Getting into a mature market for a company is not easy. For several decades now, companies have had a good command of the market for sport UTVs designed for riding fast. It takes guts to enter this segment, too. There is no room for error and if the product doesn’t live up to the competition, you’ll be killed by the critics. When we learned about the arrival of the mighty Honda into this arena, we were cautiously optimistic.
The fame of Honda is well established. Is there a Honda product that does not deliver the goods? The manufacturer has often been criticized for its lack of innovation and little change to vehicles that are extremely reliable but which are similar from year to year. Will the arrival of the Talon be the change the company needs to break that mold? Let’s see.
To allow us to get an idea, Honda invited us to test the new side-by-side vehicle at Hurricane, Utah. The landscape offered desert conditions, with sand dunes paired with very rocky terrain, a really superb paradise playground for off-road enthusiasts. Utah never disappoints.
The Honda Talon
The company has made strategic decisions in the development of the Canadian market that, unfortunately, will not please everyone. Only one version of the Talon will be available in Canada – the 1000X version at 64 inches wide, and available in the red color only. A blue version will also be available from our neighbors to the south. Honda is also producing an R version that will not be sold in Canada due to its width of 68.4 inches. Trust us, we’re sad about it too.
Finally, the engineers have not been too conservative with the development of the new purebred. The design of the new beast is completely new although it is inspired by the CRF line of off-road bikes. We find an aggressive look, with beautiful lines that will certainly turn heads. The front has an aggressive style, a stylized grille with ultra high performance LED headlights. Looking from the side, we can see in the front the long coil springs located in the huge space provided for the wheel movement, between the fender and the wheels. The doors have a single handle that is operated from the inside, and the safety net is standard and helps to prevent the possibility of getting the elbows out of the vehicle. Maxxis tires are mounted on stylish 15-inch aluminum wheels, contributing to the vehicle’s beautiful look. There is a cargo space of acceptable size in the rear that allows you to attach your belongings, or use the optional cargo bag sold by Honda.
Engine and transmission performance
It would have been very surprising that the Japanese manufacturer shows us a powerplant that is not among the most powerful in its class. The Talon engine is a 1000cc two-cylinder in-line developing 104 horses, which is at the top of the class compared to others. All this power is combined with a six-speed automatic transmission, which can be used in manual mode with the steering mount paddle shifting controls.
How is all this on the ground? One word: IMPECCABLE! We took the time to try the transmission in both modes, but it took us only a few minutes to forget the manual mode and stay in fully automatic mode. The engine-transmission combination does a great job, and during slowdowns the downshift reacts extremely fast, providing full power instantly. The gearshift adjusts according to the type of driving; it takes into consideration the throttle position, acceleration, engine speed, vehicle speed, and braking. If you opt for more relaxed driving, the transmission will opt for shifts to lower RPM smoothly, thus reducing the noise level in the cabin. Conversely, in a more aggressive situation, it will keep the gearshift to a higher revolution to maximize torque and power. Really? Yes, absolutely! On many occasions, we had low speed trips where we were able to easily have a discussion between pilot and passenger without having to scream! And when driving in a more sporty way, the engine revolution remains higher for a very fast response.
The Talon is also equipped with an intelligent traction system. At the front end, the traction distribution is based on the grip, while the rear end is equipped with a self-locking differential. We had the chance to face several types of terrain in our test day, including some very rough rocky low-speed runs, and we can confirm its effectiveness. In addition, a sloping start assistance system keeps the brakes activated without having to hold the pressure on the pedal; this prevents the vehicle to go down while releasing the brake pedal to hit the gas… Awesome!
We will certainly have the opportunity to make comparisons with the competition in the near future, but at first glance, future owners will certainly not be disappointed with the performance …
Suspension and behavior
Interesting to see that sometimes you just have to do it right… The choice of FOX Podium 2.0 QS3 shock absorbers is quite logical. They are easily adjustable in three modes of internal resistance and offer adequate performance for the size and type of vehicle. The Talon is intended for recreational use; most of the time for relaxed or sporty riding there are much stiffer shock absorbers, offering a lower level of comfort, especially in small bumps. But the suspension of the Talon offers a nice flexibility in the small bumps, which makes the vehicle much more comfortable, and for a more aggressive driving, all you have to do is to increase the internal resistance on each shock absorber with the help of the button and select position two or three for increased resistance.
Without a doubt, the ergonomic fit is the main characteristic of this side by side vehicle. Engineers have worked hard to achieve excellent ergonomics, both at the pilot level and the passenger level. The seats have good lateral supports that keep the body in a good position at all times and are also designed to accommodate an optional four-point safety attachment system. The pilot’s seat is adjustable, as is the steering wheel to get the desired angle. The standard power steering is doing a good job, even at low speeds. The space between the accelerator and the brake pedals has been carefully designed to facilitate the passage from one to the other. The space for the elbows is ample inside the doors to keep a free movement, and the handle to open the door is very easy to access and use.
Often neglected in the industry, Honda designers have opted to offer a great experience for both the rider and the passenger. Much effort has been expended on the passenger side to enhance its experience; several small details have been taken into consideration. The handle that allows the passenger to grip is infinitely adjustable between the maximum and the minimum. When the fit is found, the handle is locked with a lever that leaves no play to it. The footrests are evenly positioned on each side, while the center stays deeper allowing a longer and more relaxed leg position.
The dashboard is located in the center of the vehicle and is relatively small. Special attention must be paid to finding the desired information, especially when driving on rough terrain. The controls are located in the center of the cabin and are easy to use and well positioned.
A more negative comment that we mentioned to Honda engineers is the choice of the net used to protect the occupants above the doors. The mesh used has very small holes that make it relatively opaque, greatly reducing the visibility of the pilot and the passenger. You have to pay extra attention and look longer before making a tighter maneuver. Our comment was taken in note.
Honda continues its tradition of excellence in the world of recreational vehicle, the arrival of the Talon, with its more aggressive and stylized lines, makes us forget the more conservative style usually provided by the manufacturer. The combination of engine and transmission is perfectly successful, good calibrations of suspension for comfort and performance, a very comfortable cabin, friendly and pleasant to contemplate. Congratulations to the Honda team!
By the way, at the time of writing, some rumors mentioned the arrival of a four-seater for 2020… Stay tuned!