Two years ago, Honda wowed us with its dual-clutch transmission in the new VFR1200F. With finger/thumb-actuated Manual and fully automatic Drive/Sport modes, this six-speed box impressed with its lightning-quick upshifts and auto-throttle-blipping downshifts. But the system also had a few quirks. Shifts at slower speeds were clunky, and ride-by-wire throttle response at lower rpm in second gear was sluggish. What’s more, the standard VFR, with its conventional transmission and $1500 lower price (!), was a second quicker through the quarter-mile.
For 2012, Honda has addressed some of these and other complaints. Details, however, are scarce. For example, DCT now incorporates a “learning mode,” which Honda says “intelligently optimizes shift points relative to the rider’s throttle inputs for more user-friendly operation in automatic mode”—whatever that means. Likewise, Honda has never admitted that first-generation DCT was noisy, yet the latest version is noticeably quieter.
Low-rpm throttle response in second gear is noticeably snappier, and Drive mode feels more aggressive. Honda says updated software “senses” you are riding more aggressively and switches to Sport. A claimed increase in low-to-mid-rpm torque developed for the Euro-only VFR1200X Crosstourer was also applied to the VFR1200F. Finally, there’s a cool, new manual-override feature: Need to make a quick pass in auto mode? Just press the usual downshift button on the left handlebar. Post-shift(s), the system reverts to Drive or Sport.
Actual measured performance was very close to that of our 2010 model. While 0-60-mph and quarter-mile times, as well as top speed, were identical (4.0 seconds, 11.35 sec. at 130.77 mph, 156 mph), 40-60-mph top-gear roll-on acceleration improved slightly (4.3 sec. vs. 4.7); 60-80 mph was slower (4.0 vs. 3.8).
In non-DCT-related news, traction control is now standard on both models (the first Honda since the ST1100 to feature TC). The non-adjustable system shares front-and-rear wheel-speed sensors with C-ABS to determine differences in rotational speed between wheels. When the slip rate exceeds an unspecified value, the ECU cuts fuel, the “TCS” indicator on the dash blinks and the exhaust note changes, indicating traction has been compromised. An On/Off button is located on a fairing panel below the left handlebar.
So, while we don’t have all of the answers, overall, the 2012 VFR1200F DCT is a better, more-enjoyable-to-ride motorcycle. Can’t complain about that.