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12 Apr 2011 | Largely untouched for the last ten years, can Honda’s VFR800 still cut it? Rod Chapman answers the question…

UNIQUE CHARACTER

Hopping aboard the VFR800 is like sliding on a cherished pair of slippers – it’s comfortable, reliable, and familiar. I’ve done thousands of kays on these things over the years, both here in Oz and also through Europe, and its ability to weather the ravages of time and progress never ceases to amaze me.

Motorcycle purists – be they sportsbike freaks or hardcore tourers – will always view sportstourers as a compromise. However, unless you can afford to have a few bikes in the shed, a sportstourer simply makes sense – and the VFR800 truly is a ‘jack of all trades’.

Its 90-degree V-four engine is a big part of the bike’s enduring appeal. It’s not a common configuration, and its character – rougher than an inline four, smoother than a V-twin – is unique. It’s incredibly flexible, and just as happy to trickle along through stop-start traffic as it is to lope along a highway or charge a winding mountain road.

There’s good urge available from just off tickover all the way to its 11,750rpm indicated redline in the majority of its six gears, and despite the passage of time, a Viffer can still be an exceptionally quick point-to-point machine. The V-four format really does deliver the best of both worlds, with low-down and mid-range grunt building into a storming top end.
The VTEC variable valve timing is different to that found in Honda’s cars, in that in the auto world the timing itself can vary, while here in the VFR the system is about switching between two- and four-valve operation. Basically, up to 6600rpm the bike operates on two valves per cylinder, for better fuel economy, while above that the full four-valve operation kicks in, for full power. When the revs drop, it reverts back to two valves per cylinder, but at a lower point (6100rpm).

I’ve always been of the opinion the VFR’s VTEC is more about giving Honda a marketing tool than anything else (after all, if it’s so brilliant, why hasn’t Honda adapted it to more models?), but at least in the latest round of tiny tweaks, a few years back, Honda smoothed the transition between two- and four-valve operation. The engine note still changes, and there’s a tangible boost in power, but far less of a jolt, which wasn’t ideal – especially if you were cranked right over in a turn at the time.

Braking is down to a trio of three-piston Nissin calipers – yep, it’s Honda’s Dual Combined Brake System (DCBS). Whether you’re a fan of linked brakes or not, the bottom line here is you’ll adjust to the DCBS in a very short period of time, and it offers good power and feel – end of story. The bigger issue, I believe, is the lack of optional ABS – ABS-equipped VFRs are available in other world markets.

CONVENTIONAL WISDOM

The remainder of the VFR’s package is more about solid, tried-and-true principles. The power is fed to the rear via a relatively light hydraulic clutch, a slick and responsive six-speed gearbox, and chain final drive.

A twin-spar alloy beam frame is suspended via a conventional 43mm fork and a rear monoshock, both adjustable for preload and rebound. The ride they deliver is spot-on for the VFR’s all-rounder role – it’s compliant, taking the sting out of bumps, yet firm enough to slice up a twisty road with decent precision, aided by neutral steering and healthy ground clearance.
The ergonomics are superb: you get a comfortable seat, decent legroom, a slight lean forward to the clip-ons and a protective fairing and screen. Pillions also get a good deal, with excellent grab rails and a perch at a sensible height. The 805mm rider seat height will also suit most riders.

I recorded an average fuel economy of 16.9km/lt over a mixed bag of riding conditions, which, when combined with a generous 22lt tank, means you’re looking at a safe 340km between fill-ups. That, of course, will shorten markedly if hard charging is on the agenda.

The instrumentation, though still clean and easy to read, is lacking the whiz-bang factor of today’s on-board ‘electrickery’, but it still gives you all the essentials.

The centrestand and pillion seat cowl come as standard – a nice touch – and the latter unclips without a need for any tools or excessive fiddling.

I love the VFR800’s lines. In my opinion, it still looks as sharp today as it did when first introduced. The stacked headlights, integrated indicators and sleek tailpiece have stood the test of time, and the single-sided swingarm shows off that lovely rear rim to great effect.

The VFR800 is also still a consummate all-rounder. Comfortable on the long haul either solo or two-up, it also has good luggage-carrying ability, thanks to factory panniers and a topbox. Yet when you reach the bendy bits it’ll indulge your red-mist persuasions with relish – the bellow of a V-four on full song as you scythe through a sweeper is spine-tingling stuff.

 

ENGINE
Type:
Liquid-cooled, DOHC, four-stroke, 16-valve, 90-degree V-four
Bore x stroke: 72mm x 48mm
Displacement: 782cc
Compression ratio: 11.6:1
Fuel system: PGM-FI electronic fuel injection

TRANSMISSION
Type:
Six-speed
Final drive: Chain

CHASSIS AND RUNNING GEAR
Frame type:
Twin-spar alloy beam
Front suspension: 43mm conventional fork, adjustable for preload and rebound
Rear suspension: Monoshock, adjustable for preload and rebound
Front brake: Twin 296mm discs with three-piston Nissin caliper and DCBS
Rear brake: Single 256mm disc with three-piston Nissin caliper and DCBS

DIMENSIONS AND CAPACITIES
Dry weight:
213kg
Seat height: 805mm
Fuel capacity: 22 litres

PERFORMANCE
Max power:
80kW (107hp)at 10,500rpm
Max torque: 80Nm at 8750rpm

OTHER STUFF
Price:
$15,990*
Test bike supplied by: Honda Australia
Warranty: 24 months, unlimited kilometres

* Manufacturer’s price, excluding dealer and statutory costs