The Mysterious V-4 and the Return of the UJM

Honda has been hinting about it.  They’ve been dropping tantalizing videos about it. They’ve issued technical white papers on it. They’ve even had it out in semi-public places where the overly-inquisitive could take spy shots of its pre-production form.  But today, Honda officially confirmed that the new 1200cc V-4, V-Tec motorcycle will be a part of the 2010 Honda Line-up, and will unveil it to the world at the Tokyo Motorcycle Show in three weeks.  Named the VFR1200F, Honda says the new motorcycle is a dedicated sport-touring bike.  We still can’t see it yet, because Honda is keeping the final appearance under wraps until the Tokyo unveiling, but I’m sure all the VFR fanatics–and are there any other kind of VFR riders?–are now thinking seriously about getting hold of one as soon as their finances allow.

2010 Honda CB1100
2010(?) Honda CB1100

But that’s not all they confirmed today.  Big Red will also be bringing the CB1100 to the Tokyo show as well. It harks back to the iconic UJM bikes of the 1970s, like the 750Four or the Kawasaki Z900.  It even has the throwback chrome fenders.

Interestingly, it’s not water-cooled, but rather obviously an air/oil-cooled inline-4.

This is what motorcycles were like when I was a kid.  Naked bikes, ready to accept whatever customization you wanted to provide.

The only down side is that Honda hasn’t specifically said that this is a 2010 production bike.  Just that they will be unveiling it in Tokyo.  But I suspect they wouldn’t unveil it for no other reason that to say, “Glad you liked it.  We aren’t going to do anything with it.”  I suspect this is, in fact, an upcoming model, especially since it looks almost exactly like the CB1100F concept bike they showed off two years ago.

More on the New Honda VFR

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Our cousins in the UK at Motorcycle news report that the new Honda V-4 bike has a lot more to it that previously thought.  There’s apparently a lot of innovation in this new bike.

First up is the variable cylinder use.  Instead of running in a V-4 and V-Twin profiles, the engine can also run as a triple.  The ECU will select the use of two, three or four cylinders based on engine demand, and throttle input. So, the rider will get smoother transitions between the different cylinder use profiles, which should translate out to a broader range of usable power for the rider.

When in two or three-cylinder mode, instead of the non-working pistons being air springs, they will actually be running in vacuum. So, instead of losing power on the upstroke of the dead cylinder, the empty cylinder will actually serve as a vacuum assist for expanding the active cylinder during its power stroke. So, on net, you get a power increase for the working cylinders.

In addition, the engine, being a V-4, will inherently have the same crossplane effect that Yamaha has used to such rave reviews in its R1 sportbike.

Moving from the engine to the gearbox, the new bike will utilize a double clutch system, similar to the ones used by Porsche.  The rider will be able to select three modes: Drive, Manual and Sport.

Drive mode will put the bike in charge of all the shifting.  It’s essentially an automatic transmission for the motorcycle, and the emphasis will be on economy, with the ECU doing short-shifting to keep the bike in two- or three-cylinder mode.

Manual mode will put the rider in charge of shifting, but the twin-clutch set up will be used to anticipate the next gear change, so the rider can shift as smoothly and quickly as a race bike with a quickshifter.

Sport mode will once again put the ECU in charge of shifting.  But this mode is designed to run to the redline in every gear, giving you peak HP–which is rumored to approach 200HP–and torque as much as possible, and allowing you to concentrate on steering the bike, cranking the throttle, and moving your butt cheeks back and forth to hang off as necessary.

And this new bike is just the beginning.  Apparently, Honda has plans to build a whole new series of bikes based on this technology.  This first bike will replace the VFR and, apparently, the ST1300/Pan-European.  But beyond that, Honda is going to give us lots of biking goodness based on the new V-4 platform.

The only remaining question is whether or not we will see this bike in the 2010 model year or not.  If we are, we’ll probably learn about it in the next 60 days.  If it performs as Honda expects, then something like like this has the potential to be a game-changer in terms of what a rider should expect from a motorcycle.

I am really interested in taking a look at this bike.

Honda’s new V4 Web Site

Honda Europe has set up a new web site to set up the rollout of the new V-Tec bike I wrote about last week.  There’s not much to it but a tantalizing video that shows a few close-ups of pieces of the bike.  But it’s clear they’re getting set up.

