By IOL Motoring Staff
Johannesburg - Honda has been building V4 motorcycle engines for nearly 40 years; Marc Marquez’ RC213V MotoGP machine has a V4 engine, as does the company's sports-touring flagship, the VFR1200F.
And, of course, the VFR800F, successor to the iconic RC30 and RC45 Superbikes, and the machine that perhaps comes closest to Soichiro Honda's ideal of a motorcycle that could be all things to all people. For more than a decade it has been the great all-rounder, the yardstick by which such things are measured, inspiring enormous owner loyalty.
So when it came time to re-invent the VFR800F, Honda looked to retain the qualities that inspired that loyalty, refine a few rough edges, add the essential gizmotronics that define today's motorcycles - and put the bike on a diet.
So, the 782cc V-four has been retuned for a broader spread of power in the low and mid-range - mostly by detail work on the cam timing - the “slamming door” VTec transition (always the VFR800's Achilles heel) has been smoothed out some more, and traction control has been added, controlled by a switch on the left handlebar.
Peak power is now quoted at 77.9kW at 10 250 revs, with maximum torque of 75.1Nm at 8500rpm, thanks to PGM-FI fuel injection with 36mm throttle bodies and a remapped ECU to suit the engine's revised performance parameters.
Honda also quotes fuel consumption of 5.15 litres per 100km; we'll reserve judgement on that number until we've ridden one, with or without the electronic quick-shifter that's now offered as a factory aftermarket bolt-on for the first time on this model.
The box-section, twin-spar aluminium twin-spar frame is unchanged, but the revised die-cast aluminium sub-frame is significantly lighter than the previous model, ABS is now standard, and the 43mm multi-action forks and single-sided swing-arm are completely new.
The fork lowers have been redesigned in two pieces to accept radial-mount four-piston brake callipers, with dual 310mm front discs and a 256mm rear disc running on hollow die-cast aluminium wheels.
A gas-charged rear shock operates through a Pro-Link suspension linkage with remote spring preload and stepless rebound damping adjustment, and a single exhaust tailpipe replaces the dual underseat mufflers of the previous model, contributing significantly to an overall reduction in kerb weight from 249kg to 242kg.
The new VFR800F is considerably slimmer than its predecessor (40mm narrower across the fairing, more across the nose of the saddle) mixing details such as the contemporary X-shaped headlight (now with all-LED lighting, a first for Honda) with styling cues from the classic VFR750 of the 1990s.
Rather than use a simple timer, the self-cancelling indicators compare front and rear wheel speed difference and calculates when to cancel, which we suspect might lead to confusion when changing lane; once again we'll reserve judgement until we've ridden one.
A new instrument pod houses a digital speedometer and tachometer plus gear position indicator, ambient temperature gauge, fuel consumption information and clock, as well as a warning icon for the standard-issue five-stage heated grips.
Even the ignition key has been re-engineered with internal grooving to reduce the risk of it breaking off in the lock if it gets a knock from the side - and don't laugh, it's only funny when it happens to somebody else.
The seat height is adjustable by 20mm, from 790mm to 810mm, and a 15mm handlebar spacer kit allows extra wriggle room for taller riders.
The new Honda VFR800F is available now at R141990, which includes a 24 month unlimited distance warranty and 12 months' roadside assistance.