The Interceptor. The VFR. These two names have described one particular breed of Honda motorcycle, and for more than a quarter-century the company has alternated the monikers when labeling their flag ship high-tech two-wheeler.
In 1983 the first Interceptor was born. It possessed what has been the heart of the machine from the beginning: a V-4 engine. This was a sport bike fit for racing at the track, but was also a comfortable enough to strap on some soft luggage and motor to Vegas. In 1986, the name Interceptor disappeared, and the VFR with its all-aluminum frame arrived. It brought with it more refinement while remaining a popular racing plat form. In 1990, though, the VFR debuted a stunning (and now signature) single-sided rear swingarm and officially left the track for a street only life as the ultimate gentleman’s sport bike. In ’98 the Interceptor name returned with an all-new “pivotless” frame design, side-mounted radiators, and wicked-crisp fuel injection. In 2002 the new century saw an Interceptor with an innovative valve control system (called VTEC) to boost both low- and high-rpm power—and optional ABS brakes were added later, along with excellent hard saddlebags.
Unfortunately, the new VFR1200F is so radically advanced, so startlingly polished and wildly futuristic, that it makes its proud ancestors look like wheezing old minibikes. Honda’s new V-4 is a genuine stunner, and radically advanced in every aspect. Unlike the original 750-cc engine, the new 1200-cc VFR mill is directly derived from MotoGP technology, and the two rear cylinders reside inboard at the center of the crankshaft, while the front cylinders are positioned outboard. This means the bike is narrow where the rider sits, and you feel one with the machine rather than perched on top of it. Instead of a cable, a throttle-by-wire system directs the fuel injection via elec tronics, and the offset crankshaft configuration in concert with a new 76-degree V-angle delivers perfect primary balance to keep the big motor smooth.
A six-speed transmission is the standard gearbox, and it delivers power to the shaft final drive (a first for this family), but the wild ticket is Honda’s optional dual-clutch automatic gearbox, based on Formula 1 engineering. You can go fully auto, but the real fun explodes in manual mode, in which you tap a button with your left index finger to upshift, and touch a similar paddle with your thumb to downshift. The system works so well, even seasoned racers have lapped Japan’s Sugo Race way faster with the dual-clutch transmission than with the traditional unit. Handling is sharpened by excellent inverted front forks and a gas-charged single rear shock, and Honda’s brilliant Combined ABS brake system hauls the big bike down from speed in short order. A full complement of hard luggage and other accessories helps you create the ultimate sport-touring chariot.