We take on the sand and rocks with the larger Talon
Engine: 999cc Parallel Twin
Transmission: 6-Speed Automatic DCT
L x W x H: 123.9 x 68.4 x 75.6"
Front/Rear Travel: 17.7"/20"
The moment I learned Honda was coming out with its first ever Sport UTV, I was pining for the opportunity to get behind the wheel of one. Due to a scheduling conflict, I had to send another writer to the initial Talon unveiling, which you can read about here. As luck would have it, Honda invited a swarm of media folks down to southwestern Utah to put the 2019 Honda Talon 1000R through the ringer with a day of testing and I managed to make it this time.
Honda Talon 1000R Features
The 1000R is the slightly bigger brother of the Talon twins, measuring in at 123.9 inches long, 68.4 inches wide, with a wheelbase of 92.7 inches. Ground clearance is also slightly longer at 13 inches and it has a ready-to-ride weight of 1545 pounds – 55 pounds more than the 1000X.
Though the 2019 Honda Talon 1000R strikes a larger pose than its brother, what really sets it apart is the suspension. First, the 1000R benefits from larger Fox Podium 2.5 shocks with QS3 triple setting adjusters.
If you look at both machines from the front, things look fairly similar, as both are equipped with an independent double-wishbone design, with the Talon 1000R controlling 17.7 inches of travel (3.1 inches more than the 1000X). But a rearward view puts the Talon 1000R in a different light, as it offers up a unique 4+ link rear suspension. The 4+ link design does an exceptional job at controlling wheel geometry, as Honda says the rear wheels’ toe varies only 0.3 degrees throughout the 20 inches of available rear suspension travel.
Tires are the same on both Talon models. Honda partnered with Maxxis to create tires specific to the Talon, which are based of the successful Maxxis Coronado. Front tires measure 28×9-15, while the rear tires are 28×11-15.
At the heart of the 2019 Honda Talon 1000R is a longitudinally mounted 999cc parallel-twin engine that offers up a claimed 104 horsepower. While that power output can’t complete with the turbocharged options from Polaris and Can-Am, it is in the same neighborhood as the Yamaha YXZ1000R and Polaris RZR XP 1000
What really sets the Honda powerplant apart, though, is its six-speed automatic Dual-Clutch Transmission, with high/low subtransmission. The Talon can be driven in 2WD or Honda’s innovative I-4WD – each with three shift modes: Standard, Sport, or Manual with paddle shifters. But even if you are in one of the two fully automatic modes, you can override things yourself by changing gears manually with the steering-wheel mounted paddle shifters any time you feel the need. This is the same system used in the Honda Pioneer 1000.
After checking out the Talon from the outside, it didn’t take much convincing to get me behind the wheel.
Slipping into the driver’s seat, I was impressed our comfortable and supportive the seat is. Generous side bolsters help hold you in place when you get a bit aggressive behind the wheel, and the seat is wide enough so you don’t feel cramped. And if you want to upgrade to a four-point harness, the seats are pre-prepped with cut outs so you don’t have to do any major surgery.
My passenger and I made left the staging area with the rest of the media and made our way along some rutted out and whoop-filled trails. The 2019 Honda Talon 1000R handled the whoops and any other nastiness we encountered with ease. You bounce around a bit if you go slow, but hammer the throttle and the Talon does a nice job of almost skipping across the whoops.
In particular, the front end of the Talon is exceptional at soaking up everything I could throw at it. Time and time again, I braced myself for impacts that never made their way into the cockpit. I’d compare it favorably to the fantastic Can-Am Maverick X3 in that regard.
Despite our best efforts, every now and then when testing UTVs you have an “Oh $#@%!” moment, and I had one of those in the passenger seat when my driving partner hit an unexpectedly steep rise in the dunes with a lot of speed. We took off and for a moment all seemed good, but gravity took over and we headed back towards terra firma nose first. Despite the clear error on our part, the Talon’s front end absorbed the impact and we kept on going as if nothing happened. Honestly, I don’t even know if we bottomed out or not, but I don’t remember any audible “clunk” on landing. And we had the Fox Podium 2.5 QS3 shocks in the reasonably plush middle setting. Impressive.
Carving the dunes in the Talon was great fun. It never feels out of control and corners with precision. It’s a great tool for the sand. However, the Talon did have a little trouble cresting some of the larger climbs. It was the only time during my testing where I wanted a little more juice from the engine. Part of that is due to the wet, dense sand at Sand Hollow and there is also the issue of elevation to consider. This area sits at 3,000 feet in elevation, so you lose about 9-10% of horsepower with a naturally aspirated engine.
In addition to sandy trails and open dunes, Sand Hollow also boasts some fun rock crawling sections. I am far from a rock crawling expert, but with a little guidance the Talon 1000R had climbed up and over everything I put in its path. Sadly, I don’t have any photos or video from the most challenging of the rock sections, but I was stunned with how easily the Talon handled what felt like a near vertical rock that had to be as tall as the Talon is long.
After that initial section, the rest of the rock crawling required far less courage. We certainly weren’t dealing with rocks like you’d find in King of the Hammers, but with its stock 28-inch tires, the Talon can hold its own.
I suspect the serious rock crawlers out there would throw on some 30-inch tires and do some damage, though they would likely prefer the Low gearing to be even lower for the really nasty stuff.
The 2019 Honda Talon 1000R is a great first Sport UTV offering from Honda. Handling is solid, the suspension shines, and the gear-driven Dual-Clutch Transmission sets it apart.
It should also be pointed out that in the two days we spent driving the Talon 1000R and 1000X (read about that here), nothing was broken or damaged on any of the test vehicles – outside of a couple of flat tires. Media folks are not exactly what you’d call gentle on equipment, so this is a very good sign.