HONDA TALON 1000R VS. YAMAHA YXZ1000R SS

— Wheel-to-wheel comparison out on the trail —

In the September issue, we brought you the first complete comparison between Honda’s Talon 1000X and Yamaha’s YXZ1000R SS. We chose that comparison first because both machines are 64 inches wide. The two were pretty equal in power and medium-speed handling. The big difference was in slow-speed comfort and high-speed bump absorption; the Yamaha was the clear winner there.

This month, we wanted to see if the wider Talon 1000R with added suspension travel could compete with the Yamaha in the suspension department. We also did the normal drag races and trail rides to see what else might stick out about the two models.

The cockpits of all Talons have great fit and finish. While we like the passenger grab bar and cup holders, we don’t like the passenger floorboard, gauge/speedo location or driver’s side legroom.

HOW DO THE SPECS COMPARE?

Price-wise, the Honda sells for $21,000, and this Yamaha sells for $20,499. We added a mirror and a roof, so, out the door, they are about dead even. Overall, size-wise, we mentioned the Talon R is wider at 68.4 inches; however, that doesn’t lead to a bunch more wheel travel. Yamaha measures the YXZ’s travel at 16.2 inches in front and an even 17 inches of travel out back. Honda’s 1000R is listed at 17.7 inches up front and 20.1 inches in the back. Honda also has a wheelbase advantage at 92.7 inches verses 90.6 inches for the YXZ; however, the YXZ has an inch-taller tire with 2 more inches of sidewall, and those tires are eight- versus six-ply tires on the Honda. Finally, Fox makes the shocks for both cars, but the ones found on the Yamaha are way more adjustable. At each corner on the Yamaha, you will find dual springs with cross-overs and high-/low-speed compression and rebound adjusters. Unlike the Talon 1000X, the Talon 1000R does have dual-stage spring adjustment, but there is only a three-way compression setting and no rebound adjuster.

The cockpit of the YXZ put the passengers in a relaxed laid-back seating position. Both Can-Am (X3) and Polaris (Pro XP) copied this layout and lowered their front hoods to offer a better view out the front like the Yamaha.

HEAD TO HEAD

For this test, we started in demo cars with over 700 miles on them. We were not only paying attention to how well they ran and handled, we were looking closely at squeaks and rattles, along with wear items like suspension bushings, tires and skid plates. Both cars carry a spare tire, too. On the YXZ, we used a Yamaha swing-out tire carrier, and on the Honda we strapped it flat to the cargo bed.

For 2019, Yamaha installed larger hubs that accept 4/156-bolt-pattern wheels that are the same as Polaris. For shocks, they changed spring and valving keeping them the most tunable shock in the industry. Even though wheel-travel numbers are not the greatest, suspension action is among the best.

First, we wanted to see how the cars performed in a drag race. If you remember the YXZ and Talon X shootout, the X got a slight jump and held a one- to two-car-length lead until it topped out at 75 mph. The Yamaha didn’t overtake it until the end, as it tops out at 80 mph.

A huge advantage both Honda Talons have over any other UTV other than no belts to break is the ability to shift the car or let it shift for you. No other UTV gives you that option other than the 700 and 1000cc Honda Pioneer utility machines.

The results were similar this time. The Honda got the jump off the line, but the Yamaha overtook the wider Talon 1000R at about 40 mph, then slightly pulled away as it reached top speed. Like the X, the Talon R tops out at 75 mph and the YXZ keeps pulling up to 80 mph.

Next, we headed over to a deep, consistent whoop section to see how the wider, longer-travel Talon 1000R did on the bumps compared to the Yamaha. We hammered both cars over and over the whoops in both directions. After a few shock adjustments, we worked our way up to 60 mph in the Yamaha and still felt in control skipping off the tops of the rollers. In the Honda, we played with the compression settings front and rear and could get the car up to 50 mph in the same section. At 50 mph, the Talon would start to swap slightly, signaling to our driver not to push it any further. We have talked to two different aftermarket suspension companies, and they both have theories on how to make the Talon better. On different Talons, we tested springs from Shock Therapy and new valving from Race Tech. Both fixes got the Talon working much better, but in stock trim it couldn’t handle the whoops as well as the YXZ.

Honda’s twin-cylinder Talon engine has lots of torque you can feel at the seat of your pants, producing just over 100 horsepower. A turbo kit is available through Honda dealers that will boost the engine an extra 60 horsepower. Add big-paddle tires and ride in the dunes, you might need it. Stay in the dirt and it never feels underpowered.

