The 2023 Honda Talon 1000R-4 Live Valve Is Something Special

Derrek Sigler
by Derrek Sigler

The Honda Talon line is a different take on the sport UTV, and that is a good thing. If you’ve read any of my previous stories on Honda machines, you know I am a big fan of the DCT transmission, and I really like the Talon. This notion hasn’t changed since I took my family on an adventure ride in Nevada a few years back in the Talon 1000-4 Live Valve. When Honda announced some changes to the Talon platform, I took notice. When they announced a new, wider Talon 1000R-4 Live Valve machine, I was itching to get behind the wheel. Luckily for me, Honda thought I should, and they let me bring along my 17-year old son to experience the new whip, too. After spending some time behind the wheel of the 2023 Honda Talon 1000R-4 Live Valve, I can say that I am still impressed. This machine is something special.

X to R and R to X

In the two-seat versions of the Talon, Honda has two basic platforms. The R models are a little wider and offer a suspension advantage over the X versions. Until now, the four-seat Talon has only been available as an X model. Of course, the buying public always wants bigger, faster and more capable, so that led Honda to the new Talon 1000R-4. That is what I was going to be driving at the MidAmerica Outdoors Off-Road Park in Jay, Oklahoma. I had some familiarity with that place, having been there a year ago with Kawasaki to do some driving with the awesome KRX. In just a year’s time, the park had expanded and added some sweet new stuff, so I knew this was going to be fun.

The nitty gritty

The 1000R-4 is a cool machine. It is 68.1 inches wide, making it just over 4 inches wider than the X model. It rides on increased suspension travel, with 17.7 inches of travel up front using a dual wishbone design, and 20.1 inches in the rear using a cool 4+ link independent trailing arm setup. For shocks, Honda uses Fox Live Valve shocks that are controlled by a Bosch onboard controller that is tied to the throttle, steering and braking systems. What you end up with is a suspension system that makes multiple calculations and adjustments each second the machine is in operation. It then makes shock changes on the fly, giving you a better ride quality and optimal control.

I know the thought of more digital control of your machine may scare off some potential buyers. That and the added price tag, which runs around $1,000 or so for the Smart Shock technology. I will tell you this, if you can swing the extra money, do it. The Live Valve suspension on the Talon is worth every penny. The ride quality is so vastly improved that you will find it hard to go back to regular shocks. And as for longevity, Honda has been using this system with their race teams in places like Baja for several years now, and it is holding up fine. And yes, they are using the stock system. They brought out their Baja winning race Talon, and showed off how capable that machine is, and also impressed us with just how much of the machine is stock. Yes, they had custom built shocks, but the control system was stock. It was impressive for sure.

The motor and stuff

Honda refined the motor for the newest Talon It is still a 999cc parallel twin that is very close to the famed Africa Twin motorcycle. The head has a similar design to the CRF 450R motocross bike that is winning everything lately. Honda changed the fuel injection mapping for better response and a broader power output. They don’t play the horsepower game, and keep that number pretty close to the vest, although some sleuthing reveals the number to be around 105 horses.

The biggest difference is feel. Unlike machines with a CVT transmission, the Honda uses the famed DCT, dual clutch transmission. This system doesn’t have any of the CVT lag that robs felt horsepower, so while the Honda may not have as much actual power as a competitor, it feels like it has more. Plus you get six gears to bang through in both high and low range. The Talon has three distinct transmission modes to play with. Automatic shifts for you, as you would expect. Honda did some changes to the shift patterns to spread things out a little more. Sport Mode extends the time between shifts, letting you rev it out further before the transmission upshifts. And yes, they still have the manual shift mode with the sweet steering-mounted paddle shifters. Manual mode is a smart shift system, too, meaning the machine automatically downshifts for you when you stop.

The Talon 1000R-4 Live Valve still comes with Launch mode, too. This system lets you rev up the RPMs before you dump the brakes and it helps you get off the starting line better, and faster. Honda is a company that has always raced, and strongly believes in racing, so seeing a factory machine come with cool features like this is fun.

The Talon also has Honda’s Hill Start Assist, which helps you get going again while stopped on a hill. You activate it, and it will automatically hold the brakes for a moment when you start accelerating again, so you don’t do the slide backwards routine. It is something that Honda borrowed from their automotive lineup and it is a really nice feature to have when you need it.


Honda uses a four-wheel drive system that was technology borrowed from, you guessed it, their automotive branch. The “i” in i4WD stands for intelligent, and it works very well. The gist of the system is that the Talon senses wheel slip and transfers power to the wheels to get traction when you need it most. Honda refined the system to have even better responsiveness. The result is a machine that digs for traction when you need it, yet stays light for tighter steering, and more traction to the rear for high-speed rolling. Again, we put this system to the test with some serious water crossing, steep hills and just gnarly terrain and again, I came away impressed.

The ride

I could sit and tell you all the stats all day long, but what you really want to know is - How’s it drive? In a word, excellent. Honda did a great job with making this machine handle really well. Steering is precise and the throttle responds extremely well when you get on it. As you may have gathered from what I said earlier, the suspension is outstanding. Live Vale is worth every penny if you ask me.

Being wider, the Talon is very stable at any speed. Some of the trails we took on were very tight, but I noticed that if you were paying attention, you could make every turn. The turning radius is measured at 22.6 feet, but it handles better than that to be honest. If you set up for the corners before you get there, this machine was carving tight trails like a much narrower machine.

Comfort level is good, too. The seat is really comfortable and the seat belt doesn’t choke you out, something some other machines can’t seem to figure out. Being a taller driver, the only complaint that I have is that my knee bumps the center console some. Honda could take a play from Yamaha and add a knee saver pad to the console area for us tall guys.

The rear passenger area seems small, but once you're in it, you realize appearances are deceiving. The Talon 1000R-4 has stadium seating, too, so the rear passengers sit a little above and to the side of the front passengers, so everyone can see the trail and enjoy.


Honda has a ton of accessories ready for the Talon, too. The units we played with were outfitting with Garmin Tread GPS systems, something I am a huge fan of. They also kitted these rides out with accessory lights, which was handy during the night ride we went on. There is a sweet stereo system option, too, if you are so inclined.

Should you buy one?

Of course, that is up to you. For a naturally-aspirated sport UTV, the Talon 1000R-4 Live Valve checks a lot of boxes and has great suspension, handling and power delivery. If you crave horsepower and want a turbo, there are several options out there, including one that claims a 60% horsepower increase over stock. I like the Honda as it is, but that’s just me.

MSRP in the U.S. is $25,799, which is competitive with other machines in my opinion. This is especially true when you add in the Live Valve suspension system, which I will say again - it’s worth it. If you want a capable, dependable 4-seat sport UTV with amazing suspension, advanced handling and excellent seat-of-the-pants power, give the Honda Talon 1000R-4 Live Valve a serious look.

Derrek Sigler
Derrek Sigler

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