Up Close and Personal With the New Honda Talon
A few months back, we were more than excited to bring you the first look at Honda’s all-new, 999cc sport performance UTV. The Talon 1000X and 1000R was Honda’s long awaited answer to the Polaris RZR XP, Can Am’s Maverick X3, and the Textron Wildcat. While not much more than an in-depth press release and some manufacturer supplied photos, this was truly the real deal, and just the news that many of us were waiting for. With a completely new chassis designed for sporty handling, coupled with a high performance 999cc engine, and Honda’s near legendary DCT Transmission, the Talon is the Honda UTV we’ve all been yearning for, and we couldn’t wait to get behind the wheel.
The Day Is Finally Here
After what seemed like forever, our phone finally rang with an official invite to the first full-on Honda Sport model UTV. The intro was to consist of two separate days of riding, and an in-depth technical presentation. The presentation was to be followed by a Q&A session with the key engineers and product development team that has made Talon a reality. The riding was separated into two days with different locations, to showcase both the Talon 1000X and the 1000R.
The 1000X ride day was to take place on Southern Utah’s Barracks Trail System, and we would ride the slightly wider and longer Talon 1000R in the dunes and rocks of Sand Hollow State Park. While we rode and will review both, as of press time, the Canadian market will only be getting the more geographically suited 1000X model. Only time will tell with future models, but the Honda staff assured us that there’s definitely more to come.
Our first actual in-person viewing and the tech presentation, took place shortly after arriving at the Sand Hollow Resort outside St. George UT. One of the coolest parts of the Honda Talon’s technical presentation was getting the information from the individual minds that were responsible for bringing it to life. One very bold and appreciated statement was MADE IN THE USA. The Honda Talon is clearly and proudly a global effort, with the engine and DCT transmission coming from Japan, but the rest of the entire project takes place in the US.
As an example, the Talon’s design and body-style are developed entirely in Honda’s R&D office in Torrance, CA. The Honda Talon’s mission statement “Everything’s Better Side X Side” means that they needed to bring the previously un-matched experience of riding a motocross bike to both the driver as well as the passenger. Body lines started with the look, flow, and feel of their ever-popular CRF dirt bike lineup, but with function and capability at the forefront. Fenders look aggressive, yet are developed to provide un-beatable mud and water protection. The standard roof creates a functional spoiler, yet directs air properly when trailered in either direction at freeway speeds.
The Talon gets its start with the design in California, but the ever important chassis is designed, engineered and developed in Honda’s Raymond, Ohio campus. Looking for a plush ride, maximum ground clearance and precise steering response? Honda engineers opted for a 44% front-end weight bias. They designed an all-new one-piece frame that is identical in both models, but the 1000X suspension and wheelbase are intended to emphasize maneuverability and precise handling, while the 1000R’s lean toward high-speed tracking and large bump absorption. Speaking to the challenges of this multi-location development and assembly process, the massive one-piece chassis that was developed in OH for rigidity and durability, required a complete redesign of the welding department in the South Carolina manufacturing plant. A new paint facility was also required to provide the desired frame paint quality and ensure that rust prevention needs were met.
In-depth, real world testing is also a huge focal point with anything Honda brings to the table. The Talon was no exception to this and has endured years of durability and handling testing, research and development, before ever reaching the market. Honda used ex-Baja and MX racers as test drivers for the Talon, with extensive testing taking place in Ohio, Georgia, N.Carolina, S.Carolina, and California.
The Talon 1000X
The 64 inch wide Honda Talon 1000X is designed to be both maneuverable and precise. It features 15.1 inches of rear travel and 14.6 up-front, controlled by 2.0 Fox Podium Quick Switch 3 shocks (QS3). A one piece frame design is said to provide unmatched rigidity and a confidence-inspiring ride, with consistent geometry under the harshest loads. The Talon’s performance-tuned 999cc power plant is a four-valve, Unicam, parallel-twin design that is rubber mounted into the one piece chassis, and mates well with Honda’s high-tech Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT). The DCT features two automatic modes, (Drive & Sport) and a manual mode with column-mounted paddle shifters like a high end sports car. High and low ranges are achieved with a sub-transmission that basically doubles the amount of available gear options.
