Honda VFR1200F DCT - Long-Term Test Wrap-Up

Dual-clutch dream come true?

Honda VFR1200F DCT - Long-Term Test Wrap-Up

Honda VFR1200F DCT - Long-Term Test Wrap-Up

Few motorcycles have generated as many editorial column inches as Honda's VFR1200F. Cycle World has published nearly 30 pages related to this sporting V-Four since its introduction in 2010.

Why so much press? Well, we were excited that Honda had finally introduced a replacement for the aging VFR800F, even though Interceptors in both 750 and 800cc displacements have been perennial award winners in our annual Ten Best balloting. Plus, this latest liter-plus VFR comes in both standard and push-button, paddle-shift-equipped Dual Clutch Transmission versions. We chose the latter for our long-term test.

Our stunning Candy Red example arrived with various factory options, including color-matched 29-liter saddlebags ($1399.95), a 31-liter trunk ($599.95) with contoured passenger pad ($99.95) and a rear carrier ($399.95). Other additions—an adjustable windscreen deflector ($249.95), fairing wind-deflector set ($174.95), heated handgrips ($349.95), rear tire hugger ($129.95) and centerstand ($249.95)—brought the total cost for the accessories to $3654.55 and the as-tested retail price of our VFR DCT to $21,153.55. Ouch!

Both automatic- and manual-transmission models are powered by the same sohc, 1237cc, 76-degree V-Four. Our bike produced 145.08 horsepower at 10,110 rpm and 81.17 foot-pounds of torque at 9120 rpm. Unfortunately, not all of that performance is always at hand. DCT carefully modulates clutch slippage, preventing the rider from storming away from stoplights, and ECU programming reduces power in the first two gears until revs climb above 5000 rpm. But in the upper half of its rpm range, this engine pulls hard; in testing, the VFR topped out at 156 mph.

Honda VFR1200F DCT - Long-Term Test Wrap-UP

Honda VFR1200F DCT - Long-Term Test Wrap-UP

Adjustable windshield and fairing deflectors actually work. The heated handgrips perform well, too, but are as hard as broomsticks. (Top, right) Clamshell-type lids for the accessory saddlebags and top trunk are perfectly color-matched to the VFR’s flawless Candy Red paint. Only the trunk swallowed every brand and size of helmet we threw at it. (Bottom, right) Dunlop Sportmax Q2s and Michelin Pilot Road 2CTs (shown) offered crisper steering and better grip than the original-equipment Dunlop Sportmax Roadsmarts. The Michelins were particularly good in wet conditions.

Our DCT "bagger" was included in last year's sport-touring comparison ("High Speed, Low Altitude," February, 2011), in which it finished in last place behind the Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Touring, Triumph Sprint GT and shootout-winning Kawasaki Concours 14.

"This is a great motorcycle in its own right," wrote Senior Editor Paul Dean, "with a gritty, powerful engine, a pleasant ride, top-quality fit-and-finish and excellent handling—up to a point."

We concluded that the VFR suffers from an identity crisis. It’s too big (60.8-inch wheelbase) and heavy (613 pounds dry) to attract hardcore sport riders, and it only becomes a viable sport-tourer after the addition of the nice-looking but smallish—and expensive—accessory bags.

Similar comments appeared in the VFR's logbook: "This is a deeply conflicted bike," noted contributing editor Marc Cook. "In the VFR, Honda seems to be saying it can hit multiple spots and be more bike to more riders. Instead, the result is a bike that's not as good at any one thing and downright unsuitable for several."

As we piled on the miles, DCT began to get mixed reviews. Dean again: “When it’s shifted up, down, manually or in either of its two automatic modes , the action is magically smooth and seamless—but not at slower speeds and lower rpm.” Added sales and marketing VP Andy Leisner, “Sounds coming from the transmission at slow speeds make you think you left the output shaft in a puddle of oil at the last intersection.”

Here's the good news: For 10,000 miles, our VFR1200F DCT was a model of reliability. The engine ran flawlessly and used very little oil. Nothing broke, fell off or was subject to recall. Better yet, for 2012, Honda has updated the DCT settings, reworked the seat and fitted a slightly larger gas tank. Plus, both manual and DCT versions now come with traction control.

More column inches to follow...

Price as tested (2010):|$21,153
Current Blue Book value (not inc. options):|$12,475
Warranty:|12 mo., unlimited mi.
Engine:|liquid-cooled, four-stroke V-Four
Bore & Stroke:|81.0 x 60.0mm
Valve train:|sohc, four valves per cylinder, shim adjustment
Fuel injection:|44mm throttle bodies
Weight:|Tank empty 613 lb. Tank full 644 lb.
Fuel capacity:|4.9 gal.
Wheelbase:|60.8 in.
Rake/trail:|25.5º/4.0 in.
Total miles:|10,400
Miles since last report:|2008
Average fuel mileage:|36.6 mpg
Repair costs:|$484.95
Maintenance costs (incl. tires):|$1535.79