FIRST RIDE: Honda Means Business With The Talon
The New Comer Proves Late Is Better Than Never
It is safe to say that Polaris has owned the sport SxS market share since the inception of the category. Over the course of the last few years, platforms from Can-Am and Textron/Arctic Cat have been chipping away at the concrete presence that Polaris has created but that’s no easy feat. After all, the phrase RZR is so synonymous with UTVs that the general public says RZR like they say Sharpie or Kleenex, instead of permanent marker or tissue. “Let’s go for a RZR ride” as they climb into their Can-Am or Textron. After all these years, there hasn’t been another major manufacturer that has come in swinging with a real sport SxS, until now.
Honda Powersports has finally released their long-awaited contribution, the Talon 1000R and the Talon 1000X. Their entry into the sport SxS market has been accomplished in true Honda fashion with a vehicle that can truly compete at the top of the class in its first year to market. The average SxS consumer has grown so accustomed to the look and feel of the Polaris RZR that it is considered “the standard” of what a UTV should look like, so when a company comes out with a car that looks different, the keyboard warriors instantly dogpile on it. We won’t lie, we love the look as Honda is setting themselves apart from the competition in both styling and chassis design. They clearly did not “follow the leader”.
Aesthetically the high fenders and sharp lines are begging for 30” or 32” tires which are now a standard size for the aftermarket. The aggressive flat nose allows for a great approach angle when taking on a steep climb, and perfectly matched backside does the same for coming down those obstacles. From the factory, Honda equips both models with a sturdy front bumper helping to protect the radiator from damage when taking on the unexpected head on. What can only be defined as a “full-er door” allows for generous protection, but still offers the visibility that the original half door was designed around. It also offers a very convenient inner door handle that’s easy to reach from the outside, proving that ergonomics were never sacrificed. We all agree that a full door would have been ideal, but don’t worry, one of the many items listed under factory accessories is an aluminum skin full door.
Moving to the interior, it’s clear this is a machine geared toward the performance driver that doesn’t need unnecessary bells or whistles, a clean and simple yet very refined dash profile with just the basics for instrumentation and controls. The three main switches are not only very easy to reach from the driver’s seat, but also at a very desirable mounting angle. Honda kept the center panel very simple; instrument cluster, open storage pocket, 3 switches, ignition and 12V receptacle. Done. For switches, you will find the 2WD/I-4WD selector, the Hill Start Assist, and the transmission mode selection. On the left hand side of the cockpit, Honda provides headlight control and one switch bay open for you to wire any accessories that you would like.
Sliding into the driver’s seat, our first reaction is over how comfortable the seats are. A simple feature that did not go unnoticed was the ease of use from the seat slider, the incredibly smooth adjustment was something you’d expect from an automotive platform. The seat back also offers harness slots and a harness bar installed so adding that necessary level of safety is a cinch. The steering wheel was easily adjustable to make sure that the driver is in the most comfortable position possible, and with the cluster centered on the dash the wheel position never blocks the gauges. Turning the key, the 999cc inline twin quickly roars to life, and man does it sound good! About the only thing Honda did to follow the rest of the manufactures is the shifter. It is located in an easy to reach location and sliding the shifter through the gates into “H” or “L” (High or Low) will start the belt free DCT transmission in first gear. Referring back to that transmission mode switch, you have the option for a fully automatic mode where the DCT transmission will take care of the shifting for you, a sport mode that increases the shift points and firmness, or the exhilarating manual mode that puts you in complete control of getting the power to the ground via the large paddle shifters. As the RPMs and speed begin to climb, you bang through the 6 speeds, there’s no doubt you will find yourself grinning ear to ear with enjoyment.
Honda is known throughout the world as an engineering titan, building strong, durable and reliable power whether that’s in their automotive engines or in their scooters. They put the same level of care and passion throughout their lineup into the heart of the Talon. The 999cc parallel twin makes quick revving and spunky 104 horsepower with great low-end torque for low speed brute power. Bringing a level of refinement to the UTV industry, Honda goes as far as adding roller tips to the engine’s rocker arms that connect the valves to the single cam instead of a flat surface sliding across the cam lobes. It is the little things like this that will continue to make Honda stand out as one of the leaders of reliability.
Tossing all the camera equipment into the bed it was time to smash some trails and see how these new chassis’ compared to industry standard. Coming to market with 2 platforms the nimble Honda Talon 1000X sits 64” wide and a compact 87.6” wheelbase. Not wanting to focus just on the high-speed deserts of the southwest, Honda clearly built this model for the trail riders that want to whip through the tight wooded trails, and at 1490lbs the Talon 1000X literally provides an off road shifter kart feel. We ran the car hard through tight bermed trails for miles on end, and the 14.6” of travel up front and 15.1” of travel out of the 3 link suspension in the rear never cut our comfort short. The tight chassis continuously felt stable through rutted and off camber sections of the wooded pathway, and combined with the sport shift felt as if the car was on rails offering total control the entire time. The Talon 1000X proves it has a chance to be untouchable in the 64” class.
If high-speed whoop smashing is what you are looking for than the Talon 1000R is the chassis you need. Again in Honda fashion, they didn’t follow the current 72’ wide trend, the 1000R sits at 68.4” wide and with a 92.7” wheelbase, plenty of footprint to keep the driver in control in choppy terrain. The front double A-arm suspension provides nearly 18” of travel and the 4+ link in the rear jumps up to over 20” of travel, and we put every inch to use pushing the car as hard as we could in nearly knee high whoops. Upon seeing the first pictures of the Talon 1000R, we were very skeptical of the 4+ link rear suspension, but after the first drive, all that skepticism went away, and the ideology proved itself to be worthy of respect.
Both models share a lot of the same traits and functions. Both offer 3-position Fox Shocks on all four corners to ensure some basic tunability to suit your driving style. Another matched offering is the I-4WD which essentially is a computer controlled differential that communicates with the braking system to identify and control wheel slip to be able to apply power to the wheel with traction. It was most noticeable in rock crawling with airing out a corner, rather than feeling excessive wheel slip, the car recognized the free wheel and immediately applied the lost power to the wheel that remained on the ground. The feedback was almost unnoticeable in the steering wheel.
Honda is forging their own path in the SxS industry in a way that we have not seen to date. The best part is they have no qualms about not following the leader, which only means we can have high expectations in the evolution of the Talon in the upcoming model releases. The Honda Talon brought driver excitement back to a stock platform, combining driver experience with reliability and of course that thrill to drive. Between the firm shifting transmission that will never leave you walking with a broken belt, to the hard-hitting 104hp parallel twin, the Honda Talon models give you the feeling of being in a higher horsepower car. Honda undoubtedly took their time to come play, and most will say that they may be a few years late to the sport SxS fight, but they are presenting a very large foot forward in the right direction and we’re overwhelmed with joy that they bring newness to the rapidly evolving sport. That climb to the top of the mountain is just a bit easier with I-4WD engaged while banging gears.