The 2020 MV Agusta Brutale 1000 threatens to become a new performance benchmark for the naked roadster category
At the EICMA Milan Show last November, the dazzling new MV Agusta Brutale 1000 Serie Oro was elected as ‘The most beautiful motorcycle of the show’ by over 16,000 voters – against such equally new high-performance desirables as the Ducati Panigale V4 R, the BMW S1000RR and Aprilia’s RSV4 1100 Factory.
The first 300 examples of the Brutale 1000 will be the high-end limited edition Serie Oro version costing Rs 34 lakh in Italy, available only in a single fire red colour scheme. Once those are built, production will begin of the Normale RR version – but don’t expect much change out of Rs 24 lakh for one of those, says MV’s Direttore Tecnico Brian Gillen.
“We’re still defining the exact specification of the RR version in order to get that into the price point where we want it to be, but it will have the same exceptional performance as the Serie Oro, as well as key technical elements like the Öhlins electronic suspension. Dynamically, they’ll be almost identical. But in both cases there will be zero carry over parts from the previous 1090RR – even the 20 per cent of common components like the crankcases and ‘box have been substantially modified.”
So how exceptional will that performance really be? Well, how does a homologated top speed of 302kmph sound – from a naked bike that you can ride to work on your daily commute? That’s thanks to the 208bhp produced at 13,600rpm at the crankshaft – yet with 116.5Nm of torque delivered at 11,000rpm, so with a 2000rpm span between peak torque and peak power, it promises to be a pretty rideable motorcycle, too. (An optional SC-Project titanium exhaust system extracts 212bhp at 13,600rpm, but isn’t Euro 4 compliant.)
These impressive numbers come courtesy of what’s essentially an all-new motor that’s safe to a 14,200rpm limiter, and has been designed with a focus on reducing friction and enhancing lubrication. Add in a claimed dry weight of 186kg, thanks partly to copious magnesium covers and titanium bolts, screws and fasteners, as well as carbon-fibre bodywork, and on paper at least the 2020 model Brutale 1000 threatens to be a new performance benchmark for the naked roadster category. As such, it challenges the current dominance of the 184kg Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 that narrowly out-muscles the MV in making 120Nm of torque at 9000 revs, but comes up short in the horsepower stakes, with a ‘mere’ 175bhp at 11,000rpm. Well, everything’s relative…
Paradoxically, though, at a time when other manufacturers are increasing capacity of their engines (Aprilia and Ducati being the most recent and obvious such examples) to redress the effects of such regulatory hurdles as Euro 4, MV Agusta is travelling in the opposite direction, versus the 1078cc displacement of the its previous range-topping Brutale 1090RR, production of which ended a couple of years ago, without Euro 4 compliance. “You can obtain more power in one of two ways – either with greater displacement, or with extra revs,” says Brian Gillen.
“But with displacement we’d have had to go even bigger than 1078cc, if we really wanted to get what we were looking for from a performance standpoint. So we chose instead to go with a smaller displacement, but with a higher revving motor – and the result is considerably more horsepower.”
That new smaller displacement uses the same 79mm bore as before, but with the stroke shortened from 55mm to 50.9mm to measure 998cc. This reflects MV’s objective in redesigning the engine, which is basically to productionise what the next generation F4 Superbike engine would have been. “So everything that we learned in World Superbike racing with Leon Camier and later Jordi Torres has been put into an updated version of the F4 engine, which we’ve now applied to the Brutale,” says Gillen. “It’s the motor that Leon Camier always wished he had, and maybe if we’d given him it two years ago he might have finished on the World Superbike rostrum at least once, instead of coming fourth all the time, without ever quite making it on to the box!”
Work indeed began just over two years ago on the Brutale’s new in-line four-cylinder engine, which retains the same crankcases as before, but machined differently to incorporate an uprated lubrication system aimed at countering oil surge under the massively enhanced acceleration of the new bike. This delivers over 1G when the launch control button on the right handlebar is pressed, says Gillen, en route to an official 2.9sec 0-100kmph trap time – with lights and a horn, and Euro 4 compliance. Phew! Essentially, what the R&D team has done is to copy the format of Mike Hailwood’s 1960’s MV Agusta World champion 500GP four, and created an oil reservoir beneath the crankcase. This results in a semi-dry sump engine with reduced oil drag, while at the same time positioning a splitter within the casing to minimise surge, and stop the oil rushing to the back of the crankcase under hard acceleration.
“Motorcycle physics haven’t changed from the 1960s up to today,” says Gillen. “We simply reapplied the technology from back then, in a modern context.”
The modified shorter-stroke crankshaft has altered lubrication channels and all-new bearings, and carries new forged titanium conrods (rather than machined from billet, so even stronger and lighter) made by Oral Engineering in Modena, headed by former Ferrari F1 technical boss Mauro Forghieri. These carry forged three-ring Asso pistons with cast-iron compression rings aimed at reducing friction. The F4 cylinder head casting has been retained, still with radial valves, but with quite different intake porting and new chain-driven camshafts delivering greater lift and dwell. Additionally, the combustion chambers housing the 31.8mm intake and 26.5mm radial valves have now been machined from solid billet, to deliver a high 13.4:1 compression ratio – the previous Brutale (Brutale 1090) was 12.8:1 - a key element in obtaining the radically enhanced acceleration, without adding displacement which Gillen targeted.
