2002-2009 Honda Interceptor

Smart Money

Reinventing the Interceptor has always been risky business, mostly because every major makeover since the AMA Superbike Championship-winning 1986 VFR750F has moved it closer to sport-touring gentility. Some move more gracefully than others, but the heavily edited 2002 version is either a giant step forward or two in reverse, depending on your point of view. Blame the fifth-generation VFR800 that played to rave reviews from '98 to '01 for being such a hard act to follow. Trademark touches like four gear-driven cams made that 781cc V-four expensive to produce as well, so the VFR brain trust set off in a more civilized direction, complete with optional hard saddlebags.

Most everything between its more warlike maw and those underseat mufflers leans closer to fast, comfortable touring and away from the faster Saturday-morning scrape. Allied with a bit more low-speed compression damping at both ends, a slightly longer wheelbase improves steering feel and makes the bike more composed in most corners. The more front-biased linked brakes require higher effort, with or without the superb optional ABS that added $1000 to the MSRP. With a full 5.8-gallon tank of super unleaded, those enhancements add up to 557 pounds, making the '02 model a full 42 lbs. heftier than the VFR that earned our Motorcycle of the Year honors in '98. Shorter gearing in first and second helps turn 99 horses at 10,750 rpm into an 11.22-second quarter-mile at 119.8 mph, despite the weight gain.

Honda's sixth-generation V-four traded gear-driven cams for an injection of variable valve-timing trickery. In theory, VTEC gives you a torque-heavy eight-valve V-four from idle to 7000 rpm, where it breathes through all 16 for maximum thrust. In practice, an unseemly dent in the midrange and a little rush at 7000 rpm wrinkled what had been perfect power delivery. Live with that and you get exceptional fuel delivery, minimal vibration, a wider, firmer, more comfortable seat with room for two, plus 200 miles or so between fuel stops. In the minus column, hard parts kiss the deck fairly early under an aggressive rider, and a lean/green fuel mixture generates lots of engine heat. We've seen 220-degree coolant temps in heavy traffic, even on mild spring mornings. Most of the VFR's problems are heat-related, including an '02 recall to fix a critical ground connector that could wilt in it. Some bikes develop an appetite for thermostats. The regulator/rectifier can go south, as can the stator, so check all that. Valve adjustments are expensive as well, when the time comes. So? If long, fast weekends on the road are more tempting than track days, and the impending VFR1200 is too much, this is your Interceptor.

Inimitable V-4 charisma in a sporty, long-playing package.

Crotch-cooking engine heat in city traffic, VTEC dent in power curve.

Watch For
Signs of overflow around the coolant tank, dimming lights, electrical dysfunction.

The light-heavyweight sport-touring champion of the world.

2002 $5510 ($5905 w/ABS)
2005 $6800 ($7390 w/ABS)
2008 $8380 ($9020 w/ABS)


2007 | $9905

The fully faired version of BMW's Rotax-built parallel-twin can't match Honda's V-4 in terms of thrust or charisma. But the lighter, narrower package inspires relative beginners to go farther/faster, and can cover ground quickly enough to startle a skeptical expert.
2005 | $8170
Ducati ST3

Stronger than the Desmodue ST2 it replaced, the three-valve-per-cylinder ST3 possesses a broader spread of power that makes it a smarter sport-touring option than the more expensive and maintenance-intensive Desmoquattro ST4.
2005 | $4360
Suzuki Katana 750

Like a can of Star-Kist tuna, Suzuki's all-purpose inline-four isn't gourmet fare, but it's satisfying. The overinflated silhouette that arrived in '98 is an acquired taste, and stock carburetion is lean, but so is the price.