2014 MV Agusta F3 800 | First Ride

MV Agusta builds on its F3 lineup with the larger-displacement F3 800

2014 MV Agusta F3 800
2014 MV Agusta F3 800Jeffrey Fortuna

If you've picked up a motorcycle magazine or played around on the Internet recently, then you've probably already read a review on one of MV Agusta's new three-cylinder-based sportbikes. Introduced at a feverish rate since 2011, these bikes stand as MV Agusta's largest opportunity to gain market share and, as a result, have been covered so immensely you'd have had to travel far out of your way just to overlook a story on one. Still, here we are with yet another F3 between our legs, this time at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway. The motorcycle itself is a 2014 F3 800, and we're quickly discovering that this bike is different enough from the rest—both in regard to performance and spec—that it deserves its own spotlight. As if there were any left…

The F3 800 steers into a corner with the ease and precision of a 250cc sportbike.

Brian Gillen, MV Agusta's three- and four-cylinder platform manager, explains the primary difference between the F3 675 and 800: "On the 800 you're talking about 148 hp (at the crankshaft) versus 129 hp. So the 800 has just about the same horsepower as our F3 675 World Supersport racebike, but you have more torque than on the World Supersport bike and the same weight as the standard F3 675." The disparity between engine internals isn't overly dramatic, of course; the F3 800 has the same bore (79mm) but a longer stroke (54.3mm versus 45.9mm) and, as a result, shorter connecting rods. The camshafts are the same, but, "The valves are all titanium and with the longer stroke we had to slow down piston speeds," Gillen says. Consequently, the F3 800's rev limiter has been lowered from 15,000 rpm to 13,500 rpm. Other internal changes include a slipper clutch with 10 plates versus eight, new fuel injectors with a higher flow rate, and pistons that are lighter and also different in regard to crown shape. The compression ratio jumps from 13.0:1 to 13.3:1 as a result.

The F3 800 and 675 share a common chassis and hardware, though the 800's Marzocchi fork uses a stiffer compression damping stack to compensate for the added braking force provided by new Brembo M4.34a monoblock brake calipers. Similarly, the Sachs shock gets a firmer compression and rebound damping stack. Spring rates are the same front and rear.

A modern sportbike depends heavily on the algorithm within its engine control unit, and here's where MV Agusta knows that there's been room for improvement. “Honestly, at MV we really had to take a couple of steps back and reevaluate," Gillen says. "Because with our experience we pushed really hard to get into production with our F3 675, and we found out that really we were behind the competition with our electronics." The result of that realization is MV Agusta's third entirely new algorithm, with calculations intended to shorten the time between input and reaction both at open and closed throttle. In simpler terms, the new algorithm is less cumbersome and therefore able to provide a more formal connection between a rider's wrist, the engine, and rear wheel. As has been the case in years past, MV Agusta owners can find updates for their bike's map on the MV Agusta website; if a new map has been released since the last time your bike went in for service, then you can go back to the dealer for a free software update.

Similar to the F3 675, the 800 has Rain, Normal, Sport, and Custom riding modes, the latter of which can be adjusted for things like engine braking control (Normal for more engine braking and Sport for less), gas sensitivity (how fast or slow the throttle reacts), and engine response (how fast the engine spins up). The traction control system gets eight levels of intervention plus off, and in an effort to put more control in the rider's right hand, MV Agusta has outfitted the 800 with a new throttle return spring that's flatter. "So the spring is stiffer at the beginning but more constant throughout," Gillen says. Theoretically, this will make the throttle easier to modulate.

Different Strokes

There are distinct similarities and differences between the F3 675 and 800 at the racetrack. Both bikes are designed around the tightest rider triangle possible, for example, and that makes the F3 800 especially difficult to ride if you're taller than 6 feet. More to its favor, the F3 800 steers into a corner with the ease and precision of a 250cc sportbike. A sure result of the counter-rotating crankshaft we've raved about since the F3 675 was first introduced two years ago.

