WORDS: Chris Moss | PHOTOGRAPHY: Gary Chapman
MV Agusta is famous for its sports heritage – but what’s the Italian company’s real world tourer like to live with?
MV Agusta is one the most famous motorcycle marques ever, but it’s certainly not made its name from building sports touring bikes like this one. The Italian firm’s lifeblood has always been in racing, something it’s been pretty successful at having won a staggering 37 world titles.
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It’s been the same story with the road machines it’s produced, the vast majority made in its 72-year history being sportsbikes. It moved away from this focus for the first time in 2002 with the first Brutale S 750, though in essence this was just a naked sportsbike. It then diverted from the concentration on pure speed again in 2014 with the Rivale and Dragster 800s. But though both were very stylish and great fun to ride, neither were especially practical.
That all changed in 2015 with the introduction of a rather untypical bike for MV, the Turismo Veloce – Italian for Fast Touring. It was a landmark bike for the company with some concessions being made to outright performance, compensated by unusual features like comfort and practicality. This was MV’s first ever real world bike, and was in essence an sports tourer styled like an adventure bike. A higher spec Lusso (luxury) model was also introduced with the electronic active suspension, and the extra civility of heated grips, centre stand and panniers.
For 2017 the model has been revised in detail with minor engine and chassis improvements mainly to improve reliability. It does of course meet current Euro 4 regulations. We tested the latest Lusso variant, using it for a track day, general duties and a day trip to the Brecon Beacons to assess its versatility to the full.
I began this test at the deep end, with my very first miles on the MV being done at the Castle Combe racetrack in Wiltshire. I can’t claim it was an especially exhaustive test thanks to only completing a couple of sessions. Nevertheless the Tourismo Veloce Lusso acquitted itself well round the speedy Wiltshire track’s bumpy curves. It did feel a little short of power down the straights, though the way it was nicely spread did help in sections where the speed changed quite distinctly.
It’s equipped with a slick gearbox and a very helpful up and down quick-shifter, though thanks to the three cylinder motor’s flexibility, having to swap cogs often wasn’t at all essential to maintaining strong drive. First opinions on the track experience got the thumbs up, with a very positive view on the engine, steering and brakes being quickly generated. A couple of other points would take longer to pass full judgement on however.
One oddity is the riding position that the relatively close proximity of the bars and seat promotes. I wouldn’t call it a squeeze, and nor did I ever go on to discover it to compromise comfort in any way, but it did tend to restrict my movement around the bike a little more than I’d preferred. Another distraction came from the suspension.
I’d pressed the necessary buttons to stiffen it as much as I could to suit the extra loads the speedier riding would demand of the forks and shock, and the fact this still allowed the MV to float over Combe’s bumps and ripples so well was very welcome. Yet the softness of their action also caused some appreciable pitching fore and aft whenever the brakes and throttle were applied more seriously.
I got used to it in time, and noted it as more of a feature rather than a criticism. Just like the less than spacious riding position it was certainly a notable trait. All in all though, my track laps were fun and I had to vote the 800 as being more than capable at coping with being ridden very hard.
Knowing I’d be doing a lot more miles over the next two weeks with the bike in more appropriate circumstances, I left the track feeling quite confident of getting on well with the MV. Arriving home an hour or so later, saw that optimism dented a little.
The steering and agility that had been so evident at the circuit, didn’t seem to be the same out on the road. But then I realised why, feeling quite stupid when I did. I’d not re-inflated the tyres to correct pressures having dropped them to suit track riding. It was a novice error and as soon as I rode the bike again it felt much keener to change direction. Another lesson learned!
While I was at it, I did a quick check of the sag in the rear shock, finding the amount to be quite considerable. Handily, after just a few turns of the remote preload adjuster, the correct setting was achieved. It made the bike feel a lot more settled whenever the load on the front and rear tyres was applied and released, now pitching far less than it had done on track.
The next few days saw me using the MV as more of a workhorse, performing all sorts of everyday duties, many of which weren’t especially glamorous. Still, if I wanted to check out how easy the Tourismo Veloce Lusso was to live with, nipping into town to do chores, visiting friends and simply getting from A to B were all necessary tasks. Just like it did at the track, the MV scored well overall, but a couple of ‘flaws’ did make me grumble from time to time. Before addressing these though, I’ll concentrate on the bike’s finer points, of which there are plenty.
Again the engine impressed a great deal. No matter where you’re using it, strong drive from the 800 can always be counted on, even in bigger gears. The motor’s power build up is beautifully linear and predictable, making it feel super user-friendly. For the purpose of the test, I did try out three of the four maps available to alter the way the horsepower reaches the rear tyre, but such is the agreeable nature of the triple I was happy to select ‘Sport’ for the vast majority of the time. Making a claimed 110bhp and providing the keenest throttle response, the setting was good for me.
I did occasionally switch to ‘Touring’ which offers 90bhp and a slightly calmer reaction to throttle twisting whenever I was likely to run around town for a while, but if I never got round to it I wasn’t bothered. Choosing the ‘Rain’ setting with its slowest throttle response and restriction to 80bhp wasn’t a setting I felt I needed to return to, even on wet roads. This engine is a real beauty and arguably doesn’t require any performance tempering such is the well-mannered nature of its character.
