Excellent handling earns second place

Honda revives its classic sport-touring platform with the return of its VFR800F Interceptor ($14,473.95 as tested). Powered by a purring and super-efficient V-Four engine, the new VFR gets sleeker body panels, wheels and instrumentation, as well as a reworked cooling and exhaust system. But were the changes enough to put Big Red’s legendary nameplate back on top?

Style-wise, the Interceptor was unanimously voted best-looking bike. Its streamlined Pearl White bodywork gleams in sunlight and appears more elegant than the cartoonish Ninja or the older-looking Aprilia. We also love the function of its LED head beams, as they provide a brighter, farther-reaching spread of light during night rides.

“Out of the three bikes I think the VFR has the best styling,” agrees Madson. “I really think Honda nailed it with the redesign with the new lines and particularly with the white colorway. It looked really good.”

The VFR’s well-thought-out instrument display also won us over. A dial-face tachometer is flanked by a digital speedometer and multifunction LCD that displays the most detailed amount of information. It’s also easy to read, day or night. Another neat feature is how the heated grips' intensity is integrated within the display.

“The VFR Interceptor comes with some conveniences that the other two didn’t,” says our Cruiser Editor Bryan Harley. “I loved having the heated hand grips and also having traction control. Having a button to toggle off and on right on the handlebar – easily accessible. Those two things are definitely appreciated.”

As Bryan notes, the Honda is the only bike that comes from the factory with heated grips. But you have to fork over an extra grand for the DLX package. Factor in side cases ($974.95) and the VFR is easily the most expensive bike in this test, costing over $2,500 more than the Mana and $1,200 beyond the Ninja.

We appreciate the slick integration of the OE luggage, which mounts discreetly into the passenger grab handles, but installation and removal isn’t as seamless as the others. However, the bags are a liter larger than the Kawasaki’s (29 liters versus 28 liters). Nevertheless, it still comes up short compared to the Mana’s huge combined 53.1 liter payload (side cases and faux fuel-tank compartment).

Contrary to the fixed saddles of the competition, the Interceptor offers riders the choice between seat heights. With the lesser option, the Interceptor has the lowest measurement at 31 inches. However, it can be easily lifted, placing it more along the lines of the Kawi (31.8 inches versus 32.3 inches), which our taller testing troupe preferred.

Seated at the controls, it’s apparent the VFR has the most racing-focused ergonomics, putting extra demand on the rider’s extremities. Though it’s worth noting that it can be outfitted with an optional handlebar riser kit ($119.95).

“In terms of rider comfort one major drawback is the forward lean just puts too much pressure on my wrists,” explains Bart. “It’s a personal pet peeve of mine. I’m sure some people will get along fine with it.”

For sure, the 800 is more demanding to ride on straight roads. But when the pavement starts to zig and zag, its sporty stance pays dividends. It was the most agile through switchbacks, which was a bit of a surprise considering it's carrying 17 extra pounds against the green machine. The chassis also felt more connected with the road, delivering the same type of first-rate balance we’ve come to expect from a modern Honda sportbike. In fact, we never even had to touch a suspension clicker — something we can’t say about the other two machines. Still, Madson wasn’t totally sold on the Honda’s handling, saying he favored the Ninja’s road manners overall.

“The VFR is a good-handling bike, but I never felt quite as comfortable as I did on the Ninja,” he admits. “Particularly with the front end. In tight corners and rough surfaces, it just didn’t transmit the level of feel that I found on the Ninja.”

On our notepads, the Honda’s brakes ranked between the class-leading setup on the Ninja and the slightly softer-feeling Aprilia. But in the braking test, the 800 ranked at the back of the group. It took the longest distance to stop from 60 mph, requiring 2.4 inches more than the Mana and 8.4 inches more than the Kawasaki.

Although the VFR’s chassis shines when pushed in the canyons, its engine didn’t quite live up to the same expectation. Results from dyno testing illustrate that the VFR’s V-Four is outpaced at all engine speeds versus the Ninja 1000’s mill. Almost 97 ponies are available at 10,100 revs, placing it a whopping 42.67 ponies ahead of the Aprilia but nearly 26 down on the green machine.

