With a 675cc triple engine that boasts an incredibly large bore and small stroke, not to mention an electronics package that is far more advanced than any other sports 600, the F3 should, on paper at least, decimate the opposition. No other 600 has traction control or variable engine braking. In fact, no other production motorcycle (you can't buy Yamaha's YZR-M1) has a counter-rotating crank like the F3. When it comes to technology the F3 moves the supersport class another giant leap forward in much the same way the BMW S1000RR did in the 1.0-litre bike class.
This, along with its knockout beauty, is why so many, myself included, were so excited about the launch of the F3. I'll be honest, I was actually more looking forward to riding the F3 than I was the Ducati Panigale...
I've spent a long time drooling over the F3 at bike shows. Not only was the Italian model at the Milan bike show simply stunning (check out the pic for evidence) the bike itself is fantastic. Away from the spotlight, and with only my dog as a comparison model, the F3 still looks gorgeous. It sums up everything wonderful about Italian design (although it was actually styled by a Brit, Adrian Morton) with its graceful yet aggressive lines. I could look at it all day, which is handy because as it transpires riding it all day isn't half as pleasing.
Fire up the F3 and it sounds stunning. A bit raw and rough, but I like that in a bike. It doesn't have the same engine note as a Triumph Daytona and is altogether more aggressive and purposeful. Blip the throttle and the revs ride and fall with serious haste, giving an indication as to the motor's character, the F3 has virtually no engine inertia and feels as if it is lacking a flywheel it picks up so quickly. Slip it into first and away we go.
Up the pace and the F3 changes character completely. The chassis is superb, far sportier than a Japanese 600 with a precise and accurate feel. Oddly I didn't find the riding position that uncomfortable - naturally the seat is lacking in padding, the mirrors are crap and the motor vibrates a bit, but despite being sporty the F3 isn't overly cramped.
But it isn't half as annoying as the 'backing-in control' which opens the throttle butterflies and, alarmingly, gives the impression the bike is accelerating into slow corners or roundabouts. It may be the most advanced supersport bike when it comes to electronics, but they nigh-on ruin the F3. Who needs traction control on a 600?
Rough diamond or just plain rough?
We wanted to like the F3, we really did. It is stunning to look at and unbelievably clever technology-wise - but the simple fact is that doesn't feel finished. Riding the F3 on the road is a pain and you get the feeling that, unless you are 100 per cent on it, you are contstantly embroiled in a fight against its irritations. On a dry track the chassis, amazing brakes and rev-happy motor make it a joy, on the road these same things make it a pain. The electronics are a hindrance more than a help (the new fuel map may go some way to curing this but we're not convinced). In all honesty, I'd rather have a Triumph than the MV. Beauty is one thing, but when beauty is only skin deep it soon wears thin...
MV Agusta F3
Engine: 675cc, liquid-cooled triple, DOHC, fuel injection
Power: 118hp at 14,200rpm
Torque: 46lb ft at 10,000 lb ft
Top Speed: 158mph (est)
Weight: 173kg (dry)
MPG: 35mpg (est)