Outstanding looks, powerful engine and cruising comfort are some of the highlights of the Honda VFR 800. CARtoday.com took it for a spin.

The VFR 800 is the latest version of a motorcycle that went on to the market back in 1986 as a VFR750 F.

The styling is a huge success, one which even Italian designers would be proud of. In fact, some of the castings, for example the rear pillion footrests, contain sculptured spear/arrow shapes reminiscent of the Cagiva Raptor and are truly works of art.

The fairing too, is well styled, thankfully without too many flashy decals all over the place, just a simple, understated “VFR V4 VTEC” along the fairing just above the radiator air outlets. The deep red colour also looked the business, with only the cast alloy, six-spoke wheels looking a bit sombre in black, instead of gold or silver. On the other hand, they won’t need as much cleaning!

The dash layout is spot-on with a large centrally mounted rev-counter flanked by a digital speedo on the left, and fuel gauge on the right. Incorporated into the digital read-outs are ambient and coolant temperatures, two trip meters, the odo and a clock.

The rear end too has been beautifully crafted into an aerodynamic wing shape incorporating the taillight and indicator lenses, while the split-level seat is comfortable for both pilot and passenger. Seat height is low enough at 805 mm and the pillion has a pair of substantial grab handles attached. Space under the removable seat is restricted to room for a pair a gloves plus the toolkit and owner’s manual.

The engine idles with a pleasant burble that comes only from an engine laid out in a Vee formation, the sound muted to comply with the legislated limit of 80 dB. Once on the move it is pleasing to note that, at low revs, the engine (unlike in-line fours) oozes character with a low frequency rumble that progressively smoothes out as the needle rises above 3 to 4 thousand r/min. At 7 000 r/min the sound changes instantly to a metallic growl (albeit still muted) as the second octet of valves are called in by the VTEC technology to take part in the proceedings. Below this figure, only two valves per cylinder are used for improved low down torque characteristics.

At crawling speeds, some driveline snatch takes place and is amplified by the immediate throttle response. Once out of congested traffic, the quick response is welcome and the fuel injection is fault-free in operation. Even on a cold start, the system takes no more than a few seconds of spluttering before settling down to an agreeable burble. Changing up through the six-speed gearbox is a slick operation while changing down can be jerky, but is improved by dispensing with the clutch. The red line is reached at 11 800 r/min and, at that speed, releases a claimed 80 kW while the maximum torque of 80 N.m peaks at 8 750 r/min.

The beauty of the VTEC design is proven by making the bike chuff along at 60 km/h in sixth gear at which time the engine is turning over at only 2 500 r/min and then feeling it accelerate cleanly up the scale. After Mr Hyde has transformed into Dr Jekyl at 7 000 r/min, the pace picks up and, when the rev counter indicates 10 000, the digital display indicates 230 km/h.

The bike is suitably set-up for touring although the optional taller windscreen may help keep the wind off one’s helmet at cruising speeds. Other touring accessories available are 35 litre side panniers, a 45 litre top box and a magnetic tank bag.

The engine is smooth enough but some high frequency vibrations can be felt in the foot pegs and to a lesser extent through the bar ends. This would only be an irritation on long trips. While on the subject of long trips, the fuel consumption worked out to about seven litres per 100 km, from which we can estimate the range. This works out to approximately 300 km on the 22-litre tank.

The mass of 213 kg means care must be taken when flicking into corners, but the suspension does a great job of handling bumps. Front suspension uses upgraded 43 mm stanchions with adjustable spring preload while the rear suspension is a mono shock Pro-link system with adjustable spring preload and rebound damping.

The hydraulic clutch is light and smooth and braking is by means of a dual combined braking system. This means that when the front brake is operated, you get some limited rear effort thrown in, and vice versa for rear brake application. It may be unusual but it is well engineered and effective.

The bike has outstanding looks, powerful engine with surprising character for a four-cylinder machine, cruising comfort, outstanding VVT engineering, all add up to a particularly impressive package. It sells for R115 371.

Thanks to Honda South Africa and Mekor Honda Cape Town for arranging the test bike.

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