— Testing Honda’s all-new performance UTV —
The most anticipated new SxS of 2019 is no doubt Honda’s Talon 1000R or the Talon 1000X. We took each machine on a full-day test ride, and this is what we thought of the 68-inch-wide $21,000 Talon 1000R.
HOW’S THE POWER?
It has really good power from the moment you stab the throttle all the way to a slightly premature rev limit at about 9,000 rpm. You can still feel power building when that electronic rev limiter kicks in. You feel the most torque between 4,000 and 6,000 rpm. The 104 horsepower is up around that 9K mark. In high gear, the speed limit is set at 74 mph. Electronic performance packages will have the ability to change this (for closed-course competition only of course). With your foot to the floor, it revs quickly, and you are busy shifting gears in manual mode. We liked automatic mode better, unless we were doing a steep climb in sand or technical terrain.
In low gear, the speed limiter is set rather high at 53 mph. A full 50-percent reduction would have been better. In stock trim with two people in the car, it has plenty of torque to climb steep hills even from a standstill. First gear in high or low range is good enough for rock crawling. We can’t yet confirm that would be the case if you added a bunch of weight, installed larger, heavier tires or drove in sticky mud. Those situations may call for a gear reduction kit like the early YXZ’s did. We have no doubt that will be true for this Talon as well, unless Honda announces a mud or rock version soon.
It in no way feels down on power to any other naturally aspirated machine. In fact, in deep sand it feels like it has more than some, since you can manipulate the transmission to keep the revs high, getting the maximum power to all four wheels. At the seat of the pants, the torque feels right on par with a RZR XP1000, Wildcat XX, Maverick Sport or Yamaha YXZ1000R. The twin-cylinder Honda has a throaty sound and is very exciting to drive.
HOW’S THE TRANSMISSION?
Porsche and Ferrari use dual clutch transmissions as much as Honda does, and they have for over a decade. In an SxS concept, not only does it eliminate the need for a belt, the system is lightning quick going through the gears and has been proven reliable. Over two days of testing, we tried slamming the gears with the paddle shifters and tried automatic mode as well. We ended up liking auto mode better.
From the start, it shifted great. As the computer learned our driving style, the auto shifting got even better; and by the end of a run, it matched up nearly perfect. Only every once in a while would we notice it shifting when we didn’t expect it. It worked much better than we thought.
In auto, you can tap on the paddle to up- or downshift if you want or need to set up for a corner or an obstacle early. So it offers the best of both worlds. The only time we didn’t feel auto mode was useful was when climbing steep sand hills. In this situation, it would hunt for the right gear. So, here we used manual mode, knowing the transmission would never prematurely shift and bog us down.
Driving aggressively in full manual mode, there is a slight delay on the paddle, and the power is still building up to the 9000 rev limit, so if you have a heavy foot or are riding in loose conditions, the engine will hit that limiter before it shifts. We had to train ourselves to shift a fraction of a second early. In auto mode, that never happens. So, for a casual trail rider, Honda’s DCT works perfectly in any mode. The gears were low enough to crawl through the rocks and sporty enough to rip down anything from tight trails to long desert roads. If you want to drive with pure aggression, you have to take a few miles to learn to upshift early, and then it will perform to your needs. For most of the day, auto was our favorite setting.
HOW’S THE SUSPENSION?
Excellent and predictable. In a straight line over whoops, it’s not as plush as a longer-wheelbase Can-Am Maverick X3, but it works. It will skip over rollers and drives straight as an arrow. You could also rail through rough corners, and the machine would never feel like it was stepping out or fishtailing. There is zero unexpected bucking or swapping, and the suspension arms are beefy.
The shock adjustments are easy; the three-position compression clicker did the job. On soft, the car was plush. On hard, it was stiff. We didn’t have a chance to play with the spring crossovers, but there is no doubt you could get slow-speed plushness and retain the great bottom out protection with some fine tuning. A slightly taller tire would help bump absorption, too, and a taller sidewall would help prevent flats. When driven aggressively, a 28×15 tire is more vulnerable to pinch flats than the typical 29×14 that most machines like this come with.