On paper, the Talon 1000X is definitely looking to compete with the naturally aspirated RZR XP, Maverick X3, and Wildcat. This is the long rumored Honda sport UTV that we’ve all been waiting for, and we couldn’t wait to put it through its paces.
Life is Better -SxS-
As we shuttled up into the mountains to a staging area for the Barracks Trail System, excitement was high, and everyone’s conversations were all directed at this latest machine. We were all on the same page, a select few had ridden in pre-production models a few months earlier, but everyone in the bus wanted their shot behind the wheel. Southern Utah’s Barracks trail system features miles upon miles of narrow, yet high-speed trails that zig-zag through pine trees and boulders. Quite possibly the perfect playground for a 64” sport UTV that prides itself in precision handling. What’s more, Mother Nature had blessed us with plenty of moisture, and even some snow patches to play in.
Getting into the Talon for the first time, you will be impressed with the wide-opening, suicide doors, and how easy they make getting in and out of the vehicle. The low-cut step in entrance point, adjustable steering wheel, and well placed seats truly made this a mention-worthy trait for everyone in the group, ranging from probably 5’6” to 6’3”. Sitting in the Talon, the ergonomics of seat to steering wheel, to foot-pedals feels well laid out. You sit higher in the car than an X3, probably closer to that of a RZR XP, but you’re buckling into what feels like a more substantial stock seat. At 6 foot nothing, I did find myself wanting the seat all the way back, but didn’t personally hear any of the taller drivers complaining. Adjusting the driver seat was seamless, and probably the best functioning seat slider system in a UTV to date.
The Honda staff intentionally paired us up with another editor for our group ride. The overall passenger experience is as big a part of the Talon vehicle design as is driving it. The passenger gets a quick-adjust grab handle with a unique cam-lock system that secures it in any position. You will notice and appreciate that it’s very easy to operate, and doesn’t allow the handle to rattle, vibrate, or move around in any way. The passenger floorboard includes raised platforms for secure footing on both sides, and a recess in the center, should you feel like stretching your legs.
The next really cool thing the Honda staff did for the Talon launch was teaming up with the boys at Rugged Radio, and installing an intercom and radio in every one of the press units. Steve Bechard from Rugged, personally grabbed all of our helmets at the arrival dinner and spent the better part of his night installing about thirty speaker/mic kits into them. Rugged Radio had in fact just days before, developed and manufactured a trick new billet chin-bar clamping mount that really eases the mic boom part of the install, as well as making it easier to remove and switch the kit to another helmet. Having a quality intercom between driver and passenger is a luxury that every UTV enthusiast should experience, and having the car to car radio capability made for incredibly smooth functioning, guided rides with minimal time waiting for the group. Everyone was impressed with how convenient the comms were, and we can’t imagine other OEMs not using them for future press rides and introductions.
The Talon fires quickly to life with a turn of the key. It’s idle is smooth and the muffler keeps its exhaust tone to a minimum, with a hearty growl as you rev it up a little. The exhaust tip points directly to the ground to further reduce trail and in cab noise levels. It really does sound pretty good without being loud. The majority of users will really like the stock exhaust, while the more serious rock crawling enthusiast might prefer to direct the exhaust elsewhere to cut back on dust for their spotters.
We opted for automatic sport mode as we took off out of camp, and accelerating down the trail feels almost seamless as the DCT transmission shifts quickly and smoothly through its gears. Acceleration feels so linear that you could be driving a CVT, but can audibly hear it shifting through individual gears. In Sport mode the Talon comes off the bottom strong, and holds each gear that extra little bit for aggressive driving. Downshifting and engine braking is equally automated, with a smooth controlled feeling at all times.
As we all know, a little moisture makes for great trail riding, but a little too much can make for a muddy mess. Leaving the base camp, we were under shade from the tree canopy, and the ground was still a little frozen. Within a few miles, things were beginning to soften up quickly and getting a little soupy. The trail consisted of super fun, twisty trails with occasional braking bumps, a few scattered whoop sections, and multiple mud sections. As neither of us really enjoy being covered in mud, we opted to haul @$$ in the drier sections, and then creep through all the mud pits in an attempt to stay dry.
