The venerable Honda VFR800F
soldiers on thanks to a third major evolution. The clean looks suggest a return to a simpler time, but in reality, the lines are much more contemporary, and the machine itself is much narrower in the middle than the outgoing model.
The X-shaped headlight is reminiscent of the CBR600RR, while the exhaust moves from under the seat to the right side to lower the centre of gravity, although it partially hides the new Fine Die-Cast (FDC) hollow aluminum rear wheel in the process. From certain angles, the front fairing and headlight combo reminds me of a Ducati 1199 Panigale
, which is quite a compliment given that the latter ranks among the most stylish motorcycles in the entire industry.
VFR800F loses weight, gains a few accessories
The 2014 Honda VFR800F lost 10 kg thanks to a smaller exhaust system and a lighter rear sub-frame that also improves passenger ergonomics. Both radiators (previously on each side of the engine) have been relocated to the front.
The rider gets a height-adjustable seat, five-level heated grips, a self-cancelling turn-signal system, and a new dashboard with a digital speedometer and analogue tachometer. All the information is there, from engine and air temperature to average fuel consumption and gear selection. Meanwhile, buyers can add a gear-shift assistant and raise the handlebar by 15mm using the available spacer.
Evolution is a risky proposition
|All the information is there, from engine and air temperature to average fuel consumption and gear selection. (Photo: Bill Petro)
It's pretty tough to work on an iconic model such as the VFR. Honda had to make some improvements while maintaining the delicate balance between performance and comfort that the VFR is famous for.
Purists will love the fact that the new 2014 Honda VFR800F retains the same, rear-heavy riding position; but as far as we're concerned, it makes forward weight transfers difficult when entering corners.
While it managed to drop to 239kg, the VFR800F still carries a lot of weight. In fact, its direct competitors are all 8-26kg lighter. The biggest culprit is obviously that V4 engine. Consider that the twin-cylinder BMW F800GT tips the scales at just 213 kg.
|It's pretty tough to work on an iconic model such as the VFR. Honda had to make some improvements while maintaining the delicate balance between performance and comfort that the VFR is famous for. (Photo: Bill Petro)
Updated electronics make the VFR800F safer
The most pleasant surprise on the new 2014 Honda VFR800F is undoubtedly the Honda Traction Control System (TCS), which comes standard. Derived from the CTX1300
, it will keep riders safe when shooting out of corners and accelerating on wet pavement. The handlebar-mounted control looks like an afterthought, however.
The V4 engine returns with VTEC valve timing and the related benefits of torque and fuel economy below 6,500 rpm, although it's still not as flexible as inline 4-cylinder engines (let alone 2-cylinder engines) below 3,500 rpm. Beyond that, expect plenty of power as well as acceleration that meets segment benchmarks despite the transmission using very long gear ratios. In typical Honda fashion, said transmission shifts like a charm. As for sounds and thrills, the V4 continues to deliver that unmistakable growl mixed with classic backfires and screams.
Stable or nimble?
|The V4 engine returns with VTEC valve timing and the related benefits of torque and fuel economy below 6,500 rpm, although it's still not as flexible as inline 4-cylinder engines below 3,500 rpm. (Photo: Bill Petro)
Manoeuvring the 2014 Honda VFR800F takes a bit of getting used to, but as you complete a part of the strip, the level of balance and stability will quickly boost your confidence. Although the chassis feels rock-solid, it's not particularly agile through twists and turns: You have to make a real effort to lean from one side to the other. That being said, the VFR800F excels in sweeping corners and on the highway, where you'll enjoy good protection for the knees and lower body -- not so much for the head.
Front and rear suspension settings are flawless, delivering a superb mix of comfort and handling. This Honda also deserves praise for its dual 310mm front disc brake that's both powerful and easy to modulate. Add transparent though non-combined ABS and ideal feedback from the front wheel, and you get a fun, predictable GT.
|Manoeuvring the 2014 Honda VFR800F takes a bit of getting used to, but as you complete laps on a track, the level of balance and stability will quickly boost your confidence. (Photo: Bill Petro)
More of a sport bike than a touring motorcycle, the 2014 Honda VFR800F stands out from adventure-type competitors and other GT models. Just like it did during the ’80s and ’90s, the VFR800F beautifully combines the best of both worlds. It will recapture the hearts of fans and attract new customers looking for an especially versatile steed.
- Unique engine feel
- Flawless suspension and brakes
- TCS, ABS and other modern features
- Stable and safe
- Obsolete riding position needs work
- Not particularly agile
- Significant weight