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2010 Honda VFR1200F Comparison

Monday, April 5, 2010

2010 Honda VFR1200F
From concept (below) to the all-new VFR1200F (above) - Honda has kept the press and public guessing since day one as to what this latest VFR would be.
Honda surprises with an unexpected V-Four concept superbike at INTERMOT Cologne bike show.

Is it a sportbike, or a touring bike?

The 2010 Honda VFR1200F refuses to politely slot into those rigid class structures we enjoy so much. In fact, Honda’s latest VFR baffled the press right from its inception, crashing onto the scene as a concept model at the 2008 Intermot Show. The word concept is a stretch, it was more like a concept of a concept – an interpretive sculpture of a VFR Honda would like to build…one day. We remember. We were there, with all the other journalists, when the curtain raised to reveal red bodywork with an odd, ominous X-shaped headlamp. All looked at one another with furrowed brows wondering, what is this?

Flash forward a year and the VFR1200F broke cover, squashing all the tasty rumors that had taken off after the first enigmatic reveal. Honda was making a V-5 superbike, or was it a V-4 800cc supersport based off its MotoGP racebike? Then the first images leaked, the new VFR was… a touring bike? Again, collective brows furrowed in motorcycle media offices around the world.

Even after we finally got to sample the new VFR at the press launch in Japan, riding this supposed touring bike on the Sugo racetrack, of all places, we left pondering the new Honda’s true nature. Again, is it a sportbike or a touring bike?

So, to answer the question, Motorcycle USA offers up an unorthodox comparison test. We snagged the VFR and pitted it against the Suzuki Hayabusa and the Kawasaki Concours 14. The mighty Hayabusa represents the furthest edge of the hypersport class, while the Concours rests on the opposite end of the touring ledger. Somewhere in between the VFR must fall.
2009 Suzuki Hayabusa2010 Honda VFR1200F 2010 Kawasaki Concours 14
The Suzuki Hayabusa is pure sportbike, while the Kawasaki Concours 14 is touring comfort, leaving the VFR's true nature up in the air.

Our test route would stretch near 1500 miles and cover a wide range of roads, everything from tight mountain canyons to wide sweeping backroads, with a healthy dose of freeway travel. The usual data collection occurred too, including dynos, weights, fuel mileage and performance tests. With the four-day tour still fresh in our minds, we have reached some conclusions on the new Honda. We think.

A pulsing V-Four engine defines the Honda VFR lineup. The latest incarnation, a 1237cc 76-degree design, showcases Honda innovation. There’s the Unicam valvetrain, developed on the CRF450R motocrosser, with a four-valve head and flatter, more efficient combustion chamber. There’s Honda’s first Throttle By Wire (TBW) system, the link from rider to engine now electronic, not mechanical. There’s the unique cylinder layout, with the rear cylinders located inward on the center of the crankshaft, thus making the rear cylinder head more compact - in turn making the seating position narrower. All told the new changes make for a more compact engine than even its 800cc VFR Interceptor sibling.
2010 Honda VFR12000F Horsepower Dyno Comparison Chart
Though down on CC, the Honda VFR splits the horsepower difference between the Hayabusa and Concours 14.
2010 Honda VFR12000F Torque Dyno Comparison Chart

Compared to the Inline-Fours in our test, the VFR mill stands out. The Hayabusa (1340cc) and Concours (1352cc) feature larger displacement and the physical dimensions, in particular the width, dwarf the Honda. Straddle the super slender VFR, thumb the starter and the engine characters further diverge. Where the Busa, and particularly the Concours, engines sport a smooth wail, the VFR hops to life with a clattering rhythm and audible difference at idle. The V-Four feels quite balanced, with the Vee configuration lacking any balance shaft, but kicks with more chatter and vibration. The vibes don’t rise to obnoxious levels, yet they are more pronounced than those from the Inlines, and on decel the shakes rise up through the VFR tank to let a rider know there’s a hulking V-Four churning down there.

Rolled onto the dyno the VFR acquits itself well, producing 144 hp and 81.26 lb-ft rear wheel power. This splits the horsepower difference between the Haybusa (166.6 hp) and Concours (134.7 hp). The VFR’s torque, while lower in peak power than both the Inlines, sports a power curve with robust top end, pulling hard from 6-10K, far beyond the Kawasaki.

