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2014 Honda VFR Interceptor First Ride

Tuesday, July 15, 2014
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2014 Honda VFR Interceptor First Ride Video
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Honda returns the VFR 800 to the US market in 2014 with the VFR Interceptor. See the mount take-on the winding roads of Southern California in the 2014 Honda VFR Interceptor First Ride video.
 
The VFR800 is a cultish bike, with a loyal following. It’s a motorcycling tribe enamored by the V-Four engine, and Honda’s history behind it. But these hard-core VFR enthusiasts have been left wanting in recent years, at least in the US, as the 800 was dropped from American Honda’s lineup in 2009. In its stead was the VFR1200 – an intriguing bike in its way, but an expensive one and not a blockbuster hit by any means. Now Big Red returns the 800 to US shores with significant revisions as the 2014 VFR Interceptor.

As American Honda’s media representatives described the VFR800 demographic during our recent press ride in Southern California, the most distinguishing trait was that VFR riders actually ride – amassing higher-than-average mileage on their mounts. This claim stuck out in my mind in particular, as I’d recently received an email from a MotoUSA reader who mentioned his personal ride was a VFR with 70,000 miles on it. These are the sort of folk that geek out on the tech details and spec sheets. They likely have strong opinions about gear driven vs. chain-driven cams, and Honda’s VTEC system (more on this in a moment). This Interceptor redesign attempts to refine, rather than revolutionize. And after a day strafing through MotoUSA’s familiar Southern California testing haunts, including Palomar Mountain, I suspect VFR loyalists will be pleased with the result.

So what’s new? Styling updates are the most noticeable revisions, as new bodywork delivers a sleeker look. The LED headlight also draws attention. More subtle stylish cues include the bronze magnesium finish on the engine covers and 10-spoke wheels. A singlesided swingarm returns, but with a new cross brace to increases torsional rigidity. Honda ditched the dual undertail exhaust for a single right-side canister, which lightens up the back end both physically and aesthetically. A lighter aluminum subframe, which replaces a steel-tubed design, furthers the weight drop out back. All told, the 2014 Interceptor’s claimed 529-pound curb weight is an 11-pound reduction from the previous model.



The VFR is a slimmer bike too, thanks to a new stacked radiator configuration (as opposed to the previous side-mounted units) which narrows the bodywork by 1.5 inches. The subframe is also narrower, which allows a thinner seat. The result is an easier reach to the ground for riders despite its 31.8-inch seat height raising fractionally (0.1 inch). Shorter riders will also appreciate the seat’s two-position adjustability, lowering to an even 31 inches. Straddling the bike for our press ride, my 32-inch inseam saw me comfortably resting on the ball of my foot with the tall seat.

The 2014 Interceptor remains powered by a 782cc V-Four, but engineers have elongated intake funnels and tweaked the cam timing, engine mapping and fuel delivery to improve bottom-end power. The updates also promise a smoother transition of the VTEC valvetrain, when the engine switches from two to four-valves, at higher revs. The VTEC system is a bone of contention for some VFR folks, who have been leery ever since it made its debut with the 2002 generation – this latest iteration also changing from gear-driven cams to the current chain-driven design.

Fire the Interceptor to life and riders are greeted with a familiar V-Four cadence. I can’t vouch for improvements compared to the 2008 model, as I haven’t ridden the latter model, but the bottom-end power is more than enough for regular street and touring duty. The real treat for riders is when the V-Four ratchets up in the higher revs. The VTEC transition, between 6500 and 6800 rpm, transforms the VFR into a true sportbike.



Honda bills the V-Four’s revised settings as making for a smoother tickover from 2- to 4-valve operations. Again, I can’t compare without direct experience, but I found the transition smooth enough. (A future VFR event with my fellow Pacific Northwest riders may remedy this back-to-back comparison, so stay tuned…) There’s no sudden ka-chunk surge with the VTEC changeover, but there is a noticeable performance increase. My favorite change at higher rpm, however, is the V-Four’s wonderful intake howl and engine sounds. Only a truly hardhearted rider will fail to enjoy the Interceptor’s raucous high-revving tunes, and VFR aficionados will relish them.

