Honda VFR1200F DCT (2010-present): HondaĒs expensive essence, in a big road motorcycle packageEngine: The V4 1237 c.c. engine delivers 173 bhp/ 10000 rpm and 13.54 kgm/ 8750 rpm torque, claimed figures. The DCT (Dual Clutch Transmission) system is equipped at the transmission, as the VFR1200F DCT was the first bike to feature this automatic gearbox.
The gearbox is semi-automatic or automatic. The selection or the alternation between the two modes will be done using the AT- MT switch at the right grip, even on the move. There are no clutch and gear change levers.
Selecting the semi-automatic mode (named manual by Honda), upshifts are performed by the + button located at the left grip, while downshifts are performed by the – button at the same grip. In any case, whenever the bike is stopped the first out of six gears is engaged.
In case of the automatic transmission there are two modes available, Drive and Sport. Changeover or the selection between the two of them is performed by the S D N (Sport Drive Neutral) switch at the right grip. The Drive mode is smoother and more frugal in terms of riding, Sport mode makes the VFR engine even more vivid. Gear shifts are smooth, the operation of the gearbox is really good.
Actually auto mode is so good that rider will probably use that mode, especially at the Drive program, increasing fuel economy. This is the default mode despite any selection chosen by the rider at the previous ride. Starting the engine, the sound and the slight vibrations produce a pleasant definition of a big V engine.
Selecting the automatic transmission mode and specifically the Drive mode, the engine will require at least 3000 rpm to produce surge-free operation. The acceleration provided is smooth yet punchy. At a nimble pace of riding speed up-shifts are conducted at 6500 to 7000 rpm. Generally speaking at the Drive mode acceleration provided is solid, yet user friendly.
Selecting the Sport mode, the minimum engine revs required are 3500, speed up-shifts are performed in higher revs, between 8000 and 9500 rpm. Acceleration provided now is very powerful and direct.
Whatever the program is, Drive or Sport, due to the superb low down torque, some caution is required at the off on slippery conditions. Thus a traction control would be welcomed. This system is provided at the 2012 model, unfortunately the bike under test was a 2011 one.
The final drive is shaft. There was nothing to comment about it during the test, which is an advantage for Honda. However it should be stated that in the most recent years other manufacturers have also designed shafts which are operating faultlessly.
The automatic gearbox is superb, it can be used as an argument against the most inflexible supporters of a manual gearbox, as it will marginally decrease the joy riding, specifically only the portion of changing gears.
From the other hand, as it will be stated later on, the target group of the DCT version is rather familiar with an automatic gearbox operation! An indicative average fuel consumption figure is 7.3 l/100 km, (39mpg Imperial).
Riding position: The height of the saddle is normal, average stature riders or higher will step a confident foot on the road. Rider is placed in and over the bike, riding position is normal sporty. Thus the torso of the rider is quite inclined to the front.
The pillion is seated quite higher than the rider. There is a lot of space front and rear on the saddle for the pillion, although itĒs a bit narrow and anatomical. The handgrips are superb, the knees form a natural angle for fast trips, that means relatively sharp angle for ordinary rides.
The dimensions of the bike are normal for the sport-touring category or a 1200 c.c. motorcycle, that means increased.
Ôhe weight of the bike is large, 277 nominal kerb. Indicatively a female rider will not be strong enough to hold the bike upright in case that it leans a bit statically to either side. The weight of the bike can be felt whenever rider has to push her, which is easy only on downhill streets.
On the road: An inverted 43 mm is equipped at the front and a linkage at the rear shock. The stiffness of the suspensions is average, they are adjustable to spring perload and rebound damping front and rear. The spring preload at the shock is altered remotely with a knob at the left side of the bike. A single side swing-arm is featured.
