The Honda VFR1200F makes its India entry. Will the sports tourer with its modern looks and features take biking to the next level?
Honda has worked hard in the past few years to make the shift from radical to more street-friendly bikes. Recent Hondas have all the right traits — useable power, lighter handling and advanced safety features such as combined-ABS brakes. It has helped widen Honda's appeal.
The technologically advanced VFR1200F with Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) promises to change the way bikes are ridden in India. The company believes Indian big-bike buyers have matured to the point where they will appreciate the advantages of DCT.
This new Honda is a modern-looking, well-proportioned motorcycle with its bulk concentrated close behind its five-spoke front wheel. A beaky headlight is housed in the multi-layered fairing, which also sports a smart LED pilot lamp and turn signal-equipped mirrors. A large visor provides excellent wind protection to the rider and shields the VFR's neat instruments. The analogue tachometer is flanked by legible digital screens that relay speed, time, fuel level, twin tripmeters, engine and ambient air temperature as well as the riding mode the bike is in.
The switchgear is high-quality but feels cluttered. A hand-operated parking brake is a useful safety feature on the hefty 1200F. The VFR has soft, comfy palm grips and its buffed alloy front brake lever is reach-adjustable. The broad 18.5-litre fuel tank is smartly styled and elegantly integrates into the fairing and riding saddle. A VFR highlight is its stubby chrome silencer, which adds muscle to the overall design and allows a clear view of its exposed seven-spoke rear wheel.
A 1237cc, four-stroke, liquid-cooled and fuel-injected 76deg V4 is the heart of the VFR1200F. Max power is 172bhp at 10,000rpm and peak torque a brawny 13.1kgm at 8750rpm.
Indian VFRs will be sold only in a single DCT-equipped variant; the system deploys two clutches, one for first, third and fifth gears, while another operates second, fourth and sixth. The VFR can be ridden as an automatic in Drive (D) or Sport (S) modes, or as a manual. Riders can shift from manual to automatic or D to S on-the-fly. Pressing either shift button overrides automatic and instantly gets the bike into manual mode.
The auto mode is a boon in stressful city riding conditions while D mode improves fuel efficiency and the gears change at sedate engine speeds. As calm as the Honda feels in D, it gives you all the thrills you need in S, making 100kph+ speeds without breaking a sweat. The lack of engine braking when shedding speed is an irritant as the box fails to downshift quickly in S mode, and calls for manual downshifts. While the shifts are quick, Honda can improve on the clunky, mechanical sounding up-shifts. The DCT-equipped VFR is capable of charging past 100kph in 4.26 seconds, and crossing 160kph in a scant 7.5sec in S mode.
Seventeen-inch wheels front and rear, the VFR1200F is held together by an alloy twin-spar frame and a massive single-side swingarm. The inverted telescopic front forks are fully adjustable as is the gas-charged Pro-Link rear monoshock. The VFR riding saddle is large, well padded and comfortable, which makes this a good bike to be astride on for long stints; pillions will also enjoy their seat. Riding the VFR calls for a mild lean into its clip-on handlebar, with the footrests nicely positioned.
Straight-line stability is terrific while handling is also good for this 267kg bike. It's no sports bike but the VFR feels lighter than its weight.
The VFR is equipped with cutting-edge brakes — Combined ABS-enabled dual 320mm, six-piston front discs and a 276mm, two-piston rear disc.
Braking is excellent, with nice feedback at the levers.
In D mode, the VFR1200F returned a city economy of 15.1kpl and highway mileage of 19.6kpl. This is on par with other geared big bikes in India. The automatic doesn't hit back hard on efficiency.