Honda's last VFR model still has quite a fan club. These enthusiasts love the gear-driven camshafts, a design taken directly from Honda's racing engines. The new version has updated the venerable bike in every way, from fresh styling to a model with ABS braking and a VTEC valve train that produces far different, quiet power. That power comes from a 781cc, V-4 engine.
The VFR Interceptor is still a true sports bike with its riding position tilted forward. However, the 31.7-inch saddle height, adjustable struts and logical controls give a nod to touring. Indeed, Honda calls it a sport-touring bike. In addition, removable saddlebags are available ($1,000) for adventures that include more than a day of corner carving. If nothing else, the bags allow you to skip the requirement of strapping on a backpack.
The ABS system on my test model linked its three-piston brakes, so the rear brake foot pedal clamps the front brakes as well. It's a different feeling than standard systems, but once one gets used to the powerful pedal, the front brake hand lever adds an even modulation. I engaged the ABS just once in nearly 300 miles of riding, and it works quite nicely.
Good brakes are essential on this bike, since they have to control and stop 540 pounds of machine plus rider. That's in vivid contrast to the under-400-pound curb weight of sports racing machines like the Ducati 1098 and Suzuki's GSX models. But the V-4 engine of the Interceptor has plenty of punch to move the weight.
During a jaunt with friends over twisting roads, I found that the Honda handled the curves with ease. When I got a bit too wide in a right downhill turn, the bike recovered nicely. And when there was open space, the Interceptor was a rocket when full power is applied.
Honda's styling incorporates twin radiators with electric fans to keep the engine cool and the fans switch on frequently at low speed in warm weather. But the temperature readout seldom nudged above 200 degrees. The same digital display switches to ambient temperature, a more useful measurement for most riding.
Speed, fuel and time, along with trip and cumulative odometer, are the other digital displays, while the tachometer is analog. All the instrumentation is well designed for easy reads at speed.
At an MSRP of $12,000, there are some pretty competent sports bikes available, including a fashionable resurgence of Italian motorcycles. But overall, Honda's Interceptor is an excellent candidate for a balance of comfort, speed and durability.