2019 Honda Talon Lineup - We Review The Talon 1000R And 1000X!
2019 Honda Talon Lineup - We Review The Talon 1000R And 1000X
Honda, a company that has roots in so many industries, is finally enjoying the fruits of their labors after developing a side-by-side for the sport segment of the market! As I’m sure all of you will join me in saying, it’s been a long time coming for Big Red to unveil a sport UTV. Frankly, as we look at the big picture and the industry as a whole right now, it couldn’t have come at a better time.
Why would I say that? The truth is that the segment is literally on fire with vehicles selling at a fast rate. And, this is because the manufacturers have such a diverse lineup of vehicles. When we look at competitors like Can-Am and Polaris, they have over 70 side-by-side models total in their lineups. I’m not mentioning this to put Honda down in any way, rather say that they are in a prime position to pounce on a market that has been built up by other manufacturers for many years. Sometimes it’s good to be fashionably late to the party…
In the last issue of ATV & UTV ESCAPE Magazine, we put together a Talon preview article that highlighted both models of this vehicle – the Talon 1000X and 1000R. This issue, we’ll do you one better by showcasing this full review of both models. After driving them, the differences are clear and you need to know which one is better for you.
The clear differences between the two models are few and far between. The only difference is in the suspension department, which, for obvious reasons, sets the tone for completely different driving behaviors between the two models, even though they share the same exact powertrain, chassis, and interior. Both models have a-arms in the front, but the rear of the X-model has a more compact 3-link trailing arm setup, which gives the vehicle a width of 64” wide. The 1000R is the “r”acier version of the two with a 4+ link rear trailing arm and link setup that gives the vehicle an overall width of 68.4”. The double wishbone a-arm setups are found on both variations, but the R-model has a wider set of arms equaling the 68.4” width found in the rear.
Honda’s main reason for distinguishing the two models and coming up with the industry exclusive 68.4” width is because they had a goal of providing more than 20” of travel on the original concept of the Talon. They realized that they couldn’t do that with the suspension setup on the 64” model, so the engineers decided to keep the 64” model to be more trail oriented with a focus on sharp handling and trail riding. To achieve the 20” of suspension travel, the vehicle had to have a wider stance with more articulation from the suspension, so they had to widen it to 68.4” and develop the 4+ link setup in the rear. Personally, I was skeptical at first wondering why they didn’t just push the dimensions all the way out to 72” wide to compete with the RZR XP Turbo S and Maverick X3 X rs. After driving both models of the Talon, I now know why they didn’t want to push the dimensions out that far… If I’m being completely honest, that 72” width has always been a bit too wide for most trails and desert terrain, and that ~68” width could be the sweet spot. So, let’s go through how each of these drive…
1000X (MSRP $19,999)
As I mentioned before, both of the Talon models share the same one-piece chassis, which is an ultra rigid platform. You immediately notice this the instant you sit in the cab and fire up the engine – there are NO rattles whatsoever, not even a peep. You notice this right when you flip the door latch, which is a secure, automotive style of latch. If you appreciate a well put together machine, the Talon will impress with automotive style of fit and finish. It’s akin to the Yamaha YXZ’s level of fit and finish, and maybe even better than that. The door shuts and doesn’t move, whatsoever. Yes, I wish it had a full half door like the aforementioned Yamaha, and I’m not sure why manufacturers are still leaving the lower quarter open to the cockpit. Little complaints aside (Honda already has the insert available as an accessory to fill in the gap…), the interior quality is still top notch. The net actually is confidence inspiring when you’re in the driver’s seat, and I would actually leave it. The seats, which are both ready to accept 4-point harnesses from the factory, are well bolstered and at the right angle to give the driver and passenger a comfortable, laid back seating position while also giving you enough of an upright stance to give you clear vision over the front fascia and fenders.
