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SO MUCH excitement surrounded the launch of MV Agusta's supersport F3.

Here was a stunning supersport bike with unprecedented technology for the class.

The 675cc, three-cylinder engine is the most compact in the class, and most powerful too belting out 126bhp.

The electronic package features advanced eight-level traction control, launch control, antiwheelie, electronic engine braking control and quick shift gear changing with ride-by-wire throttle and variable power maps.

The engine also has a counter-rotating crankshaft, like Yamaha's MotoGP M1, to give the 170kg machine extra agility in the corners. And state-of-the-art Brembo radial brakes promise to stop the bike fast.

Three-cylinder 675cc engines are allowed to race alongside 600cc four-cylinder machines in the supersport class, hence the choice of capacity - the same as Triumph's successful 675cc three-cylinder Daytona.

But MV Agusta launched the bike before the engine was ready, so although it handled a dream, there were problems with a spluttering power delivery.

Before it hit the dealers they gave it a new engine map that supposedly sorted the problem, but the damage was done - they should have never released the bike before it was perfect.

Still, I rode one of the models with a new map round Lincolnshire's Cadwell Park circuit and its surrounding winding roads to see how much of an improvement it is.

The styling is unmistakably MV Agusta, with its sleek bodywork, tubular trellis farm, single sided swingarm and triple stubby side-exiting exhausts.

No wonder it was voted the most beautiful bike of last year's Milan show, although be sure to get the red and silver version as the sleek lines are somewhat lost on the pearly white version I'm riding.

As I swing a leg over I'm surprised at how super-skinny this MV feels; it's like my knees are about to touch each other.

The F3 feels much taller than in looks, at 5ft 6ins I'm practically on tiptoes, but it's also spacious for a supersport.

I hit the starter and a gorgeous three-cylinder rasp emanates from the engine, then the clutch bites unexpectedly early and I almost stall. The merest twist of the throttle sends the revs soaring - this fly-by-wire has no cables, unlike the one on the Yamaha R6 that provides more resistance and feel. Unlike the Triumph's Daytona 675 - the MV's direct comparison - there's nothing there until 6,000rpm, then the midrange comes in strongly and it takes off like a missile.

That huge rush of power tails off a bit before the 15,000rpm rev line, leaving me wondering whether the midrange only feels that strong because there's nothing much elsewhere in the range, with the bottom end especially weak.

The ultra-sensitive throttle is just as unpredictable going down the gearbox, with a tiny blip of the throttle again shooting the revs way higher than you'd want.

Still, the induction roar is superb and this makes that hard acceleration from the midrange onwards more exciting than ever.

And the handling, well that's out of this world. The steering is intuitive and agile and the F3 switches direction quickly with very little physical input.

It feels planted on the brakes and into the turns, although it can get loose and flappy under hard acceleration and on bumpy surface. The Brembo brakes are brilliant too - a small amount of lever pressure gives instant bite and feel.

The mirrors are good for inspecting your elbows and a small amount of whatever is behind you, and they vibrate badly. There are a lot of vibrations through the pegs as well, adding to the raw and unrefined feel of the engine.

MV Agusta's F3 is on the cusp of being a dream supersport machine.

It looks fantastic with dream handling and outstanding technology - if only they could sort once and for all the engine's odd performance.

FACTS AND FIGURES [c] Price: pounds 9,999 [c] Engine: In-line three cylinder, liquid cooled, DOHC 12v, 675cc [c] Performance: 126bhp @ 14,400rpm, 52lb.ft @ 10,600rpm [c] Transmission: Six gears, chain final drive [c] Chassis: tubular steel/cast aluminium sideplates [c] Seat height: 31.7in (805mm) [c] Wheelbase: 54.3in (1380mm) [c] Tank capacity: 16 litres [c] Weight: 173kg dry.
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Copyright 2012 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Aug 17, 2012
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