Honda has finally come to market with its first ever Sport UTV models – the 2019 Honda Talon 1000R and 1000X. We were lucky enough to get some seat time with each one.
Engine: 999cc Parallel Twin
Power: 104 HP
L x W x H (1000X): 123.9 x 64 x 75.3"
L x W x H (1000R): 123.9 x 68.4 x 75.6"
Ground Clearance (1000X): 12.7"
Ground Clearance (1000R): 13.0"
There are many things brought into the world of off-road that will stop us in our tracks and create a media buzz. However, there is nothing like getting the opportunity to ride a new machine, before the world sees it, which some will soon consider an historic moment in the off-road industry for Honda. In the desert sand and rocks of southern California, just a few weeks ago, we had such an opportunity to spend some time with the brand new Honda Talon Sport Side-by-Sides. Even though it was just a couple of hours we were able to get a clearer picture of what Honda had been working on for many years now.
The 2019 Honda Talon 1000R and 1000X are most likely being introduced to a crazy crowd somewhere in the middle of the L.A. Auto show as you read this, But, if you cannot be there in person and need some insight to the newest sport Side-by-Side on the market, here is our short take on the fresh machines by Honda.
The very first thing to note is that there are two separate Side-by-Side vehicles under the Talon name so far. First, the Talon 1000X is the 64-inch wide offering with an 87.6-inch wheelbase. This machine offers just over 15 inches of travel in the rear and 14.6 out front. The suspension is dampened by FOX Podium 2.0 shocks and is adjusted very simply with the popular QS3 triple setting adjusters. The biggest difference between these models, besides the width, suspension as well as overall shock size and travel between the two Talon models is the way the rear of the machine is suspended. The Talon 1000X has a more traditional style 3-link trailing arm style suspension with a traditional dual A-arm front suspension. The 68.4-inch wide Talon 1000R uses what Honda calls its 4-plus suspension on the backside.
This very unique 4-plus design provides the 20 inches of suspension travel in the rear of the Honda Talon 1000R while boasting a very minor 0.3-degree toe change throughout the wheels’ travel. The mounting points are very unique in that the upper arm also reaches up to the main chassis/cab for its mounting location. The Talon 1000R provides 17.7 inches of suspension travel up front via the dual A-arm design and a larger FOX Podium 2.5 shock package with the same QS3 adjustment clicker. According to Honda, the 44% weight bias in the front of these new models will provide a much more balanced rig whether high speed driving or jumping the Talon.
The powerplant in both of the Talon models is a 104-horsepower, 999cc fuel injected Uni-Cam design, which is very similar to that of the Honda Pioneer 1000. However there have been some drastic changes in the engine to make it much more responsive and to add more power output the rear wheels. Starting with the cylinder head, Honda redesigned the flow of the intake port for better fuel burn and also changed the cam profile to a more aggressive combination. The roller rockers also help reduce friction and we all know that translates to power gains as well as a smoother engine operation. Add in the ECU tuning and air intake advances including a larger 46mm throttle body over the Pioneer and you have a pretty strong heart beating in the frame of this Talon.
The transmission of the Talon is also that of the Pioneer with some differences set for more aggressive driving. Honda has included the paddle shifting capability to the Talon and also instituted the Auto and Sport mode switch for those who like choices. The DCT transmission gives Honda Talon owners the I-4WD system that we know from Pioneer as well, which is selectable on the center dash.
Sitting down in the cab of the Honda Talon, it is apparent that comfort was an important consideration. The very wide, high back seats are fully bolstered and provide a great fit for this larger driver. During our limited rides the seating was very comfortable and seemed to provide good side load bolstering during hard cornering. Honda prepped the seats to be able to accept a four-point harness for those looking for added protection right off the showroom floor. The protective structure also has a harness bar already running across the width of the Talon for easy mounting of those aftermarket belts. They kind of reminded me of the Sparco race seat feel, but with more weather resistant covering. The driver’s seat also adjusts for taller or shorter drivers and the tilt steering gives you ample adjustment as well.
As we mentioned before, we did have limited time to drive both new Honda Talon models, starting with the Talon 1000R. This is the widest of the two and it also has more suspension travel that should translate to better handling in the really rough, deep terrain at speeds. Our course was laid out through rocky, sand filled trails just south of Ridgecrest California. There were some large, slow speed rocky hills and stretches of deep whoops to give us a true taste of this new Honda. Starting off in the slower sections of rocky trails we noticed the comfort in the cab and just how well the Talon helped us feel at home there. The paddle shifters made choosing gear direction easy if the automatic shifting didn’t fit our liking. After the first lap in the Talon 1000R we opted to stay in Sport mode as it seemed to keep the shifting at longer intervals, so the engine could ramp more quickly into its power range. This is where we would stay in both machines during the ride. Quickly bumping the paddles out in front of the steering wheel gave us a little finer tune to our specific driving style and that makes this Talon so much fun to drive.
Picking up the speed along a stretch of rutted and whooped out desert trail I decided to see if the Talon could really sink its claws into Mother Earth. Limiting my throttle to about 65% gave us a little room in case we needed to get the front of the car light on the first trip through the deep stuff. Once in the rough the Talon seemed to soak up the ruts easily, but did not feel exactly 100% comfortable there. This could have been due to the clicker setting on the FOX Podium 2.5 shocks (we did not have time to make multiple runs on each setting), but with such little time in the cab it was hard to tell exactly what felt out of place to me. Overall, it was a very controlled ride with the power steering on the Talon helping us feel the ground beneath the wheels while taking the stress out of steering the car. I would say the Talon 1000R handled itself well right out of the box. The second lap on this same course I was able to carry just a bit more speed. The engine provides good power and seems to have some left all the way to wide open throttle.
Slipping behind the wheel of the 64-inch Honda Talon 1000X was very similar, but it seemed to handle better to me. We made the same trip through the rocky hillside, stopping only briefly to try the “Hill stop Assist” feature, which works very well, and then on to the tougher sections of trail. You will obviously feel a difference in the width of this Talon, but a little more experience and driving skill can make this a fun machine to drive.
The course around the desert was just a bit different in one section as we took a more reserved course through the home stretch, cautiously avoiding the deeper sections of the terrain. However, on the second lap, when asked if I wanted to try the original course for the Talon 1000R, of course I did. Knowing that the shorter and narrower chassis could potentially hate the deep ruts we approached with caution but at speed. With both eyes open we hit the whoops and pressed the pedal down until we reached our takeout and just a tap on the brakes got the front of the Talon in shape to make the righthand turn. At speed this Talon X seemed to feel more comfortable in that deep whooped out section. The car would drift up onto the top and just seem to float without the rear of the Talon trying to come around or act weird. The FOX Podium 2.0 shocks soaked up the hits well and I was really impressed.
Overall the Honda team has made a giant step out into the world of Sport Side-by-Sides. Knowing how reserved Honda is, I personally think this is not only a very bold step, but I feel that Honda has succeeded in bringing a great new product to market. This is just the beginning for the Winged ones and I cannot wait to get a Talon here in the hills of Northern Georgia to try in the really tight woods!