Production motorcycles hardly ever get any more special than this. The MV Agusta F4 blends in the best of the hallowed Italian design, penned by none other than the legendary Massimo Tamburini, incorporates the very best in the engine and electronics technology and tops it up with an old-school, thrilling riding experience. It’s a motorcycle many consider the holy grail of what an emotion invoking two-wheeled machine should be about. Fusing timeless aesthetics with fierce performance and unbridled aural theatrics, the MV Agusta F4 range is an automotive big cat – regal, lethally powerful with no intention of being tamed.
Our date with the legendary machine was on an unusually wet day – quite unsuitable for the temperamental nature of the F4’s wild powertrain and its dry-surface honed Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa rubber. We did manage to get a few windows where the rain gods relented for a while, and the twist of the throttle during those brief instances gave birth to stories comprising butterflies, rainbows, fairies and shriek inducing demons. We lived and felt the history of this much revered brand, and got to know firsthand, what really makes the F4 more of a fable than a motorcycle. It’s quite astonishing the way this machine talks to you. Here’s the story it told us.
To start off, you’d be mesmerized with those timeless lines even before you’ve swung a leg over its wide seat. That mono projector beacon with its geometrical shape, slanting angle and swathes of painstakingly defined organic surfaces that flank it, lends the F4 a totally distinguished face. The aerodynamically designed angular RVMs and the LED strips under the front intakes are a nod to the modern technology that’s the driving force behind every new supersport these days.
Sharp and curvaceously lethal as an Italian Scimitarra blade, the F4 lives up to its badging as the world’s most beautiful motorcycle from the very first fleeting glance you spare. Sure, there would be detractors citing some other Italian machines, and they wouldn’t be wrong, but the argument would be a heated one, and those favouring the F4 would have a higher likelihood of winning. There could be a debate about the prettiest visage, or the shapeliest waist, but that posterior on the F4 with its angular under-seat quad exhaust just doesn’t leave any space for dispute. And those epic pipes, along with their visual grandeur, also pack in the monstrous wail to shut their critics up, but more on that later. The openings on the panel flanking the tail add some more ocular excitement to what would become an aural festivity when those pistons get fired up.
Things are kept properly exotic with a single side swing-arm, lightweight forged wheels (only for the R variant we rode, the standard F4 gets cast wheels) and those special easy twist screws for the fairing.
About those fasteners, they’re meant to let the riders quickly remove the fairing to shed weight if one wishes to use the F4 for a drag race. It’s more of a vintage touch than a practical addition though.
All those visual delights apart, the F4R (discontinued, won’t be available in India – we will get the standard F4 and the extreme RR versions) gets top drawer hardware. The F4 R we rode had Marzocchi front and Ohlins rear suspension, both with compressions and rebound damping. The F4, however, will get Marzocchi forks and Sachs shock, with the RR getting an electronic compression and rebound control.
The bike also gets a CRC steering damper. You can also adjust the height of the bike by up to two inches.
The MV F4 is a fairly long motorcycle, and with the seat height at its tallest, it can get utterly difficult for those with a short stature to manoeuvre in traffic, on inclines or while reversing. Add to that an extreme seating position, and the F4 completely draws away from the average Joe. It’s an intense, extreme, uncompromising piece of hardware with relentless focus on track performance. If you’re looking for comfort and easy ergonomics, go ride something pedestrian. This one here demands you to be fairly honed with your sportsbike riding experience with well developed wrist and shoulder muscles.
Swing a leg around that exotic shape and from the rider’s POV you get to see an all digital, yet somewhat old-looking instrument console. The top section is occupied by a tacho, marked all the way till 15,000 rpm. The F4R would rev all the way to 13,500 clicks, with the RR getting 500 revs more. Other information you get to see on the default screen includes speed, engine temperature, gear engaged, ride mode, Odo reading and trip reading.
The F4 gets a rather elaborate suite of electronics to control a whole variety of parameters including throttle sensitivity, torque, engine braking, engine response and rev limiter – all of which can individually be set to Normal, Sport and Rain modes. You get three riding modes, Rain, Sport or Normal, which can be engaged right away. In addition, you get an eight level traction control and ABS. You may also opt for electronically assisted gearshifts. Our test bike also had a quick-shifter which blips the throttle electronically to mesh the engine speed seamlessly with clutchless downshifts. In effect, all that tech makes the MV an insanely sophisticated piece of kit for someone who knows how to make good use of it. And all of that trickery is meant to try and tame the 998cc inline-four monster spewing out 195 bhp of unadulterated power.
The MVICS (Motor & Vehicle Integrated Control System) on the F4 features a redundant architecture for failsafe effectiveness and safety. The bike also features a lean angle sensor comprising three gyroscopes and three accelerometers. This, along with the power at the wheels, and a whole variety of data when processed together makes the traction control intervention particularly accurate on the F4. The MVICS system continuously monitors and controls the available torque at the rear wheel based on the road conditions and rider’s style.
The brute force propelling this Italian exotic is a short-stroke, inline four with 79 x 50.9mm bore x stroke. High strength, expensive materials have been employed in the engine to ensure optimum performance even at the limit, and longevity. The extreme F4 RR uses titanium con-rods, making it a motorcycle built to GP specification, and dishing out a monstrous 200.8 hp of power. The gearbox is a six-speed unit, with the clutch featuring a mechanical slipper device.
