SPIED: 2010 Honda VFR1200

No racer-rep, the new model will be a supersport-touring V-4!

These are the first-ever photographs of the long-awaited, next-generation Honda VFR, shown here undergoing hot-weather testing at an undisclosed location in the American Southwest. Continuing its evolution as an all-around, GT-style sport-touring machine (rather than an aggressive, MotoGP-derived race replica, as earlier rumors hinted), this new-from-the-rims-up VFR looks bigger and brawnier than ever before. This suggests a return to CBR1100XX Blackbird-level speed and stamina, capable of challenging the BMW K1300S, Suzuki GSX1300R Hayabusa and Kawasaki ZX-14 for the supersport-touring crown.

Styling closely resembles the radical V-4 concept displayed at the Intermot Show in Cologne, Germany, last fall, with similar floating fairing sidepanels that envelope the back of the front wheel, presumably to help with both aerodynamics and engine cooling. A single, X-shaped multi-reflector headlamp rests between two cold-air intakes, and a tall, broad upper fairing looks like it will provide plenty of protection from the elements. The rear subframe is substantial, both for supporting a passenger and, most likely, accessory luggage. The VFR's signature single-sided swingarm remains, but chain final drive has been ousted in favor of a shaft, further reinforcing the sport-touring nature of this new machine.

Main frame spars are massive and near-horizontal, indicating chassis stiffness in line with big horsepower (rumored to be as much as 200 at the crank) and a low center of gravity for reasonable handling. There are few firm details about the engine, but it is strongly rumored to incorporate a sophisticated, variable-cylinder operation system capable of deactivating one bank of cylinders in low-load situations to increase fuel economy and lower emissions. Expect a version of Honda's Combined Anti-lock Brake System, and possibly some form of traction control, too. Note this test mule has conventional clutch and shift levers, so this model apparently will not feature DN-01-derived semi-automatic shifting as standard, though it might be available as an option.

It's been more than eight years since the venerable VFR received its last significant update, making this makeover long overdue. We've also heard rumors of an ST1300 replacement and BMW GS-style mega-enduro based on this same platform. Expect the final production version of the VFR1200-and perhaps more concrete details on other new models-to make its official debut at the Tokyo Motor Show in October.