Living With Comparo
Honda VFR800 Interceptor :: Kawasaki Concours
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After all of the bitching and griping that stemmed from Honda's "VFR 800" to "V-Tech Interceptor" switch, I was prepared to be disappointed from the moment I picked the new bike up at Honda. However, there was precious little disappointment in evidence throughout the Interceptor's entire stay at Motorcycle.Com. Indeed, this thing knocked my socks off, as soon as I pulled out of Honda's lot and twisted the throttle to the stop. Bella! This bike sounds better than Luciano Pavarotti at a Courtney Love concert! I was so excited, that I rode straight to Long John Silver's fish shack and proceeded to regale Fonzie with tales of audio delight, throughout our thirty minute lunch, even though the ride from Honda only took 10 minutes.
Perhaps the biggest Interceptor shocker, came when we were shooting video clips as we flogged the Streetfighter Shootout bikes back-n-forth through a tight section of canyon road. After rotating through all three "streetfighters", I jumped aboard the VFR and proceeded to go faster with less effort, than on the nimble streetfighters. What we have here, is a classic case of: "This Bike Plain WORKS!" The 782cc Interceptor might not have a class leading power-to-weight ratio, but it makes the most of what it has, in a confident, seamless, yet visceral manner that's unmatched by any other motorcycle in recent memory.
The Interceptor tracks accurately through transitions and over rough pavement, even though it has a suspension that is tuned to offer a "compromise" (read soft) between touring and sporting. Another item that works quite well even though they are "compromised" are the Honda's linked brakes with optional ABS. I've long condemned linked-brake systems, but in the Interceptor's case the linking is unobtrusive, while overall brake feel is both powerful and accurate. The optional $1,000 ABS system works very well, with a high threshold before the ABS intervenes, allowing the front brakes to be used just like the brakes on any other modern sportbike, only with the added safety of anti-lock. If Honda ever insists on putting linked or ABS brakes on all of its motorcycles, let's hope they are as good as the system on the VFR.
Overall, the VFR's riding position is slightly "sportier" than the Concours, with a cockpit that sees the rider's feet slightly rearward and the upper body canted forward a few extra degrees from "standard". However, Honda stopped short of a full-on "sportbike" riding position and normal/healthy riders won't find cramped legs, nor too much weight placed on their wrists. Indeed, the Interceptor is every bit as happy to drone along through long straight highway stretches as the Concours is. Aside from the cost of ownership, the Interceptor seems to be every bit as practical as an every day vehicle, as the Concourse is. Once you get to the twisties however, the Interceptor pays big dividends with its extra fifteen years worth of engineering and technology. Of course the Interceptor has to be better than a Concours, if it hopes to sell to riders that could save up to $4,000 between the cost of an ABS + hard case equipped Interceptor and an $8,300 Concours with its standard (though outdated) hard cases.
|Combined Dyno Charts:|
Martin on the Interceptor
I have ridden several VFRs over the years starting back with the mid-`90s 750cc variant. I even had the opportunity to rotate between a VFR 750, a CBR1100XX and a CBR900RR on a 2,300-mile tour of the Northern Rockies once and aside from the relative lack of motor, I was impressed with the VFR as a capable sport tourer with a sporting emphasis. At that time, my only complaint was that it needed more motor, but the company it was in could have had something to do with that. I had absolutely no complaints about the handling or long-distance comfort though. The VFR impressed me as a geeky-tech, practical motorcycle with some soul.
After the passage of several years and lots o, bikes, I had the opportunity during our recent shootout to become reacquainted with the Interceptor in its current VTEC equipped incarnation. My immediate and lasting impression is that it kicks ass - as long as you don't get off and look at it too long. If you look up coyote ugly in the dictionary, you'll see a picture of the homely VFR waving at you. That aside, this is one impressive motorcycle. The sound at the intake that results when the VTEC actuates all of the valves above 7K is among the most glorious in all of motorcycling (and is accompanied with some major thrust). I don't even know if you could find an aftermarket pipe that would do justice to the righteous intake honk.
The damn thing gets around corners pretty good too. In fact, if the truth be known, I felt as good or better going fast on the VFR, as I did on any of the streetfighters from our Streetfighter Shootout, because it's such a well-balanced bike with excellent manners and feedback. Yeah the suspension is a little soft and wallowy, and I HATE the linked brakes, but I understand how everything works and at least, it's balanced in its wonkiness. The underseat exhaust is cool and I didn't miss the old whine from the gear driven cams one bit, once I hit the magic number on the tach and the VTEC did its thang. Holy mother of Toledo!
I know that a lot has been made of the weight and relative lack of motor on the newest Interceptor and on that latter point, I am in agreement. I'd really like to see a VFR1000 with this same VTEC system. That would be something to behold. As for the heft, well, Honda seems to know how to disguise this better than just about anyone, because it sure doesn't feel like a 500 lb motorcycle to me. I like light bikes, but not at the expense of everything else on the motorcycle. Aside from my perception that it could use a little more juice and some better styling I really liked this motorcycle. It is unconditionally my favorite candidate for a set of hard bags and a one month vacation.
Fonzie on the Interceptor
The Honda Interceptor is my new favorite bike of all time, bumping the Yamaha FZ6 from that title. Though occasionally electric feeling, the VFR always delivers a terrific intake rumble when on the cam... both the intake and exhaust noise make my ears happier every mile I ride.
As a testament to the rideability of this sport tourer, I can tell you that even after making a 22 hour round-trip ride to Las Vegas for the Supermoto finals in November - a total of 620 miles and 590 pictures- I could have immediately turned around and ridden it all over again. Ever comfortable in its saddle, I was tempted to choose the VFR over an HD Sportster, to attend the 21st Annual Love Ride in Glendale, CA. despite the stigma of riding a crotch rocket in an American iron crowd. `Tween you and me, the Honda would have been a much better ride... although the nearly vibe-free 04 Sportster is the best Sporty ever, the VFR wins that mini-comparo as well.
|HOW WE VOTED (Isn't it kinda obvious...)|
This is a clear case of different strokes for different folks. Both of these motorcycles are quite capable of providing a lifetime of enjoyment for their riders. In the end, it all comes down to what you are looking for in a sport touring mount and nobody knows that better than you.