MV Agusta continues to reorganize its line of F4-based sportbikes while working hard on final validation of the new three-cylinder F3 family.
In February, 2010, I was freezing my fingers at Spain’s Almeria Circuit, trying to get the best out of the then-new and greatly improved MV Agusta F4. At the time, the F4 was the top-of-the-line model and powered by a revised edition of the radial-valve 998cc inline-Four, featuring a 76.0 x 55.0mm bore and stroke—the 990cc bore teamed with the 1090cc stroke.
Chief project engineer Andrea Goggi has been playing a lot with those numbers. At that time, the less-radically oversquare (the previous 990 was 79.0 x 50.1mm) measurements seemed to offer the best compromise between maximum power output (183 horsepower at 12,900 rpm) and torque (84 foot-pounds at 9500 rpm), with outstanding usability from as low as 4000 rpm.
Then, last May, came the unveiling of a new F4, the F4RR, which sported a redesigned version of the Four that turned the numbers game upside-down with its (again) radically oversquare 79.0 x 50.9mm bore and stroke. This time, Goggi and his team were able to square things off much better than they had done previously with the 79.0 x 50.1mm Brutale 990 engine. In fact, they were able to combine the much-larger valves (31.8mm inlet and 26mm exhaust vs. previous 28.6mm and 24.6mm, respectively) with a more-compact and cleaner combustion chamber that, in the process, bumped compression to 13.4:1.
In F4RR trim, this engine breaks the magic 200-hp barrier, producing a claimed 201 hp. In the tamer F4R, it still delivers 195.2 hp at 13,000 rpm, with torque peaking at the same 84 ft.-lb. at 9100 rpm. Superb torque spread and flexibility are ensured by the same electronically managed, variable-geometry 49mm velocity stacks of the fuel-injection system that also feeds the F4RR unit.
Compared to the F4, for which all the bells in the Varese valley rang, the new F4R is enormously more capable, for a price that, in Italy, is only fractionally higher: 18,800 euros vs. 18,500 euros. No match. And it’s natural to think that the F4R will give the F4RR, priced 4100 euros higher, a strong run for its money.
In terms of value, the new F4R promises to be one of the most-attractive all-out superbikes on the market. Admittedly, it is less precious than the F4RR, yet it is one of the most-refined bikes in the class, blessed by that same superb design and featuring components that are only one notch below the sky-high standard set by the “crown-prince edition,” which is clearly intended for well-heeled racetrack connoisseurs.
On the road, the 50mm Tenneco-Marzocchi inverted fork has consistently proved to be an excellent replacement for the supreme 43mm Öhlins. It might be somewhat less refined when it comes to that last touch of sensitivity and feedback, but it counters this with superb stability, while offering an equally complete spectrum of adjustability. And the same goes for the top-quality Sachs shock, likewise fully adjustable. Also missing is an Öhlins steering damper, replaced by a more-conventional unit.
On the F4R, the swingarm pivot is set in a fixed position—no oval slot and calibrated inserts to optimize its position in relation to that of the countershaft sprocket for improved traction. Front-end geometry is also fixed at 23.5 degrees rake and 100.4mm trail. Here, the wheels are cast aluminum, not forged, though the Brembo braking system is the same superb setup as on the F4RR, with Monobloc radial-mount calipers and 320mm rotors. The master cylinder is not a radial-type but a more-conventional unit with an integrated reservoir. Adjustable footpegs are also missing, as are details that make the F4RR such a precious specimen of supreme Italian craftsmanship.
Curiously, MV Agusta says the F4R has the same top speed, 185 mph, and curb weight, 423 pounds, as the F4RR. I will verify that data at my earliest opportunity.