Honda ditched the dual undertail exhaust of previous VFR800s for a single right-side canister.
Braking power improves with the addition of dual radial-mount four-piston calipers up front  and dual-caliper setup in the rear.
The LED headlight it a new aesthetic feature which draws attention.
(Above) Honda ditched the dual undertail exhaust of previous VFR800s for a single right-side canister. (Middle) Braking power improves with the addition of dual radial-mount four-piston calipers up front, and dual-caliper setup in the rear. (Below) The LED headlight it a new aesthetic feature which draws attention.
The VFR is not a ride-by-wire design, with the throttle feel steady and predictable. The bike scoots around at lower rpm with a buzz-free easy-to-ride power delivery. But the top-end performance gains are such that riders will happily put in the extra effort to keep the revs high, particularly during sporty runs. Thankfully, the six-speed transmission does its part well enough, although I did find a handful of false neutrals during the day. There’s no slipper clutch to be had, unlike many of its Supersport cousins, but I didn’t have any overly disruptive moments with downshifts.

Handling-wise the VFR feels smaller at the controls than its specsheet weight would imply, with a low center of gravity. The bike changes direction with minimal effort, but also maintains a stable and planted feel in the corner. The Interceptor splits the difference between the razors-edge performance of a 600 supersport and a larger displacement sport-touring mount – not too twitchy and not too heavy.

A 43mm Showa fork and single rear shock are adjustable for preload, with the shock offering rebound adjustment as well. Honda also offers a Deluxe spec that adds rebound damping adjustment for the front fork. I spent the majority of my time aboard the standard spec VFR and found the base setup more than acceptable for a sporting pace on some of California’s most famous backroads, including Palomar Mountain. Aggressive riders will want a firmer setup, but I found baseline settings a pleasing compromise of comfort and performance – as the VFR offers a plush ride in urban/touring duties.

Braking power improves with the addition of dual radial-mount four-piston calipers up front, and dual-caliper setup in the rear. The VFR’s brakes aren’t linked, with ABS standard on the Deluxe model and an option on the standard bike.
The Tokico front stoppers, which clamp on 310mm discs, deliver all the stopping power I need. I found the VFR’s two-finger actuation and fine-tune modulation at the lever preferable than the all-or-nothing bite delivered by some top-shelf brakes.

I’m not as fond of the Interceptor’s riding position, which is definitely on the sporty side. VFR fans are likely rolling their eyes at the wincing wuss writing this review, as sportiness is exactly what defines the VFR family. Fair enough, but the forward lean put pressure on my wrists – affecting all-day comfort. The seat, however, felt great and the footpeg position, while somewhat cramped, was not insufferable. Honda offers optional bar risers, which moves the handlebar placement up 13.5mm (0.5 inches) and slightly rearward. I reckon that change would make a world of difference.

Behind the controls Honda has given the VFR’s instrument console a solid redo. It may lack the crisp TFT display found on some high-end bikes, but it does showcase all the must-have info a rider really needs: Large analog tach in the center, flanked on the left by digital speedo and LCD display on the right with gear position indicator, tripmeter, clock and ambient air temperature.



The base model VFR Interceptor sports a $12,499 MSRP. The Deluxe version costs an extra grand and includes a host of options as standard kit, including: ABS, traction control, heated grips and self-cancelling turn signals. We spent only a couple minutes on the Deluxe model and can say this: Heated grips are always a treat, if unnecessary, and a great touring addition. The self-cancelling signals work too, even though I found myself cancelling them before they themself-cancelled… if that makes any sense. The VFR’s TC system is of the save-your-bacon variety, as opposed to the tunable performance aid on some sportbikes. Applying too much throttle in the gravel or hamfisting it on the road I saw the VFR’s TC indicator light up as the ECU cut in. Aside from the Deluxe add-ons, there are VFR accessory options galore. The obvious extras are 29 liters of space from integrated hard saddlebags, which are similar in function to the VFR1200 bags. Another notable accessory is a quickshifter, the first Honda has offered in its motorcycle lineup.

The Interceptor is yet another option in Honda’s now teeming model lineup. Honda reps stated this new VFR could appeal to riders wanting to move up from the also new-for-2014 CBR650F, or the CB500 units. But first and foremost, Big Red built this new Interceptor for its VFR faithful, who have been waiting a long time for an update. I think the VFR loyalists will appreciate the refinements made for 2014. As for future MotoUSA VFR plans, a sport-touring comparison is in the works – as well as a visit to a VFR rally here in the forthcoming weeks. Stay tuned.


