First Ride Review
MV Agusta has been making motorcycles in Varese, Italy, on and off since the late 1940s, winning dozens of championships and later establishing a reputation for performance, exclusivity and exotica. Dealers in the U.S. are still few and far between though, and the way MV was passed from owner to owner in the 1990s and early 2000s didn’t do the marque any favors in terms of reliability or parts availability. But ever since the Castiglioni family reacquired the company from Harley-Davidson in 2010, MV Agusta has been on a tear, introducing exciting new models, rebuilding its reputation and hatching plans to dramatically increase its presence in the U.S. It has also recognized that to be successful in the current U.S. market, it needs more than raucous F4 and F3 supersports, Brutale naked sportbikes and the Rivale 800 naked/sport crossover—it needs to build competitive touring bikes.
This it has done, it seems, with the new Turismo Veloce 800. While it’s still based upon the MV liquid-cooled, 798cc DOHC in-line triple found in many of its sportbikes, the Veloce’s engine has new cam profiles and pistons, dedicated intake and exhaust systems, and special fuel/ignition mapping to increase torque in the midrange by 20 percent, and reduce fuel consumption by an equal amount, yet it still revs to 11,500 rpm. MV claims a peak of 110 horsepower at 10,000 and 61 lb-ft of torque at 8,000, down from its 148-horsepower potential but more than enough urge to scoot this light machine up the road veloce, or very fast, especially because it weighs less than 500 pounds full of fuel and with its 30-liter saddlebags on board.
Despite being optional, MV says that the Veloce’s compact design actually began with the saddlebags, which will hold a full-face helmet but are no wider than the bike’s mirrors at 35.4 inches. It also has a tight 57.5-inch wheelbase, about 0.1-inch shorter than a Yamaha FJ-09’s and 2-3 inches shorter than its larger adventure-bike competition. Yet extending the Veloce’s two-piece aluminum seat subframe bolted to the steel trellis main has made the bike much roomier than the Stradale 800 “city tourer” (Rider, May 2015), and it has an equally wide bar and grips at a comfortable height and comparatively low footpegs. Though it’s quite high at 33.5 inches, the non-adjustable seat seemed well padded and comfortable, too—“seemed” being the operative word, as our 140-mile ride in the foothills above Nice, France, was the typical WFO follow-the-leader dash on the endlessly winding roads of the lower Alps Maritimes. My eyes were nailed as wide open as the throttle the entire time, and I never really settled into the seat.
Similarly there wasn’t an opportunity to try the passenger seat, though it, too, seems well padded and wide enough with large grab handles, and the saddlebag shape provides good legroom. Up front the functional windscreen adjusts up or down 2.4 inches with one hand, and with the screen up, air is routed around the rider’s torso without entirely isolating him from the breeze.
The window into the Veloce’s brain is an easily read 5-inch TFT backlit display front and center in the cockpit that the rider can use to monitor and change all of the bike’s many switchable functions from the handgrips, as well as a speedometer, tach, gear indicator, fuel gauge, clock and tripmeters. Three preset engine modes—Sport, Touring and Rain—adjust power output and the 8-level traction control accordingly, and there’s a user-settable custom mode as well. MV has gone a bit further by also offering in-depth customization of the engine torque curve (two levels), rev limiter cut-in (hard or soft), sensitivity of the ride-by-wire throttle (three levels), engine braking and engine response (two levels each). Apparently working the buttons and menus requires more lucidity than my jet-lagged brain was able to deliver, but I did like the idea of adjustable engine braking—imagine being able to dial-out the dreaded passenger helmet bonk when you snap the throttle closed….
For the time being, I was satisfied with learning how to switch engine modes on the fly, which is easily done from the hand grips and avails the rider of all 110 horsepower in Sport mode; 90 fuel-saving and more softly delivered fillies in Touring; and 80 ginger little ponies as well as maximum traction control in Rain. The beauty of this bike/engine combination is its broad torque curve for touring (though it does need some revs to pull away from a stop) and growling ferocious acceleration for taking advantage of the bike’s sporty light weight and handling. It can get a bit buzzy in the seat at times, but otherwise the Veloce engine is all about 3-cylinder smoothness combined with a healthy top-end kick. Our test bikes were also equipped with MV’s quick up- and downshifter, so we could skip using the clutch lever above 15 mph, a real joy in certain traffic situations and corners.
Brembo Monobloc 4-piston radial opposed calipers up front and a 2-piston opposed caliper in back are combined with Nissin master cylinders, which gives a nice progressive yet strong feel at the lever, though the rear pedal had too much travel. Switchable (on or off) anti-lock brakes include Bosch Rear Lift Mitigation, and there’s plenty more electronic wizardry to master, such as on-board Bluetooth for hands-free communication integration. There’s even a GPS data acquisition system on the deluxe Turismo Veloce Lusso model for tracking your route and perhaps sharing it with others, just in case your smartphone hasn’t done so already.
Kidding aside, even at $18,998 the Lusso may be the plum, since it also includes a centerstand and heated grips that are otherwise optional, and electronic semi-dynamic Sachs suspension based on the Skyhook principle, as originally used by Ducati on the Multistrada. The Lusso wasn’t quite ready for this launch, however—hopefully we’ll be able to get one for a full review in the near future.
In the meantime, the standard model is by no means lacking in the suspension department, with a fully adjustable Marzocchi USD 43mm fork that has a generous 6.3 inches of travel, and a fully adjustable Sachs single rear reservoir shock on the single-sided swingarm with a remote preload adjuster and 6.5 inches of travel. The suspension is taut yet compliant and responsive, even after we firmed up the rebound damping a bit beyond standard to account for my recent dietary indiscretions. With all of that suspension travel you’d think perhaps MV saw some dirt in the Veloce’s future, and in fact the bike comes mounted with Pirelli Scorpion Trail tires in 120/70 and 190/55 widths, but with their 17-inch diameters this touring bike just isn’t suited to more than graded dirt roads. It does steer very quickly yet is plenty stable—in fact I’d like to try it with some stickier pure-street rubber, as the Trails didn’t deliver a fully planted feel on the well-worn roads of Southern France.
Lots of nice goodies on the standard bike include cruise control, two 5V USB and two 12V power outlets, full LED lighting with an automatic daytime running light and adjustable levers. A top case, larger windscreen, tankbag and comfort seat are under development. Fuel economy is only displayed on the Lusso, but the bike should offer plenty of range from 5.8 gallons of 88 minimum octane fuel. We didn’t ride far enough to fill-up, but you can bet we’re looking forward to running lots of gas through this touring MV Agusta stateside as veloce as we can.