Review: The MV Agusta Superveloce 800, Style Meets Performance
A superbike that lives up to the name
The trouble with drop-dead gorgeous motorcycles is that they break your heart every time. Beautiful bikes, especially Italians, are cruel mistresses — sleek of form and seductive in sound, but ready to leave you aching, tired and quite possibly stranded.
Armed with those stereotypes, I approached the MV Agusta Superveloce 800 with extreme prejudice…and a wee bit of allure. After all, we don’t ride merely for getting from A to B. We ride because we love it. Ogle the Superveloce 800, and you’ll be laying eyes on a masterclass in superbike styling. From a tapered nose that pinches into round headlamp to its faceted fuel tank, partially exposed engine and tidily tucked tail, the Superveloce is a more evocatively retro treatment than the MV Agusta F3, the model it’s based upon. The more conventional F3 has styling akin to its Italian, German and Japanese competitors, with angular edges and a seamlessly integrated fairing. Think: textbook superbike. The Superveloce, on the other hand, is a café racer-inspired package with upright handlebars and lowered pegs for a more relaxed riding position, and complex curves that play off the linear bits. Not that it’s an upright bike per se, as its riding posture is still somewhat committed. It simply dials down the Superman/downward dog posture to allow the miles to go by easier, wrapped in a package that’s more head-turning than the next. Furthering that cause is a leather strap running across the fuel tank, which serves no functional purpose other than to tip a hat to the old school. Yep, this is that kind of bike.
Start me up
A press of the starter button summons the 798cc three-cylinder engine to life with a raspy whir. Capped with an optional Akropovic exhaust system, the powerplant revs easily and feels ready to play along with your wildest, Valentino Rossi-inspired fantasies. Oh, and one thing about this triple: a bombastic streak of superbike riders tends to disdain anything smaller than a literbike, which describes 1,000cc or more of displacement. The diss is testosterone-fueled nonsense that’s entirely unfounded unless you’re intent on campaigning your motorcycle in an officially sanctioned track competition. That said, if they bothered swinging a leg over this Ottocento, the naysayers might find MV’s engine surprisingly satisfying to tickle — not just because it revs to 13,000 rpm and produces a healthy 147 horsepower (which, though less than a literbike’s 200+ horsepower figure, still delivers a power-to-weight ratio that would put hypercars on edge), but because its three-cylinder layout churns a lusty amount of torque throughout the powerband. Goose the throttle while trundling along at 3,000 rpm, and the engine pulls out of the lull and climbs sonorously through the rev range. Given enough tarmac, it’ll top out at a claimed 149 mph.
Beauty and brains
The escalation of speed is depicted on a 5-inch TFT screen, with a curved tachometer surrounded by information like ride mode, which can be switched on the fly or customized according to engine mapping, ABS, and traction control preferences. The settings feel mild in Rain, vivacious in Sport, and a tad too sharp in Race for smooth operation. There’s a satisfyingly pleasing interplay between the responsiveness of the throttle and the seamless transition of power with the clutchless shifts between gears that makes it feel like an F1 car on two wheels: weeeee-WHOMP!-weeeeeeee-WHOMP!
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The immediacy of the drivetrain and the general feeling of sharpness make the leather tank strap feel remarkably anachronistic. Flick it into a corner, and the Superveloce complies with crisp obedience; grab the brakes, and you decelerate with intuitively telegraphed negative Gs. While the dynamics aren’t quite as violent as a hairy-chested liter bike, they’re finely modulated and viscerally rich enough to satisfy on a deep level. The right brain/left brain interplay is aptly evoked by the intersection of the old-world leather tank strap and the colorful digital display—artistry and science, wrapped into one.
A ride to recommend?
Is MV Agusta’s café-inspired middleweight sportbike perfect? As with any feisty Italian, there are caveats. For starters, its $24,000 MSRP puts it firmly into literbike territory, sans the bragging rights; some of the bodywork feel plasticky, especially for the price; and the ride is sometimes upset by bumps, an issue which might be resolved with a more sophisticated suspension system. Quibbles aside, MV’s Superveloce is far more beauty than beast, serving up the rare combination of lovely styling and stirring performance. It’s a wonderful myth to bust, this notion that a sexy Italian can be easy to live with. Though you’ll pay dearly for the privilege of putting MV Agusta’s café-inspired middleweight in your garage, this is a machine that’s unexpectedly agreeable to ride, yet will inspire you to look over your shoulder every time you walk away.
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