The engine dynamic between both bikes is noticeably different, and due to the crankshaft's higher inertia the F3 800 picks up revs just a bit slower than the 675. Midrange performance is a step above, and we'd quickly discover that on the 800 it's easier to run a gear higher and tractor out of the corner, whereas on the 675 you'll have to keep the engine spun up consistently. Acclimating yourself to the 1,500-rpm-lower rev limiter takes time but mostly because MV was too stubborn (cheap?) to update the 800's digital display; the bike's 13,500-rpm rev limiter appears about an inch to the left of where the rpm display ends, and the numerals are so small that you'll almost never be able to read them. Power delivery isn't perfectly linear, but there's never that uncontrollable push like you get on the 675 as you reach the top part of the revs.

MV Agusta's steel trellis frame and aluminum side plates provide great feel with the 800 heeled over on its side, and minor changes to the suspension resulted in a drastic change in performance, which leads us to believe there's enough adjustment opportunities to really get the 800 dialed in per your preferences. Overall action was stellar, and we were surprised with how well the 800 rolled over each of Chuckwalla's infamous bumps despite the stiffer damping.

Speaking of bumps, Gillen says, “These are the worst thing for our traction control system because there's a lot of microslip going on there. We're looking at a velocity spike on the rear wheel, and these bumps can be difficult to manage.” Back on the track we could feel what Gillen was referring to. And while happy with the system overall, it did feel like the performance gap between traction control levels 1 and 2 (the highest setting we'd test) was far too wide. Another concern is that the bike doesn't have lean angle sensors, so the system doesn't know if you're on the edge of the tire or standing the bike up, and this causes some concerns as you're cranked over and really hoping for the TC to save you. In the Italian manufacturer's defense, we ran one of our quickest lap times with the TC set to level 1 and noted that the 800 got into and out of the TC a bit quicker than any MV we've recently ridden.

Other benefits specific to the 800 include monoblock brakes that have great power through the middle of the pull with just a quick punch at initial actuation and a slipper clutch that allowed us to downshift with more aggression than a less-equipped bike. Not to be outdone, the new F3 675 will come with a slipper clutch as well.

Electronically speaking the 800 is still not perfect, a claim supported by every rider's choice to toggle the gas sensitivity setting to Normal instead of Sport, but then again there are a surplus of benefits that come with those options, and you really can fine-tune this bike to your needs. It doesn't hurt that the base package is now more refined than ever. Oh, and how could you overlook that power-to-weight ratio? Bigger, at least in the F3 800's case, is definitely better.

Now to see how it stacks up against the similarly displaced competition…

SPECIFICATIONS
2014 MV AGUSTA F3 800
MSRP: $15,798
ENGINE
Type: Liquid-cooled, DOHC, inline-triple four-stroke, 4 valves/cyl.
Displacement: 798cc
Bore x stroke: 79.0 x 54.3mm
Compression ratio: 13.3:1
Induction: Mikuni EFI, 50mm throttle bodies, dual injectors/cyl.
CHASSIS
Front tire: 120/70ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa
Rear tire: 180/55ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa
Rake/trail: 23.6°/3.9 in. (99mm)
Wheelbase: 54.3 in. (1380mm)
Seat height: 31.7 in. (805mm)
Fuel capacity: 4.4 gal. (16.5L)
Claimed dry weight: 382 lb. (173kg)
2014 MV Agusta F3 800
2014 MV Agusta F3 800Jeffrey Fortuna
The F3 800 uses a more linear throttle return spring with stiffer start rate. It wasn't the miracle cure for throttle modulation but an improvement.Jeffrey Fortuna
It's a sick pastime of ours, but at every MV Agusta model introduction we sit back and watch the MV staff try and adjust the F3's rider aid settings via this switch on the left clip-on. Even the guys who helped design the system need two or three tries per adjustment; it's that arduous.Jeffrey Fortuna
Brembo monoblock brakes have more power through the middle part of the pull and are exceptionally consistent at the track. The fork has a stiffer compression stack to compensate for that power.Jeffrey Fortuna
A Sachs shock has stiffer rebound and compression damping stacks and worked well at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway.Jeffrey Fortuna
A 17/41 sprocket setup (used to neutralize top-speed difference caused by a lower rev limiter) changes chain torque and allows more weight to transfer to the F3 800's rear tire for added drive grip as a side benefit.Jeffrey Fortuna