Review: 2014 Honda VFR 800 - An Admirable Ship
Posted at 06:00:00 PM
File under Product Review Honda
Author: Loic Depailler
Location: Paris, France
Since this is a translation directly from French, some of the colloquialism may seem a bit strange at times, for which I apologize. It's not easy to translate. Any mistakes below are mine, and mine alone.
An Admirable Ship
The VFR is an inescapable icon of a category fallen in obsolesce. Too bad, because this sixth generation bike pushes to a climax the Sport-GT concept, a Swiss army knife capable of anything (good).
The Sport-GT category was more or less invented by Honda with their VFR 750. Not that there was no equivalent motorcycles before its appearance in 1986, but never before had a motorcycle managed to marry two qualities that also were diametrically opposed as linking a Paris-Marseille at an average 200 kph arriving fresh as a flower, and riding like "a fart at a time" on a secondary roads. Yes, in those days everyone passionately cared less about speed limits. Best, this VFR allowed even to compete with hard and fast sportsbikes thanks to its incredible ease of riding.
Thereafter, Honda did not want to follow with its VFR the radicalization of sportsbikes and the eternal race for more power which began in the 90s, preferring to entrust this role to its CBR family. This has not prevented the VFR from changing every four years, each time refining the original concept. In 1990, the VFR adopted a new V4 which was derived from the RC30 as well as a swingarm. The '94 version was content only with a slimming treatment and a design inspired by the NR 750 with oval pistons. The fourth generation was entitled to a new 800 cc V4 and inaugurated the first Dual CBS ABS. In 2002 finally came to the VFR, fifth of that name, a sportier design and especially inaugurating an unprecedented V-TEC distribution operating two of the four valves of each cylinder to gain low-end torque and reduce consumption. Despite a proven commercial success, this latest iteration will reap the wrath of purists and some magazines. Why? The dropping of the famous climbing distribution of the gears (deemed not usable and unbreakable) was seen as sacrilegious and the entry into operation of the V-TEC was deemed too violent by some. This was followed with a hiatus of 12 years with a V-TEC softened in operation in 2005 as the only significant change. It must be said that in the meantime, the shape of the market has changed including the explosion in demand for roadsters. In short, we imagined the VFR 800 peacefully end its career, passing the baton to its big sister, the VFR 1200, before bowing out discreetly. At least until Honda unveiled last year this 2014 vintage.
In its specifications, Honda has set two priorities for the development of this sixth generation : improving the quality at the heart of the VFR philosophy and update its technological content. It goes through a V4 optimized at the low and midrange via a new camshaft and an in-depth reworked injection. As collateral effect, the V -TEC operation is further softened in its transition between 2 and 4 valves modes. As a reminder, the VTEC switches to four valves starting at 6500 rpm. The return to "2 valves" during deceleration is made at 6200 rpm, in particular to avoid inadvertent switchovers from one mode to the other when riding at constant speed. Abandoning the 4 in 2 under the saddle in favor of a more classic 4 in 1 lowers the weight by 5 kilos while lowering the center of gravity. In numbers, this translates to 106 horsepower at 10,250 rpm and a maximum torque of 75 Nm obtained at 8500 rpm. The cooling system was also changed from two lateral radiators to a single smaller model (-2 kg) positioned at the front. Finally, the electronic hardware now includes a traction control. If it is not adjustable like on some sportsbikes, it can be disabled via a control on the handlebar. Finally, a Quickshifter (a first for Honda) to upshift on the fly without interrupting the gas is optional.
Regarding the chassis, the twin-spar aluminum frame is retained but the rear loop is redesigned and passes from steel to aluminum, all to drop 3 extra kilos, lowering the total to 239 kg fully fueled, so -10 kg is for those who have not followed the figures. Honda also states that the swingarm is new without announcing any weight loss or stiffness. Why not .... Surprising choice, Honda did not consider it necessary to transplant an inverted fork but the cartridge member is serious with its 43 mm diameter and adjustments for preload and compression. On the rear shock mounted on a connecting rod, there is a rebound adjuster complete with a preload adjustment knob transferred onto the rear left footrest. And for the cosmetic aspect, this sixth generation also introduces a classy and unheard off dress while incorporating design details of previous generations. The visual signature of the lights in X shape inaugurated on the VFR 1200 is repeated here while incorporating LED elements (another first).
At the other end, the block is one piece, integrating LED brake light and turn signals.
Another innovation unveiled on this VFR, the automatic stopping of the turn signals. This system, coupled to the ABS sensor is capable of sensing the rotation differential between the front and rear wheel in a curve, switching off the indicators when the differential returns to zero (vertical). In phases when the motorcycle takes too much angle (overtaking), the switching off is done after 120 meters when it is traveling less than 50 kph or after 7 seconds if you ride beyond that. Among the original allocation, we also note the presence of a center stand and heated grips complimented with a reminder on the dashboard of the chosen intensity.
In The Saddle
No revolution when mounting this VFR, the riding position is still of the Sport-GT type, with the chest slightly less tilted forward then with previous generations. The half-handlebars are in fact raised 13 mm and 6.5 mm closer. If necessary, optional plates enable an even more relaxed position (13.5 mm in height and 6.5 mm closer). The saddle height is also adjustable on two levels, 789 or 809 mm. The lower position allows for a 1.70 m biker to put, legs straight, both heels on the ground. To go from one height to the other you will need to wrench a bit, and especially equip yourself with an Allen wrench, not included in the toolkit. Without going too much into details, this operation takes a bit more than 5 minutes and requires to handling six screws after removing the pillion saddle. As an upscale model, we have the right to a hydraulic clutch and adjustable 5 notches levers.