The rest of the interior is well laid out with 2 open storage compartments in the center dash area, both of which are below the centrally located digital dashboard. The dash has a clean and clear readout, plus it gives you all the things you need in a dash like a trip meter, coolant temp (where is the actual number instead of just a bar graph?!), and big vehicle speed readout. I am still a bigger fan of a dash that is mounted on the steering column, mainly because it is in your line of sight. Until Honda comes up with a heads-up display to project onto their accessory quarter windshield, I’d like to have the dash more in my line of sight. But, it works where it is, too. Passengers have a securely latching glove box to hold quite a good amount of gear and personal accessories. The footwells are large enough for different leg lengths, and the overall driving position is easily adjusted for different sized drivers with an easily adjusted driver’s seat and infinitely adjustable steering column. The only thing that rendered us a bit perplexed was how far apart the throttle and brake pedal are spread apart. I’m a two footed driver and didn’t have an issue with this as the dead pedal transition to the brake pedal is spot on. However, Josh is a one-footed driver and he commented several times on how the spread between the two pedals wasn’t confidence inspiring when he needed to make a fast transition. Other than that, the interior for both models is solid, really really.
With 104 horsepower coming out to the 999cc parallel twin engine, we were so curious to see how effectively the Honda put the power to the ground, especially with the 6-speed Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT), which has both fully automatic and manual modes. Turns out that I didn’t need to worry much because this direct system has a very positive feel to it – you can literally feel every ounce of power being put to the ground through the efficient Talon drivetrain. With a 270 degree firing order, the Talon has a raspy and aggressive sound that is thankfully not reminiscent of the rather docile that comes out of the Pioneer 1000, which the Talon engine is based on. It revs quicker that the Pioneer engine, and the DCT transmission has also been tuned to shift up to 50% faster in the Talon compared to the Pioneer. When driving the Talon, you can feel these changes. It revs extremely quick and sounds visceral when doing so, almost race-car like right from the factory. If you want to pick up the throttle fast off idle and start shifting through the gears, you can do exactly that! Shifts are smooth through the dual clutch whether you are performing them at full throttle or just off idle. Plus, one of the most welcomed features of the DCT is that the takeoffs are always smooth/ Clutch cooling has been significantly increased just in case you decide you want to rock crawl this machine for hours at a time (there is a temperature warning light just in case). If you were to do that, the Low range is something that no other major manufacturer features on a sport side-by-side, and after driving the Talon in Low this has to be one of my favorite features. It crawls at 3mph without any hesitation and doesn’t bounce off the clutch constantly. The secret is the transfer case built into the transmission, which is really an engineering marvel from the team at Honda.
In addition to Low range, Honda included their i4WD system, which is essentially an electronic traction control system that is supposed to act like a fully locking front differential, even though the Talon only comes with an open front differential. The system works by sensing and modulating slip between the front tires. If slip is sensed in one tire, then the i4WD system applies a specific amount of brake to the slipping tire, which then diverts power to the tire with more traction. The system can switch back and forth between tires based on slipping that is detected, and as far as we could tell it is a seamless process. In the rock climb sections that we tackled in the Sand Hollow, UT area, the Talon had no problem climbing up nearly vertical rock climbs, some in the variety of 10’ tall. And, 2-3’ tall stepup rocks were easily maneuvered over with the help of the i4WD system engaged. Credit the ability to the extremely smooth DCT transmission as well. The question remains – even with this technology, would I still want a fully locking differential instead of the electronic nannies? Yes, I would, and simply because I know exactly how a vehicle is going to react going up technical climbs with a locked front and rear differential. However, the Honda hasn’t given me any reason to not trust the i4WD system and it has always performed as described in a predictable and confidence-inspiring manner, so I’m a believer. To further test, we need to get it into the rocks and see how it really does in some serious climbs…
With the 64” width, we took the 1000X on some of the best trails that southern Utah has to offer. These varied in terrain from wide open, flat footed trails to tight, technical, sand-laden, twisty terrain that was extremely fun to navigate. This is the stuff where the 1000X is right at home on the tight, twisty, and technical terrain. Again, with the ultra rigid one-piece chassis in this vehicle coupled with less suspension travel, you can flick this vehicle into corners and it sticks with authority and leads you around the corner with confidence. Steering effort is precise and the Talon has an innate ability to hold its line. Credit the tires for this as well – I found these 28” Maxxis meats (mounted on 15” wheels) to track well through the corners, but they were a bit too flighty on the fast straightaways. 30” tires on the same 15” wheels would probably fix this issue with a bit more tread and sidewall. Back to the steering – yes, it is precise, but you do have to hustle it around a bit too much. Taking a ¼ turn out of the steering would greatly reduce the amount of arm movement you have to use to place this machine in opposite, sequential corners, so I hope Honda does this in future models. A bit more steering effort wouldn’t be a bad thing, either, as this power steering is extremely light at all speeds. This is great at low speeds tootling around camp, but a ramp up in effort as the speeds increase (aka speed sensitive steering, like the systems found on so many other sport UTVs) would be a great addition in the future.
