It’s been a very long wait for Honda fans who’ve dreamed of the day when Honda would release a high-performance Side x Side. Last year their hopes were rewarded when Honda announced not only one new Side x Side, but two new models, the Talon 1000R, and the Talon 1000X. Since that time there has been endless speculation about the performance of the new Talons, but today all speculation has been answered. We spent two days driving the new Talon, the first day being on the sand of rocks of Utah’s Sand Hollow State Park. The questions about power and performance have been answered. Here is the rundown after day one.
DRIVER and PASSENGER COMFORT
Honda has long been masters of vehicle ergonomics, and that certainly carries through with both Talon models. The seats are comfy yet firm, there is no side to side motion in corners, and the seat belts hold you in place without being intrusive or an annoyance. More than once we reached down to see if they were still there! Down below, there is good room for both your feet, and the passenger gets dual food pads. It might not seem like much, but a second foot pad for the passenger really helps you brace yourself in turns. Another seemingly minor item is the cam bolt that holds the passenger Tee-bar. Some other models use a clip pin which allows the bar to rattle around on the trail. The Honda system in ingeniously simple and feels far more secure. Both doors fit snuggly and close securely, and we really appreciate the added elbow room and arm rest area. At the top of each door is a safety net and although we’ve not appreciated some nets in the past – including some on Honda models – these nets are much easier to use. One large clip easily snaps in place and the added security is well worth having. The dash gets a two-toned color scheme, making it easier to quickly locate switches, and Honda’s automotive styling experience shows in the design. Just ahead of the passenger is a good-sized glove box with a twist latch to insure it stays closed on the trail. It’s the only storage compartment built into the Pioneer and we would like more, but it’s large enough to keep most of your gear secure and dry. Overall, we give the interior of the Talon excellent marks for style, comfort, and convenience. It’s what we would expect from Honda
This is usually the first question anyone asks about any high-performance machine and we’ll get right to it; the Talon isn’t going to outrun the high-horsepower turbo cars, at least on a flat strip. That’s not the whole story of engine performance however, and the Talon engine put out excellent power across a broad powerband. Power delivery is instant with the slightest blip of the throttle. It even does this backing up so be gentle on the throttle when backing into your trailer or the garage! Pedal feel is fairly light and one trick we learned was instead of letting your foot hover above the pedal, steady your foot against the center console lower panel and you can greatly smooth throttle input. As expected, the Talon engine runs beautifully, with zero perceivable vibration and a steady note from the exhaust that is neither too loud or annoying. It lets you know it’s there, but it doesn’t make itself a menace. Thankfully, there is almost no heat transfer into the cab area as well.
We love this transmission. It’s likely the best feature of the Talon 1000R and 1000X and there are several ways to operate it. If you prefer an easy cruise down the trail, slip it into fully automatic mode (AT). For a little more pep, select Sport mode which raises engine shift points. If you’re feeling like a Baja racer you can operate it in fully manual mode, and at any time you can override all modes with the paddle shifter behind the steering wheel. Our favorite and the quickest way to drive the Talon is to use fully automatic (AT) mode with the engine in the Sport setting, and then drop down a gear in corners with the paddle shifter to keep RPMs up. It’s a blast to drive, and shifts are always, dare we say, CVT smooth.
The Talon rides on a very durable chassis thanks to large diameter tubes, excellent underbody protection, and long travel suspension. On the trail there are no squeaks, groans, or unwelcome sounds and all you hear is tire noise and the engine behind. Thankfully, the doors close tightly and remain silent as well, rather than some doors which sound much like a bucket of quarters dropped from a roof. The long travel suspension did an excellent job of soaking up everything we could drive over whether it was rocks or endless, knee deep whoops. We bottomed it only a couple times all day, and by mid-late afternoon the shocks were beginning to break in and work even more smoothly. We love the adjustment of the FOX QS3 shocks as well. Simply turn the selector knob on the top to one of three positions and get back to riding. One feature we were also happy to find is the crossover (top) spring has adjustable stops. This means we can change the rebound slightly which helps keep the nose from dipping over jumps. Remember where we talked about the high-horsepower turbo cars? This is where you pass them and the suspension makes it possible. It works!
The Talon comes with 28” MAXXIS tires and they’re a good overall tire, but probably not the optimum for sand. At times we could feel them hunting for traction, but for hardpack trails or heavy loam they’re much better. We would run them until they’re done. Steering on the Talon is very light, and our preference is for a little more wheel feedback to help read the terrain but for most drivers the Talon steering will be perfect. You can drive it all day with no aching arms that night.
ON THE TRAIL
As a package the Talon works very, very well. It just feels right, from the seats to the suspension. It’s a blast to drive this machine on the trails and it’s very, very predictable, even when cornering extremely aggressively. I could hear a peep from my slightly worried passenger at times, but the Talon refused to do anything crazy. It stays flat and stable in corners, there is no perceived body roll, and it tracks very straight through the whoops.
There is a lot to love about the new Talon 1000R and 1000X. For longtime Honda fans the wait is finally over, the questions have been answered, and they can ride red again with no compromises. We fully expect to see a lot of Talons on the trail very soon, and for a very long time.
PART 2 – THE TALON 1000X FULL REVIEW COMING NEXT