It’s gone again for 20 years ?
Since 1986, the VFR has forged a solid reputation as a sporty road with high technological content. 20 years after its launch, what about this sacred monster, its atypical V4, its performance and its versatility? Test.
At the head of Sport-GT sales since its launch 20 years ago, the VFR has experienced a drop in speed in recent years attributable both to the sector but also to its more or less successful developments over time..
If the increase in displacement, the switch to injection and combined braking had seduced the French in 1998, the addition of the VTEC system in 2002 had rather cooled them down. The remarks about the jerks due to the new distribution system were going well and four years later, Honda revised its copy (read).
Aesthetically, the VFR has hardly changed since 2002. It therefore remains particularly thin: despite the presence of cooling radiators under the fairing sides, the V4 makes it possible to reduce the width of the motorcycle compared to the 4-cylinder in-line.
This finesse is accentuated by the pots located under the saddle, which free up space on each side of the rear wheel and allow you to better appreciate the swingarm on the left and the five-spoke rim on the right..
The general line of the VFR, much more aggressive than that of the legendary model of the early 90s, gives it a very sporty look. And this impression is confirmed when we get on the beast !
Although the saddle is in one piece, its "wise" design hides limited comfort for a GT. Without reaching the discomfort of a hyper sports car like the Triumph Daytona (read) or that of the Yamaha FZ1 Fazer (read), the VFR 800 welcomes the pilot correctly but does not spare him as before.
The driving position is also more typical "Sport" than "Grand Touring": the pressure on the wrists, in particular, may be right for those who will use the VFR for urban and / or daily trips. However, the position of the legs is not unpleasant and the finesse of the V4 provides a pleasant feeling of control..
As on the majority of current motorcycles, the first turns of the wheels are done easily. The weight of the VFR (218 kg dry) goes almost unnoticed at low speed and the controls are smooth and precise. Once the lever settings have been fine-tuned and the complete dashboard flown over, we take the road in complete relaxation !
Honda V4 800 cc: a taste of MotoGP ?…
Since 2002, the 782 cc engine has been fitted with the VTEC system ("electronic variable valve timing system actuating 2 or 4 valves per cylinder depending on the speed to optimize performance over the entire speed range"). A system dear to Honda and its motorists, but less so to its bikers…
By maintaining a low rev range, the V4 is rather rough and can even bang under 2,500 rpm. The advantage of the "2-valve" mode, even if it is perhaps not in question, does not seem obvious … Fortunately, the lack of availability of the engine from the lowest revs is compensated by the docility of the engine at mid-speed and its specific melody.
Very quickly, the desire to go and test the passage of a distribution from 2 to 4 valves is felt … And the first acceleration – handle in the corner – frankly gives back a smile! Indeed, past the 7,000 rpm "counter" (6,600 exactly according to Honda), the "Doctor 2 valves" turns into a "Mister 4 valves" as surprising as it is effective..
… or a tune of 500 2-stroke ?
The sound of the engine finally released is so hoarse that it pushes the pilot to keep the gear engaged a little longer … But in third, the speed reached is already shameful even on the motorway … Suddenly, it is necessary to return the gas and go back well below 6,100 rpm, synonymous with a return to 2-valve operation.
Accelerations from 4,500 rpm are straightforward but it is after 7,000 revolutions that the VFR reveals its true face: that of a sportswoman with a strong character, that bikers from the same mold will necessarily appreciate: the howling of the V4 actively participates in the exhilaration of the pilot !
When decelerating, the switch from 4-valve to 2-valve mode is done without inconvenience. On the other hand, a major go-around around the 7,000 laps may still surprise novices. Thus the fishing surplus no longer passes for an unpleasant kick in the hindquarters, but can tense during acceleration on the angle.
Side cycle part, the report is much less contrasted. Lively and safe, the VFR swallows tighter curves and turns without any worry, while the suspensions always work together regardless of the surface. We note in passing that the preload adjustment is much more accessible than on many roads !
A part cycle of choice !
Irrefutable proof of the ease and efficiency of the motorcycle: the "machining" of the footrest lugs. The center stand is another positive point of the VFR which makes life easier for its owner, unlike simple sports cars or "bad" roadsters..
Combined braking will take time to adapt to those who discover a Honda. In order to make the most of the front brake, you must therefore not leave your right foot inactive. The ABS meanwhile is transparent but can save the mount and driver on tricky autumnal roads !
The only downside in terms of equipment: protection could be improved to increase the GT-Sport versatility of the model. Here again, Honda is playing the sport card with the VFR by arranging a bubble that protects the bust but leaves the helmet – even the top of the shoulders in large riders – exposed…
On the motorway, the VFR 800 therefore forces its pilot to bend down slightly to settle under the air flow. However on small roads, the support of the wind helps relieve the forearms. And finally, the lack of protection on long distances becomes an ally on short distances! An index on the positioning of the VFR 800 ?
The limits of V4 VTEC
Always on the secondary network, tight sequences or crossings of townships cannot be negotiated without going down one or two gears. Irritated by this lack of flexibility, fans of the winged brand will certainly prefer the creamy 4-cylinder of the CBF 1000 on this subject (read).
On the expressway, the 140 km / h "counter" is located in sixth at 6,000 rpm. So on the last report we should "wait" for 154 km / h to pass the fateful bar of 6,600 rpm. To take advantage of the renewed vitality offered by the two additional valves, the otherwise pleasant gearbox is therefore called upon again..
"Pity", sigh the retractors forced to climb beyond" their "personal red zone …"Great !", exclaim on the other hand the hyperactive amateurs of surplus power and sound. The interest of the VTEC system remains nonetheless limited, since the two types of drivers would certainly wish to benefit from the maximum capacities of the engine always earlier and why not from 1200 rpm of idling! Less tempted to pull on the engine, it is not obvious that its consumption would soar…
The detail, however, which should provoke reverse reactions between "big rollers" and "athletes" concerns the heated grips: mounted on our test model, they shine by their efficiency but their ergonomics – certainly studied to best dispense heat – does not offer the most pleasant touch.
Finally, it should be noted that in 2007, the VFR 800 will be available only in ABS version at a price of € 12,800. The personal maintenance of the precious distribution being extremely difficult, the maintenance and purchase costs of the VFR are therefore rather in the upper range..
Finally, the VFR 800 is sportier than GT! Its fiery engine, its impeccable cycle part and its complete equipment make it an ally of choice for sporting outings. For longer journeys, the Honda will require more endurance and patience from rider and passenger than ever before, given its sportier stance and the character of its V4 VTEC. But the pleasure of those who have chosen it knowingly will be increased accordingly !
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