2010 Honda VFR1200 - Techno-Force!

Honda's Big-Bore V4 Bristles With New Technology-And Good, Old-Fashioned Horsepower

Since Honda first revealed the stunning, heavily stylized "New Beginning" V4 concept at the Intermot show last year, much speculation has surrounded the next-generation VFR. Would it be a lithe-and-limber MotoGP-derived racer rep? An updated version of the current, jack-of-all-trades sport-touring tool? Or something completely different?

Judging from spy shots and leaked press photos that surfaced months before the new model's official unveiling, we now know the new VFR will be something completely different. Dubbed the VFR1200, the next-gen Interceptor will be a large-capacity hypersport-tourer reminiscent of the discontinued CBR1100XX Blackbird. The new bike looks to combine long-range touring practicality with sportbike agility and near-200-mph performance, rivaling the likes of BMW's K1300S, Kawasaki's ZX14 and Suzuki's GSX1300R Hayabusa.

The New Beginning concept clearly foreshadowed the VFR1200 styling. Though disguised in the spy shots, brochure photos reveal a similar, Y-shaped, multi-reflector headlight that also defines the shape of the oversized, fresh-air intakes flanking it. Layered fairing panels suggest some form of active air management to aid cooling, and the short, vertically oriented side panels resemble the current CBR1000RR and RC212V. A substantial subframe will easily accommodate a passenger and luggage.

Where New Beginning had no visible frame, the production bike exhibits conventional (and massive) main spars, indicating that the new V4 produces prodigious power. Going against suggestions that this bike would get hub-center steering and a front swingarm, the production VFR instead displays a conventional, upside-down fork. Six-piston radial-mount brake calipers no doubt incorporate Honda's latest combined anti-lock braking (C-ABS) system. A maintenance-free shaft drive replaces the chain, answering one of the Blackbird's main criticisms. The rear suspension appears to be Honda's proprietary Unit Pro-Link suspension-a perfect solution here, leaving more room for the V4's rear exhaust manifolds. A single-sided swingarm is a given on any VFR, though it's hidden here behind a bulky exhaust. Big motors demand big silencers.

That it's a large-capacity, high-horsepower V4 is all we officially know about the motor right now. Patents recently filed by Honda, however, suggest a novel cylinder configuration. Normal V4 engines have offset cylinder banks and the front and rear connecting rods alternate along the length of the crankshaft. Honda's newly patented design puts the two rear cylinders side-by-side, with both con-rods attaching to the center of the crankshaft. The front cylinders bookend the rears, with their rods attached to the outer ends of the crank. This makes the back half of the engine much narrower than the front, making the bike feel as skinny as a parallel-twin.

The valve train will be similarly innovative. The front cylinder head, which fights with the radiator, airbox and fuel tank for space, will use the UniCam rocker system from the CRF450 motocrosser to actuate each cylinder's four valves with a single camshaft. The rear head utilizes a conventional twin-cam arrangement, equipped with a further evolution of the VFR800's Hyper V-TEC valve shut-off system. The rear cylinders will operate on two or four valves per cylinder depending on the power needs (like before), or cut out entirely, allowing the engine to effectively run as a 600cc parallel-twin. Honda President Takeo Fukui has claimed in earlier interviews that such technology could improve overall fuel economy by as much as 30 percent.

A clearly visible clutch lever and conventional gearshift disclose that the new V4 will be offered with a standard, six-speed gearbox. Last year, Honda publicly revealed its proprietary, twin-clutch gearbox that provided semi-automatic shifting (via bar-mounted controls) and a fully automatic clutch to let you pull away from a standstill using throttle alone. Omission from these pictures doesn't mean that the semi-auto system won't appear on the new V4. Honda could offer it as an extra-cost option or, more likely, on a forthcoming touring model (see sidebar).

The latest VFR looks large in photos-this type of bike demands a big tank, big fairing and big seat-but looks can be deceiving. Using the 17-inch wheels for scale, wheelbase looks to be around 57.5 inches-an inch shorter than the Blackbird, and almost 2 inches longer than a CBR1000RR. The 30-inch seat height is much lower than a CBR1000RR, while the V4 engine arrangement means the bike can also be slimmer, making it much easier to reach the ground. Relatively low pegs and bars mounted above the top triple clamp mean the riding position should be comfortable, even over cross-continental distances.

It's been more than eight years since the venerable VFR received its last significant update, making this makeover long overdue. Expect the final production VFR1200 to be officially revealed at October's Tokyo Motor Show.

The actual VFR1200, with a lightly disguised headlight, spied during hot-weather testing in the American desert.
Official product photos, surreptitiously snapped on an unguarded computer monitor, show the production VFR1200 from all angles.