But those are just numbers. The F4’s once Ferrari F1 inspired engine packs in history, passion, racing pedigree and unsullied Italian genes. The F4, then, isn’t a clinical piece of kit. It’s got complex layers, and a character which we’ve not witnessed in any of the ultra fast, ultra impressive machines we have been riding of late. The F4 has this endearing persona, a quirky charisma that’s totally unmatched, even when it isn’t clearly the fastest or the best handling machine around.
You’d have been besotted with the MV F4 by its looks alone. However, if you have any love for the sights, sounds, smells and sensations these metallic monuments could create, you’d be properly obsessed by the magic this rare Italian machine casts over you the moment you fire up that engine. It’s an angry growl, replete with the grinding of teeth – right from the very idling engine speed. The sound emanating from that engine carries an unblemished signature of the metal grinding against metal underneath that sculpted tank. There’s no Japanese trickery to grease or mellow down the sensation of the mechanical affairs within that crankcase. It’s smooth, and would rev all the way to the clouds and back in a moment, but you’d clearly hear a grunting note as that happens, making the F4 much wilder, fiercer and more intimidating than any of its contemporaries.
Twist the right wrist and you’ll hear the most gutturally resonant, fearsomely intoxicating sound you’d ever have heard on a pair of wheels. It’s a menacing, thundering admonishment of sorts from heavens above. Daddy’s angry holler to his tender-aged boy that makes him wet his pants. That sound is poles apart from the smooth symphony emanated by many others of the F4’s ilk. It’s an irate monster’s violent bawl and it keeps getting louder and louder, with all its mechanical angst. The boys amongst us would roll their wrists back, and even the men would carry on with a browbeaten look on their face once they’ve heard that yell. The F4 is that involving, it’s that overwhelming, and in all honesty, that intimidating to get casual with. And that fact alone makes it spectacularly epic as a motorcycle.
On the road, with the seat height raised to the fullest (ignorance isn’t always bliss) I realise that the F4 with its length and extreme seating can be quite a task to manoeuvre. With the floodgates from heavens above wide open and roads coated with a generous layer of water, I engaged the Rain mode and made way towards the closest hunting grounds I knew.
The torque delivery to the rear wheel is massively restricted in the Rain mode, throttle response is deliberated blunted and the electronics are watching over every parameter with uncompromising alertness. And yet, even in its most docile modes possible, the F4 sounds properly threatening. It pretty drivable in the low revs for what it’s meant to do, though starts gnarling after around 4-5k revs. The track oriented Pirelli rubber with negligible tread managing about fine with the electronic phalanx guarding it. You are allowed to go throttle happy to some extent even over wet roads with engine response curtailed and throttle response jagged. Power builds in reasonably heady manner even in the Rain mode though. The engine character is layered, and you would come across a few spikes and troughs if you are travelling limiter-wards. The mad engine growl, in the meantime, participates in an elevating fusion gig with those divine quad exhausts.
At long last, the rain gods relent, and I could see a somewhat dry, grey spine on the road, flanked by wet shoulders. I switch over to Normal mode, traction control reduced to level 4. And boy, did the thing turn into something else! The throttle response, though still somewhat quirky turned much snarlier. The power from the motor gushing towards the struggling rear wheel with even more brute force, sending the bike’s nose slightly skywards in both first and second gears. Also, I had to restrict the power buildup, as the rear managed to send signs of slippage with abrupt throttle inputs. The steering on the F4, all this while feels immensely connected, translating into an utterly involving experience as you lean the machine from side to side.
The F4 isn’t the easiest machine to ride fast, though. It feels tall, and needs you to put in a lot of effort through your body to carve those corners quickly. It is in stark contrast to machines like, say the 2016 ZX-10R which you can just hop on and go knee scraping and abuse without a worry in the world. The F4 has the ability to pop a surprise at you if you don’t respect it enough. It’s a track honed machine which needs you to spend plenty of time with it before you get even the wildest thoughts of owning it on the road.
I did try gunning it down a couple of straights making my way through the revs first in Normal, and later in Sport mode, but thanks to the damp, grimy roads and patches of wet, had to roll off earlier than I initially planned. What really works, though is the quickshifter, facilitating the auto-blip downshifts as you prepare to dive into a corner. Braking in momentously sharp, too thanks to the monoblock front Brembos which pack an insane bite, scrubbing off speed at a crazy rate, while also being exceptionally feelsome and progressive.
A couple of hours into the ride, my desk-job tuned 100 kg, unfit girth began wearing out to the F4’s relentless ergonomics. The front Marzocchis and rear Ohlins, which were set on the softest setting, didn’t help much, as even at its softest, the F4 is way stiffer than what you’d be seen riding 99 percent of the times. The wrists were aching, the rain had started pouring down again affecting the visibility adversely and the muck from the bigger vehicles on the road was making the visor go mucky every few kilometres. All of this translated into riding conditions which weren’t enjoyable by any stretch of the imagination. And yet, every time I wrung that throttle, it sound from that epic in-line four motor charged me up, egging me on to keep riding; for the F4 has what it takes to make riding it an genuine life event.
If motorcycles could leave an impression, this one would brand me with a hot MV Agusta F4 iron seal right on my forehead. It’s the most authentic way to pay respect to what is so lovable about motorcycles – the history, the design, the power, the unpredictability, the thrill and the sheer experience of it. It’s an embodiment of whatever humans have learnt about the art of creating things which move on two wheels and excite along the way. And for that very reason, one should buy it, even if he never rides it, and uses it for visual kicks all life long. And for that sort of a thing, the asking price of INR 26 lakh is but a pittance.
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