We have a soft spot for the “characters” of the motorcycle world. That’s why we were excited to throw a leg over the new 675cc, inline-Triple-powered MV Agusta F3. Like the Triumph Daytona 675 before it, this Italian-made middleweight flips the bird at the conventional 600cc-supersport-displacement norm by packing a supersized engine into its lightweight chassis. Which is exactly what Ducati has been doing with its middleweight V-Twin for years: slowly upping the ante until the pot added up to its present 849cc.
In our November issue, we asked the question, “What is a middleweight?” The answer, as it turns out, was rather complicated, requiring mathematics, expert opinion (ours!) and some fudging to explain. But no matter how we justify it, these two motorcycles fit perfectly into the definition we came up with and clearly illustrate the wide varieties of engines that populate the class.
So, by now you are probably wondering where the hell the Triumph Daytona 675 is in this comparison? After all, it is the most obvious adversary to go head-to-head with the MV. Unfortunately, Triumph was unable to provide a Daytona for this test, so we’ll have to throw one into the mix in the future.
There was no way that Road Test Editor Don Canet and I were going to miss spending half a day at the Streets of Willow Springs after we were given approval. For the occasion, we spooned a set of Pirelli Supercorsa SP tires onto the MV to match the Ducati EVO Corse SE, which gets that sticky race rubber standard. (Additionally, the SE gets an Öhlins shock, larger 330mm front brake discs, TC and a quick-shifter compared to the standard EVO.)
On paper, the $13,498 MV F3 and $14,995 Ducati are a pretty close match. But due to their unique engine configurations, each offers advantages in some areas that the other just can’t match.
At the dragstrip, the ultra-torquey Ducati (63.6 ft.-lb. peak at 9360 rpm) easily got the jump on the MV (47.3 at 11,210), and the latter was not quite able to run the Duc down as it closed in at the quarter-mile marker. It posted a 130.1-mph terminal speed in 10.81 seconds compared to the Ducati’s 10.66/131.9-mph blast. Canet reported that the MV was very difficult to get off the line, requiring 10,000-plus-rpm launches followed by a battle with a grabby clutch. No such issues hindered the 848.
Measured top speed was close, as well. The EVO’s 121.5 horsepower helped it sprint to 163 mph, and although the 117.1-hp F3 pulled hard—its triple exhaust pipes belting out a glorious sound reminiscent of an F-1 car’s—it plowed into its rev limiter in sixth gear, six mph short of the Ducati’s best.
Although low overall gearing hindered the MV Agusta’s top speed, it likely helped the 675 put a serious spanking on the 848 in top-gear roll-ons, with 40-60 taking only 3.6 seconds compared to 4.2, and 60-80 3⁄10ths quicker than the 848’s 4.2.
But what do all these numbers mean both in the real world and on the racetrack? Well, with the MV, that’s not so simple, since the engine’s output characteristics are so widely adjustable, and figuring out the myriad of electronic functions in its Motor and Vehicle Integrated Control System (MVICS) involves a steep learning curve. Amongst its menus are Normal, Rain, Sport and Custom mode, the first three of which have default settings for initial throttle sensitivity, maximum torque output, engine braking, engine response and a hard or soft rev limiter. The eight-level traction-control system can be adjusted independently for any mode other than Rain, while the Custom map allows multiple options for all of the aforementioned parameters. Add in a quick-shifter that can be turned on and off, and the choices can be overwhelming.
By comparison, the Ducati is much simpler. A quick-shifter and a very effective TC system are its only electronic means of optimizing traction and drive.
Given all its electronic options, the MV required some experimentation when we first got to the track. “I began in Rain mode for two laps just to feel the full effect of the TC, which defaults to Level 8,” said Canet. “Soft delivery turned the F3 into a real pussycat, but ultimately, the TC was far too intrusive on a dry track.”
Both Canet and I worked our way through the modes (on the fly) during our sessions. We ended up doing our quickest MV laps in Sport mode with TC set at level 1 or 2 or with low-intervention TC settings in Custom. But, as I discovered, shutting TC off wasn’t an option, as I almost high-sided even when TC was set to level 1!
Once we got in the ballpark and went for fast laps on the F3, some other issues arose. “Now the chassis felt notably livelier with a bit of headshake when accelerating out of some bumpy corners and though the quick side-to-side transitions,” said Canet.
Though the MV’s engine performance is really entertaining, with a broad spread of power from 8000 to its 15,000-rpm redline, keeping the F3 in check calls for a lot more physical effort (getting weight over the front wheel) than is required on the Ducati. A steering damper would be a welcome addition, considering the MV’s short wheelbase, steep front-end geometry and light overall weight (400 lb. dry).
Both Canet and I were consistently quicker at Willow Springs on the EVO (a second and half-a-second, respectively), thanks to the 848’s excellent composure. “Solid chassis stability quickly gained my confidence and allowed me to push the pace,” said Canet. “I really trusted the bike on corner entry and exit, and the brakes were my favorite of this pairing, as well, with a good balance of power and feel.”
