I cannot say I am a fan of the long right-hander that is Turn 6 at the MMRT in Chennai. Its apex is unseen from the entry, and I've had to work very hard to find an efficient line through it. Well, hold that thought. Because on the MV Agusta F3, the turn feels completely in-control and at home. I have a sense of immense grip and despite a lean angle that puts my knee millimetres off the tarmac, I'm marvelling at the bike rather than sweating bullets. I'm impressed and more than a little happy. But let's back the truck up.
Our first taste of the MV Agusta sportsbikes was the F4R, and it was a little bit of a disappointment. It feels its age, it isn't as easy to control as current litre-bikes are and the disconnect causes more than a small amount of distress and alarm when you're riding. And from that perspective I wasn't expecting the F3 to be vastly different. But freaking hell, it is. It very much is.
The F3 800 was created by adding stroke to the F3 675 3-cylinder engine. This boosted power to a robust 148PS without any change in the 178kg dry weight. This is a promising configuration, no? To compare, the Ducati 959 Panigale, vastly more recent engineering and quite a bit less hardcore, makes 160PS from its bigger V-twin engine but weighs 199kg.
MV houses its triple in the usual combination chassis that uses a steel trellis that meets cast aluminium pivot plates. Suspension is adjustable and the brakes are top-drawer Brembos.
That said, this isn't based on the new Brutale 800 shown at Milan last month. This is the F3 based on the previous Brutale 800 and has been more or less in this shape since 2013.
Backing up the hardware is the MVICS software suite that includes four riding modes (Race, Sport and Rain. Plus Custom which you can set up to your liking). Traction control comes in eight levels and ABS in four levels including off.
The MV's blue-lit screen does look old compared to the fancier screens that are popular now, but it is a fairly clear set-up. I wish the menus and interacting with the MVICS was this clear. The interface design is a maze and finding your way around is needlessly annoying. The poor quality of the four-switch cluster that MV uses doesn't help. Tip: If you cannot even press the correct button reliably with a gloved hand, MV, you know you need to swap up to better aggregates.
But all of these niggles go out the window once you're in the saddle. The MV F3 has an extremely committed riding position with low bars and a tall seat. You sit on the top of the motorcycle with the feet back and high. It's a sportsbike that isn't apologising for its ergos.
Climb on and the moment you tip into the first corner you see the point of the position. It feels like you are sitting right on top of the front wheel! The bars are very close and your sense of connection to the motorcycle is remarkable. This is why long sweeping corners at high speeds, and high lean angles seem a lot easier than you initially expect from the MV's urgency of responses.
This is a one instant-on motorcycle. At any revs, in any gear, past about 7,000rpm, whacking the gas open will produce a startled hop from the front wheel that the electronics will handily restrain. It's hilarious when you're messing about and eyebrow-raising when you're trying to ride smoothly and seriously. But you never doubt that the MV F3 is alert and responsive, and it wants you to take it seriously.
The engine combines with a sharp chassis that is just stable enough mid-corner. What that means is that setting up for the corner begins with the inevitable weave on the brakes. It isn't scary, it just is. Hit the sharp brakes hard and the MV will not hop or screech, but you will feel the rear wave just a bit. A little pressure on the inside grip will send the MV rapidly into the turn and lean angles come fast and hard. It's reasonably stable once in the corner, but it doesn't like bumps.
The long corner, Turn 9 on top of the MMRT has a new big 'hole' that is right on the old racing line. The F3 goes through this with pronounced shock being transferred to the rider though it doesn't deflect off line a whole lot. I would definitely back the suspension off for street use.
The transition to an open throttle is smooth, and you can use the 800 triple to drive hard out of the corner and fly down the straight.
But colour me impressed. The F3 is a wonderful little sportsbike. Its lightweight and sharp responses make for an engaging riding experience on the track and to me this is the MV sportsbike to buy, not the F4.
The price though is high. MotoRoyale is pricing the F3 at Rs 19.50 lakh (on-road, Pune) and that's a hefty premium over the smaller Daytona 675R and Rs 2.72 lakh more than the Ducati 959 which has similar performance. In that sense, the MV F3 isn't excellent value.
But hey, just look at it. Nothing else looks like Tamburini's impeccable lines or wears the proud MV badge. And that's a premium that worth paying for in most books.
Here is a video of our MV Agusta F3 first ride review