2014 Honda VFR Interceptor First Ride

Revisions like a new stacked radiator and narrower subframe make the VFR Interceptor narrower than before. The 2014 Interceptor remains powered by a 782cc V-Four  but engineers have elongated intake funnels and tweaked the cam timing  engine mapping and fuel delivery to improve bottom-end power. Not too twitchy  not too heavy  splitting the difference between a 600 supersport and sport-touring mount.
Honda reps stated this new VFR could appeal to riders wanting to move up from the also new-for-2014 CBR650F  or the CB500 units. I spent the majority of my time aboard the standard spec VFR and found the base setup more than acceptable for a sporting pace on some of Californias most famous backroads  including Palomar Mountain. The base model VFR Interceptor sports a  12 499 MSRP. The Deluxe version costs an extra grand and includes a host of options as standard kit  including: ABS  traction control  heated grips and self-cancelling turn signals.
2014 Honda VFR Interceptor First Ride
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2014 Honda VFR Interceptor Specs
New bodywork adds to the VFR Interceptors sleeker look.
Engine: 782cc liquid-cooled 90º V-4
Bore & Stroke: 72mm x 48mm
Fueling: PGM-FI with automatic enrichment circuit, 36mm throttle bodies
Ignition: Computer-controlled digital with three-dimensional mapping and electronic advance
Compression Ratio: 11.8:1
Valve Train: VTEC DOHC; four-valves per cylinder
Transmission: Close-ratio six-speed
Final Drive: #525 O-ring chain
Front Suspension: 43mm with spring-preload adjustability; 4.3 inches travel
Rear Suspension: Pro Arm single-side swingarm with Pro Link single spring-preload and rebound damping adjustability; 4.7 inches travel
Front Brake: Dual full-floating 310mm discs with four-piston calipers
Rear Brake: Single 256mm disc
Front Tire: 12/70ZR-17 Radial
Rear Tire: 180/55ZR-17 Radial
Rake: 25.5º
Trail: 3.74 inches
Wheelbase: 57.4 inches
Seat Height: 31 - 31.8 inches
Curb Weight: 529 pounds
Fuel Capacity: 5.2 gallons
MSRP: $12,499 (base model); $13,499 (Deluxe)
 