On road the VFR’s performance contrasts both the Busa and Concours. As the dyno suggests, the V-Four sings past the 6K marker, but has a peculiar flat spot before it. In the lower gears, the muted engine response is more pronounced until about 5500 rpm. The sensation is intentional, a power valve in the exhaust working with the throttle-by-wire system to harness the Four’s power. When asked, Honda reps say the system makes the VFR more accommodating to a wide array of riders. We imagine the aftermarket shops, like Bazzaz Performance, will be quick to find a fueling map that works its way around this failsafe.

The low gear/rpm restriction aside, Honda’s TBW system delivers seamless fueling and throttle response. Once in the mid-range the VFR rips with immediate ferocity at the right grip. Acceleration outpaces the Kawasaki, though doesn’t match the tenacity of the Suzuki.

2009 Suzuki Hayabusa
The Suzuki Hayabusa's Inline-Four, with its unhindered, raw performance, proved unbeatable on the dyno and the quarter-mile - at least in this comparison.
The Hayabusa represents unbridled engine performance, though Suzuki does utilize the Drive Mode Selector (DMS) sytem, with its three-position A,B and C mode. All three parlay a noticeable difference in power delivery. While it seems gimmicky, and maybe it is, we found the muted C mode pleasing for city traffic, lacking the intense acceleration of the A default. (C-mode on the Suzuki at low rpm, feels similar to the VFR’s low end). Once the road opens up a little, however, back to A-mode and its unconstrained aggression.

As for the Councours engine, in this test, it doesn’t inspire awe quite the way it does amongst its usual sport-touring crowd. That said, the Kawasaki’s Inline-Four exhibits a refined, immediate thrill. The one word that comes to our mind the most is smooth. It’s quite easy, too easy probably, to be motoring hum-drum down the highway thinking you're going 60mph to look down and see 90+mph on the Kawi. Considering it weighs an extra 100 lbs, the Connie carries its heft with a considerable amount of steam.

The Kawasaki proved its mojo during our performance testing, with a respectable 11.38 quarter-mile time. Again, the Honda betters the Kawi at 11.08, and we feel with more familiarity the Honda’s time could improve. The Suzuki, for which the drag strip is a natural habitat, proved to be the fastest at 9.87 in the quarter-mile.

0-60 0-100 Quarter-Mile Top Speed in Quarter
Honda VFR1200F 3.84 7.22 11.08 131 mph 
Kawasaki Concours 14 3.53 7.32 11.38 121.9 mph
Suzuki Hayabusa 2.74 6.41 9.87 146.7 mph

The VFR engine performs admirably, but it’s difficult for our testers to be overwhelmed - double true when riding it next to a Hayabusa. Honda’s biggest challenge with the VFR’s engine in particular, and the design as a whole, is living up to soaring expectations. Remember, some expected this VFR to be a street-legal version of its MotoGP bike! The V-Four notion in some of our heads was raw, unadulterated, overboard – like the ridiculously un-Honda Star V-Max. The rallying cry “performance, performance, performance!” is best heeded in in our testing cadre by Road Test Editor Adam Waheed, who sums up the VFR mill:

2010 Honda VFR1200F
Once in its robust mid-range, the VFR1200F rips hard all the way to the five-figure redline - delivering autobahn performance for the willing rider. Too bad we don't have any autobahns here in the US of A!
“My biggest complaint with the bike after my first couple of rides, and now even after riding it some 1000 miles, is its engine. Honda spent all this cash and R&D time in creating this bad-ass, high-tech 1200cc V-Four engine, then they dumb it down so far that it feels almost the same as the CBR1000RR engine only smoother and with a different muted exhaust note,” opines Adam, whose recent V-Four experience includes the V-Max and a torrid year-long, love affair with a Desmosedici test bike.

This tester's estimation of the VFR mill is different. Though the low gear rpm handicap lacks the raw feel of the Hayabusa, it does make the power on tap more user-friendly for a less aggressive rider. And when you want to crank up the speed, or as one of our favorite test riders likes to say, really ball the jack, the Honda will not disappoint. Keep that red mount singing up at 6K, high noon on the analog tach, and it will flat out fly.