The Talon comes stock with 1/2 doors, and the option to buy panel inserts to complete them, just like every other sport performance UTV on the market. The RZR, Maverick, Wildcat, and now the Talon all do this, and we’re not really sure what “customer type” would prefer this set up over completed doors, yet every manufacturer does it. With that said, we were so busy wishing we had full doors that we didn’t really notice how good the mud protection actually is. After the first few slow crawl mud crossings, we started being a little less cautious and letting the fenders do their job. Yes, we did get a little mud on our pant legs from the opening, but not nearly as bad as you would expect. Even in the extremely soupy sections, the front fender design knocks down the large majority of the mud and keeps the cabin pretty clean. In showroom stock form with the exception of the accessory 1/4 windshield they installed, the Honda Talon offers by far the best mud protection in its class.
The Talon 1000X handled the higher speed, switchback trails at Barracks with precision and accuracy. While still incredibly comfortable at lower speeds, it has no problem being thrown into a rutted up berm, sliding corners, or pounding through the braking bumps. Under braking bumps or whoops, Honda’s (EBD) system keeps the rear end planted and in traction, for more control avoiding the tendency to hop out of its line, rut, or intended path. Getting hard on the brakes is followed in sync with accurate downshifting, and you are magically right back in the sweet-spot as you get back on the gas. The Talon doesn’t mind a slow cruz, but it sure seems to like being driven hard. Steering is light and almost effortless, yet still provides a connected feeling with the trail, and its EPS system all but eliminates any negative feedback to the steering wheel.
The Barracks trail system included a few pretty gnarly descents and one pretty significant hill climb. The Talon’s smooth, yet direct engine braking breeds confidence, and really takes any concern out of downhill maneuvering. Sandy, rutted hillclimbs really showcase the I-4WD system, as it searches and capitalizes on any available traction. I-4WD uses electronic control of individual brake calipers to manage wheel slip, and apply torque to the wheels with greater traction. On one particular hillclimb, we were all able to experience this advantage while scavenging through ruts, and trying to keep up the necessary momentum to conquer it. Two different editors didn’t make it on their first attempt, due to poor line choice and running out of ground clearance, but both were able to back out of their chosen line and restart using the “Hill Start Assist” system. While this move could clearly be done by driving two-footed, it was pretty cool to see how it simplifies the process of getting restarted on a pretty steep incline.
This same hillclimb and a couple of the long descents were also a great showcase for the sub transmission. The group leaders were able to recommend selecting low range to the group via the Rugged Radio’s. On the Talon’s DCT, Low Range mode reduces the transmission’s gear ratio, but still lets it shift through all six gears for maximum engine torque while climbing, and maximum engine braking while descending.
The 64” wide Talon 1000X rear suspension uses a 3 link trailing arm set up, with significantly less wheel travel than the wider 1000R version, as well as the RZR XP, and Can Am X3. This set-up is intended to provide quicker, more precise handling and precision steering. Driven in its element, such as the Barracks Trail system, the 1000X proved to be incredibly stable, precise, and you definitely don’t seem to miss the extra 2 inches of wheel travel. The Fox QS3 shocks do lack the ability to really fine tune compression and rebound, but the 3 pre-developed settings simply cover a pretty large range and worked well for everything we could throw at them. Riding the Barracks trail we found all the way soft to be comfortable for average cruising, and the mid-setting to be better for pushing it harder than average. The firm setting was stiffer than we really liked for this ride spot, but would probably work well with a heavier payload, or more wide-open desert terrain.
Overall First Impression
We’ve all been waiting for this Honda Sport UTV for a very long time, and are extremely happy to see its eventual debut. If this were a race, the competition definitely beat them to the starting line and has already sold a lot of really cool machines. As much as we all wish Big Red would have jumped in head first and released this 3 or 4 years ago, history has proven that’s not the Honda way. They’ve always held their cards close, carefully studied the market, and tested/developed to near perfection before coming to the table. Maybe the market has progressed a little farther, or maybe it hasn’t, but the product line will always be durable, reliable and provide a great ownership experience.