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Comments
OutOfTheBox   July 17, 2014 08:39 PM
I think there will be a contingent of any crowd who will complain about any crowd-related event. If Honda had upgraded the VFR to the specifications of choice with these people, then they would complain that it's too expensive and not worth the money, or that it could have been even *better* if Honda had only blah blah blah. "Why didn't Honda add heated seats?!?". "Where's the cruise-control!!!". "Why isn't it all ti-tain-i-ummwaaah!!!" Whatever. Just go buy a K1600GL already. And always they will wax nostalgic about the old bikes.
OutOfTheBox   July 17, 2014 08:13 PM
"stupid"? Yes. Next question?
MCUSA Bart   July 17, 2014 03:54 PM
Sorry for late reply, I was out with my colleagues testing bikes for a Sport-Touring comparison which included the VFR Interceptor... I get where the VFR critics here are coming from. Those looking for a 750 Superbike VFR will be disappointed, as this is very much a revision/refinement of the previous sport-touring oriented model. Neither the VFR1200 or 800 fulfill that Superbike/performance demand. Maybe Big Red has that VFR in some stage of development somewhere... I need to clarify a statement in this review, where I mentioned a correspondence I had with a reader whose VFR has 70,000 miles on it. I indeed received the email, but misspoke in saying correspondence, as I had confused replying to his email with another email response... Anyway, long story short, after realizing my error at not replying I emailed him back. I'm happy to report that I was invited to ride with several of his VFR forum enthusiasts as an event next week in Oregon. I look forward to it. As for the gear I am wearing in this review: Klim Latitude Jacket, Klim Overlord Pant, Joe Rocket RKT-201 Carbon Helmet, ICON 1000 Turnbuckle Gloves and Sidi Sport Rain Boots.
philthy_utah   July 17, 2014 12:06 PM
Can't beat the sound of a wailing 4-four. My perfect VFR is 800cc, no vtec, optional hard bags, and adjustable suspension. OutOfTheBox, really... "stupid"? NOT riding because it's a sunny, clear day that happens to be 30 deg is stupid IMO. Heated grips extend our riding season where we actually have seasons.
edpix   July 17, 2014 11:28 AM
Like the concept of a lighter, sportier Interceptor but am very disappointed in this result. The Honda V4 is unique, well except for Aprilia and deserves to be executed better both as an engine and as a motorcycle. No $12.5K motorcycle should be utilizing bargain basement suspension especially "traditional" forks! Seriously, I get it that the market is depressed and love the inexpensive bikes Honda has brought to market at the entry level points ie the 500 twins but when you are updating a model at this price point and with so much a of a previous following and ever increasing competition all the compromises are glaring and a deal breaker actually. I wanted this bike to be much more than it is and I guess at the end of the day the only things that i like is the new bodywork (but not the paint choices) and that it is lighter. I love the V4 but hate the vtec complexity, weight and cost, it should have more displacement too but I do realize Honda can't have this competing with that ugly ass VFR1200... I don't like crazy graphics but really this '14 VFR800 looks unfinished as is, in fact I thought it was a pre production model when I first saw it. I also hate the exhaust and would prefer a under engine muffler or at least shorter and better styled muffler. Honda is not getting my money and the search and wait continues for a nice looking, lightweight, powerful, well suspended supersport "tourer"... Just gotta wait for the naked fad to fade and then maybe the manufacturers will pay attention a largely ignored and potentially growing segment as us older ex supersport riders look for an exciting bike to purchase that has the higher bars of the leading edge nakeds of this era but with a real upper fairing BUT minus the ugly styling of the the nakeds... Its really not that hard but its just not happening because its not a priority in this depressed economy. This really is just a better looking VFR800 that was "designed" by the bean counters...
OutOfTheBox   July 17, 2014 07:42 AM
" Try riding 500 miles in 20-30°F weather without them." Piglet: a very special sort of "stupid"
Shnapper   July 16, 2014 08:46 PM
Never been a fan of the VFR, but I did like the single sided arm. I was wondering did the prior version with undertail exhaust allow for easy rear wheel removal? Also does the new side mounted exhaust have to be removed to get the rear wheel off now? Side note... Where's the V1000RR? ;)
Piglet2010   July 16, 2014 05:54 PM
"Heated grips are always a treat, if unnecessary..." - Yeah, if you live in California. Try riding 500 miles in 20-30°F weather without them.
MotoUSA   July 16, 2014 04:59 PM
@3Cheers - Bart is wearing the Klim latitude jacket.
jon4uu   July 16, 2014 01:55 PM
Another bike proving how out of touch this formerly great motorcycle company has become. A "new" VFR800? Take the plastic off of it, add a couple inches of suspension travel and put some tubeless spoke rims with a 19" front wheel and they'd probably sell 4x as many as this warmed over 20 year old bike. Speaking of 20 year old bikes, is the next XL650R going to be this lame? I can't wait!
OutOfTheBox   July 16, 2014 01:50 PM
ok but ultimately ours is not to reason why, ours is just to buy and ride.
GAJ   July 16, 2014 11:16 AM
60 pounds heavier than my F800ST. Come on Honda, this thing should have been much lighter. Does the ABS have an on/off switch? How did the ABS behave braking over ripple bumps in the dry during spirited riding? Any freewheeling effect?
3Cheers   July 16, 2014 10:23 AM
On a SOMEWHAT related topic, would you please share what brand/model of riding gear Bart's wearing in these photos? Thank you
neo1piv014   July 16, 2014 07:50 AM
