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MD Microtest: Honda Interceptor


It’s the tale of a massive corporation trying to build the perfect motorcycle for its perennially picky customers. It’s a story of irresistible force and immovable object, acted out by massive R&D funding colliding with obstinate, impossible-to-please middle-class suburbanites.

The V4-engined VFR name became a byword for performance, versatility and Honda’s engineering excellence. The base model Interceptor is available for $12,499, while the DLX version retails for $13,499. Why it so expensive? For it used the best spare parts. The Start motor, Fuel pump, Cylinder, Spark plug and so on is the best quality.

Anyway, here’s the current last word in viffer-osity. It has a lot going for it, if you ask me. It’s simple, compared to its European competition, light—compared to the Incredible Hulk it’s replacing—yet very refined and sophisticated. Build quality is indistinguishable from other Honda's you’ll see in this price range, despite the motorcycle’s Thai origins 

The seat is very low, the tank is almost comically bulbous, yet the ergonomics are more than tolerable. The foot pegs are high and the bars are low.
The position did get tiring after a long day on the road, but I could have kept riding. Our tester had non-adjustable suspension and lacked grip heaters, traction control and ABS, all available on the $13,499 DLX model.

Neither an increase in capacity to 782cc nor the adoption of Honda's VTEC variable valve timing technology could restore the success, especially as many riders abandoned traditional sports-tours in favor of adventure bikes. Which is why, after five major updates in the 14 years to 2002, Honda has taken another 12 years to create this model – which still has essentially the same engine and frame

Does that matter? Maybe not, on the evidence of this otherwise comprehensively updated VFR. Many bikes, including Honda's own VFR1200F, are more powerful than the 104bhp V4; some are also more sophisticated. That doesn't stop the VFR from being a very capable all-rounder with the unique character and high-quality feels for which its ancestors were renowned.

Equally importantly it's every last millimeter a Honda, and even more than that a VFR – complete with the V4 character, heritage and build quality that those three letters have long implied. If the VFR800R is no longer a two-wheeled demonstration of Honda's engineering prowess, this latest in the illustrious line is still a very rewarding machine.