The Talon is no exception to history; maybe the others have already made millions, but this machine is well thought out, has undoubtedly gone through more durability testing than any previous UTV, and will put a longstanding smile on the face of anyone who buys one. Overall power and engine performance is on par with the other major brand, naturally aspirated UTVs. Overall build quality is through the roof; the rubber mounted engine makes an all-day drive way more comfortable, and you will never have to change a Talon Clutch Belt. We’re also pretty sure this machine will stand the test of time, like the many Honda products before it.
The Talon is obviously direct competition to the non-turbo machines with similar HP, but who’s to say what performance gains lie within, and it might even be more competitive than we think with the Flagship Turbos. More food for thought; the engine is longitudinally placed in the chassis for increased drivetrain strength, but it also leaves plenty of room behind the passenger seat for a Turbo and Intercooler.
One Minor Concern
The only downside we see to the DCT transmission might be in trying to run a much larger tire. With a CVT clutch, you can simply change clutch weights and springs to account for the taller gear ratio and increased rotating mass. The Honda comes stock with a slightly smaller than the competition 28” tire, the test engineers said they had no problem clearing and running 30’s, but anything larger than that is going to take a relatively in-depth internal gearing change, or a significant increase in HP.
2019 HONDA Talon 1000X & 1000R
Engine type: Liquid cooled, Unicam OHC longitudinally mounted, parallel twin, w/4 valves per cylinder
Bore x Stroke: 92mm X 75.15mm
Compression Ratio: 10:1
Horsepower: 104 HP to crankshaft
Lubrication system: Dry sump
Induction: PGM-FI electronic fuel injection with 46mm throttle bodies
Ignition: Full Transistorized
Starting procedure: Turn ignition switch
Air Filter: Paper Pleat
Transmission: Six-speed automatic DCT, reverse and high/low sub-transmission
Clutch: 2-Multiple Wet
Drive train: Honda’s I-4WD w/brake traction control system (BTCS) +torque biasing diff
Final drives: Direct front and rear driveshafts
Power Steering: Electric Power Steering (EPS)
Fuel capacity: 27.6 liters (7.3 gals) including 4.1 liter (1.1 gal.) reserve
Wheelbase: 1000X 222.5cm (87.6”); 1000R 235.4 cm (92.7”)
Overall length/width/height: 1000X 314cm/163cm/191cm (123.9”/64”/75.3);1000R 314cm/174cm/192cm (123.9”/68.4”/75.6”)
Ground clearance: 1000X 32cm (12.7cm); 1000R 33cm (13”)
Turning Radius: 1000X 5.4m (17.7 ft.); 1000R 6.5m (21.3 ft.)
Claimed dry weight: 1000X 676kg (1490 lbs.); 1000R 700kg (1,545 lbs.)
Cargo Box Capacity: 136 kg (299 lbs.)
Frame: E-coat dipped, powder-coated One-piece frame
Front: 1000X Double wishbone; 37cm (14.6”) of wheel travel; 1000R Double wishbone; 45cm (17.7”) of wheel travel
Rear: 1000X 3 Link trailing arm 38cm (15.1”) of travel; 1000R 4+ Link trailing arm, w/anti-sway bar 51cm (20.1”) of wheel travel
Shock: 1000X FOX 2.0 with Quick Switch 3; 1000R FOX Podium 2.5 with Quick Switch 3
Front: Hydraulic discs 250 mm w/twin piston calipers, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD)
Rear: Hydraulic disc 250 mm w/twin piston caliper, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD)
Front: AT 28×9-15 Maxxis
Rear: AT 28×11-15 Maxxis
Wheels: 15 inch Cast Aluminum Wheels
Front: LED Hi/Lo Headlights
Rear: LED tail lights/brake lights
Colors: 1000X Pearl Red/Metallic Grey
Instrumentation: Digital or Analog Speed/odo/trip/hour/RPM/fuel/gear/clock/2wd-4wd
Protection: Included front bumper, Injection molded full skid plates, premium half doors, and HD CV boot guards
Warranty: 12-months Standard HondaCare Warranty, and available up to 48 months Extended Protection Available
PRICE: $26,999 CAN