2009 Honda VFR800 Interceptor - Long-term Evaluation
In 1983, performance-riding enthusiasts got their first look at Honda's radical new sportbike, the VF750F Interceptor. For most of them, it was love at first sight. The aggressive lines and racy paint scheme were truly infectious. And after nearly three decades of refinement, the VFR800 is still turning heads.
While nothing is truly timeless in the dynamic world of motorcycling, Honda's venerable V-four engine and the Interceptor badge are about as close as you'll get. Throughout the 1980s, this iconic machine dominated professional road racing by capturing five consecutive Superbike titles. Even after inline-four powered machines returned to dominance in the 1990s, Honda's smooth, torquey Vees still impressed in their street applications. Sport touring enthusiasts especially embraced the Interceptor and it continued to prowl the highways and byways through the 2000s. Though technical tweaks and upgrades certainly defined much of the bike's 27-year evolution, the original design philosophy is still prevalent in today's model.
From the second the starter is engaged, the hot-rodish howl from the twin, high-mounted mufflers lets you know this bike is different from the others. Fed by a Programmed Fuel Injection (PGM-FI) with 36mm throttle bodies and an auto-enriching system, start-ups are quick, choke-less affairs even on the coldest days. Once under way, the power is smooth and predictable whether sprinting solo or loaded for the long haul. And for those with a taste for the twist, the Interceptor has its VTEC ace-in-the-hole that really gets things stirring at higher rpms. As the tach needle sweeps past 6,500, the cylinders' other two valves engage, providing a kick in the pants that lights up both sound and speed, which belie the mill's 781cc. The howl and rush of the VTEC never fails to elicit a mischievous grin from this rider.
Getting that power to the pavement is one of the slickest shifting gearboxes available. Just the slightest nudge is all that's required both going up and back through all six-speeds. False neutrals are never an issue and finding neutral is hassle-free. The hydraulic clutch has a near effortless pull and engages smoothly no matter the load, grade, or gear.
While the impressive power plant has long been the Interceptor's calling card, it's important to remember that the chassis has also been subject to near three decades of refinement. The triple-box-section, twin spar, aluminum frame, Pro-Arm single-sided swingarm, and Pro-Link preload and rebound adjustable single-shock rear suspension have all evolved from years of race-tech trickle-down. The same goes for the preload adjustable, 43mm Honda Multi-Action System (HMAS) cartridge front forks. This package delivers laser-like handling that wows even with a pillion astride. Just pick the line and pull the trigger: the VFR delivers confidence in the corners that few bikes can match.
Though we may not always want to slow down, a good set of binders are still a sport-riding necessity. In this department, the Interceptor is also well equipped. A pair of 296mm discs with triple-piston calipers modulates the front wheel, while out back, a single-caliper sporting three more pistons pinches a 256mm disc. The whole package is linked via Honda's Combined Braking System (CBS). This setup keeps the front and rear brakes from locking, making emergency or loose surface stops far more predictable situations. Our unit was equipped with optional ABS that worked flawlessly during controlled tests.
Sport is only half of the sport-touring equation; the open road makes up the rest. True to RoadRUNNER form, we strapped on the bags and hit the road for a two-up adventure. For those that appreciate a sportier ride, the VFR has no equal when it comes to making serious miles. The seat is perfectly comfortable with even the pillion getting rave reviews. And the potential for heat rising from the under-seat exhaust pipes never became an issue. The very effective muffler shields protected our rubber-backed soft bags. The large 5.8-gallon tank offered plenty of range, especially considering that our fuel mileage averaged 44 mpg. Other nice finishing touches include adjustable hand levers, and an easy reading instrument cluster that includes an electronic tach, digital speedo, two tripmeters, and even an outside air temperature display.
For the touring enthusiast bent on performance, the 2009 VFR800 Interceptor is as close to perfect as any ride out there. Track-ready handling and 500-mile days are both delivered with ease. Perhaps the only glaring deficiency about this bike is its lack of availability. After 27-years Honda is pulling the plug on the Interceptor. As time marches on, so do market trends. Honda's V-four tradition will continue though. The new-for-2010 VFR1200F should be a very worthy replacement. But for now, we're proud to be touring on one of the finest motorcycles to ever grace the American road.