Midrange torque from the Duc’s V-Twin provided good drives from as low as 6000 rpm, and the TC system offered more info via sequential dash lights to help judge traction at the limit. Plus, the Ducati’s superior quick-shifter made it easy to keep the bike on the boil with slicker up-changes and no missed gears.
By the time our half-day of lapping was over, Don and I were unanimously in favor of the 848. Its superior stability, simpler electronics and torquey engine provided a better platform for going fast. But would the same prove true on California’s highways and byways?
In the real world, these two middleweights also have distinctly different personalities. When commuting or riding in stop-and-go traffic, the MV wasn’t very happy. Its fueling is a bit rough compared to the clean-running Ducati’s, and a tall first gear and the high revs required for a smooth launch demanded more attention and effort. And around town, we finally had to shut off the F3’s quick-shifter; it would occasionally select a false neutral instead of the next gear if the longish-throw transmission was not shifted with a wide-open throttle.
As for the 848 EVO, its strong bottom-end torque, great clutch and good fuel mapping make for a surprisingly forgiving streetbike—much more so than its big brother, the 1199 Panigale. The Ducati Quick Shifter was faultless regardless of rpm, even on the street at a mellow pace. Add in a nice seat and a slightly less-cramped leg position, and the Ducati is more comfy, despite its low clip-ons putting more weight on your wrists.
On mountain roads, the two bikes were much closer. The MV’s sharp handling and light weight gave it an advantage when the tarmac tightened up. But just like on the track, the Ducati’s stability and poise made it easier to ride. So, in most cases, the 848 required less effort than the 675 to go the same speed.
After flogging the only two Italian middleweight supersport bikes for a few weeks, we had no doubt which one came out on top. The Ducati 848 EVO SE is just too polished and refined to allow the MV Agusta F3 a chance at victory. In virtually every aspect, the Ducati outclassed the F3, from engine performance to handling to braking to overall rideability. And the 848’s displacement advantage wasn’t necessarily a deciding factor; with 174 fewer cc, it still would have emerged victorious.
But the 675 didn’t disappoint, either. We were impressed with MV’s initial attempt in a new and very competitive category. Especially considering that at first, it appeared to have bitten off more than it could chew with an all-new engine and chassis, not to mention the most sophisticated electronics package in the class.
So, three cheers to MV for showing Ducati what the future has in store. But bravo to Ducati for showing MV how it’s done now.
|Ducati 848 EVO Corse SE||MV Agusta F3 675|
|Warranty||24 mo./unlimited mileage||24 mo./unlimited mileage|
|ENGINE & DRIVETRAIN|
|Engine||liquid-cooled, four-stroke V-Twin||liquid-cooled, four-stroke inline-Three|
|Bore & stroke||94.0 x 61.2mm||79.0 x 45.9mm|
|Valvetrain||dohc, four valves per cylinder, desmodromic, shim adjustment||dohc, four valves per cylinder, shim adjustment|
|Valve adjust intervals||7500 mi.||7500 mi.|
|Induction||(2) 50 x 68mm elliptical throttle bodies||(3) 50mm throttle bodies|
|Tank empty||416 lb.||400 lb.|
|Tank full||442 lb.||426 lb.|
|Fuel capacity||4.1 gal.||4.2 gal.|
|Wheelbase||56.3 in.||54.1 in.|
|Rake/trail||24.5°/4.1 in.||23.6°/3.9 in.|
|Seat height||32.4 in.||32.2 in.|
|GVWR||860 lb.||816 lb.|
|Load capacity (tank full)||418 lb.||390 lb.|
|SUSPENSION & TIRES|
|Front suspension:||43mm Showa||43mm Marzocchi|
|Claimed wheel travel||5.0 in.||4.9 in.|
|Adjustments||compression and rebound damping, spring preload||compression and rebound damping, spring preload|
|Claimed wheel travel||5.0 in.||4.8 in.|
|Adjustments||compression and rebound damping, spring preload||compression and rebound daminping, spring preload|
|Front||120/70ZR17 Pirelli Supercorsa SP||120/70ZR17 Pirelli Diablo Corsa|
|Rear||180/55ZR17 Pirelli Supercorsa SP||180/55ZR17 Pirelli Diablo Corsa|
|1/4-mile||10.66 sec. @ 131.86 mph||10.81 sec. @ 130.14 mph|
|0-30 mph||1.2 sec.||1.4 sec.|
|0-60 mph||2.9 sec.||3.2 sec.|
|0-90 mph||5.1 sec.||5.3 sec.|
|0-100 mph||6.1 sec.||6.3 sec.|
|Top gear time to speed:|
|40-60 mph||4.2 sec.||3.6 sec.|
|60-80 mph||4.2 sec.||3.9 sec.|
|Measured top speed||163 mph||157 mph|
|Horsepower||121.5 @ 10,500 rpm||117.1 @ 14,800 rpm|
|Torque||63.6 ft.-lb. @ 9360 rpm||47.3 ft.-lb. @ 11,210 rpm|
|High/low/average||41/37/38 mpg||42/31/35 mpg|
|Avg. range inc. reserve||156 mi.||147 mi.|
|From 30 mph||28 ft.||30 ft.|
|From 60 mph||116 ft.||122 ft.|