We test Honda's new flagship UTV
It seems like just yesterday we got the news that Honda was stepping up its game in the Side-by-Side market with the Pioneer 700-4. It was so impressive that we called it the most functionally innovative UTV we had ridden at the time. That innovation continues with the new Honda Pioneer 1000-5, which we had a chance to test out recently. This model is not only an upswing in displacement, but it also carries a fresh new look.
It was between the hills of Missoula, Mont. in a very posh destination called The Resort at Paws Up that we had a chance to get up close and personal with Honda’s newest adventure machine.
The new look is not far off from the original Pioneer 700-4, but more refined and a tad more aggressive in appearance. New doors really stand out, which benefit from panels that add color and style. The lines of the front fascia seem more defined and the 37-watt LED headlights set the stage for this impressive rig.
Of course, what really sets the new Pioneer 1000-5 apart from its predecessor is an all-new 999cc fuel-injected inline twin cylinder engine that breathes through a 44mm throttle body. Honda also included its UniCam technology, which is primarily used in the CRF dirt bike segment, in the valve train to build a better performing engine. This design reduces weight along with size and the valve train has roller rockers for increased reduction in friction loss or, in laymen’s terms, power loss. This big twin is also rubber mounted for vibration reduction.
Built for brute strength, the new twin seemed ready for work or play. It has a cargo capacity in the bed of 1000 lbs (when the rear two seats are folded down) and the receiver hitch in the rear is ready for your trailer and up to 2000 lbs of payload.
Our 2016 Pioneer 1000-5 Deluxe wasted no time showing us just how intuitive it could be as we drove the hills in Montana. Our test model was equipped with Honda’s DCT-style gearbox. With the DCT, or Dual Clutch Transmission, Honda has incorporated four drive modes that control how much power can be delivered to the ground. A Turf selection unlocks the rear differential for sensitive grounds, 2WD gives you both rear wheels locked together, and 4WD locks the rear differential while allowing the front to be a limited slip configuration. Finally, four-wheel differential lock can be engaged to maintain all four wheels locked together for maximum traction.
The Pioneer 1000-5’s control of how the gears shift is worth exploring. Our test mule features electronic power steering (EPS) with three modes and shifting capabilities to go along with those three. A dash-mounted rocker switch allows us to change between modes easily – even on the fly. In the AT, or fully automatic mode, we found the transmission did all of the work for us and we just needed to concentrate on the trail ahead. Shifting happens smoothly for a Side-by-Side vehicle and the Pioneer doesn’t seem to search very hard for the right gearing.
Another unique addition to the Honda Pioneer 1000-5 are paddle shifters behind the steering wheel. If we were in AT and decided that we wanted to downshift before the engine did, it was as easy as pulling on the left paddle right under the wheel. This also applies for up-shifting using the right paddle. If we were in MT, or manual transmission mode, we could change the gears up or down all by ourselves, but if we slowed to a stop and forgot to downshift, the Pioneer would take care of that by placing the engine in the proper gear according to the engine’s rpm. Our rig even put us back to first gear at each stop and if there was no immediate response from the driver, then it would put our machine back in AT and take over that gear changing for us. The amount of shifting options on this unit are staggering.
If you wish to drive a little more aggressively you can put the Pioneer in Sport mode. This brings the engine up to a higher rpm and holds in that range in both up or downshifts and, according to Honda, keeps the engine in its best performing power range for when you want to pick up the pace in the trails. In our humble opinion, the engine seems to really just rev high in Sport mode; however, while that creates a lot of noise, the gain in performance doesn’t seem to match. In most ways this engine doesn’t feel as responsive or torquey as other large displacement powerplants when the go-pedal is pressed to the floor.
As far as rider comfort is concerned, the Pioneer 1000-5 Deluxe delivers. Individually bolstered seats in the front help to keep you in your space and are thick, which seems to soak up some of the trail chop. With a new gear selection lever that incorporates defined H/L/N/R and unmistakable Park gear gate located just to the right of the wheel, everything you need is well within reach. A very informative digital dash gives you all of the most common and needed information on the machine, including not only gear selection, but illuminated lights on the side of the display so there is really no mistaking what gear you are in.
Overall we are really impressed about the way the Pioneer 1000-5 Deluxe feels on the trail. Compared to the original Pioneer 700-4, which we have in our personal garage, the Pioneer 1000-5 is more refined when it comes to comfort; just keep in mind that our test unit is a Deluxe model, which is not an entirely fair comparison.
Honda’s new 1000-class Pioneer boasts a brand new chassis design and suspension system. Starting with the 12.4 inches of ground clearance on our Deluxe five-passenger test model, you can get over many obstacles without dragging the bottom of the machine on them. The front suspension travel is set at 10.5 inches and the rear is just a tad shorter at 10 inches. A self-leveling shock package comes standard on five-seat models. According to Honda, this shock system on the rear of the machine utilizes hydraulic balance chambers to equalize the load and keep the ride height in the desired location. In theory this keeps the ride height and comfort levels at the best possible position for everyone onboard.
Our ride at The Resort at Paws Up was incredible and the terrain varied from rocky hill climbs to moderate to wide-open trails. Electronic power steering made the ride even more enjoyable. Some say we do not need power steering, but we don’t want to live without it. It just makes driving on really rocky, rough terrain in 4WD or Diff-Lock so much easier.
Custom 14-inch wheels on our Deluxe model are wrapped in the very popular Maxxis Bighorn 2.0 tires. This specific tire has been made to Honda spec and although it performed very well in all of the terrain we encountered, we did notice the sidewall strength was lighter than normal. This is due to Honda using a four-ply sidewall design instead of the typical six-ply design that most Bighorn tires are made in. This is in no way a deal breaker, but it does allow the machine to sway more on the carcass of the tire due to the thinner sidewall.
Overall our experience in the brand new 2016 Honda Pioneer 1000-5 Deluxe was extremely enjoyable and we know that with the reliability of the Honda brand brings to the table, loyal Honda riders will get great value for their money.