After my first bike got stolen, I was test riding a 2004 VFR800, and it still stands out as one of the coolest bikes I've gotten to ride. It's not the highest figures on a spec sheet, but it definitely felt like more than the sum of its parts. It wasn't as powerful as the supersports, but it was damn comfortable, and it at least had a unique twist to it. Now, I can't speak to reliability or those infamous valve adjustment costs, but to dismiss it because it wasn't as fast as the CBR1000 is a little off the mark. All that said, I still wouldn't buy this bike. Honda is pricing themselves way higher than they ought to, and if you're looking for a mellower bike that can do some sport touring duty, I bet that new CB650F is just fine at much lower purchase and maintenance costs.
Choco   July 16, 2014 06:35 AM
As an owner of a 2004 with over 70,000 trouble-free canyon-carving, mountain road strafing, much of the time in the 7,000 rpm plus VTEC range, I can testify that the Gen 6 is a VFR, Very Fine Ride. As for this new one, I can say the styling if great, a good looking bike from any angle. It loses a few pounds, and has better mid-range grunt, in other words, more useable power. As a member of a VFR group, I can safely say that Gen 5 and Gen 6 owners were hoping for a bit of displacement/HP increase, inverted forks and lighter weight. The 1200 has the grunt, but the smallish tank, weight and styling has not won the hearts of the loyal VFR cult. All that aside, the owners of the 1200 absolutely love the bike, many claiming it's the best motorcycle they've ever had. This 2014 VFR 800 looks to be a nice evolution of the current Gen 6 but I think Honda could have given their faithful a bit more for the price considering how the VFR is arguably Honda's flagship motorcycle. So here's my suggestion, this bike with a 1000 cc V-4 engine, inverted forks and modern electronics package. I like the VTEC but the criticisms about the expensive valve adjustments are true. Honda should have regional dealers who specialize in valve adjustments, because the local shop is simply not up to doing such tedious work. Good article by Bart.
TommyG   July 15, 2014 09:39 PM
I just got this bike, trading in my 2012 CBR1000RR for it. My initial impression was I immediately missed the 50 extra horsepower the CBR has. The bike is still in its break-in period so I am babying it a bit but above 7000 rpm it really does comes alive. Handling is about equal to the CBR which had Dunlop Q3's. Braking feel, ride quality and comfort are all as expected, better on the Interceptor. An unexpected bonus was 63 mpg vs low 50's on the CBR on 80 to 100 mile rural rides I take. One glitch, on a ride up Mt. Haleakala (Maui) where I live, the gear indicator stopped indicating at 9000' elevation. I turned the engine off and on and it was OK again. As for accessories, I can't find a thing for it other than the quick shifter. Honda offers nothing yet on their website.
hhsf   July 15, 2014 09:28 PM
The original VFR 800 died from boredom in 2009 after a long, long, life (1998!) Fat, dull and unloved, it's sales had been in the toilet since about 2004. The VTEC engine introduced in the 2002 refresh was universally despised and killed what was becoming a great franchise. Honda in its arrogance refused to listen to the howls of its customers for a non-VTEC engine. As sales began to decline they refused to put any more development money into the bike. Of course sales collapsed entirely as it became outclassed by just about everything else on the road. Now we get essentially the same bike but with new fairing and budget, non-adjustable suspension - and with even LESS power than it made 12 years ago! Oh good effort Honda!! It could have been so much more. I guess this bike is targeted at people who are new to motorcycles. I can't imagine it being competitive with people who are into bikes.
OutOfTheBox   July 15, 2014 02:34 PM
"A very slightly re-warmed version of a 20yo bike that's been out of production for 6 years. New fairing! Woah - major advance!"...I don't know, is that supposed to be a problem? A reason not to bring this bike out? Here's the thing. What I see are 3 reasons to bring a product to market. Price/performance, performance and price, with, possibly, "aesthetics" thrown in as possible 4th option. I don't get the single-sided swingarm. The V4, I definitely get, but I don't get the chain-driven cams, especially combined with VTEC (which sounds great but like anything else there's a difference between theory and practice) especially implemented in such a way as to drive a valve-adjustment through the roof in terms of complexity and cost. You adjust the valves maybe once every 50k, it shouldn't cost you as much as a motor-rebuild to get it done. If you're going to bring out a bike that pays the "tech-sheet" song, then it should be better than other bikes that rely on, say, more displacement in order to impress. Not worse. I just don't see where or how this bike really earns its keep. But with a loyal following I can see selling the bike anyway. It's the aesthetics argument. The Ninja 300 may suck from a technological point of view but a lot of people love it so they continue to make and sell it. But that doesn't mean that VFR800 lovers would buy *this* bike over say a 2004 VFR, just as the '05 or '08 R1 would be preferred over the '12-'14R1 even with TC. Arrow in the right direction yet significantly off-taret. Have to report the misses as well as the hits.
hhsf   July 15, 2014 01:01 PM
What a puff piece! How much did Honda pay you to write this? Or are you guys just scared to offend the big H by calling this bike out for what it is? A very slightly re-warmed version of a 20yo bike that's been out of production for 6 years. New fairing! Woah - major advance!
grumpy8521   July 15, 2014 11:25 AM
68000 rpm? Sweet!
Superlight   July 15, 2014 10:56 AM
Nice bike, but why did Honda go to all the trouble of fitting a SSSA and then locate the muffler across the rear wheel so that the feature is hardly visible?