We assumed it was gone forever, a beloved model Honda would never again produce. We were wrong. But we’re thrilled to admit our mistake, because not only is the VFR800F Interceptor back in business, the 2014 version is better than ever. Considering that its 750cc and 782cc predecessors have a long, storied history of worldwide acclaim—including having won 12 Cycle World Ten Best awards—that’s high praise indeed.

In 2010, the VFR800F was dismissed from the lineup and replaced by the VFR1200F, steering Honda’s V-4 sport-touring philosophy in an entirely different direction. But when consumer interest in the 1200 proved to be, well, “underwhelming,” Honda performed a full-model redesign of the 800. The outcome is a highly refined middleweight sport-tourer that recaptures the spirit and elegance that helped the original VFRs become legends in their own time.

     Most apparent of those refinements is the bike’s all-new styling. The bodywork is completely free of graphic treatments, instead making its visual statement with solid colors (either red or white) and crisp, clean lines on smooth flanks. Also conspicuous is the absence of the previous 800’s dual underseat mufflers, replaced by a low-exit, single-silencer design.

As a result of that styling, the new VFR looks lighter than before and, in fact, is lighter. Honda claims it weighs 22 pounds less than the ’09 thanks to weight-saving measures that include the simplified exhaust system, an aluminum rear subframe instead of steel, and 10-spoke hollow die-cast wheels.

   Still, the biggest question surrounding the ’14 Interceptor concerns its 782cc, 90-degree V-4 engine, which retains the VTEC valve technology introduced in 2002. That system uses just two of each cylinder’s four valves at lower rpm, supposedly for better bottom-end torque, then engages all four at higher revs for full power. But low-rpm grunt proved to be no stronger than on pre-VTEC 800s, and the transition from two to four valves was disconcertingly abrupt, especially if it occurred mid-corner.

But those are issues no more. Revised exhaust tuning, new camshaft profiles, upgraded fuel mapping, and refinements in the VTEC system have improved torque output at low revs and smoothed the two-to-four-valve transition. Though Honda has not released any torque or horsepower numbers, acceleration at lower engine speeds seems to be more brisk, and the VTEC transition now is smooth and practically seamless. As before, the transition is accompanied by more-intense intake roar and valvetrain clatter, and you feel the step-up in acceleration; but it all happens much more gradually, never producing a sudden forward lurch that can catch you by surprise.

This newly predictable power helps to make the VFR wonderfully easy to ride fast on twisty roads. You can row up and down through the gears as you would on a middleweight supersport if you so desire, but you generally can go 95 percent as quickly with 75 percent of the work if you shift less often and take advantage of the V-4’s friendly torque.

Strong, steady power isn’t the only characteristic that allows the VFR to be low-effort fun on a back road; the chassis handles the sport part of the bike’s mission quite impressively. Though the wheelbase (57.5 in.) and steering geometry (25.5-degree head angle, 3.74 in. of trail) are nearly identical to those of the previous 800, the new Interceptor is more responsive. It flicks into turns with light pressure on the grips, willingly changes lines mid-corner and remains rock-steady the whole time, even if the pavement is infested with bumps and ripples.
Some of that ease of handling is owed to the VFR’s reduced weight and lower cg allowed by the new exhaust system. There’s plenty of cornering clearance before the long feelers on the folding footpegs kiss the tarmac, with several more degrees of lean available before harder parts make contact. The suspension is taut, enough so that the ride is far from plush, but it’s also never harsh, and it contributes to the Interceptor’s exceptional stability during hard cornering.

Apropos of the VFR’s mission, the ergonomics nicely split the difference between sport and touring, the contact points remaining just where they’ve been on all VFRs but the 1200. But compared to the most recent 800s, the new bike feels more compact at first sit. That’s due in part to the more-gradual slope of the 5.6-gallon gas tank just ahead of the seat. Plus, the dual radiators that previously were side-mounted have been moved behind the front of the fairing. This allows the bike to be an inch and a half narrower at the seat-tank junction, easing the rider’s reach to the ground when stopped. The rider’s seat is two-position adjustable from a claimed 31.8 inches—same as before—down to 31.0.

With an MSRP of $12,499, the standard VFR800F is priced close to its nearest competitor, BMW’s $11,890F800GT, and at about the same level as most 600cc repli-racers. But for a killer deal the likes of which you rarely see, there’s also a Deluxe version that goes for $13,499. For that extra G-note, you get two-stage traction control; ABS (new VFRs no longer have linked brakes); adjustable preload and rebound damping on the 43mm inverted fork; remote rear-suspension preload adjuster; self-canceling turn signals; heated grips; and a centerstand.

Honda has designed more than a dozen accessories for the VFR, including color-matched detachable saddlebags and top trunk, and handlebar risers that move the grips higher and closer to the rider. None of these options were yet in production at the bike’s press launch, so we can’t tell you much about them other than their upcoming availability.

   What Honda has here, then, is one classy, versatile mid-size sport-tourer, a return to a model that has generated fierce loyalty all around the world for a quarter-century. You can’t justify such deep affection for a bike like this with sheer statistics, since the Interceptor is not the fastest, lightest, cheapest, most agile or most technologically advanced. But it’s a complete package, beautifully balanced, impeccably finished, fun to look at, even more fun to ride. It’s an elegant piece of machinery that proves an all-too-often-forgotten fact: A motorcycle doesn’t have to win the numbers game to win the hearts and souls of enthusiasts everywhere

 Source: cycleworld

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