SCORE Journal

SCORE Journal - April 2019

SCORE Journal - The Official Publication of SCORE Off-Road Racing

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Page 102 of 113

First Look:Honda’s New Talon 1000R and Talon 1000X Honda finally enters the sport side-by-side ring and comes in swinging! By Mark Kariya Confession: I’m a motorcycle guy. For nearly my entire life, I’ve been involved with motorized two-wheeled transport. Don’t get me wrong, however, I’ve dabbled with and even enjoyed three and four-wheelers, but bikes have been where it’s at in my book. Having ridden many Honda motorcycles, it now appears that the company has written another chapter in that book for me with the recent introduction of two new, UTV models, the Talon 1000X and the Talon 1000R. The Talon models are Honda’s first entry into the growing sport Side-by-Side (SxS) market where previous offerings from “Big Red” have been in the utility and multipurpose categories. According to Honda, when their research showed how large the sport SxS segment was getting, it knew the market couldn’t be ignored. Multipurpose units still comprise the largest portion of the SxS market, but last year the sport category comprised 32 percent of sales. You’d be foolish to ignore that. Honda drew on its past experience with the company’s old Odyssey and Pilot single-seaters, as well as on the lessons learned in the ATV and motorcycle sides of the house, and its impressive automotive division, to create something that would be competitive in this marketplace. For its first entry into the category, Honda decided the Talon should be a two-person vehicle with normally aspirated engines, as research indicated that’s what sold most. This is contrary to what one might think with all of the hype given to four-seat models with forced induction. But when you take into account how those models also command the biggest price tags, the company said it made sense to ease into it a bit more conservatively. Thus, Honda looked at its Africa Twin CRF1000L adventure bike, with its 999cc parallel twin, as the power plant for the Talon. Noted for its smooth delivery and more than adequate power, the engine needed a drivetrain better suited for SxS use. Belts have proven to be the weak link in any of the SxSs (and ATVs) employing CVTs, so Honda went with its innovative six-speed, Dual-Clutch Transmission (DCT). This is a gear-driven automatic system available as an option in the Africa Twin. Its High/Low sub-transmission is exclusive to the Talon. Though some may dismiss automatic transmissions in performance or sport applications, the DCT’s programming is such that whether in Normal or Sport modes, it almost always picks the correct gear for the situation. When the driver wants to over-ride, gear selection can be done at will and on the fly via steering mounted paddle shifters. We discovered how well the power and shifting came to play during a full day of driving the Talon at the Sand Hollow State Park outside of St. George, Utah. It’s a spectacular area (as is much of the state) with remarkable natural diversity and beauty that included a large reservoir for water sports, and 20,000 acres for off-road recreation of which 6,000 acres are its trademark red sand dunes. There are also miles of twisty, narrow trails through brush, as well as rock-crawling opportunities all within sight of snow-covered mountains. Together, it made for a really fun day at the mobile outdoor office. Honda invited three groups of people to the intro; the first group included those from the SxS enthusiast press, the second wave was non-enthusiast press who didn’t have much experience in this type of vehicle, and a final day was dedicated to select dealers. My not-so-speedy motorcycle racing days are only a memory now, due to increasing work responsibilities and age. My only experience with SxS vehicles is in an agricultural setting, though I got to ride in a Class 1 race car for a few miles a dozen years ago after a photo shoot. The ride in the Talon was jaw-dropping and disbelief with the excellent performance upon getting out to the trails. For my first stint, I was assigned to the 1000R, my partner for the day was a guy who races a Polaris RZR. Had it been my choice, I would’ve eased into things a bit more by driving the ‘X first; it’s slightly shorter and has less travel as it’s suited more for tighter trails compared to the ‘R, which is targeted more for the SCORE enthusiast crowd. Honda Powersports PR Coordinator Ben Hoang led the 1000R group while Sales Project Leader Wayne Lambert headed up the pack of 1000X drivers. Hoang promised that the pace would be “spirited” but not a full-on race one. My version of spirited, however, was based on my limited past experience driving primarily utility SxS’s and I just couldn’t get my brain sufficiently reprogrammed to make me mash the skinny pedal on the right enough to take full advantage of the 1000R’s rigid one-piece frame and the Fox Podium 2.5 shocks. The combination allowed the Talon’s A-arms in front to cycle through a listed 17.7 inches of travel while the Fox Podium shocks in the four-link plus rear yielded 20.1 inches of beautifully controlled travel. It’s also a longer vehicle with a wheelbase of 92.7 inches with a 68.4 inch track width. My more experienced partner no doubt almost fell asleep, but he did note that out of the box, the suspension was very impressive. I’d concur absolutely. We didn’t just bomb down whooped-out two-track, though. The ‘R loop included some fairly tight sand washes to showcase the precise steering, as well as a few downhills where we could experience the ample engine braking provided in the transmission’s Manual mode. The route also allows us to pass though rock ledges at an angle to showcase the i-4WD technology. It was an eye-opening morning. After lunch, we switched to the 1000X. By now, I felt slightly more confident about keeping it floored through the whoops though it still left me in awe at how controllable things were while skimming across the tops. The ‘X has the same frame, but the suspension components are different with Fox Podium 2.0 shocks on each corner for 14.6 inches of travel in front and 15.1 inches in back via a three-link system. Wheelbase is a more compact 87.6 inches and it’s narrower at 64.0 inches. The 1000X shares engine mapping and everything in the drive train with the ‘R and provides plenty of power delivered smoothly, while running strongest from the midrange up. Curb weight (with 7.3 gallons of fuel and all other fluids) for the ‘X is 1492 pounds for California models, 1490 for 49-state versions; the ‘R is heavier at 1548/1545 due to its longer suspension components so that helps explain the slightly livelier feel. Honda’s assertion that the 1000X’s more compact package helps deliver a better trail oriented machine is inarguable. The steering felt supremely accurate, and side-to-side transitions were quick and predictable. Inside the cabin, the tilt steering wheel and automotive-grade seat adjustments provided enough adjustability to fit all but the largest drivers; the seats, by the way, have pass-through ports for four-point harnesses in case the owner plans to do any competition. Honda also offers a complete line of accessories to dress up and/or protect both models, though the list of standard features borders on encyclopedic. In addition, both Talons boast a one-year limited warranty—extendable up to four years—so you could conceivably have your new toy covered for five years! By the time the day was over, I’d had one of the most educational and enjoyable times ever. This all-too-brief day in Honda’s Talons certainly broadened my horizons and helped me understand just what makes the sport SxS market so popular. The 1000X has an MSRP of $19,999 with the 1000R carrying a $20,999 tag. For more information, visit your Honda dealer or

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