Honda introduced the Talon lineup to us saying that it not only looks like a CRF dirt bike, but it also drives and handles like one. They weren’t wrong in any fashion, and, as you can tell, the driving experience in the 1000X is extremely fun. If you’re buying a new trail machine, this is one to look at. What makes the experience even better is the fact that you can go for a casual ride in fully automatic transmission mode, or you can get serious with it and put the Talon in automatic Sport mode, which holds shifts longer and downshifts sooner coming into corners so the driver can keep the revs up. For the most serious drivers who want to make the ride their own in every way, a fully manual mode allows you to kick up the fun level and shift through all six gears with the steering column mounted paddle shifters! For obvious reasons, this was my absolute favorite mode because, as a driver, you can manipulate the vehicle to setup for corners just like you would on a quad or dirt bike. It’s so deft in its handling characteristics that the Talon will allow you to setup for corners well before needed so you can be driving two corners ahead of where you currently are. For racers and enthusiasts who want a docile vehicle that can turn into a full on track machine, this is going to be a really fun vehicle to drive for you.
The last part of the Talon 1000X that I want to mention is the suspension. With 14” of travel in the front and 15.1” of travel in the rear, the 1000X has enough travel to confidently navigate the fast trails without bottoming out or producing an overly rough ride. The suspension is fairly compliant through most situations, and it is tuned nicely to sit in the meat of the travel at all times. Plus, the Fox Podium 2.0 shocks are 3-position compression adjustable to further tune the ride. I do wish the suspension had a bit more compliance over the washboard bumps, though. It’s a bit stiff when the speeds reduce and you’re enjoying a put. As so many other manufacturers do, Honda tuned the Talon to go fast over the washboard bumps in an effort to corner better and handle the bigger hits. Again, the Talon is every bit a sporty vehicle as it should be, and it rides accordingly. If you’re going to want a smoother ride, either you’re going to have to do your own suspension work or look at other models.
1000R (MSRP: $20,999)
The 1000R is mostly the same vehicle, so our interior comfort, ergonomics, and powertrain comments all apply here. I’ll keep the drive impression of this unit more simple…
I do want to mention about both models is the fact that the cargo bed is a great place to store gear and to tie down your items, something that cannot be said about all sport UTVs. There are plenty of metal tie down spots (they are heavy duty!) and the cargo bed is large enough to fit a huge assortment of items. I am all about the multiple day adventures in UTVs, and the Talon could easily accomodate my wishes with plenty of gear storage. Plus, with the ultra rigid chassis, I feel very safe in this vehicle and there are plenty of tubular spots to put extra tie downs, etc… Did I mention that every Talon, no matter the model, comes with a roof? Awesome job, Honda...
With an increase in width and the increase in front (17.7”) and rear (20.1”) suspension travel, it seems like an obvious conclusion that Honda would say the 1000R is made for the wide open desert terrain, which is traditionally filled with big whoops and more fast-paced driving. In addition to the wider overall stance (keep in mind that the same 28” tire/15” wheel setup is used on 1000R as the 1000X), the Fox shocks have been enlarged to handle the abuse that the faster speeds and big whoops will throw at this machine. Larger Fox Podium 2.5 shocks are found on both ends with 3-position compression adjustment, too. The best part about these shocks on the 1000R is that they are more adjustable with a true dual rate spring setup (both front & rear) as well as crossover adjustment to dial in when the main spring takes over. To say that I can feel a suspension difference between the R- and X-models would be an understatement. It is truly amazing how different each of these models, which again share the same chassis inside of the suspension components, handle differently.