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2010 Honda VFR1200F Comparison
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2010 Honda VFR1200F Comparo Photos
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Ken -Concours 14 ABS Owner  August 3, 2010 04:11 AM
Why is this bike compared to the Suzki or Kawasaki? If you are going to compare it, use the Kawasaki XZ-14, Suzuki Hybusa and then the Honda. You are comparing a sport bikes to sports touring bike. Add the XZ-14 then you will see the numbers change, Honda isn't no where near the Kawasaki.
John S -Other End of the spectrum??  July 2, 2010 04:10 PM
Sorry, but the C14 isn't on the "other end of the spectrum" from the VFR or 'Busa. Maybe in this comparison, but out in the real world of Sport Touring bikes, the "other end" is the Honda ST1300. A remarkably well balanced, smooth machine, the ST1300 is also the heaviest sport-tourer our there, and makes less power than all of the other big shaftie sport tourers save the BMW Boxers.

I think in one sense, this comparison should have included the Triumph Sprint ST/GT. Why? Because that's the class of the bikes on the sporty side of the sport-tourer class. Nonetheless, 'tis a good comparison. It will be interesting to see if Honda bases their next ST on this VFR. That's a bike I'd very much love to see, and if executed as well as the ST1300, I'd likely buy.

I've two major problems with the VFR1200. Not range, 'cause I'm ready to get out of the saddle after 2.5-3 hours anyway, even if only for a fuel stop. Not weight, 'cause I've got an ST1300 which porks on 130lbs wet more than the VFR. Nope, 'tis the price, and the tight seat to peg relationship.
bazi -busa  June 15, 2010 11:19 PM
why did you putt the busa over here it is not fair because busa is a sport bike.you should put bmw k1300gt
bazi -busa  June 15, 2010 11:16 PM
why did you putt the busa over here it is not fair because busa is a sport bike.you should put bmw k1300gt
KrisA -No Yamaha included in test???  May 24, 2010 11:35 AM
Am I the only one that misses the FJ 1300 in this test??? Honda looks good and might be 'the' bike. I don't get the Hayabusa comparison in this test?!
Alex O'Brien -I Like  April 13, 2010 06:25 AM
i really like this article you did really good on keep it up write one about the 2010 lamborghni please i'd really like it so g2g peace out Bart
Doulble Clutch Hutch -Dissapointing  April 9, 2010 11:32 AM
Great review, as usual guys. I do wish the K1300 was in there also. Like other Honda fans, I was expecting more from Honda, their marketing department seems out of touch lately. One word....Rune.... Had a chance to step off my hypermotard and spend half a day on a Kawi GT1400 with full Muzzy exhaust and ECU on a trip across eastern oregon last summer, I came away very impressed. Granted, anything with a fairing is more comfortable than a Hyper on long trips! Hard bags, electric windscreen, keyless ignition, superbike power, comfy ergos, it eats up miles effortlessly and is rock solid in the curves. Great bike.
RJ -2010 Honda VFR1200F Comparison  April 6, 2010 01:49 PM
What no K1300S???? Just goofin' on ya, you know someone was going to do it anyway... Nice job on the comparison. All I have to add is that although I really like the VRF's styling, at a long leg 6'2" the C14 or ZX14 is hands down my ride. Too bad because I was so amped about it's release until I actually sat on it at the NY IMS. Conceptually, the Honda is in the right direction, blurring Touring and Sport but at 16K I just cannot see myself putting a long day in the saddle and need to lean toward the comfort side plus all the other added features. Even the Busa's higher pegs is as mentioned a more sporty posture which equals cramped conditions in motorcycle language...
MCUSA -HP Chart  April 6, 2010 09:38 AM
Hayabusa hp curve entered incorrectly. The corrected chart now inserted.
Trevor -Re-draw the dyno charts...  April 6, 2010 05:06 AM
Agreed with Tom. If the suzook makes more torque across it's rev range, then the Kawi also can't be making more HP in the "bottom" end.
Tom -Mr  April 5, 2010 10:00 PM
I think there might be a problem with the hp and torque charts - the Honda cannot make more HP than the suzuki between 3-6.5rpm whilst making less torque.
jim jones -nice job!  April 5, 2010 03:14 PM
nice job bart this test is excellent.