The VFR’s styling is original and different but debatable and clearly a form that many may take time getting used to. At the front, a massive headlight and visor dominate, while turn indicators sit smartly mounted in the mirrors.
The VFR’s instruments are top-of-the-line, with an analogue rev counter reading to 12500rpm and a redline indicated over 10K. All the usual gauges are at hand — a digital-format speedometer, fuel, engine and ambient temperature gauges, clock as well as ABS indicator. The big V comes with top-drawer switches, which deploy a novel reversed layout horn and indicators. And the bike comes with excellent palm grips and five-step adjustable brake and clutch levers that can fit any set of hands.
The front end leads smoothly into a multi-panel but somewhat bland fairing that fits just above exposed engine flanks. Aft of this, the VFR1200F is unquestionably handsome. The chrome, squat single silencer is hugely appealing as is its exotic, sleek tail-fairing, flared riding saddle, wide grab bars and superbly integrated tail-lights. The VFR embellishes this stylish rear end by keeping its driveshaft and the rear brake to one side, exposing its exotic rear wheel on the other. Quality, fit and finish, attention-to-detail, and paint lustre all are top class. In keeping with its touring bike image, the VFR1200F comes with integrated pannier mounts, allowing for easy fitment of extra luggage carriers.
The VFR1200F deploys a new, technology packed, 76-degree V4, four-stroke, 1237cc engine. Liquid-cooled and fuel injected, the new power-plant deploys clever space-saving measures that also help it centralise mass. For starters, the VFR1200F packs its rear cylinders close to each other, seating the front two wider apart. This makes for a relatively compact engine that fits better between a rider’s legs, while also improving control and stability. The big V eliminates a balancer shaft thanks to its phase-shift crankshaft, pushing a 28deg throw while keeping primary vibrations and noise at bay. Borrowing from its motocross-bred CRF relatives, the VFR1200F saves weight by using a UNICAM, single-overhead camshaft. The VFR1200F is the first road-going Honda to use a sealed crankcase system as found on the racing RC211V.
Max power is 172bhp, developed at 10000rpm, while the V4 lays down all its 13.1kgm of torque at 8750rpm, 90 percent of which is commendably handy after engine speeds cross 4000rpm. The VFR1200F transmits power to the road via its offset shaft-drive, which features a sliding joint that compensates length changes as the rear wheel travels an arc around the swingarm pivot due to the suspension working.
While buyers abroad can opt for a manual six-speed ‘box, Honda has launched the VFR1200F in India with its revolutionary automatic gearbox, the DCT, or Dual Clutch Transmission.
DCT is based on existing manual gearbox technology but deploys two main shafts and a compact set of hydraulic clutches. All gears stay engaged always with DCT. One clutch cares for odd gears — first, third and fifth — while the second works with the second, fourth and sixth gears.
The 1200F sounds the V4 it is, pulsing with a subdued tone at low rpm. The big V stays silky smooth at all speeds, leaping forward with an instantaneous, torque-laden response to throttle-by-wire inputs. Power builds with a V4-like rush from all rpm over 3000rpm, maintaining this momentum throughout a beefy mid-range, and then displaying really heavy duty vigour when pulled close to its red-line. The new 1200 shoots out of corners with the exhaust note rising from bassy into a typical V4 shriek as it eats up the straights. The big tourer delivers cracking acceleration, effortlessly taming all 172 ponies, and making it difficult to realise that this is such a powerful bike. A slipper clutch is part of standard equipment.
The DCT-equipped model lacks a clutch lever (just like our very own TVS Jive), and comes with a neat cable-operated parking brake located next to the left switchgear. You can ride it like a fully automatic (AT mode), selecting D (drive) or S (sports) mode, or set it to shift via switches (MT mode) via your left hand. All of which sounds harder than it really is, and takes little time to get the hang of, with everything displayed on the instrument console. Making matters simple is the VFR’s ability to switch from manual to auto, as well as Drive to Sports modes on-the-fly.
Also, simply pressing either shift switch overrides automatic and has the bike instantly in manual. Gearshifts are instantaneous, nice and smooth in automatic or button-operated modes.
‘D’ makes for good economy, up-shifting through the ’box at lower rpm, while selecting ‘S’ and gassing the throttle results in exciting high rpm shifts.
Honda’s done a marvelous job to conceal all the VFR’s 267kg. You can’t help but revel in the incredible stable feel offered as soon as you zip away from rest. No, it’s not nimble, but still gets into corners with a measured turn-in and through them with a reassuringly planted feel, no doubt assisted by first-rate rubber, and that hefty 190/55 x 17-incher at the rear. Mid-corner corrections are a slight effort, but nothing that isn’t to be expected.
There’s a taut, controlled feel at all times and a well balanced ride quality that borders on plush as is called upon from touring machines. The VFR1200F uses an alloy twin-spar frame, with 43mm, preload adjustable telescopic forks in front, and a remote-control adjustable gas-charged Pro-Link damper at rear.
The riding position is just right, upright, still sporty with its well padded riding saddle really roomy and conducive to moving around in while cornering hard. The big V’s brakes are top spec, combined ABS-enabled, a pair of floating 320mm discs with six-piston calipers in front and a 276mm, twin-piston disc at the rear. Feel from the levers is fine, with pressure stopping the bike safely and the combined ABS system working unobtrusively unless you really search for it.
The VFR1200F comes with a large 18.5-litre fuel tank and Honda claims this big bike delivers 15kpl. While a hefty price tag of Rs 17.5 lakhs (ex-showroom, Delhi) puts it out of reach of most, the new Honda is a champion when talking of motorcycles with an appetite to effortlessly gobble long distances in comfort. It doesn’t get much better than this in the two-wheeled world of touring.