The dashboard consists of a large central rev counter surrounded by two backlit LCD screens. On the left, speed and fuel gauge. On the right, a gear indicator, odometer or two partial trip, outside temperature, time and average consumption and the level of intensity of the heated grips.
The overall finish is very high level: pearlescent paint (for the white version), cables well hidden, perfect welds, bronze finish handlebar and engine crankcases ... If we want to quibble, we can find that the exhaust is a little too basic for a Premium stamped motorcycle, but there is all you need in the options catalog to repair this "oversight". Pressing the starter and the V4 distills its inimitable sound immediately. A joy compared to the mundane sound of multiple 4 in-line engine bikes found on the marketplace! Without being ear-splitting, the vocals are present from very low revs, punctuated with flatulence each time you throttle back. Better, a valve in the air box is activated when you have passed the 7500 rpm, increasing the sound level while giving the V4 racing tones. Rhaaaa! But let's not get too excited, let's see how Miss VFR 800 performs in the urban component.
In The City
Let's start first with the things that make us mad. The V4 is less flexible than an in-line 4, not regaining correctly after 3000 rpm, even 3500 rpm on the last gear (about 70 kph). After this, you can enjoy a very rounded character and similar performances to those of an equivalent roadster despite a transmission taking significantly longer. No specific comments on the riding position, soft enough to protect the forearms and neck. The controls are smooth with a special mention to the gearbox, just perfect, whether you use or not the Quickshifter. And the behavior is the usual Honda copy-paste. The taking control the first time is a snap and the overall behavior is a benevolent neutrality. Our city tour proved all too short to rule on any heat the V4 encapsulated in the fairing ...
On The Motorways
Pending fully testing the skills of the VFR traveling on a Paris - Marseille, the few fast sections listed on our Spanish road-book (the presentation was in Alicante, in parallel with the CB 650 F) has highlighted a compromise more focused on stability at high speed than on the agility in small corners, logical for Sport-GT. So, there is nothing to say about the directional stability, whatever the angles taken or at whatever speed. Despite a narrower fairing than in the past, no turbulence to report on the legs and the windshield correctly deflects air up to 150/160 kph without forcing you to lie on the fuel tank. At 130 kph, the V4 purring at 5500 rpm, under the activation threshold of the V-TEC and should therefore benefit from reduced consumption in its "two valves" mode (see the fuel consumption section below).
Secondary and Country Roads
At each presentation it is the same, any portion of a county road rings the beginning of an insane 15 minutes. Or almost. Those who read the test of the CB 650 F know that variable grip conditions did not induce a merry ride. But even in these tricky conditions, the VFR 800 was particularly reassuring with a stable front and precise with excellent grip feedback. And while we're running at 75% of its capabilities (those of the rider, not the bike) everything goes smoothly and easily. The compromise between the suspension stiffness & comfort and the agreement between front and rear are impeccable and the V4 also shows itself happy at half throttle as raging in the higher revs, all complemented by a transparent connection between throttle and rear wheel. Vocalizations, pleasure AND character, this V4 is all good. By forcing the rhythm however, the choice of a geometry favoring stability requires some physical engagement. Pressing the handlebars is not enough and to switch from one corner to the other quickly, then you must play with the footrests or move your body in full movement mode. A small price to pay for a motorcycle doing the splits between two categories ...
The front fork is equipped with the traditional double 310mm disc clamped by radial four-piston calipers. To the rear is a single 256 mm disc with two superimposed caliper pistons, all coupled to a two-path ABS operating transparently and perfectly calibrated for sports use. Note that the coupled braking of the older generation is not renewed here. Power and endurance have no reproach and all are distinguished by a great feeling, from the handle to the pedal.
Duo and Practical Aspects
Long journeys with a pillion are more than possible with a thick seat - a bit thin in the rear part - and with ideally placed handgrips. And if the height adjustment is tedious and the tool kit scrawny, the VFR makes up for it on many points. The space under the saddle can accommodate a U-lock and the rear frame and the pillion footrests act as holders to accommodate the optional 29-liter panniers. Let's mention (again) the wealth of equipment: center stand, ABS, disconnectable traction control, adjustable heated grips on 5 levels, preload knob of the shock absorber. And then there are the options. Besides the Quickshifter and the handlebar booster mentioned above, there are also in the catalog an Akrapovic silencer (what manufacturer does not today?), fuel tank protector, a specific tank bag, the topcases (31 or 45 liters), alarm, immobilizer, a 12V power outlet and even indoor and outdoor covers!
The average WMTC (ed: World Motorcycle Test Cycle) fuel consumption is announced at 5.8 liters for 100 kms. A number close to reality since during our tests (riding at a good pace), the onboard computers showed values between 6.2 and 6.8 liters. If we use the official figures, the 21.5 liter fuel tank will allow you to ride a bit more than 370 kilometers.
Honda is strong with this sixth generation of its iconic VFR. The mixture does not change radically but the sum of all small improvements (general lightening, engine use up, equipment, technological content ...) makes this devilishly homogeneous motorcycle almost flawless. More subjectively, the whole distilled an unusual charm thanks to its "unique" motorization. Those who criticize the lack of character of the Honda engines must imperatively try the VFR 800. Last good news, the 2014 VFR 800 appears at the dealers for €12,599, only a €100 increase against the 2013 vintage. In this niche, a bit scrawny it is true, we can oppose it against the Triumph Sprint ST, sold for €13,535 with a pair of panniers. Honda once outfitted with the same level of equipment costs €13,490. Also mentionable the hybrid Z 1000 SX (€13,499 with ABS), the current leader of the segment in Europe, more sporty but less well endowed for its side protection
|Strong Points||Weak Points|
- Character and charm of the V4
- Finishing quality
- Road grip
- Lack of flexibility at low revs
- Disappearance of the CBS
Via: Le Repaire des Motards