It was a similar story in terms of torque with it again ranking between the two. Pair that with its 56.56 lb-ft peak hitting at a lofty 8,400 rpm and it makes for extra work to keep the VFR’s engine spinning where it needs to for prime acceleration.

From a stop the Honda zips to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds — 0.3 behind the Ninja but 0.8 ahead of the Mana. It again finished between the two through the quarter mile with a time of 12.83 seconds at 113.8 mph.

“The VFR’s engine has got a little more character than the Ninja, but it can’t deliver in terms of performance,” notes Bart. “I always wanted to keep it revved up high where it’s got the four-valve VTEC going. And it sounds great up there. But it’s just not as potent overall as the Ninja powerplant.”

As Madson points out, as long as the V-Four’s tach needle points toward the red zone, it’s an exhilarating riding experience — unleashing an ear-pleasing purr that begs the rider to twist the right grip harder. So it’s a good thing it can be outfitted with an electronic quickshifter as an OE accessory ($299.95) thereby reducing the time and effort it takes to make an upshift.

“I give the VFR a slight edge over the Ninja in terms of the transmission because ours came equipped an optional quickshifter, which was a nice feature,” Madson explains. “It’s not as smooth as some quickshifters that I’ve tried, but it was definitely nice when you’re on throttle just to be able to bang up in the gears.”

While the Honda’s six-speed gearbox won us over, its hydraulic-actuated clutch requires a bit more finesse and muscle than the cable-driven unit on the Kawasaki.

Despite being down on power, the Interceptor’s engine was easily the smoothest-running and virtually free of vibration at all engine speeds. We also valued how its snarl doesn’t attract too much attention on the road with it tying the Aprilia as quietest in measured sound emissions.

Big Red’s proprietary VTEC technology also proves its usefulness by achieving the best-in-class fuel mileage of 42.7 mpg. It also sports the largest fuel capacity (5.2 gallons), allowing the rider to cover the greatest distance between fill-ups (222 miles).

With its sporty handling, the VFR reigns supreme on curvy roads. But its engine proved a little too tame for our tastes. Pair that with its riding stance, which was the most aggressive, and the Honda was the least comfortable to ride over long distances, thus positioning it in a distant second in this shootout.

VFR800F DLX Suspension Settings


  • Preload: 4 (Turns in)
  • Rebound: 1 (Turns out)


  • Preload: Standard, 7 (Turns in)
  • Rebound: 0.75

VFR800F Interceptor Highs & Lows


  • Smooth, charismatic V-Four engine
  • Excellent road holding through turns
  • Above average fuel economy and range


  • Demanding sport-oriented ergonomics
  • Engine could offer more bottom-end and midrange power
  • Side cases could be easier to mount/dismount

2014 Honda VFR800F Interceptor Specs

  • Engine: 782cc liquid-cooled 90º V-4
  • Bore x Stroke: 72.0 x 48.0mm
  • Compression Ratio: 11.8:1
  • Fuel Delivery: PGM-FI with automatic enrichment circuit, 36mm throttle bodies
  • Clutch: Wet-plate, hydraulic actuation
  • Transmission: Six-speed
  • Final Drive: Chain
  • Front Suspension: 43mm with spring-preload adjustability; 4.3 inches travel
  • Rear Suspension: Pro Arm single-side swingarm with Pro Link single spring-preload and rebound damping adjustability; 4.7 inches travel
  • Front Brake: Dual full-floating 310mm discs with four-piston calipers
  • Rear Brake: Single 256mm disc
  • Front Tire: 120/70ZR-17 Dunlop D222
  • Rear Tire: 180/55ZR-17 Dunlop D222
  • Rake: 25.5 deg. / Trail: 3.74 inches
  • Wheelbase: 57.4 inches
  • Seat Height: 31-31.8 inches
  • Curb Weight: 541 pounds
  • Fuel Capacity: 5.2 gallons
  • MSRP: $14,473.95 as tested