2012 MV Agusta Brutale R 1090 Review - Motorcycle.com

Tom Roderick
by Tom Roderick

Motorcycle art, as MV Agusta has branded itself, is a generally accepted description of the models produced by the Italian manufacturer. Our question is if a bike as attractive as the Brutale R 1090 performs as well as it profiles.

One hundred forty-two claimed horsepower and 82.5 claimed ft-lbs of torque accelerating a claimed dry weight of 404 lbs implies a formidable opponent to any sportbike regardless its state of dress. On the dyno, our Brutale screamed out 126.7 hp and 74.1 ft-lbs of torque, nearly 10 ponies more than Kawasaki’s Z1000. With its massive 6.0-gallon tank full, the MV scales in around 470 lbs, about 10 pounds less than Kawi’s Z.

We’re here to find out if the naked Brutale’s combination of those figures and its hunky good looks are deserving of its $16,500 asking price?

A lot of superlatives describe the appearance of the Brutale, but above all, “tight” seems most appropriate.

Handling factors into this equation, as does included technologies such as the Brutale’s traction-control system. What we found with the Brutale while in our possession is, like most modern motorcycles of comparable design, the Brutale is in the hunt with its competitors making the buying decision a choice among nuances, individual preferences and intangibles.


After drying out his creamed pants, Troy found the Brutale to be a neutral handler but was overall unimpressed by its ordinary inline-Four engine configuration.

Naked bikes bare all. There’s no hiding unsightly wiring harnesses or sloppy welds behind a veil of plastic bodywork. It’s here, exposed for all to see, where MV’s attention to detail speaks volumes about the company’s craftsmanship. Sans the bodywork of its F4 counterpart, the Brutale displays just how compact a package MV created.

Tolerances — from the few millimeters separating the dual, staggered mufflers from the rear tire, to the gap between radiator and splayed exhaust headers — are breathlessly tight for a production motorcycle. The testa rossa (red head) valve cover, tapered exhaust headers and organic way in which the exhaust clings beneath the engine is industrial beauty beyond that of the common two-wheeler.

The Brutale boasts alluring lines and a gorgeous single-sided swingarm, but those super-stylin’ pipes get in the way of a rider’s right foot.

“What a looker! It's sooo gorgeous,” squeals fellow editor, Troy Siahaan, as if he were a teenage girl standing in line at a Justin Bieber autograph signing.

It’s these refinements, in conjunction with the Brutale’s overall styling, that justify its artwork connotation. Scrutinizing the Brutale’s omitted subtleties, however, reveals a few questionable choices on MV’s behalf. First and foremost is the lack of compression damping adjustment on the rear shock (an included feature on the $19,000 RR Brutale). A $16,500 sportbike with no compression adjustability seems to us a tactless way of lowering the price perception of the Brutale.

As tightly as MV may have routed the Brutale’s header pipes, the lovely stacked twin exits manage to force a rider’s right ankle out of comfortable positioning — an obvious form over function decision made by MV designers because MV test riders must have noted the encumbrance. We certainly did.

Says chieftan editor Kevin Duke, “Those sexy, slash-cut outlets dramatically cut into the placement of a rider’s right foot, especially when carrying weight on the balls of your feet like a good sport rider.”

Another oversight of MV engineering is the vibratory nature of the potent inline four-cylinder. “If I were to describe the Brutale in one word, it's buzzy,” laments Siahaan. “A lot of vibrations are felt in the handlebars at all engine speeds.”

Two LCD panels display lots of info, but a lack of contrast makes readouts hard to see.

Personal Preferences

The compact nature of the Brutale extends to its rider triangle. The cockpit is surprisingly spacious, even for a six-foot pilot, but the seating position puts the rider into an arrangement with limited variety. The handlebars are tight to the rider, and the forward proximity of the seat keeps a rider sitting very upright with minimal forward lean.

“In an effort to give short legs an easier reach to the ground, the seat slopes down toward the tank and greatly narrows at its junction,” notes Duke. “The resulting lack of thigh support and downward slope impinges on comfort. And the rear section of the saddle slopes upward, holding a short rider in place but limiting available space for tall riders.”

With more than 60 ft-lb of torque on tap at just 4000 rpm, the Brutale’s 1078cc Four is always ready to get its trigger pulled. And its 127-hp peak beats by 5 hp the Triumph Speed Triple we just finished testing.

Power delivery from the 1078cc, inline, four-cylinder, radial-valve engine is, for lack of a better term, brutal. Keeping the front end on the ground in the first three gears is practically impossible. For all this brutish power, however, MV should have gone to greater lengths when tuning the Brutale’s EFI.

“Its EFI seems a generation behind the latest systems, with an abrupt throttle response and an abundance of compression braking,” notes Duke. “The fuel injection always seems like it has an overabundance of vacuum, making any changes to the throttle lack any semblance of smoothness.”

Gobs of low-end grunt and a super-short first gear ratio (nearly 3:1), the Brutale quickly goes vertical like motorcycle Viagra.

The Brutale’s short, 56.3-inch wheelbase contributes to its airborne front wheel, but so does gearing. While you can’t tame the Brutale by changing its wheelbase, a person could moderate its excessive wheelieing nature by reducing the tooth count on the rear sprocket... if you really wanted to reduce its wheelie tendencies.

Shorty levers don’t help the heavy clutch pull but are adjustable on both sides.

MV did grace the Brutale with a choice of power-delivery modes, but gave it only two: rain and sport. While other sportbikes generally have a selection of three ECU-controlled power deliveries, it’s all or (next to) nothing on the Brutale. As for traction control, we mostly left it in the third of eight settings and were happy for its lack of intrusion and its electronic safety net.

The Brutale exhibits neutral handling manners with minimal time necessary in the cockpit acclimating to its distinct characteristics. The tubular-steel MAG-welded trellis frame works well with the large-diameter (50mm) inverted Marzocchi fork and Sachs shock to deliver a composed ride.

We found the stock bars to be somewhat narrow, reducing the amount of leverage. We’d prefer another inch of length and bet the small measurement would provide more effective response during high-speed transitions, although it shouldn’t be inferred the Brutale isn’t agile.

“Narrow handlebars are a little strange, though the chassis has a very neutral feel,” confirms Siahaan.


With 37 world titles to its credit, even without having competed in Grand Prix racing since the 1979 season, MV Agusta remains second behind Honda in Constructors World Championship titles. No amount of advertising can purchase a repertoire of historical competitiveness MV has earned, and it’s this kind of incorporeal essence MV Agusta exudes.

MV Agusta is Italian, exotic, and not a Ducati – it’s special. These qualities, however non-quantitative, are subject to monetary value depending on the individual. Sure, “resetting the trip meter requires a bewildering combination of button pushes,” describes Duke, but from its stylized headlight to the attractive, gripper-style seat with red stitching and embossed MV logo, the Brutale evokes a deeper level of motorcycle emotion.

Arguably the most hallowed Italian motorcycle marque, MV Agusta’s Brutale – top to bottom, left or right side, coming or going – is poetry in motion.

We’ll be pitting the Brutale against its closest competitors in an upcoming streetfighter shootout to determine which bike performs the best in both street and track conditions, but no matter the outcome, the Brutale can’t be touched in terms of individuality.

Given the proper performance enhancements, a Honda Civic can post some respectable lap times, but a Porsche it will never be. The same analogy applies to owning an MV versus owning a more pedestrian brand, and only the person purchasing the bike can calculate the value of MV Agusta ownership.

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Tom Roderick
Tom Roderick

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