2008 Piaggio MP3 500 – SFGate | Motorcycles catalog with specifications, pictures, ratings, reviews and discusssions

2008 Piaggio MP3 500 – SFGate

10 Feb 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on 2008 Piaggio MP3 500 – SFGate
Piaggio MP3 400 Sport

2008 Piaggio MP3 500

Many dyed-in-the-wool motorcyclists would rather undergo a root canal than to be seen tooling about on a scooter, but the tiny two-wheelers are gaining in popularity. And with fuel costs continuing to rise, the time couldn’t be more right to dispel the notion that scooters are uncool.

Scooters range from retro types available in various styles and displacements from 50cc up to 250cc, to hot rod maxi scooters that more closely resemble sport bikes, with models powered by engines ranging from 250cc to 650cc or more. There are scooters with small wheels and tires, as well as big-wheeled examples. An while most scooters roll on two wheels, some more-innovative models sport three.

Piaggio, the Italian company most noted for the legendary and beloved classic Vespa. has come up with a totally innovative concept in a three-wheeled scooter called the MP3. The MP3 debuted last year as a 250cc scooter that traveled on two wheels up front and one wheel aft.

The uniqueness of the original MP3 came from the fact that the front wheels formed a parallelogram composed of four aluminum arms supporting two steering tubes in a cantilevered suspension, featuring an electro-hydraulic suspension locking system with 3.35 inches of travel. The two front wheels are actually articulated, allowing the scooter to lean into turns in much the same fashion as a conventional motorcycle does. The rear wheel is integrated via the oscillating engine fixed to the frame by a swingarm setup and two dual-effect hydraulic shock absorbers with four-piston spring preload and 4.33 inches of travel.

Piaggio has expanded its MP3 lineup to the maxi-scooter level for model year 2008, including both a 400cc model and a race-inspired 500cc model, further progressing their self-proclaimed three-wheeled personal transportation revolution. The MP3 500ie model is the three-wheeler for those who want to stand out from the crowd, or at least to keep up with the motorcycling crowd. It features both aggressive styling and performance in one machine that projects a somewhat sinister appearance, especially when finished in Demon Black (the other available color is called Passion Red).

Power for the MP3 500ie comes from a 492.7cc, single-cylinder, liquid-cooled, SOHC 4-valve Master 4-stroke engine with double ignition, featuring electronic inductive discharge and variable spark advance in an electronic unit with an electronic immobilizer; fuel pump shutoff in case the bike tips over; two spark plugs; and an electric starter. The engine generates 40 horsepower (at the crankshaft) at 7,250 rpm and 31 pound-feet of torque at 5,500 rpm. The engine mates to a Twist-and-Go continuously variable transmission, with the final motive force delivered to the rear wheel via a driveshaft.

The wheelbase and length overall of the 500cc model exceeds that of the 250 by 2.4-inches and 1-inch respectively, while the MP3 400 has the same wheelbase as the 500 and is 0.8-inches longer overall. The 500 appears to actually be considerably longer, but also seems to condense the rider’s space and underseat storage due to the increase in engine size. The MP3 400cc model obviously offers less power than the 500, but offers more underseat storage space – room for up to two full-face helmets, though extra-large full-face helmets may pose a challenge fitting in.

The entire Piaggio MP3 lineup makes riding easier than ever before by providing increased stability, particularly at lower speeds. When coming to a stop, the suspension lock lamp begins to flash at three miles per hour, allowing the rider to manually lock the suspension, eliminating the need to put a foot down for balance. A cautionary note here: Make sure that the bike is totally upright and that the wheels are pointed straight ahead or they will lock in an awkward leaning position.

When starting up again, the suspension automatically unlocks without touching the switch. Parking is also a breeze thanks to the combination of the suspension lock and parking brake.

Visually, the MP3 500 displays a more aggressive persona, even when parked, with its double steel tube bumper, featuring sleek black handlebars and black, 10-spoke alloy wheel rims. The five-lamp headlight arrangement not only looks good, it is highly functional, and the two largest lamps are covered by off-road-type shockproof covers. The front fairing provides aerodynamic efficiency, while the wide floorboard serves as a comfortable footrest.

The two-level seat is generously sized, accommodating both a rider and passenger. The look of the MP3 400 is not as bold or aggressive, but more contemporary. The 400cc model’s base price is $8,699, and color availability includes Cortina Gray and Midnight Blue. The 500cc MP3 adds another $200 to the base price.

The MP3 250 starts at $7,199.

Both the MP3 400cc and 500cc models are as stylish as they are affordable and can handle short trips, heavy commuting or long, pleasurable rides equally well.

Acceleration is more than adequate in both the 400cc and 500cc MP3s, and the large 240mm triple-steel disc brakes can bring the scooters to halt in 20 percent less distance than the best-in-class two-wheeled scooters. On the low end, the power difference between the two isn’t really noticeable, but the MP3 500 shines in the higher rev range.

I spent the majority of my time on the MP3 500, which is both quick and comfortable, though long rides begged for a longer floorboard for optimum comfort – I found the forward portion of the stepped riser seat to be a bit on the abbreviated side, forcing my knees forward toward the dash or fairing, and limiting foot room on the board area. But for the amount of fun involved, you readily adapt.

The non-self-cancelling directional signals may be an annoyance for those around you, should you forget to turn them off after making your move. Another small issue is the highly reflective glass covering the gauges in the instrument panel, which can be problematic for the rider if he is at a disagreeable angle in bright sunlight.

Piaggio MP3 400 Sport
Piaggio MP3 400 Sport

All MP3s are freeway legal. There is no foot brake as with a motorcycle, but rather two hand-brake levers, one on each handle bar, the left taking the place of the nonexistent clutch. The dual front wheels create a slightly different riding sensation. Stability is increased during lower speed maneuvering, but higher speed turns yield a unique level of balance, unlike that experienced on more traditional two-wheeled rides.

For the beginning rider, this should prove to be a non-issue, and may even prove to be easier.

A host of accessories are available to make sure that every MP3 meets the needs of the rider. These include a tall windscreen, a rear top box or tour pack for storing additional gear and Tom-Tom navigation.

2008 Piaggio MP3 500

Base price: $8,899

Price as tested: $8,999

Engine/transmission: 492.7cc, 40 horsepower, single-cylinder, liquid-cooled, 4-valve Master 4-stroke; Twist and Go CVT

Final drive: shaft

Tires: front, Michelin Pilot Sport SC 120/70-12; rear, Michelin Gold Standard 140/70-14

Piaggio MP3 400 Sport
Piaggio MP3 400 Sport
Piaggio MP3 400 Sport
Piaggio MP3 400 Sport
Piaggio MP3 400 Sport
Piaggio MP3 400 Sport


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