The wheels are alloy aluminum. Ôhe tires fitted are Bridgestone BT-021, with dimensions 120/70-17 at the front and 190/55-17 at the rear. They consist a moderate choice for the specific bike, suitable only in case of touring use. In any other style of riding they need to be replaced especially on low friction factor roads. Stated otherwise, Road Sport category and BT-021 do not coincide. At least in theory, before the test, or in order to get 100% of the full bike potential…
In town the VFR may be used occasionally without imposing any special restrictions. The neutral and user friendly bike character will help the rider. The enjoyable oomph at the low end of the engine spectrum makes riding a pleasing thing to do.
On downtown rides the big VFR will be adequate in case of touring-occasional or even emergency use. The weight of the bike is a restriction on frequent and short rides. The weight applied to riderĒs wrists is increased, while the new-happy owner will find the front end heavy, trying to turn the wheel statically. This heavy front end sensation is evident also on town rides.
Comfort to the rider is superb over urban imperfections. This provides a hint about the quality of the suspensions and how well they match with the character of the bike. This level of comfort would be a desire for most of the bikes around!
Steering lock is just moderate for town use. Filtering is average since the height of the clip-ons and mirrors is the same with carsĒ and SUVsĒ mirrors respectively. However itĒs the nature of the bike which makes it more appropriate riding along with traffic, than squeezed when filtering. This is fair for the flagship of a big company, no one is expecting a Queen being blocked between metal boxes! Due to the great engine capacity, the motor gets hot on downtown traffic.
Eventually on urban use the VFR is a neutral bike in need of an open road to escape. She is not a bike intended for everyday urban use, she will just not puzzle on occasional rides. The owner will need a scooter/cub or a small bike for daily riding, riding the big Honda on the environment that she was designed and meant to provide pleasure.
On B-roads the VFR is very stable, (steering geometry: wheelbase 1545 mm (60.83 in.), rake 25.5°, trail 101 mm (3.98 in.)) and pleasant bike to ride. She is a heavy and robust motorcycle providing instantly confidence to the rider. She may leave sometimes the rider staring at the scenery, although he is constantly reminded that he is riding a sporty big bike. The quality of riding is superb, filtering whatever the rider doesnĒt need to notice.
At the fast pace on low-average friction factor B-roads, stability provided is undisputable. Agility is inferior to stability. This is due to the weight and steering geometry of the bike. The engine catapults the bike between the bends, there is no need to rev this engine hard.
The bike maintains high speed mid-corner, providing great feedback to the rider, despite the touring-oriented BT-021 tires. What a surprise! Thus itĒs the bikeĒs design and set-up providing this sort of handling. A traction control at such a pace would be nice although the bike is very balanced and power delivery is quite linear, so rider feels quite confident at the exits.
At the fast pace on high friction factor B-roads, the VFR becomes a significant opponent for many fast bikes. The BT-021 are not a major drawback then, the riding pace which can be achieved is superb given the bike character, justifying the invention of the term Road Sport for the big Honda. Stability and balance of riding are impressing. Presumably even the weight of the bike does not result to a problem up to a point.
The amount of traction which can be maintained on tires like the BT-21 on the VFR is impressing! Or, inverting this statement, if decent rubber is fitted, there should be little left to be desired from a 1000 c.c. superbike.
Performance provided at the Sport mode exceeds the requirements of any fast rider. There is no disadvantage regarding the DCT or the shaft, even at such a pace.
However at a pace of a track day there will be inertia felt to the rider, due to the weight and steering geometry. The suspensions which are not fully adjustable could be an issue also.
Conclusively the VFR1200F may satisfy a rider for some initial track day use, without any major compromises.
On the highway the VFR is super-stable. The big engine and the automatic transmission leave to the rider even less things to do. The saddle could be more comfortable on long distances.
The air protection is relatively good, aiding the rider to achieve decent travelling speed. Thus the speed of 170 km/h (106 mph) may be preserved really easy on the VFR. However with the standard screen even short riders have to lean forward in order to be protected from the increased air flow at a speed between 220-240 km/h. This is the maximum travelling speed, in case that rider doesnĒt care about fuel consumption either. The engine sounds rougher at such a speed.
