— Yamaha vs. Honda UTV shootout —
We have been waiting a long time for someone to challenge Yamaha and its manual-transmission-equipped YXZ1000R. After three years, old rival Honda came to the table with not one but two models that compare closely with the YXZ. With much excitement, we are taking a machine with the same width measurements of 64 inches, the Talon X, and putting it head to head with our favorite YXZ, the SS paddle-shift model. Enjoy the ride.
HOW DOES COST COMPARE CONSIDERING HOW THEY ARE EQUIPPED?
Yamaha’s SS paddle-shift model starts at $18,999. The blue test unit we are using comes with beadlock wheels for $20,599. We also added a $400 Yamaha sun top. The Talon 1000X sells for $19,999. In addition to lacking beadlock wheels, the Talon does not have full doors, which Honda sells inserts for at a cost of $210. Nets are not available for the YXZ unless you order them custom. The Talon comes with a roof as standard equipment. Price wise, the two are only a few dollars apart.
WHAT POWERS THEM?
Both have 999cc of displacement and fuel injection, but that’s where the similarities end. Yamaha uses an inline three-cylinder setup with a 80mmx66mm bore and stroke. Honda’s two inline cylinders have a larger bore and stroke at 92mm x75mm. In 2019, Yamaha moved the YXZ radiator rearward to prevent it from clogging with mud and debris. Honda hasn’t learned that lesson yet. Standard engine work or maintenance on either machine is basic and can be done at home on either machine. Clutch work on the YXZ is easy and can be accessed under the car. Working on the Honda’s internals is a bit more complicated, and we will have a report on this aspect later.
WHAT KIND OF TRANSMISSIONS DO THEY HAVE?
The YXZ uses a divorced transmission that sits between the passenger seats. It uses a manual, wet-plate clutch system similar to that of a larger motorcycle. Power from the transmission goes directly forward and rearward to the differentials via shaft drive. On the SS model, shifting is done through a set of aluminum, steering shaft-mounted paddles.
Honda bulks its dual-clutch transmission together with the engine, and that tranny is at the rear of the car, but there are separate shaft-driven front/rear differentials—unlike what Can-Am and Polaris use in the rear, as their diffs are part of the tranny. The Talon also has a low-range sub transmission; however, it’s only slightly low and still allows the machine to reach 50 mph. Honda’s transmission gives you the option to do the shifting via paddle shifters or let the system shift for you in full auto mode.
WHAT KIND OF 4WD SYSTEMS DO THEY USE?
When the Yamaha is in 4WD, it’s a limited-slip setup. A full lock diff selector on the dash will fully connect the front two drive shafts so they rotate together and get you through the gnarly stuff. There is a speed limiter set around 15 mph when in diff-lock mode.
Honda equips both Talons with I4WD. This system senses how much the front wheels need to turn in unison, depending on their movement, throttle position, etc. If needed, it does lock up and claw over anything. You just don’t have the control or knowledge of it happening.
WHICH IS FASTER?
At top speed, the Yamaha is about 4–5-mph faster. Off the line, this Talon hooks up slightly better and gets the jump. Before hitting its top speed at 74 mph, the Talon can put a car length between it and the YXZ. This was the case in manual or auto-shifting modes. In our tests on loose dirt, you had to be lightning fast, shifting between the first three gears, and make the shifts in the first 10 yards when driving the Talon. But, the Talon is quicker off the line for sure, and the YXZ has the top speed advantage.
HOW DOES THEIR POWER DELIVERY COMPARE?
The Honda has a lot of torque down low, but since the first three gears are so close together, you end up doing a lot of shifting when you are hard on the gas. Once into third gear, the shifts are not as frequent; however, in auto mode, you hardly notice it shifting, except that you get to listen to it. The Talon has a nice deep growl and sounds better than the YXZ in stock trim.
Although the Yamaha prefers to be revved, it has very manageable torque down low. We have been in situations from 15-50 mph where we could just leave it in third gear or shift to fifth and leave it in that gear from 50 to 75 mph. The Talon hooks up better, but the YXZ has smoother power across the board.
WHICH HAS BETTER SUSPENSION?
The Yamaha has almost 2 inches more travel at both ends. The YXZ also has a 3-inch-longer wheelbase and 1-inch-taller tires. All three of those measurements should alone equate to better suspension action. And they do, but factor in the size and quality of Fox suspension on the YXZ. That actually makes it a night-and-day difference in everything from plushness in slow-speed chop to bottom-out bump absorption. This is one of only a few categories where we had a clear favorite, and it was the YXZ.
We like the simplicity of the three-way adjustable Fox’s on the Talon, but they don’t provide enough comfort or rebound damping. The small sidewall 28/15 tires on the Talon don’t help smooth things out either.
HOW DOES THEIR HANDLING COMPARE?
The Talon X is over 6 inches taller than the YXZ1000R, so the Talon does feel a little tall when riding it. It’s not as planted as the YXZ, especially when going over off-camber trails. The YXZ is more confidence inspiring going over obstacles of any size. But, when the going is super tight, the Talon does have a tighter turning radius by a massive 2 feet. At medium speeds in loose dirt, the Talon turns better, too, thanks to the better-gripping tires. The YXZ tends to push in situations where the Talon carves. The tires most likely gave the Talon the advantage in the drag races we talked about earlier. The tires on the Talon contributed to better braking as well.
WHICH IS BETTER IN CHALLENGING TERRAIN?
Here, confidence is key, and sitting lower in the YXZ and being able to flick the car around helps. Also, the lower center of gravity and much better sight over the front fenders helps in the rocks and over ledges. We like the Talon’s low-range option, but we like that you can manually lock the YXZ’s front diff. Although the low range helps the Talon in slow rocks, you have to use manual mode. In auto, this was the only time we could feel the transmission hunting for gears. It was really hard to get either machine to stall.
HOW ABOUT COMFORT AND DETAILS?
The seating positions are quite different. Both are comfortable, but you have a lot more room in the YXZ. We kept reaching for more seat adjustment with the Honda, and the armrest on the driver’s side door gives your funny bone a workout. Honda’s glove box is slightly larger, but we wish both machines had a little better storage options.
WHAT IS OUR FINAL ANSWER?
This was a close one. While the Talon 1000X has better-gripping tires than the YXZ leading to more holeshots, the YXZ can beat it in an all-out, top-speed run. Those Talon tires offered more traction on loose, twisty fire roads, but that made the car feel more top heavy. Furthermore, the lack of sidewall makes them more prone to punctures and takes away even more from the overall comfort factor. The Talon’s automatic transmission options make it better for those who don’t want to shift, but that’s where its advantages end.
The YXZ is more fun to drive fast banging through the gears or skipping over big bumps, and more comfortable and plush driving slow. You can see over the hood much better when duning, racing or rock crawling, and the overall room in the cockpit is well laid out. We do like the cup holders and glove box better in the Talon, but it’s not enough to give it the win. The 2019 Yamaha YXZ1000R SS gets that title.