+ handling, power, comfort
- is being discontinued
Distributor American Honda Motor Co., Inc.
MSRP $ 11,999 / $ 12,999 (ABS)
Engine 90º V-four, DOHC, 16-valve VTEC
Bore and Stroke 72x48mm
Fuel System PGM FI w/ 36mm throttle bodies
Final Drive chain
Frame twin spar aluminum
Front Suspension 43mm HMAS, 4.3in travel, preload adjustable
Rear Suspension single shock Pro-Link, 4.7in travel, preload and rebound adjustable
Rake/Trail 25.3°/3.9in (100mm)
Front Brakes dual 296mm discs, 3-piston calipers, CBS
Rear Brakes single 256mm disc, 3-piston caliper, CBS
Tires Front/Rear 120/70ZR-R17, 180/55-ZR17
Curb Weight 540lbs (245kg) ABS- 551lbs (250kg)
Wheelbase 57.4in (1,458mm)
Seat Height 31.7 in (805.2mm)
Fuel Capacity 5.8gal (22l)
Fuel Consumption 44mpg
Liters For Less
Sport touring is not for everyone, and this is especially true for passengers. With the lone traveler in mind, Marsee Products has two excellent bags that give the light packing traveler a convenient and easy-to-use luggage option.
20-Liter Rear Bag
With the significant other having nixed your racy machine's spatially challenged pillion, bulky saddlebags for two are an easily avoided option. Enter Marsee's 20-Liter Rear Bag, a compact tail pack that boasts an impressive list of cool features. Beneath two of the four zippered, external pockets, nifty Velcro® enclosures conceal extra-long, adjustable mounting straps that offer both quick-release buckles and J-hook attachment options. For those who prefer securing their bag to a luggage rack, four specially-designed Velcro bands at each exterior corner provide yet another means of connectivity. One drawback we noted, however, is the lack of included strap pads to protect the bike's bodywork. This small addition would be a welcome feature.
Outside, a rugged 1680-denier construction repels dirt and water, while allowing easy access through a top mounted, 270-degree waterproof zipper with a storm flap. Large, glove-friendly zipper pulls are also a nice touch. Inside, a bright silver, seam-sealed material (also waterproof) ensures that smaller, dark colored items stand out and won't become obscured in the shadowy depths. In a pinch, the Rear Bag can even be turned into an impromptu cooler with the addition of some ice. On top, four D-rings and a bungee-type cord with adjustable cord-lock enable additional items to be lashed to the lid. A removable, molded handle, shoulder strap, and external rain cover are also part of the deal. Though the gear space needed for a week-long roam may be a bit beyond this unit's capabilities, a few duds for a long weekend are perfectly within the realms of possibility.
6-Liter Ciao Borsa
This tidy tankbag is a small, yet efficient piece of equipment that is an attractive and exceptionally convenient addition to the sport touring repertoire. The Ciao Borsa zips to a magnetic mount that also functions as a map pocket, when used without the bag. If your fuel tank isn't magnet friendly - not to worry as the Ciao Borsa is compatible with Marsee's Corona Mount system, which attaches to the fuel-filler cap. In addition to the clear window on the magnetic base, a second detachable and transparent pouch that mounts atop the bag keeps maps easily in view and away from the elements. The chamfered, octagonal shape features hard plastic interior walls that prevent sagging when the bag isn't fully loaded. Like the 20-Liter Rear Bag, the Ciao Borsa boasts a seam-sealed, silver interior, large zipper pulls, and a storm flap. On the inside of the lid, a convenient organizer sports a clear plastic ID holder with personal identification card, two pen holders, and two cell phone-sized elastic pouches. A molded, partially recessed handle and included shoulder strap nicely complete this package. Don't despair gadget gurus, the Ciao Borsa can also be electrified with an optional Powerlet kit that can be installed prior to delivery or retrofitted.