2014 Honda VFR800F Test
Many exciting things are happening at Honda these days, and, for the multitude of VFR fans, these are the best of times.
The Interceptor has been brought back to America's shores, and this may be the machine that dyed-in-the-wool Veefer-heads have been awaiting. But other than the Interceptor moniker you will have to dig deep in sales literature to find it referred to as the VFR800F and VFR800F Deluxe. Honda now says Interceptor and utilizes the RC79 designation.
The last year the VFR was sold in the US was 2009, and the introduction of the VFR1200F in 2010 did nothing to placate those who longed for an improved version - not a whole new bike that was, arguably, only distantly related to the one they loved.
There is a reason why so many think this is one of the best bikes ever. From its race roots, the VRF has performed track duty, been your daily driver and even loved for touring.
This new VFR debuted in 2013 at the EIMCA show in Italy, and Honda states it will be a world bike. Its componentry is plainly evolved from earlier models with Honda adhering to the original design cues.
That starts with a 782cc, 90 degree, V-4 motor with new cam profiles, PGM-FI fuel injection tuning, longer intake funnels and new head porting – all in the name of better low- and mid-range power.
Changes include a weight reduction of about 20 lbs combined with many new components, features and options yet the steering geometry and chassis remain the same.
The VFR continues to use the VTEC system whereby only two of the four-valves per cylinder are active at low revs, but around 6700 RPM the second pair activate with an obvious change in the personality of the motor.
The programming for this system has been tweaked and I found that the engine delivered more power at these levels. Also, the transition to VTEC was smoother and more linear than in earlier models. The engineers have staggered the rev range that turns VTEC on and off and made the feeling more seamless.
Some of the high technology Honda has engineered into its motor includes aluminum-composite cylinder sleeves that are high-pressure-formed from sintered-aluminum powder impregnated with ceramic and graphite. This provides better wear resistance and superior heat dissipation. The cam-chain drive is a silent type, and helps to eliminate mechanical gear noise. The dual cam-chain tensioners maintain optimal pressure and lubrication for quieter operation and longer life.
The product of this endeavor is sure to please as we discovered during the 150-mile press launch ride from Temecula to Julian, Calif., on scenic and, more importantly, extremely challenging roads through gorgeous mountains and vistas.
The Interceptor moves quickly and effortlessly away from a stop with a light feel that belies its 529 to 536 (Deluxe model) lbs. curb weight. It feels much lighter, even at rest, and that is helped by bodywork that is 1.5 inches narrower and fully redesigned with the radiators now mounted in front. Added to this is the new, almost three-inch deep seat, adjustable from 31.8 down to 31 inches.
The bike feels familiar right away. The handlebars are on the narrow side. They are mounted on generous risers yet I found, even at 6-feet tall, that my seating position was definitely forward leaning, though Honda states they engineered in “upright, neutral ergonomics.” I’d opt for the optional handlebar risers (half-inch higher and a quarter-inch closer).
The VFR was planned to take mass-centralization as far as possible. The engine is mounted as a stressed member of the pivotless frame. The twin-spar chassis is unchanged but the die-cast aluminum subframe is new, replaces a steel structure and is four lbs. lighter than before. The single-can muffler helps with this cause and sheds 11 pounds in the process. It also sheds the 90s look of dual, under seat mufflers that were so “now” then and so nice to have gone now. Honda was also able to shrink the catalytic converter and move it forward; this helps better the center of gravity and move one very hot object away from the rider.
These efforts reward us as the bike is a pleasure to ride. It handles neutrally and likes to drop into turns with little effort. Management throughout the turn is easy, and the VFR will allow the pilot to tighten up the line or go around surprise obstacles with relative ease. The bike will easily carve right down to its long peg feelers.
The VFR uses Showa 43mm forks, however only the Deluxe model allows for spring preload and rebound adjustments. We find Pro-Link rear suspension with a Showa shock that also allows spring preload and rebound adjustments and, on the Deluxe model there is a remote preload adjuster.
We rode both models set at factory specs and made no changes. Without making any adjustments, I thought they both felt the same and this is not a bad thing. The front suspension offered good feedback and the rear held up well, even when pushed hard, with little or no jacking or squirm.
The new single-sided swingarm design follows the old look but is more ridged and works well with the new 10-spoke, bronze finished, fine-die cast wheels – said to be a world’s first for this method of wheel construction. Mounted on these wheels are Dunlop Sportmax D222 rubber in sizes 120/70ZR-17 and 180/55ZR-17.
Braking duties are handled by hydraulically operated (with rubber lines) dual radial-mounted Tokico 310 mm full-floating discs with 4-pot calipers and a single 256 mm disc in the rear. The brakes are not linked as they were in earlier models. They do a fine job with good initial bite and nice sensitivity. They possess a certain granularity in the feel but, everything considered, match the character and performance of the bike quite well.
The transmission is a 6-speed, close-ratio box with light hydraulic clutch actuation. The throws are very short and actuation effort is light and easy. Power is sent to the rear wheel via #525 O-ring chain.
Fueling is about perfect at all speeds. It is devoid of flat spots and does not employ an electronic throttle-by-wire system as in the past.
The VFR features a new digital speedometer and tachometer, gear-position indicator and trip computer functions like dual trip odometers, MPG indicator, outside air thermometer and clock. The headlight, taillight and accent lights are all LED illuminated. There is a color-matched seat cowl that replaces the passenger seat and grab rail for the racers out there. This cowl also increases the storage area under the back seat which contains the manual and a small tool kit.
The windscreen does an adequate job and directs most of the blast above the shoulders so that the airstream past the helmet is smooth. The fairing also functions well at cheating the wind and keeping the rider comfortable.
On this day, where temperatures rose to 95 degrees, I felt no engine heat unless waiting at a stop for stragglers - and at those times heat was not terribly noticeable and certainly was not of the sort that roast one's thighs as has been a complaint in the past.
The VFR is offered as a Standard or Deluxe model. The Deluxe includes ABS (always on), traction control (with on/off switch), adjustable front fork, remote spring preload adjuster, self-canceling turn signals (with new logic in its operation by comparing wheel speed differential), five-position grip heaters and a centerstand. To my mind this is a very generous list for the $1,000 price.
Optional accessories include: quickshifter, heated grips, centerstand, color-matched saddlebags, saddlebag liners, color-matched rear trunk, rear trunk liner, handlebar riser, rear wheel hugger, 12-volt socket, rear carrier, tank pad and backrest. Heated grips and centerstand are included on Deluxe model.
Available in red or pearl white (metallic). Transferable one-year, unlimited-mileage limited warranty; extended coverage available with a Honda Protection Plan.
2015 Honda VFR800F Interceptor Prices:
- Interceptor - base MSRP $12,499
- Interceptor DLX - base MSRP $13,499