MV Agusta Brutale 1090 review, test ride
4th Jun 2016 7:00 am
Italian and exotic often go hand in hand. But some Italians, like the legendary MV Agusta 1090, can really be more exotic than others.
When it comes to exotic bike makers from across the globe, no other name is as evocative as MV Agusta, its F4 having shaped a generation of motorcyclists’ aesthetic sensibilities. Although the fully faired F4 is yet to go on sale in India, MV Agusta’s tie-up with Pune-based Kinetic Group has brought the top-of-the-line street naked, the Brutale 1090, to Indian showrooms. So, what is it like to ride an Italian blueblood around our streets? And would the seven years since its international launch have worn down its ability to wow? A quick spin on the Brutale should put some facts in the folklore.
When looks don’t kill
A lot of bike makers these days are doing a great job designing nakeds, and we aren’t just talking about the Italians here. In a market flooded with handsome, sculpted and distinctive streetfighters, the Brutale now has a slightly seen-it-before quality. Clearly, some of the pizzazz when we first saw it has worn off in the passing years. However, I’m willing to chalk this down to this test bike’s matte-black paint job which really hides all the details. Had we got it in another brighter colour scheme, we would’ve begged to differ. Nonetheless, the Brutale is hard to ignore. The melted-oval shape for the headlamp is striking but lacks some crispness. The taut lines on the tank and the sports bike-like high tail is sharp, but it won’t rewire your expectations of Italian cool.
The matte-black paint job really hides this bike’s more attractive visual details, making the overall design look a bit dated.
That’s not to say it isn’t without its merits. There are some great details to be taken in for sure.
The ‘crown’-like cowl for the instrument cluster with daytime-running lights hidden there is a personal favourite. The exposed trellis frame and the single-sided swingarm are classically cool bits that will thrill every enthusiast. While the scoops on the sides of the fuel tank and the double-barrel exhaust on the side give it a bit more of a technical look. Even the overall stance, which feels quite a bit slimmer and more athletic than something like a Ducati Monster 1200, is very likeable.
Heart of gold
Is it possible to love a motorcycle just for its motor? The Brutale 1090 would certainly tempt you to do so. The 1,078cc inline-four mill features a short-stroke configuration that helps it produce 144hp of power coming in at a fairly peaky 10,300rpm. But, it does justice to its streetfighter genes by also making a whole hunk of torque! While peak torque of 112Nm is made at a reasonable 8,100rpm, the Brutale wows by delivering a solid 90Nm of torque from 4,000rpm. So, riding about at slow speeds is never an issue. Open the taps from this point onwards and the Brutale starts to pick up speed rapidly. And as you hit peak torque in the first three gears or so, more often than not, you’re going to find the front wheel pointing at the sky.
142hp of peak power is no laughing matter.
Thanks to its radial valve arrangement, the acceleration is phenomenal as the engine breathes well and combustion is strong even as the tachometer needle is in the stratospheric range. Out on the open highways, it has absolutely no problems cruising at speeds well over 150kph, and that motor’s tractability leads you to believe that you can stay in sixth gear all day long. However, hitting the near 12,000rpm redline in each gear really feels like it would need more commitment than most us are willing to make, at least on the road. Riding the Brutale hard can also get a bit tiring as the fuelling creates a distinct step in power at low rpms and this make rolling on and off the gas a bit choppy.
Twist and Turn
It’s not just the sudden jump in power delivery when you start rolling on the gas from a closed throttle position that makes life a little difficult on the twisty stuff. Pushing harder and harder into corners brings out the Brutale’s slightly archaic nature. With a dry weight of 183kg, it’s still one of the lightest bikes in its class. But try and steer it quickly at speed and it gives you the impression that you’re riding something much heavier. The handlebars need constant effort in the corners and this heftiness becomes especially bothersome when trying to flick the bike quickly from one side to the other.
However, when you’re just ambling around town, what you do get is good ride quality. The fully-adjustable Marzocchi upside-down forks at the front and the damping and preload adjustable Sachs monoshock at the back lets you deal with paltry road conditions without a bother. Even the Pirelli Diablo Rosso II maintain good contact with the road and provide adequate grip. Anywhere from casual to medium speeds, the Brutale feels quite comfortable and confident to ride.
The brakes too, require special credit. The twin 310mm floating discs up front with radially mounted four-pot Brembo calipers provide plenty of predictable stopping power and great feedback. But, the clutch is a slight sore spot. Even though it features hydraulic actuation, it’s extremely heavy and after riding around in city traffic for half an hour or so, it’s easy to lose feeling in your left hand.
Running on Pentium power
Yes, the Brutale 1090 comes with an electronics suite featuring eight-way traction control, two riding modes as well as ABS. However, setting the traction control level requires you to push buttons on the instrument cluster (which makes it next to impossible to do it on the move) and even to change the riding mode from normal to Sport required a lot of fidgeting with the ignition/mode button. And while there was no issue on good tarmac, the rear wheel spins up on loose surfaces whether the traction mode was set to 8 or to 1. Compare all this to some of its contemporaries and the Brutale’s electronics package distinctly feels last gen – a Pentium in the Core i7 age.
Setting the riding mode is a task.
The riding position on the Brutale 1090 is really a highlight. At 825mm, the seat is short enough for riders of average height to nearly flat foot the bike, the handlebars aren’t a stretch even for shorter riders and the pegs don’t feel extremely rear set. The end result is a perfectly comfortable, albeit compact, riding position thatshould appeal to a wide variety of riders. But this appealing riding position is somewhat hampered by how slippery the seat and tank are. Whether you’re wearing leathers, denims or textile, the merest tap of the brakes or even slight chop of the throttle sends you slamming painfully into the tank, unless you’re bracing against it with all your might. Never has a bike made such a strong case for aftermarket Stomp Grips in my opinion. Staying in the saddle also becomes a bit of a task because of choppy initial throttle.
While even now the name ‘MV Agusta’ commands respect and reverence, my day with the Brutale 1090 ended with slightly unmet expectations. Was I expecting too much from an exotic bike brand I had fantasised about since my college days? Clearly, there were some things, especially the ergonomics and that brilliant four-cylinder motor, which were particularly enjoyable. Yes, when ridden in an unhurried manner, the Brutale makes for a very enjoyable companion. However, when in the mood for setting your pulse racing, the Brutale wasn’t as feelsome, intuitive and immersive as I expected. That, I suspect, is down to some of its modern rivals taking the game to the next level. To top it off, the Brutale’s high sticker price of Rs 19.3 lakh (ex-showroom Pune) doesn’t help its case either. But maybe that’s too much cerebrum for a bike that should clearly be a cardiac decision.