First ride: MV Agusta Turismo Veloce 800 review

It's the smaller Multistrada Ducati should be making

THE President of MV Agusta made an interesting admission at the launch of the Turismo Veloce 800. Actually he made two.

The first was that MV Agusta owners who want to ride every day get another bike to do it on. In a press conference, Giovanni Castiglioni said: 'If MV is like a Ferrari, you can have it in your garage but to use every day you have a different bike.

'Now you can have two MVs,' he added.

Castiglioni meant that MV owners could now get a Turismo Veloce 800 as their second bike to ride every day, instead of a machine from a different manufacturer. 

With the new model, MV hopes to take customers away from the Ducati Multistrada 1200, Triumph Tiger 800 XRx and 1200 Explorer, and BMW's R1200 GS and forthcoming S1000XR.

It uses MV's 798cc three-cylinder F3 engine, like the Stradale and Brutale 800s, de-tuned from its 148hp potential to 110hp and 61lbft. That's quite a lot down on the Multistrada's 160hp and 100lbft, even if the MV’s dry weight is a claimed 18kg less, at 191kg.

It's bad news in a game of Top Trumps but not so much when you're riding. The harvest of de-tuning an engine is in the spread of torque and that's where the Turismo Veloce excels.

According to MV it makes 90% of maximum torque from 3,000rpm. After riding the bike 150 miles at the launch in the south of France I am willing to vouch for the claim. The drive pours out from way down in the range.

First shown in 2013, the launch of the Turismo Veloce 800 was somewhat overdue and work on the project still seems to be ongoing. There's going to be a 'Lusso' edition with semi-active electronic suspension, a feature of the Multistrada S. Cornering ABS, which lets you grab a handful of brake cranked over, may also come according to MV. It’s standard on all versions of the Multistrada.

In the meantime the base edition of the Turismo Veloce 800 – the one I rode – is no place for a technophobe. It’s got a hydraulic slipper-clutch, quick-shifter, cruise-control, Bluetooth connectivity, eight-stage traction control with ride-by-wire throttle, and four riding modes. You also get two 12-volt power sockets and two five-volt USB sockets.

The ride-by-wire throttle response is as smooth as spilt oil and with that wonderful spread of torque you needn't care about what gear you're in as it pulls you from one corner to the next. Leave it in third to make effortless work of going fast. When you do change down, the slipper clutch does a beautiful job of softening the engine braking that could otherwise lock the rear.

I raved about the Multistrada after riding it at the launch and I do think it is a very highly accomplished machine. But I have a suspicion that the average rider, like me, will be faster on the Turismo Veloce 800. 

The Ducati's higher peak figures are only an advantage when I'm using them, which is at a relatively small proportion of my time on the bike. Bendy roads reward the smooth riding made easy by a generous spread of torque, and this is what the MV provides in abundance.

There’s a good peak to explore when you want to, with power building linearly toward the 11,000rpm red line, but it’s possibly best enjoyed at around 5,000, sweeping from bend to bend.

It's feels compact and quick to change direction on winding curves, with good levels of grip from the Pirelli Scorpion Trail tyres. The Sachs suspension consists of an upside-down fork with rebound-compression damping and spring preload external and separate adjustment; and a progressive shock with rebound and compression damping and spring preload adjustment. It feels taught and well-damped, not allowing too much pitch and roll, but compliant enough to cover long distances in comfort.

This is firmly at the sporty end of the adventure bike spectrum. Actually I'm not sure I should use the term 'adventure' at all. Refreshingly, MV didn't, instead saying it was the firm's first tourer.

'Turismo Veloce' translates as fast tourer. In terms of product description the name would satisfy Ronseal. 

Like the Multistrada, it has strayed from the adventure bike brief to become something brilliant: a comfortable sports bike.

It's the smaller Multistrada that Ducati doesn't currently make and, like the Monster 821 to the 1200, it could be a better, more usable machine for many riders.

I’d been enjoying that torque and slipper-clutch for about an hour when someone reminded me the Turismo Veloce had a quick-shifter, and I thought I’d better try it. If all you’re riding life you’ve been using a clutch then it feels a bit unnatural to just stop, but it becomes intuitive very quickly. Without closing the throttle, hook the next gear and it shifts up with almost no interruption in drive. Downshifts with the throttle closed are just as smooth, reducing potential for helmet bashing with a pillion.

Soon I was only using the clutch to pull away. Here it felt a bit vague, the biting point hard to detect, so I found myself over-revving to avoid stalling. I got a better feel for it as the day went on.

Quick-shifting down while hard on the brakes wasn’t always quite so smooth, occasionally resulting in a jolt of forward pitch, as if the various ABS and traction control electronic systems where confusing each other.

