2014 Honda VFR800F Interceptor - Road Test

Like a Phoenix, Honda's award-winning VFR800F rises from the ashes.

2014 Honda VFR800F Interceptor on-road action shot

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, but 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 refined middleweight sport-tourer that recaptures the spirit and elegance that helped the original VFRs become legends in their own time.

2014 Honda VFR800F Interceptor on the CW Dynojet dyno:

2014 Honda VFR800F Interceptor dyno chart

Most apparent of those refinements is the bike’s all-new styling. The bodywork is free of graphic treatments, instead making its visual statement with solid colors (either red or white) and crisp, clean lines on smooth flanks. LED headlights sit just above X-shaped “accent lighting”; the brake and taillights also are LEDs. A color-matched rear cowl is standard equipment and is interchangeable with the passenger seat. Most conspicuous, though, is the absence of the previous 800’s dual underseat mufflers, replaced by a low-exit, single-silencer design.

As a result of this restyle, the VFR looks lighter than before and, at 498 pounds dry, is lighter. That's about 20 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.

2014 Honda VFR800F Interceptor static 3/4 view

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 on those 2002–2009 models proved to be no stronger than on pre-VTEC 800s, and the transition from two to four valves could be disconcertingly abrupt, especially if it occurred midcorner.

But those are issues no more. Although the Interceptor never rips up through the gears like a middleweight repli-racer, 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. Acceleration at lower engine speeds is a bit more brisk; and despite the brief dip in the torque curve that’s visible on the dyno chart, VTEC transition now is smooth and practically seamless. As before, the transition is accompanied by more-intense intake roar and valve-train clatter, and you feel the step up in acceleration at around 7,000 rpm; but it all happens much more gradually, never producing a sudden forward lurch that can catch you by surprise. The revised engine tuning has slightly softened output up near peak revs, though, causing the new Interceptor’s 138-mph top speed to be several clicks slower than its predecessor’s.

“The outcome is a refined middleweight sport-tourer that recaptures the spirit and ele­gance that helped the original VFRs become legends in their own time.

More-predictable power helps to make the VFR 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 fast with 75 percent of the work if you shift less often and take advantage of the V-4’s friendly torque.

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. Although the wheelbase (57.6 inches) and steering geometry (25.5-degree head angle, 3.74 inches of trail) are virtually 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 midcorner, and remains rock-steady the whole time, even if the pavement is infested with bumps and ripples.

2014 Honda VFR800F Interceptor front wheel

Most of that improved handling is owed to the Interceptor’s reduced weight, lower CG (thanks mostly to the exhaust system), and better mass centralization (via dual radiators moved from the sides of the fairing to the front). 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.

Firm suspension rates help the bike maintain excellent stability during hard cornering, but they also deliver a taut ride that stops just short of harsh. The 43mm conventional fork—designed to look like an inverted style—is less of a culprit than the preload-and-rebound-adjustable shock. With a passenger on board and optional quick-detach saddlebags clicked in place and fully loaded, that coarseness would be largely mitigated; but when riding solo, the rider will never be unaware of any sharp-edged bumps the Interceptor passes over.

“What Honda has here, then, is one classy, versatile midsize sport-tourer, a return to a model that has generated fierce loyalty all around the world for a quarter century.

Apropos of the VFR’s mission, the ergonomics nicely split the difference between sport and touring; the contact points remain where they’ve been on all middleweight VFRs. But compared to the most recent 800s, the new bike feels more compact. That’s due in part to the more-gradual slope of the 5.6-gallon gas tank just ahead of the seat. Plus, moving the radiators from the sides to the front allows the bike to be 1-1/2 inches narrower at the seat-tank junction, easing the rider’s reach to the ground when stopped. And the rider’s portion of the saddle is two-position adjustable from 31.5 inches—about the same as before—down to 30.7. The non-adjustable windscreen provides decent upper-torso protection, only allowing turbulence-free air to contact the rider somewhere around neck level.

New instrumentation includes a large, center-mounted analog tach flanked by digital information screens that display mph, odometer, trip data, ambient and engine temperatures, fuel level, and time of day. The display uses white-on-black LCD technology that makes the information easily readable even in bright sunlight.

2014 Honda VFR800F Interceptor Deluxe instrument panel

With an MSRP of $12,499, the standard VFR800F is priced close to its nearest competitor, BMW's $11,890 F800GT. But for an unbelievable 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 fork preload and rebound damping; a remote rear-suspension preload adjuster; self-canceling turn signals; heated grips; and a centerstand. Given the potential value of all those extras, it's unlikely that many buyers will opt for the standard model.

Honda has designed more than a dozen accessories for the Interceptor, including the aforementioned saddlebags, a top trunk, a quickshifter, and handlebar risers that move the grips slightly higher and closer to the rider. None of these options were yet in production at press time, so we can’t tell you much about them other than their upcoming availability.

What Honda has here, then, is one classy, versatile midsize 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 solid package, beautifully balanced, impeccably finished, fun to look at, and 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 devoted followers everywhere.