The new Brutale 1000 also features a key upgrade with the installation of a much-needed RBW/ride-by-wire throttle absent from its predecessor, here incorporating four riding modes regulated by an IMU inertial platform – Race, Sport, Rain and Custom – which can be selected on the go without closing the throttle, and a much more sophisticated electronic package. This includes eight-level traction control, engine braking control, on/off anti-wheelie control, and a two-way powershifter (which MV was the first to fit to a production motorcycle five years ago).
Öhlins latest-gen semi-active electronic suspension is fitted front and rear to vary damping automatically according to road and riding conditions, with both the 43mm NIX fork and TTX rear shock delivering 120mm of travel via electronically controlled compression and rebound damping, and also spring preload on the shock (manual adjustment on the fork). The damping map also changes according to the rider mode selected. The Öhlins steering damper is also electronically controlled, but this time it’s simply velocity adjustable – so it’s lighter at low speeds in town, automatically becoming progressively stiffer as the bike picks up speed.
This electro-suspension adorns a redesigned version of MV’s usual composite chassis, with a chrome-moly tubular steel trellis frame combined with twin aluminium sideplates, in which the engine is carried as a fully stressed member. This delivers a 1432mm wheelbase with the fork sitting at a 24º rake with 97mm of trail. The single-sided swingarm carried in an adjustable pivot is a direct carry over from the previous model, says Brian Gillen, and is cast in aluminium. Brembo’s new range-topping Stylema four-piston Monobloc brake calipers are fitted up front, paired with 320mm floating discs, with a twin-piston Brembo and 220mm rear disc combo.
However, one electronic system that has at first sight surprisingly been removed from the new Brutale 1000 is the TSS variable length intake system, which MV Agusta was again the first to fit to a production motorcycle, the F4 Tamburini, back in 2005, and has since been widely adopted by other manufacturers. Why? “After a lot of analysis starting back in World Superbike, we concluded that the TSS System delivers extra torque that we can’t use!” says Gillen. “So we’re carrying around an extra 1.6kg all the time in order to generate additional torque, but every time we get into a position where we could possibly use it, we’re intervening with traction control or anti-wheelie to get the bike back to doing what we want it to do. The TSS did give us something extra, but that extra was impossible to get to the ground – so we’ve removed it.” However, the electronically controlled exhaust valve fitted to the 4-1 stainless steel system partially compensates for that, as being constantly adjusted depending on engine speed and load.
I proved that for myself during a visit to the Pirelli test track at Vizzola, about 30km from the MV factory, to ride a pre-production prototype Brutale 1000. After tiptoeing aboard the 845mm-high seat I discovered a riding stance that’s surprisingly well balanced, despite the tall seat height. There was no excessive weight on my arms and shoulders, even though the quite flat spread of the sportbike-style ’bars bolted to the top of the fork legs deliver an inherently inclined wind-cheating posture, with my knees tucked neatly into the sculpted recesses of the 19-litre fuel tank. The new Brutale is improbably comfortable for this fast a bike.
And fast it is – very, VERY fast, so much so in fact that the massive Pista Pirelli complex’s 800-metre main straight proved to be too short for me to really rev the new Brutale out in top gear – the best I saw was 233kmph in fourth from a rolling start, with 13,000rpm showing on the well designed 5-inch TFT dash that’s light years better than the small, crowded and mostly illegible previous instrument that MV always fitted.
The Brutale delivers absolutely phenomenal acceleration. Flexible and forgiving low down, it is perfectly happy to be short-shifted at around 6,000rpm in an imitation of real world riding, but show it a stretch of open road, and it just rockets away from a standing start. The two-way powershifter is brilliantly set up, as befits the company, which has a longer experience of fitting this to their roadbikes than anyone else. It’s not too sensitive, so you must do more than just brush your boot against the lever and need to make a decisive movement, but the cutout is infinitesimal in duration, and the gearshift completely seamless in nature in both directions. You do feel a step in the power delivery at 9,500rpm, just after torque has peaked, when it seems the acceleration kicks in even harder. This is unbelievably exhilarating to experience – yet all achieved with minimal vibration at any revs, thanks to the effective gear-driven counterbalancer installed.
Powering through the gears and shifting at 14,000rpm delivers warp factor acceleration – but the Brutale goes round corners well, too, and in some ways this was the most impressive aspect of the new bike’s development. It handles in an improbably agile manner for such a powerful and frankly meaty motorcycle – and it’s forgiving, too. You can make an error of judgement with your turn speed halfway round a bend, finger the front brake lever to cram off a little speed, and the Brutale just slows, without sitting up and heading for the hedges. Yet get your judgement right, and it sails round turns one gear higher than you might have expected, the front Pirelli glued to the track surface, and the Öhlins suspension working in perfect concert. The engine mapping is ideal in both Sport and Race modes, and though throttle response is notably more aggressive in the latter, pick-up from a closed throttle is strong rather than snatchy, and you feel a sense of control that’s very welcome with such a potent performance package.
At the end of the straight I could haul the speed down from 230km/h for the second gear hairpin with total confidence – the Brembo Stylema calipers have even better feel and feedback than before. And the Bosch ABS did its job in minimising rear wheel lift even with my body weight thrown forward on to the front wheel under that awesome stopping power, with the engine braking control still retaining some welcome assistance via the all-new slipper clutch now fitted as I backed down the gears seamlessly and clutchlessly.
Dripping with desirability, the new Brutale 1000 Serie Oro is an enticing combination of matchless performance by naked bike standards, coupled with peerless handling and arresting good looks that come stamped with the Brutale trademark. MV has achieved that most difficult of tasks in reinventing a design icon, while retaining its unmistakable looks and unique heritage.