Our review series of naked Euro litre bikes continues with the new Brutale 920.
Our old friends at Southern Cross have recently taken on the mantle of London’s MV Centre. Best known for their long standing relationship with Aprilia – which ended when Piaggio decided to ‘re-structure’ their UK operation – Don and the chaps have earned a reputation for technical expertise, being called upon to step in when other dealers have cried enough with errant mechanical issues. They also tell it like it is, so when Don told me that the 920 really was as good as the UK bike press reckoned, I booked myself in for a session aboard MV’s entry level model. That still means ten grand down, by the way, but for MV that is budget territory.
The motor is a sleeved version of the 990 Brutale (there is also the 1090RR daddy): why is it that Italian manufacturers are so enamoured with cluttering up their range? This practice definitely assisted with Morini’s most recent demise, according to their UK importer. Two Brutales, I get. But three?
Either way, the less oversquare version of the four pot motor pays off, because in a number of incarnations the Agusta gained a reputation for being very rev hungry, not necessarily a positive characteristic in a naked bike. The 920 has plenty of grunt: I found power delivery to be seamless, reports of the occasional hesitation notwithstanding. But the top end is still very much part of the 920s appeal: the motor has simply added tractability to its impressive list of attributes. The notion of budget is comparative when you’re talking MV: Marzocchi, Brembo with Nissin radial master cylinder, and a quality Sachs shock. Another surprise: an MV with an excellent standard suspension set up (for a 12 stone rider). Adjustment was unnecessary, and the bike dealt with the worst excesses of ‘traffic calming’ with aplomb.
Most welcome was the combination of agility in town and stability on faster bends, assisted by a very neutral ride position, biased towards sitting on rather than in. Looks wise the standard silencers have a typical Brutale sweep, although for audi-visual reasons I’d love to see them minus the protruding baffles; and the paint job – a restricted of semi matt black or white – looked a bit thin, but to be honest I’d sooner see the cosmetic aspect compromised for price than any of the running gear. Standard Pirelli Angels were better than I expected, but then again it was the hottest October day on record, which may well have assisted the Sports Tourer orientated rubber.
In bg’s series of reviews of litre naked bikes, we’ve excluded the most expensive and concentrated on what we believe to be the heart of the European offering – the Speed Triple, the Tuono V4 APARC, the MV 920, the KTM Superduke and the Ducati Monster 1100 evo (the last two are due for bg evaluation in the next couple of weeks). What is already apparent is how astonishingly high the bar has been set. For all their qualities, their predecessors (Tuono mk1, 955/1050 Speed Trips, early Superdukes and so on) have been left in the dust by the current crop. It’s not just about power: it’s about refinement of delivery, in terms of overall ride experience. The 920 is so much better than earlier Brutale incarnations – in the same way that the current Speed is different class to the earlier 1050. Separating those two is going to be a very tough call, one which may come down to a subjective preference for three or four cylinders. The front runners are that close. That a firm drenched in exotica like MV may have struck gold with their cheapest bike is an irony, but one which would amuse their presiding spirit – Claudio Castiglioni, RIP.