Generally the brakes are superb, with all the power you could need from the twin front 320mm discs and radial-mounted four-piston Brembo calipers.

The riding modes are Sport, Touring and Rain, giving a progressively softer throttle response. A fourth ‘Custom’ mode lets you choose your own settings for throttle response, engine braking and maximum torque and revs.

With such a smooth throttle response anyway, I was happiest enjoying the full potential of Sport mode, with no particular urge to soften anything.

When you do want to change modes, the Turismo Veloce makes it easier than any other bike I’ve ridden. Press a button on the right bar (the same one used to start the engine) and the colour thin-film dash tells you what mode you’re in. Press it again to select the next mode. Keep pressing until it shows the mode you want, then just stop and wait a couple seconds for it to actually change, with no need to close the throttle, pull in the clutch or any other silly business.

Not everything is so easily fathomable. After lunch I got on a bike that someone else had been riding earlier on, and after a couple of miles noticed the ABS light was on. Some button pressing clarified the ABS was off. In the process of trying to switch it back on, I established the traction control was also off. I soon gave up trying to switch either back on, realising that if anything would make me crash it would be the distraction of navigating unfamiliar menus, not the absence of electronic intervention.

Chief designer Adrian Morton says that quite late on in development there was a change in direction, as the realisation dawned that the focus was wrong, too much on aggressive performance and not enough ‘tuned to the rider’. Hence the long wait for this machine’s arrival.

I suppose it is the change of focus that is to thank for things like a reasonably comfortable-looking pillion seat, and an exhaust note that’s quiet by Italian standards.

There’s an adjustable screen, moved up and down by 60mm using a pinch-and-slide handle. You can do it with one hand while riding but it was made awkward on the machines at the launch because the handle was behind a bar on which the optional Garmin sat nav was mounted.

At 5’9”, I found the 850mm seat height on the parameters of practical. With both feet on the ground I was on tiptoes. Easier to put one whole foot down.

Some of the machines on the test ride were also fitted with the optional panniers, both big enough for a full-face helmet and yet with a total width of just 810mm. It means the Turismo Veloce’s widest point, of 900mm, remains at the mirrors. So if they pass through a gap, the rest will follow.

It’s been done by simply putting the pannier’s close together, and that has been permitted by the compact triple-silencer exhaust and that skeletal-like tail unit, which isn’t actually a tail unit at all but a beautiful bare aluminium sub-frame. For once I won’t complain about the lack of an under-seat compartment.

Like the tail unit of the Ducati 916, or single-sided swing-arms, it seems like a design turning point. Expect more bikes to have bits you can see through soon.

The Turismo Veloce might not have the opinion-unifying beauty of a Panigale, but it leaves no doubt that you’re looking at something special, created by love rather than market forces. It's nice to know designer Adrian Morton is from Norwich.   

The last time I rode an MV, some years ago, I got my thumbs trapped between the bars and tank on full lock. I partly expected to find features of the Turismo Veloce 800 that seemed half finished. At one point, one of the bikes wouldn’t start and I thought, ‘Here we go.’ But it turned out this was because the side-stand wasn’t quite fully folded. The panniers lacked a rubber seal, suggesting they might not be waterproof, but otherwise I could see no rough edges.

Starting from £11,899 plus on-the-road charges, a grand less than the cheapest Multistrada, the Turismo Veloce 800 is the first MV I would actually consider buying with my own money, had I enough. It is the MV that I could use every day. So it’s interesting that the firm effectively dismisses me as a customer.

As a historical buyer of Japanese bikes I’m also tempted by Yamaha’s MT-09 Tracer, at just £8,149 on-the-road. As such, Castiglioni sees me as not the sort of customer MV needs to attract. That’s the second interesting admission he made in the presentation.

He said of the Tracer: ‘We don’t believe it’s a competitor of MV because it’s a completely different type of customer. We are a premium product.’

Castiglioni said that 19 new MV models were planned, including four next year, another four in 2017 and three in 2018. There will be a ‘completely new four-cylinder platform that will come in the near future,’ he said. With the partnership of Mercedes-AMG behind it, the future for the marque looks promising.

But I wonder whether it could be brighter if MV stopped dismissing the Japanese as competition. I doubt Ducati does. If the firm can tempt one customer away from the Tracer, surely it should aim to? The Turismo Veloce seems to have a chance, even with the price difference.

Model tested: MV Agusta Turismo Veloce 800

Engine: 798cc triple

Price: £11,899 plus on-the-road charges

Power: 110hp @ 10,000rpm

Torque: 61.2lbft @ 6,250rpm

Dry weight: 191kg

Top speed (claimed): 143mph

Tank capacity: 22 litres

Seat height: 850mm

Colours: red, grey

Watch our video review of the Turismo Veloce 800

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