way more expensive than the others, I think it is worth noting and maybe that hints to a new model for 2015?!?!

  • Craig Hoffman

    A few guys on the FZ1 board have gotten the 09. They all report that adjusting the slack on the throttle cable to the bare minimum helps considerably with the harsh throttle response issue noted in the test. Just thought I would pass along.

  • Gaz

    Great review guys, but I am curious as to why the Yamaha is called “FZ09″ by you, and it’s called “MT09″ here in Australasia?

    • denchung

      My guess is brand recognition. The MT models haven’t been offered in the U.S. so the name doesn’t have much value. Consumers do know the FZ1 and FZ6, so Yamaha is likely trying to build on that brand awareness.

  • Paul McM

    I rode the FZ-09 yesterday in Long Beach. When the reviewers tell you there is a throttle response issue, let me explain. This is a severe problem. Riding in standard mode, it is hard to maintain a simple constant speed. On the “demo ride” we were in formation. I had to CONSTANTLY manipulate the throttle just to maintain position next to another rider — even in top gear on the highway. The thing is “on/off” “on/off”. It feels like you’re riding a bike with no momentum so it “gas on/gas off” ALL the time. Very hard to cruise without constantly adjusting the throttle. Very weird, and ultimately very tiring. Next thing — apart from the throttle, the engine is amazing. I’m 220 lbs, and this thing wanted to wheelie with a moderate (not max!) grab of the throttle in the first three gears. Mind you I am not an aggressive rider. I rode an FJ1200 for 20 years, and only wheelied once or twice a decade (just for grins). Two other riders in my demo group also experienced a “surprise” wheelie the first time they cracked the throttle. Inexperienced riders are probably going to kill themselves on this bike in “A” mode — for real. Brakes are excellent — with very serious stopping power. I found the suspension felt fine for most city riding, but (possibly from a lack of damping) the front end felt a little vague when diving into a decreasing radius turn. I LIKE the bars. At 6’1″ (taller than most of the testers), I thought the bar height/width was just fine. The seat is OK but it has a forward slope that slides you into the tank. Another 200-lb guy who was on my test also felt the seat was less than ideal. However, when you go ahead and slide way forward, and ride the bike like a Super Motard, the weight balance seems to improve, cornering gets more predictable, and it’s easier to get the front end down. Bottom line: Great, great engine that revs like a 600 but has torque like an 1100. When the reviewers said they didn’t think you’d need more power for a street bike, they were right. But the “ride-by-wire” throttle response has to be sorted out. It is really, really obnoxious, and will make the bike very unpleasant to use for commuting and normal travel. Overall, I thought the bike was great, but I’d wait ’til 2015 to allow the factory to sort out the throttle response and maybe make some mods to the front suspension. Awesome motor though! Spins up fast, power everywhere, not too much vibration. In the hands of a good rider (after some kind of throttle fix), this bike could destroy any of the 600cc sportbikes in the canyons, while doing it in a comfortable, upright position. The engine is THAT good. Torque is your friend.

    • Bungle

      Great review – thanks for sharing. I’m considering an FZ-09 for my next bike and this makes me want one. Any chance you’ve heard news of upcoming improvements to the throttle response?

  • Othmane Hmamou
  • Yanni Kollias

    The Speed Triple may be the best all around bike, but what were they thinking when they designed the headlight? If it weren’t for that I may have considered buying it. For me its clear that the best looking bike in this test was the MV. However the MV does have some issues.