Fuel consumption is substantially increased then, tank range is of course considerably reduced, which all become a disadvantage for a bike with a touring potential. An average tank range is 225 km, (140 miles) on normal conditions. Top speed is 270 km/h (168 miles) indicated figure. On sweepers the big VFR is also very stable and robust, with one exception: in case of longitudinal imperfections on the road surface she becomes edgy, the rider will just raise an eyebrow.
The brakes are combined ABS (CBS and ABS, not C-ABS). Twin 320 mm rotors are equipped at the front together wit six piston radial callipers, while a 276 mm rotor with a two piston calliper is featured at the rear. The front brake provides relatively good feedback and power, while the rear is powerful providing good feedback even when the ABS intervenes. Additionally pulsing to the levers is little at the front, negligible at the rear.
Conclusively brakes are quite good although they are not HondaĒs best, e.g. they are inferior to the C-ABS systems featured at the CBR1000 RR and CBR 600 RR.
A second calliper is equipped at the rear rotor, activating the handbrake via a large lever at the left grip. This is essential due to the automatic transmission of the bike, whenever she has to be parked on uphill or downhill roads. The disengagement of the handbrake requires quite some effort by the rider.
Model history/versions/optional/reliability/build quality: The base model was introduced in 2009 and the DCT version in 2010, weighting 10 kg (22 lbs) more though. This bike under test is a 2011 model. In 2012 the low down torque between 2000 and 4000 rpm was increased. Additionally the tank got larger which together with some fuel injection improvements, resulted to increased tank range. A traction control (TCS) was also featured.
The optional equipment list includes a 31 or 45 litres top box, 29 litres panniers, a 7 litres tank-bag, an adjustable in three increments extension of the screen, lower saddle, heated grips, a 12V socket, main stand, etc. However the competition has improved even more, with electronic adjustable or even semi-active suspensions, electric-adjustable screen etc..
That is to say concerning the flagship of a manufacturer like Honda. It should be noted that from the introduction of the bike, Honda was not willing to install many electronic systems to the VFR except from the ABS of course, based on the advantage of the Dual Clutch Transmission. The front indicators are embodied in the mirrors, they are adjusted by pressing the glass. The white backlight at the LCD instruments is nice and qualitative. An external temperature indication is provided.
No specific reliability issues have been reported. Build quality and finish are superb. There are no screws seen on the fairing, which is impressing.
Comments: Looking at the tail section from above it reminds of the naked Aprilia Shiver750 (2010-present), which features the silencers underneath from the pillion handgrips instead of the indicators in the case of the VFR. The Honda was introduced in 2009 though.
Honda seems often willing to invent new bike categories, either due to a necessity e.g. the case of the Fmx 650 where instead of the supermoto term Honda launched the term funmoto, or because a new model cannot be classified within the existing categories.
This is the case for the VFR1200F, which is a big sporty and qualitative motorcycle, aiming to general use mostly. Compared to the previous models of the line-up, as an example with the CBR1100XX Blackbird or the sport-touring category which tends to extinction, she is a sportier yet less touring bike.
Thus she is capable of every use, although she is not as good as the latest, ultra - specialized bikes at their best field of use, on any single case. Therefore, the future buyer is rather a Westerner, wealthy, mature rider, searching for a big qualitative sporty bike.
He is not specifically interested in the great cornering speed like that of 1000 c.c. superbikes, or the thrust and supersonic touring potential of the 1300-1400 c.c. hyper-tourers, the air protection and the natural travelling of the touring motorcycles and he cannot be tempted by the ferocious yet incomplete character of the big streetfighters.
He is in search of a committed, high-class, all-around motorcycle ticking all the previous boxes up to a certain extent and at the same time providing the potential for thrilling rides.
Price: 16900 Euros
Price DCT: 18900 Euros
+ General and sporty use
+ Build quality
+ Superb automatic gearbox
- Small tank range especially on high speed travelling
- Electronics compared to the competition, given that she is the flagship of a manufacturer like Honda.