SPECIFICATIONS
2014 Honda VFR800F Interceptor studio side view

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GENERAL
LIST PRICE $12,499
IMPORTER American Honda Motor Company, Inc. 1919 Torrance Blvd. Torrance, CA 90501
CUSTOMER SERVICE PHONE 310/783-2000
WARRANTY 12 mo./unlimited mi.
ENGINE & DRIVETRAIN
ENGINE liquid-cooled, four-stroke V-4
BORE & STROKE 72.0 x 48.0mm
DISPLACEMENT 782cc
COMPRESSION RATIO 11.8:1
VALVE TRAIN dohc, four valves per cyl., shim adjustment
VALVE-ADJUST INTERVALS 16,000 mi.
FUEL INJECTION (4) 46mm throttle bodies
OIL CAPACITY 3.3 qt.
ELECTRIC POWER 420w
BATTERY 12v, 11ah
CHASSIS
WEIGHT:
TANK EMPTY 496 lb.
TANK FULL 531 lb.
FUEL CAPACITY 5.6 gal.
WHEELBASE 57.6 in.
RAKE / TRAIL 25.5° / 3.7 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 30.7/31.5 in.
GROUND CLEARANCE 5.5 in.
GVWR 917 lb.
LOAD CAPACITY (TANK FULL) 388 lb.
SUSPENSION & TIRES
FRONT SUSPENSION:
MANUFACTURER Showa
TUBE DIAMETER 43mm
CLAIMED WHEEL TRAVEL 4.3 in.
ADJUSTMENTS none
REAR SUSPENSION:
MANUFACTURER Showa
TYPE single shock
CLAIMED WHEEL TRAVEL 4.7 in.
ADJUSTMENTS rebound damping, spring preload
TIRES:
FRONT Dunlop Sportmax D222F 120/70ZR-17
REAR Dunlop Sportmax D222 180/55ZR-17
PERFORMANCE
1/4 MILE 11.37 sec. @ 117.40 mph
0-30 MPH 1.3 sec.
0-60 MPH 3.0 sec.
0-90 MPH 6.0 sec.
0-100 MPH 7.5 sec.
TOP GEAR TIME TO SPEED:
40-60 MPH 5.0 sec.
60-80 MPH 5.5 sec.
MEASURED TOP SPEED 138 mph
ENGINE SPEED @ 60 MPH 4175 rpm
FUEL MILEAGE
HIGH/LOW/AVERAGE 43/37/40 mpg
AVG. RANGE INC. RESERVE 224 mi.
BRAKING DISTANCE
FROM 30 MPH 33 ft.
FROM 60 MPH 133 ft.
SPEEDOMETER ERROR
30 MPH INDICATED 30 mph
60 MPH INDICATED 59 mph

EDITOR'S NOTES

Paul Dean headshot

Paul Dean

Contributing Editor

I’m a fan of “small” VFRs and still own the 1990 750 I bought new. I really enjoyed riding the 2014, but Honda dropped the ball in a few areas. Adjusting shock preload on the standard is less fun than a root canal; the traction-control switch on the Deluxe looks like a cheap bolt-on; and, again, Big Red introduced a “sport-touring” VFR before accessory saddlebags were available. This detracts from an otherwise great motorcycle.

Don Canet headshot

Don Canet

Road Test Editor

One swing through the 7,000-rpm VTEC transition threshold satisfied my hope that Honda had smoothed the power surge that plagued the previous-generation Interceptor 800. But our base-model’s suspension delivers a harsh ride untypical of Big Red refinement. Fortunately, backing the screw out from the three-quarter-turn standard setting an additional one and a quarter turns greatly improves ride quality.

Mark Hoyer headshot

Mark Hoyer

Editor-in-Chief

I’m a former 1995 VFR750F owner who was baffled by the VTEC 800s and let down by the size and soulessness of the otherwise excellent-performing 1200. I had high hopes for this returned light sport-tourer, but I have to admit I’m disappointed it’s not 1,000cc or even in the 850cc range. I can hear the “mission creep” counterarguments brewing, but this bike with 120 horses and 70 pound-feet would be calling my name.

Action shot #1

Action shot #2

Action shot #3

Action shot #4

Action shot #5

Static front 3/4 right-side view.

Static rear 3/4 right-side view.

Static front 3/4 left-side view.

Static rear 3/4 left-side view.

Static left-side view.

Studio right-side view (Pearl White).

Studio front 3/4 left-side view (Pearl White).

Studio left-side view (Red).

Studio front 3/4 right-side view (Red).

Front view.

Rear view.

Overhead view.

Front wheel.

New fork gets radial-mount four-piston calipers.

Headlights / turn signals.

Heated grips.

Tidy dash uses light-on-dark LCDs to aid readability, with an analog tach front and center.

Centerstand.

Single, low-mount silencer replaces the twin high pipes on the previous 800 and aids mass centralization. Lighter wheels help too.

Taillight.

Dyno Chart.