Thank EU emissions regulations for forcing Yamaha to update their triple-engined naked. New gadgets abound, but does the 2017 MT-09 still represent stonking bang-for-buck?
Why Upgrade the MT-09?
Why are we in Mallorca at the beginning of December to test an updated MT-09, just nine months after the 2016 model hit showroom floors? Euro 4 regulations is the simple answer, but it's not the whole story. To push ahead of competition, Yamaha has taken the opportunity to fettle its 113bhp with new looks, customisable suspension, and gadgets to keep gear changes as unfussy as possible.
They're releasing their 2017 price before the competition as well, confident that other manufacturers will find it hard to do better. Is it surprising, then, that it's gone up by £450 to a total of £7799? On paper, the answer is no. The weak pound aside, the addition of a quickshifter and Assist & Slipper clutch alone might validate the higher price of admission. But do these bits of kit actually improve the ride? It's a surprisingly sunny December morning, the sun tracing low in the blue sky, and I'm racing between villages on Mallorca's Ma-15 to find out.
Reviewing the MT-09 in Mallorca
Riding past farm animals grazing on threadbare hedges, I think back over the bike's recent history. Yamaha's 847cc triple cylinder MT-09 was first released back in 2013. It's not surprising the reviewers fell in love with the torquey motor, responsive geometry and low price tag. Much to the outrage of other manufacturers, the bike's launch video even included a little wheelie. But a snatchy throttle thanks to aggressive fuel injection, hard seat, and budget suspension stopped the first bike short of greatness. The next year saw revised fuelling maps released by Yamaha and the updated 2016 model's fuelling was tweaked yet again. Traction control with also given an extra setting, so that involuntary instances of front wheel elevation could be admired without having to switch off the system completely.
The last unchecked box on Yamaha's to-do list might have been the suspension. The new machine swaps out its rear shock for the item previously found on the XJR900 and gains compression adjustment in the left fork leg. The bike I'm riding has had its suspension fiddled with. It's now harder than standard all round. It feels tight and controlled, but without much give from the rear shock: stock preload is good enough for my 65kg frame. I pause to wind it off. Ah, comfort. Now the rear bows like a good butler under harsh acceleration. It's better than previous models, but still lacks the connection with the front tyre that comes with more premium set-ups.
Taking a break, I squint critically at the redesigned MT. Panels have had a subtle redesign and twin air intakes along the tank have got larger but still don't lead to anywhere important. The shortened subframe oozes cool when twinned with tyre-hugging numberplate, and there's a slight whiff of MV Agusta Brutale about the result. Up front, LED eyes wink within their rectangular housings, two bulbs on low beam, and four on high. The lights are all very MT-10, but the danger of copying the big brother's looks so closely is that you are constantly compared to him. I think the bolder, heavier set MT-10 glare beats young Sonny-Jim the Upstart any day of the week.
New Gadgets and Gizmos
On the move, we're firing our MTs along slim straights, winding them through tight corners, and blasting over the odd bridge. This stop-start riding requires constant gear changes. Clutch lever action is a claimed 20% lighter than last year, and it's light enough not to irritate. But I soon learn not to bother with it on upshifts – the included-as-standard quickshifter is simply a laugh a minute. Pin the throttle and tap, tap, tap. The mad, thrusting motor is simply unleashed in all its barking glory. Wow. So the 2017 bike manages to deal with Euro 4 pretty well, then! Changing down into a corner I find the clutch's 'slipper' action hard to notice. Even without throttle blipping, the gear changes can't be called smooth. The slipping's there, but you need to work hard to uncover it.
Clocking in at £7799 is an impressive achievement for a bike now carrying so many add-ons. The ABS, electronics and gadgets improve any spirited ride, and other historical issues have been cleaned up too: a redesigned seat is now 13mm longer than before despite the smaller subframe, the dash is placed forward to reduce viewing angle, and electronics settings are now remembered when the bike is turned off. For the moment, these changes are keeping the MT-09, and its glorious three-cylinder engine, in front of the competition.
Review Score: 9/10
2017 MT-09 Technical Specifications
Engine 847cc, liquid-cooled, 12v triple
Torque 64.5 lb.ft
Top speed 145mph
Tank size 14 litres
Economy 42mpg (estimated)
Wet weight 193kg (claimed)
Seat height 820mm
Colours Night Fluo, Race Blue, Tech Black
Test Ride the New MT-09 Today
Interested in experiencing an MT-09 at first hand? Then head over to your local Yamaha dealership and book a test ride now. Here's a list of the Yamaha dealers in and around Hertfordshire:
Del Basso Bros [http://dealer.yamaha-motor.co.uk/delbasso/]
Address: 14 Bucklersbury, Hitchin, Hertfordshire, SG5 1BB
Tel: 01462 432165
Moores Motorcycles [http://www.mooresmotorcycles.co.uk/]
Address: London Road, Apsley, Hemel Hempstead, HP3 9SX
Tel: 01442 252601
Waltham Cross Motorcycles [http://dealer.yamaha-motor.co.uk/walthamcross/]
Address: 333-335 Fore Street, Edmonton, London, N9 0PD
Tel: 01992 625173