Something I enjoyed every second I spent on the MV was the sound of its exhaust note. Three cylinder engines produce some of the best music in motorcycling, and the drone of this one is no different. I often hung onto gears to rev the motor higher, or even dropped a gear or two more than I strictly needed so I could appreciate this all the more. Oh what a lovely noise!
Another aspect of the 800 I constantly enjoyed is the fantastic way it steers. The deft and precise way it changes heading with such little assistance from the rider is a remarkable trait. The feature can be appreciated wherever you’re riding, and helps to give the Italian bike a feeling of real quality. None of the agility comes at the price of reduced stability though. Combined with the supple nature of the suspension which isolates both the bike and rider from anything that might upset the bike’s balance, you can always depend on making solid, reassured progress, regardless of pace.
The ability to control the progress, via the excellent combination of powerful, progressive brakes and superb tyre grip is another very welcome feature. Those Brembos really can generate a high level of retardation and thanks to the factory settings and adhesion of the Michelin Pilot Road 4 rubber, the cornering ABS system was never triggered during my time with the bike – not even at Castle Combe. The rubber copes with all temperatures and road conditions fantastically well and definitely boosts the secure feel of the MV. It’s one of many virtues that make riding the MV so satisfying.
…and the bad
What reduced that joy from time to time were a couple of small details that had varying levels of significance. One, made more relevant to me, thanks to the shortness of my inside leg measurement, is the bike’s seat height. At a whopping 850mm it’s far enough from the ground to make getting aboard the 800 feel perilous whenever I was unable to swing my leg over the seat with enough vigour. As long as I took care where I parked, the job was made easier. But I definitely had to be careful stopping on awkward cambers or loose surfaces. Lowering the rear end of the bike via the remote preload adjuster helps, but there’s no doubt this isn’t an ideal bike for shorties. If it was mine, I’d definitely entertain the idea of fitting one of the 10mm lower seats on offer from the Agusta catalogue.
Not so easy to find a solution to is the bite of the clutch. It might sound like a minor point, but on one run through the peak period traffic of two fairly large towns the on/off nature of its engagement became very irritating. You must adjust the lever span to help matters, but the lack of progressive bite raises the chance of stalling if you’re trying to get away from a standstill quickly. Given the MV is generally a very adept machine in town, even with the spacious 30-litre panniers attached thanks to how close together they’re mounted, the clutch issue can spoil things. The factory could and should fix this immediately.
Thankfully, full appreciation for the Tourismo Veloce was restored when I took it for a 165-mile return run out to the Brecon Beacons. For this sort of journey, the sports tourer is in its absolute element. There’s nothing quite like going to see new places and faces on a bike and my impromptu ‘let’s go for a ride and see where it takes me’ outing on the MV turned out to be hugely enjoyable. The bike dealt with everything in its path, including roads varying from busier dual carriageways to scruffy single track lanes with huge proficiency.
In the end I spent around five hours in the saddle, and felt just as fresh as I did when I left my house. That tall seat may have made me groan whenever I struggled to swing my boot over it cleanly, but its broadness and contoured shape supported my posterior perfectly. Being as close as it is to the bars never bothered me either. The size and shape of the upper fairing might look more sport than tour, but when the screen’s set to its tallest position, something easily done on the move by hand, wind protection is excellent.
The handguards also offer extra welcome protection from the elements, and combined with the three-stage heated grips, your hands always stay toasty even in low temperatures or wet weather. During the time I rode the bike I only ever wore summer gloves.
When the sun was high in the sky and a stop for fuel and an ice cream became the done thing in Brecon, I derived further pleasure from the MV just by casting my eyes over its aesthetically pleasing shapes and curves. There’s no doubt the Tourismo Veloce Lusso is a very striking machine to look at.
As well as its excellent build quality and eye-catching style, things like its triple stacked exhausts, beautifully crafted narrow section rear end, and single-sided swingarm really add to the bike’s huge appeal. Detail like the hand-stitched look of the rider and pillion seats only adds to the effect.
Calculations revealed a useful 54mpg on this run and given an average of 46mpg for the whole test, combined with the near 22litre tank capacity the MV’s range of 150-250miles certainly helps it to qualify as a useful touring bike. I would have liked to have seen some sort of fuel consumption and range indicator amid the mass of information displayed by the otherwise comprehensive colour dashboard.
And while I’m having a moan, the headlight isn’t all that it should be in terms of light spread on dipped beam. Once it’s flicked to high beam, night vision is restored well enough though. I did wonder about the very low position of the rear indicators, and can’t help but think your turning intentions aren’t probably as clear to following traffic as they could be.
The Tourismo Veloce Lusso certainly has a great deal going for it. Very stylish, capable and well-equipped (it has two USB ports and 12v sockets, Bluetooth link to nine devices, and a data-logging function), it performs impressively.
It’s certainly not cheap at £16,500 on the road, and some of its shortcomings really shouldn’t be present in a bike of that price. But if you’ve got that sort of money, you’ll be able to enjoy a most appealing and endearing machine with masses of character. In its class, like the majority of MVs, there’s nothing quite like it.