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2018 MV AGUSTA BRUTALE 800 RR | Bike Tests | Latest Tests | Top Sellers in Australia

The looks of an angelic Satan, the sound of duelling chainsaws – MV’s new 800 RR is simply delicious

My first ride on a MV Agusta Brutale wasn’t so much a ride, as a long succession of laughing fits. How the hell had someone produced such a raucous machine in 2004 (the first Brutale was released in 2001), right when other manufacturers were delivering new levels of bland. It was too loud, too peaky, too temperamental – I loved it.

That early Brutale was a real rider’s bike: you bought it for no other reason than to soak up all the emotions riding a motorcycle can bring. It wasn’t super practical, refined or in any way sensible. I thought it was a brave, but most probably short-lived model.

Thankfully I wasn’t the only one who appreciated the two-wheeled craziness a Brutale offered, and the model has thrived. 

And now, here we are with the 2018 800 RR – and it’s the best Brutale yet.

Australian Motorcycle News was offered this bike fresh off the boat, with just 20km on the clock and looking so scarily new, I felt destined to be the first to put a scratch on it. Which would be a travesty given I reckon it’s still one of the best-looking bikes ever made. Although we had it for only a single day, it was better that, than missing the chance to ride it until later.   

Walking around it for the first time, my hand dragging over the outlandish lines, wondering what those pipes will sound like since Euro4 regulations influenced its trademark sound. I also feared for my licence. A Brutale has a way of making sane men and women ride with the kind of freedom this bike oozes. Try explaining that to a speed camera.

Firing it up, my concerns regarding a diplomatically-muted exhaust bark were blown away, literally. It still sounds angry, though more refined and the sheer joy of snatching two rapid downshifts into a corner have to be heard to be believed.

There’s plenty of new bits on this bike, launched at EICMA in 2017, available now as a 2018 model, it includes an updated fly-by-wire system, a new dash, freshly forged wheels, new styling refinements, countershaft, starter motor and new transmission gears. Crucially, there is the two-injector-per-cylinder layout, with a new cylinder head aimed at delivering the satisfying, soul-stirring sound the Brutale does so well, despite toughened noise controls.

Our short ride told us plenty about this bike, as detailed over these six pages, the overall result is a more refined version of the bike I never thought could be associated with that word. That said, the seat still sucks, comfort-wise, the engine still sounds like duelling chainsaws in a water tank and the bike inspires new levels of lust at the handlebars, or even when just quietly watching it. The new Brutale is still a Brutale.

Who would have thought Euro4 could actually produce a better bike? The Brutale now has the refinement it needed to bring it closer to what the average motorcyclist can bear, all the while keeping the essence of what makes it earn its name so well.

For many of us, a motorcycle is how we escape the mundane, the plain and ordinary – few bikes help you dive into a surreal world of emotion and passion like the MV Agusta Brutale 800 RR. If you want bland and refined, something predictable and easy to ride, look elsewhere. If you want a ride that will consume your two-wheel senses, buy this thing – if you dare.    

Brembos are Brembos, right? Kinda. In typical Brutale fashion, even the brakes feel different than on any other similarly Brembo-kitted bike. Bosch 9 ABS equipped, you just know the bike will brake hard with minimal intervention in normal road riding and even then, if things get too much, said intervention is gentle and accurate. The Brutale-nature of these front anchors is, however, that their power isn’t as linear as they usually are. The initial bite is subtle, but the stopping force ramps up quickly, with the entire braking procedure feeling two-stage, rather than one progressive halt.

’Dem pipes… MV Agusta had to muffle this Brutale to meet Euro 4 regulations, though how any of the Brutales since the 2001 original cut the noise-mustard, I’ll never know. They have always been loud, part of their glorious allure. Happily, MV has quietened the Brutale 800 RR, without neutering it. It is seriously one of the best-sounding bikes out there, and sounds like it looks – angry, purposeful, agro. The bike sounds like a horde of killer wasps on the attack, when seated on the thing, but from the side of the road, this bike won’t worry the noise police. You do half-expect flames to leap out the three flame-thrower-style end pipes.      

Early Brutale dash clusters were a cluster of a different kind when it came to actually cycling through them or turning anything off or on. With eight levels of traction control, switchable ABS, etc, you need an intuitive system. The 800 RR has that, with a simple ’bar-mounted toggle system to choose engine modes, switch the ABS on and select a TC level. The smoked perspex on the dash’s lower section adds to the mystery of finding neutral by all but damping out the green light, as it does to the indicator lights. The easily adjustable steering damper makes up for that, and the cockpit is just as magnificent to look at as the rest of the bike. 

The Brutale’s Multi-directional power-shifter is a pure winner. Downshifts with some revs on boards sound like a demented chainsaw buzzing through metal, while upshifts have the satisfying WSBK-spec pop. Using the clutch automatically disarms the auto function, something I took advantage of in traffic shifting from first to second. My only issue is that the auto-blipper only works if you have the throttle totally closed – I often downshift with the throttle still open, when cruising up to the lights for instance, and it would be nice to feel like a MotoGP star in that circumstance. 

How something as benign as a numberplate hanger can cause such controversy, I don’t know, but in my opinion, the Brutale’s solution to meeting design regs regarding rear wheel coverage and numberplate mounts is a good one. I’d rather this look than a huge and out-of-place plastic piece of crap extending from the rear fender. The plate and blinkers look like they are hovering, and those with OCD will struggle, but it is a very Italian way of fixing an age-old problem with registered road-going motorcycles. 

     

Aesthetically, this bike is close to perfect. That seat is pure pain on long rides, and the hole below it is good for holding your gloves, but otherwise, they’re for form only – and that’s this bike. The seating position is less ‘European’ than the early Brutales, with controls that feel more mainstream, but in a good way. The narcissistic graphics, bright red frame and that floating seat unit are Brutale all the way, so even when you are staring at the seat and wondering how it can be so painful, you are soon lost in its lines. It’s the very point where form meets function.      

TEST SAM MACLACHLAN   PHOTOGRAPHY JOSH EVANS