If you’re interested, here’s the video:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7T8BFaXddCQ

Based on the images in the video, MCN’s artist conceptions were a bit off.

VFR12000: It’s Official

According to the UK’s Motorcycle News web site, the 1200cc V-Tec Honda I mentioned previously looks like the replacement for the ST1300–or the Pan European as they call in The old Country–and maybe the current Interceptor (VFR) as well.  MCN has pics and some info, though the full lowdown will be in the print version of the Brit mag.

Honda’s V4-based Pan European replacement will be the world’s most technologically-advanced bike in the world when it’s released next year.

Full details are in the new issue of MCN, but what do you think of the looks?

Leaked Honda design drawings have shown the bike’s distinctive duck-billed styling, which we’ve made real using CGI.

The colours are our guess – but the look is the real deal. Less controversial than the sports-touring version spied testing recently, it’s still a distinctive-looking beast.

One notes that “the world’s most technologically-advanced bike in the world” (in the dictionary, see “redundant”) still has a manual turnscrew at the back of the bike to adjust the preload.  Or as one wag at the STN Forum put it, “That’s Honduh-Speek for ‘The most needlessly complicated valvetrain in the world.'”

Pics of the new bike are below.  My initial impressions:

1) Hmm.  No tip-over wings. We’ll never hear the end of that from the ST1300 guys.

2) Looks like Honda figured out a way to get rid of that backlogged inventory of GL1800 rear-view mirrors.

3) I have to say that if the bike actually ends up looking like that, then Honda did a fantastic job of ensuring that bags aren’t too closely integrated into the bodywork.  The tail looks great with the bags off.

Finally?

So, every year, you hear the rumors: “There’s a new VFR on the way.”  “It’ll have five cylinders.”  “It’ll be a 1,000cc V-4 superbike.”  Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

There’s something about the venerable Honda VFR that provokes fanatical loyalty from it’s fan base.  And, for years, they’ve lived on rumors that the VFR will be upgraded in some fantastic way, and that the 782cc V-Tec equipped V-4 would get a new, massive power injection.  Or another cylinder.  Or something.  whatever it is, it would be wonderful.  Sadly, they’ve never gotten  it.

Until now.

Honda VFR1200 Development Bike
Honda VFR1200 Development Bike

It appears that Honda is lining up a 1200cc V-Tec bike,, not only as a replacement for the VFR, but perhaps, according to some high-ranking Honda officials, a new line of bikes.

There’s only a few spy shots of it so far, but it seems to have gotten the VFR fans into an absolute tizzy, despite the fact that the headlight looks like the head of some sort of South American jungle toad.

Anyway, it sounds impressive.

The new bike is said to be a sport-touring mount powered by a V4 engine with displacement around 1200cc. It is claimed to have variable cylinder technology, allowing it to “turn off” two cylinders (presumably the rear bank) while cruising in order to save fuel. European publications are claiming that the engine will have power “approaching 200 horsepower”, but considering Honda’s corporate philosophy and the intended market, we seriously doubt it.

Snarky asides about Honda aside–true or not–this is an interesting development.  Not only does it call into question just how powerful the new VFR will be, it also calls into question the future of the venerable ST1300, with its 125HP V-4 (but non V-Tec) powerplant.

The ST1300 could certainly use a more powerful engine to push its massive weight down the road, and for touring purposes, variable cylinder technology implies the possibility of 50MPG at 70MPH.  Combine that with the ST1300’s 7.8 gallon tank, and you have a highway cruising distance of 390 miles between fill-ups.  A lighter, more powerful ST1200 V-Tec would seem to be the perfect reply from Honda to Kawasaki’s Concours14 and Yamaha’s FJR1300.

And, it doesn’t need to have 200HP.  165 is enough to make all the C14 riders green with envy.

The new bike is said to be a sport-touring mount powered by a V4 engine with displacement around 1200cc. It is claimed to have variable cylinder technology, allowing it to “turn off” two cylinders (presumably the rear bank) while cruising in order to save fuel. European publications are claiming that the engine will have power “approaching 200 horsepower”, but considering Honda’s corporate philosophy and the intended market, we seriously doubt it.