ON THE ROCKS

In the slower-speed bumps and rocks we liked that we could easily adjust the Talon’s shocks to full soft via the three-click QS3 adjusters. It offers a plusher ride than the X. Using a screwdriver, we could turn the slow-speed compression out and get an even plusher ride once again in the Yamaha. When we got into a nasty rock section, we clicked the diff lock on in the Yamaha and put the Honda in low gear. They both tackled the terrain equally well but in a different manner. Honda’s low range actually isn’t that low, and in some cases you have to hit a rock or wall with a little speed to get over it. It will be interesting to watch the first Talon to take on King of the Hammers and see if it has any gearing changes. We think it will need them. The Yamaha needs them, too, for that type of riding. But, in stock trim, the YXZ has a “clutch pop” feature that helps the car get up and over sharp, steep inclines without having to back up and hit them at speed. Although you feel like you are sitting taller in the Honda, the Yamaha actually has more ground clearance and scraped less. The turning radius is better on the Yamaha, as is the view over the hood when needed. Both cars got through the rocks with nearly the same effort. We wouldn’t call either one great in this section, but they are both still very capable. The biggest benefit is not having to worry about CVT belts or breaking drivetrain components. We love how strong these cars are.

Yamaha’s air filter is accessible from under the rear cargo tray. You can get to the foam filter without tools, wash and reuse it. The Honda paper filter is not reusable.

IN THE COCKPIT

We mentioned the view out of the cockpit is slightly better in the YXZ, but it’s the legroom and seating position that really set it apart. We are constantly trying to move the driver’s seat back in the Honda. It’s not cramped by any means; it just needs a little more legroom. Over on the passenger side, the floorboard creates an awkward situation. You have to put one foot on a high platform and one straight out or bend both legs on a high platform if you are sitting in the right seat of the Talon. The lower straight-out position is too narrow for both feet. We don’t like where Yamaha places the cup holders down by the passenger’s feet, but they do work, and they don’t heat up your water bottle like other brand cup holders do. We like the placement and insulation of Honda’s cup holders. Cubbyholes and storage pockets are just okay in both machines. They are nothing to brag about like they are on the new Polaris RZR Pro XP. We do like the full door on the Yamaha best, but the doors and latches work well on both machines.

The make up of the Talon 1000R’s rear end is strong, but we wish they would have added double-shear pickup points for the two radius rods. History has shown single-shear components like this wear out quickly.

MAINTENANCE

Honda puts sealed bushings in the A-arms and trailing arms. You can add grease to the joints on the Yamaha. After nearly 1000 miles, nothing feels loose on either car or in need of repair. We did have to replace one rear trailing-arm guard on the Yamaha. The plastic split during a recent rock crawl test. The guards are the lowest point on the car. We feel these guards are mandatory on both cars to provide everything from that kind of ultimate protection to protecting the paint from being chipped when the front tires throw back roost.

Our biggest question was, would the Talon 1000R be better, suspension-wise? While we like the Talon 1000R’s easy to adjust QS3 shocks for average trail riding, the shocks and extra travel don’t work better than the YXZ1000R SS in the deep bumps, or any bumps.

To access the air filter on the Talon, clips open the airbox, but you do need a 5mm Allen to remove the paper element. It’s a one-time-use filter. The Yamaha has a big washable foam element that can be pulled out of the air box without tools, cleaned and reused. You do have to remove some bolts and push pins to check the oil on Yamaha’s divorced transmission between the seats. The engine oil can be checked without tools; although, since it’s a dry-sump engine, you need to let it warm up before checking the oil. On the Honda, the engine and sub-transmission oil dipsticks can be reached without tools and checked when the machine is cold.

We were able to hold a 10-mph-faster top speed through this very rough whoop section in the Yamaha than we could in the Honda. The YXZ is very stable and confidence inspiring in all conditions.

CONCLUSION

Either Talon still has one clear advantage over any YXZ. If you want to forgo the option of shifting, you can do that in the Talon. In fact, every time you turn the key on, its default is to be in automatic mode. You either have to push a button telling it not to shift for you, or you can just start hitting the paddles at will and the tranny responds by shifting up or down at your request. The Talon is the only UTV on the planet that can do that, and it’s one of its best assets. In fact, we would be surprised if Yamaha doesn’t add this technology on the next version of the YXZ to reach that type of rider. If this is you, the Honda Talon 1000R is a great machine. If you don’t care to drive around in easy mode and want to bang through the gears getting the most out of a pure sport UTV, the Talon is still great; however, even with 4 1/2 inches of width, 2 inches of wheelbase and 2 inches of extra wheel travel, it doesn’t do anything better than the YXZ1000R SS. For our wider, faster test area, the Talon 1000R is a better match for the YXZ than the X was, but the YXZ1000R SS still performs better across the board than the Talon 1000R. Of course, if you don’t need the legroom, don’t care to shift or really drive hard in rough terrain, go for the Talon 1000R. 

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