— Special report on both the R and the X models —
It looks like Honda has come out swinging with the announcement of two versions of its long-awaited Talon SxS. The 2019 Honda Talons will be priced comparably with other non turbo cars in the class. Prices will be released in January. They will both be powered by a 999cc, single-cam, dual-cylinder engine with four valves per cylinder and fuel injection. Horsepower is just over 100. The transmission is similar to what’s found on the Pioneer 1000 or Honda’s Africa Twin Adventure motorcycle with dual clutches and a six-speed gearbox with a high/low sub-transmission. The dual-range transmission basically gives it 12 speeds, which will be perfect for rock crawling, tight woods or open desert trails. Drivers will be able to shift using paddle shifters or let the machine do it automatically. The machines have different rear suspension systems and a wheelbase that is either slightly shorter or slightly longer than that of a 90-inch RZR XP.
This is the 64-inch-wide version meant to take on rocks or tighter woods trails. It has a three-link rear suspension with 15 inches of travel and dual A-arms up front with 14.6 inches of travel. Fox Podium three-position shocks are used on all four corners. This machine is 123.9 inches long, 64 inches wide and 75.3 inches tall with an 87-inch wheelbase. The X will be available in Pearl Red/Metallic Grey and Metallic Grey/Metallic Blue. The X has a curb weight of 1490 pounds.
Honda’s version of long travel brings the Talon to 68.4 inches wide and gives it 17.7 inches of front suspension and 20 inches of rear suspension, which is comparable to a RZR XP. The rear suspension is a stronger four-link design, and all four shocks are Fox Podiums with QS3 adjusters. The R will be available in Pearl Red and Pearl Green. The R has a curb weight of 1545 pounds.
Both machines will use the same 28×9-15 front and 28×11-15 rear tires. Unfortunately, the wheels have a very different offset front and rear, so wheel companies will have to build accordingly. The gas tank is rather small at 7.3 gallons, but, on the positive side, in our testing of the Pioneer 1000, it gets much better gas mileage than most machines like it. Full window nets are standard equipment. The rear cargo-bed capacity is rated at 299 pounds. There is no turbo or four-seat option available as of now.
Before their release, we were able to drive the Talons at one of Honda’s secret test facilities, and we certainly came away impressed.
The R held its line well in high-speed whoops. It felt very calm and planted, even in whoops on a curve. The R slides and corners very precisely. The X feels more agile than the 1000R with very flat cornering. It’s a little busier than the 1000R in high-speed whoops and bumps, but it is still good. It will be excellent in the tighter trails back east. Luckily for Honda, people have already been widening trails at the eastern ride areas to accept 64-inch-wide cars. Both Talons have powerful engines with cool sound and crisp response, though in auto mode, the DCT’s downshifts aren’t as smooth as a CVT. Upshifts are quick and crisp and give the machine a unique feel.
Automatic sport mode was the most fun. Even Honda test guys claim they can’t manually paddle shift as quickly as automatic mode. You can shift manually in automatic mode too.
In the cockpit, both machines had excellent seat and cabin comfort. The glove box and two wells in the dash offer abundant storage.
The center-mounted instrument panel is dated, but the instruments are clear and readable.
The shift selector and door releases have a smooth, solid, high-quality feel.
The average trail rider will find the Honda Talon a great choice. Sand guys or racers may shy away until a turbo option is available. We can bet there are a ton of current dirt bike owners who will use this machine to finally jump in and enjoy the sport of UTV riding. With the reliability we have seen from Honda over the years and the fun we had on the initial test drive, we can’t wait to put some more miles on both Talon models in different parts of the country. The giant has awakened, and we expect even bigger things to come out of Honda in the sport SxS market. This may just be the beginning.