At 68-plus inches wide, the Talon R didn’t feel wider than an RZR or YXZ. It doesn’t have much body roll and never gets on two wheels, even when slamming into corners hard. I4WD Is a huge asset in this area, as well as in corners. It’s like a version of traction control with the computer preventing the car from stepping out when you corner hard. Best of all, you don’t feel it working. The computer sends pulses of brake force to wheels that are slipping, thus sending drive to the ones with traction. It’s a great technology with very few ill effects for this machine. It in no way slows it down or gives it chatter as anti-lock brakes do. The system might speed up brake pad wear, but for the traction benefits we will take it. Under acceleration, the rear of the car stayed pretty level and did not reduce ground clearance. There was very little squat or front-end dive.
HOW’S THE COCKPIT?
The cabin has an automotive-level fit and finish. The steering is super light and completely predictable. The tilting wheel is solid and doesn’t jiggle or flex. The seats offer race-car quality while still being easy to get in and out of. The driver’s side seat slider rolls smoothly even when muddy. Drivers over 6 feet tall will fit, but you will hear them asking for a bit more room. On the passenger side, we were equally impressed with the seating position and sliding grab handle. The floor of the car gives height options for tall or shorter passengers by supplying foot rests with traction pads. We felt the deep, tall-guy pocket was a little narrow for two big feet, but it wasn’t uncomfortable. Entry through the forward-opening doors was easy, and the latching was solid and very easy to operate from the inside or out. The nets were not intrusive and only required one clip to easily open or close them. In addition to the rattle-free passenger grab handle, there was a sturdy handle on each door as well as an armrest. When going super aggressively, our driver did hit the armrest with his elbow on occasion. It was noticeable but not a major issue. In all other situations, it was a nice touch.
HOW’S THE FRAME?
The frame is mostly made up of 2-inch round tubing. The roof support appears to be strong but is still removable with bolts if you want to build one with a different look or one that is legal for racing. On the underside, the frame is wide but is covered with plastic skid plates that slide well. Our test machine also had skid plates added to the bottom of the trailing arm to help it glide over rocks, and that bolt-on product did its job.
For a two-seat, non-turbo-powered performance SxS, it’s great. If you want something else, Honda may be offering that soon; however, if you are trying to decide between this machine and the 2019 Talon 1000X, a YXZ1000R, Polaris RZR XP1000, Wildcat XX, it has to be considered. If you don’t want a belt, the field is even narrower and the choice is even harder. If you want the ability to shift on occasion but run in full automatic the rest of the time, there is no other choice. Finally, we weren’t able to check fuel mileage, and we are bummed the Talon only comes with a 7.3-gallon gas tank. In our experience, however, this same engine and transmission in Honda’s Pioneer 1000 does provide better-than-average fuel economy.
CAN IT BE RACED?
Yes. On the woods or tight trails, it doesn’t feel wide. It’s super stable in sharp corners and has torque to win. In the desert, it doesn’t feel short but would feel more at home on a tighter track. As with any vehicle, certain mods will have to be made depending on your discipline. We are confident the clutch will hold up at this point, and motor builders are very familiar with this style Uni Cam cylinder head since it has been in Honda ATVs since 2004 and dirt bikes before that. Still, even in stock trim, the automatic transmission and I4WD system will make an amateur racer faster. Desert guys will probably want to wait until a four-seat version is available or add wheelbase with suspension.
2019 HONDA TALON 1000R
Engine type Liquid-cooled, Uni Cam, parallel twin,
Bore x stroke 92mm x 75.15mm
Compression ratio 10:1
Lubrication system Wet sump
Additional cooling Auto fan
Induction 46mm EFI (x2)
Starting procedure Turn ignition switch w/brake on
Type Paper pleats
Access Behind panel in bed
Transmission Dual-range w/ reverse
Reverse procedure Move range selector to “R”
Drive system Selectable 2WD/4WD w/ auto diff-lock
Final drives Shafts
Fuel capacity 7.3 gal.
Overall length/width/height 123.9”/68.4”/75.6”
Ground clearance 13”
Claimed wet weight 1545 lb.
Bed weight limit 299lb.
Towing limit N/A
Frame Steel round tube
Front Dual A-arm w/ prel./comp.-adj. shocks/17.7
Rear IRS 4-link trailing-arms w/ prel./comp.-adj.
Front . Hydraulic discs/left-side pedal
Rear Hydraulic discs/left-side pedal
Parking Lever on console
DC outlet Console
Front 2 LED hi/lo headlights w/accents
Rear Dual LED brake/tail lights
Instrumentation Digital or analog Speed/odo/trip/hour/
Colors Pearl Red/Pearl Green
Minimum recommended operator age 16
Suggested retail price $20,999