The 1000R is definitely the more capable machine when it comes to eating up the big hits and going through the whooped out sections of terrain. Just like the 1000X, the bottom resistance on the R-model is superb, with nary a bottom out felt the entire time I drove this model. It goes through large 2’ deep whoops with grace and control, kind of like an ice skater makes their way around a triple axle. Really though, the rigid chassis and suspension combine to make the 1000R very predictable and confidence-inspiring when you drive it because it is so controllable through the whoops and rocky-laden trails. To be fair, it isn’t as good through the whoops as the Wildcat XX, but the Talon could probably be tuned to flow through the big whoops like the Wildcat does. The main takeaways for the 1000R are the control and big hit bottom out resistance that the suspension affords. The R-model is also smoother through the chatter bumps (washboard) than the X – credit those dual rate springs for that.
Since we tested the 1000R in the wide open, sandy terrain of Sand Hollow, Ut, we were able to open up the power a bit and see how this thing performs in a power-robbing environment like the sand dunes. While the 1000X never felt like it needed more power on the trails, the 1000R was similar in that it was perfectly happy with plenty of power in the open desert, whooped-out, or rock crawling terrains that we saw on test day. When we got to the open dunes, you could feel that the power was lacking a bit as the 1000R bogged down going up the bigger hills or quick turns. It’s not like it never had enough power, it just didn’t have as freely flowing of a powerband like, say, the YXZ1000R from Yamaha. The YXZ, with its higher revving engine and wider powerband overall, doesn’t sign off on top like the Talon does, so it carries itself over big dunes better than the Talon (credit the fact that I drove the YXZ the week before I drove the Talon). So, the fact that the Talon doesn’t build the power on the top end like it does in the bottom and middle makes it suffer a bit in the sand. While Honda has been clear that they have no intentions on releasing a Turbo (I quote, “We are leaving that to the aftermarket.”), I would assume that there will be some simple and effective ways to increase the power in the Talon from the aftermarket, and you can bet the parts guys will be on these tunes quickly!
Overall, if I’m looking at the bigger picture here and reminiscing on driving both models back to back, the 1000R is the model that seems like Honda put the most R&D into for several reasons. First, the suspension has better overall feel in the R-model with better slow and high speed bump absorption. This feel allows you to enjoy more aspects of the Talon 1000R than you enjoy in the 1000X, simply because the R-model is at home going 2 mph through rough stuff or 60 mph through the rough stuff. The tire and wheel setup also just works better on the 1000R because it still exhibits the great, corner-railing ability that the 1000X has but it is more stable at high speed than the X-model, which has a bit of that unbalanced feel when running straight at high speeds.
You want me to choose which Talon I would choose? Shucks, I thought you’d never ask… I’d go with the 1000R all day long because you can get in it, buckle your belt and helmet, and have a blast right off the showroom floor in any type of terrain you want!
If there was one more standout feature that is worth mentioning again, it’s the DCT transmission. Gobs of people love the fact that the Yamaha YXZ1000R has a manual transmission, but many people didn’t want to buy that particular vehicle because you can’t really have a “lazy day behind the wheel” in the YXZ. Honda knew this, and they wanted to offer the best of both worlds, one where you still don’t have to worry about a belt and you can take advantage of lazy days or up-on-the-wheel driving days. The Talon’s automatic mode, which is the default mode every time you start the vehicle, is so smooth and crisp with easy up/downshifts and an easy trail riding demeanor. The fact that the auto side has a Sport mode is also a boon, especially for those who are learning the accurate shift points for a UTV – the system doubles as a more fun yet very capable learning tool to teach drivers how to drive with a manual transmission and get the most out of it. Then, for all the purists out there who want to be able to shift on their own, the manual mode is everything you want it to be and more with the easy to use paddle shifters and simple engagement with the push of a dash button. Overall, the DCT is one of the best aspects of the Talon, especially when you factor in that it has a Low range, and it will be one of the main reasons that many buyers move from either a belt driven UTV or the YXZ over to the Talon.
At the end of the day, both versions of the Talon are absolutely phenomenal first vehicles for the sport side-by-side segment from Honda. Both models not only perform well in their intended environments, they do so with the Honda quality and engineering prowess that only a manufacture like Big Red can bring to the table. The next few years are going to be massively entertaining in the sport UTV industry, and we are glad to be here for the ride along with you!