THE BRUTALE 800 Dragster was, well, unexpected. It seems to sit in a slightly odd place in MV Agusta’s range, but before judging this book by its extremely pretty cover, it’s best to ride it.
Technically, the Dragster is almost identical to the Brutale 800, with the exception of the broader rear wheel and tyre, which in turn affects the handling. The handlebars are adjustable and the bike has some minor cosmetic changes. Like the Rivale, the Dragster also benefits from updated software which improves the previously flawed ride-by-wire engine mapping system. It has a quick-shifter, traction control and ABS as standard, as is the case for the 2014 Brutale 800 and F3 models.
Considering the £10,999 Dragster is roughly 90% Brutale, a bike that is substantially cheaper at £9,799, the price difference between the models seems a little extreme until you look closer. Everything is exquisitely finished, from the stickers to the new, ultimately unchanged but more attractively presented dashboard.
The improvements to the engine mapping are instantly noticeable. The bike potters smoothly at slow speeds and without the inconsistent spluttering of the first Brutale. It doesn’t lurch erratically when you hold the revs at a steady 4,000 rpm and you can now pull away from a standstill in total confidence that the bike won’t capitulate.
There are also several engine modes to choose from; ‘normal’ suits the majority of situations, ‘sport’ is more aggressive and ‘rain’ is the gentler option. Thankfully it now has a far more predictable power delivery than the standard Brutale. These improvements might seem slight but they transform the experience from being so annoying you’d rather take the bus, to really quite enjoyable.
Despite its namesake, the Dragster is no match for the real sprint monsters in this genre like Ducati’s Diavel or Yamaha’s VMAX, but it can successfully wrench your arms from their sockets and spontaneously send the front wheel skywards in response to a second gear snatch of the throttle.
MV Agusta has also made a significant improvement to the gearbox. Previously, the quick-shifter didn’t completely cut the power, so there was always some degree of tension on the gearbox. Gear changes were snatchy and unpredictable, and the gearbox often suffered as a result of the frequent mistakes. Now, with the power completely cut, gear changes are smooth and precise and you feel like the bike is working with you rather than against you.
Comfort wise, it’s all positive too. There is ample leg room and the sporty riding position sticks your torso into the heart of the action. It is still an MV though. So although the Dragster has a relatively practical 16.6-litre tank, it’s not a comfortable tourer or a bike that you would happily recommend to a novice.
Just like the Brutale 675 and 800, the Dragster needs a little persuasion to stay glued to its line in slow corners. You need to assert your authority and pressure on the inside bar and use your body weight to keep it in check through the twisties. The wider rear tyre doesn’t help matters and if the road is anything but perfectly paved, you’ll know about it. It’s not easy to ride both quickly and smoothly but it’s better balanced and hits its mark with more accuracy than the Brutale or the Rivale.
It’s a shame that MV Agusta didn’t invest more of their budget in top quality suspension (and simple throttle cables) the first time round, because the handling is still the weakest area. The Dragster is undoubtedly an improvement over the other models from the same platform, though, with looks that will tip some buyers straight into reaching for their wallets.
The Brutale 800 Dragster may not be perfect, but its superior performance and smoothness means that it should outsell the standard Brutale 800 by a significant margin. And deservedly so.
FACTS AT A GLANCE
Model: MV Agusta Brutale Dragster 800 ABS, from £10,999 on the road.
Engine: 798cc in-line three-cylinder producing 123bhp @ 11,600rpm and 60lb.ft @ 8,600rpm.
Transmission: six speed sequential manual gearbox.
Dry Weight: 167kg.
Seat Height: 811mm.
Fuel capacity: 16.6 litres.