Five years ago, Honda premiered the Talon with the goal of providing a sporty option in their lineup alongside the more utilitarian Pioneer. And the recent introduction of the Talon 1000R-4 Fox Live Valve completed that family of performance vehicles. So, you can only imagine how stoked we were to be invited to Mid-America Outdoors in Jay, Oklahoma to run their latest version of this model through its paces on a variety of trails offered there at the OHV park.
The new Talon 1000R-4 Fox Live Valve sits at the top end of the four-seater UTVs in Honda’s powersports program, providing a surprisingly nimble, responsive and rugged option with room to haul a family along for the ride. From a purely visual perspective, first impressions are particularly good. The contrasting red and white color patterns parked alongside its lovely blue counterpart gives an aggressive, yet attractive pair of dirt dominating vessels.
Included with this iteration of the Talon is a set of all-new aluminum wheels, as well as an updated choice of Kenda tires, which you may opt to swap out for a grander set – as one does. Owing to the new strengthened parts in the drivetrain, Talon is more than capable of taking larger wheels and tires right from the get-go. But if you ask us, it isn’t necessary to exchange them for the average application.
Those wheels and tires gave us everything we needed in the ruts, over roots, over rocks and crunching gravel. We went uphill, then downhill and even went a little sideways (oopsy), but there was hardly an occasion where we were left wanting. Let’s face it. After several graceful demonstrations through the hardest obstacles of the day, the two pro guides proved that most of the mishaps amongst our group were more likely operator error than any issue with the car.
After arriving at MAO, we kicked off the event with a nighttime run, and I took a few moments to familiarize myself with the vehicle before we were ready to ride. With the UTV fully loaded, we set the mode to “sport” to keep the increased 17.7-inch and 20.1-inch suspension high and tight, and the power displacement responsive. Another handy feature which came equipped with the GPS unit was the Group Ride function enabling you to keep track of every vehicle in the pack on your map which helps you decipher if they are imobile, lost, or about to change course.
The car we chose for the evening had relatively few apparent accessories and add-ons installed, primarily just storage bags, the light bars and pods, and the colorful whips – equipped on all the vehicles – that gave off a “Red Light Special” vibe. However, it was all that was necessary for our first ride on that sweaty, sticky (oppressively hot) Oklahoma summer night. Even without the addition of luxury parts, the interior still felt secure, comfy, and solid enough for a battle against the elements. The seats were remarkably plush, the leg room was generous, pockets plentiful, and the adjustable parts transformed enough that my above average stature fit in the driver’s seat just as well as my colleague’s five-foot-nothing frame.
Right away, the responsiveness of the drivetrain was apparent with the dual-clutch transmission (DCT) making lightning fast gear changes as well as keeping the motor reliably in its powerband when shifted to automatic. With the paddles you have the option to override the computer’s gear selections at whim, which is fun for short, precise rides, but I felt no need to switch to the manual position or interject my opinions on what the transmission decided for the terrain or challenges at hand. My only input went from 4-high to 4-low and back again.
The feel from the Talon’s fresh electronic power steering unit was more than satisfactory. It provided great, exacting responses to my commands, and the overall application of the wheel was unresisting and fluid, which admittedly, as an amateur autocross racer, is an adjustment from what I typically experience at the helm. The ergonomics are intuitive and simple, with the paddle shifters thankfully attached to the column rather than the wheel itself, so you can always find them with your fingers, even in an awkward hand-over-hand position.
Our night ride took us on a variety of the trails at MAO which also ran through quite a few creeks. I was pleased (grateful, really) with the impressive seal of the doors on the 1000R-4. They let a very small amount of water in which was a welcome reprieve from a climate my southwestern body was not prepared for.
The trails themselves were somewhat complicated for seasoned riders. So, novice riders were in for a doozy. And a few, like myself, figured out quickly what a significant difference in technicality the obstacles we faced were than in the open desert we were more accustomed to. But, in the end, it was an incredible learning experience to tackle this sort of terrain in the dark. Additional LEDs were a great benefit for a night ride like this, and the whips made it super simple to keep an eye on everyone even through the heavy brush and trees or around corners.
Finishing off the first segment of the launch, there were a few steep climbs to get out of the network of woods onto higher ground, and the Talon had plenty of torque to accomplish the task with minimal effort, suffering only a few scrapes here and there that were quickly attributed to having a full cabin.
Even when we’d fall in line on a sharp incline, with one of the drivers missing their marks or pausing at the top, when it was time to take off again, the Kendas dug into the dirt and 1000R-4 muscled its way up the face of the slope. And with the Hill Assist feature, we didn’t slip an inch moving from brake to gas no matter what the degree of angle we were parked.
As the next day dawned, I was rather excited to hop back into the Talon for a longer trial run in full daylight conditions, and after a bit of a rain delay, I finally had my chance to be back behind the wheel and let loose into the (surprisingly) hilly and forested Oklahoma terrain. I’d had a taste of it the night before, but it really sunk in during the three-plus-hour trek through the trees. And I’d thought this part of the country was just a flat parcel blanketed in corn, or dust, or another drab piece of landscape.
Switching to another model with a sound system made for a more enjoyable riding experience in the morning. Although, I am personally more of a fan of the white and red aesthetics. Having an SSV Works MRB3 controller front and center made the connection process simple, quickly figuring out how to fine-tune the EQ, the sound quality and levels were pitch perfect to torture the Oklahoma woods with some Black Flag and Dead Kennedys tracks.
When it comes to performance premiums, another upgrade comes in the form of launch control, which I tend to view more as a “look at this” stunt feature on vehicles rather than an actually usable means of accelerating. Yet, the Talon’s system seemed to offer that little bit extra. Yes, you can give it the goose and take off in an explosion all on your own. But this just cleans it up a bit. It wastes less time slipping and sliding and clawing at the ground so you can just move towards your target (which is anywhere over there).
Plus, to operate it is simple, so after playing around a bit, I gained enough confidence to actually use this function when I wanted to punch out of a stop to some speed on a few of the more open sections. And the extended width at 68.1 inches ensured utmost stability when we flicked that power through a corner or two. Boasting a sizable wheelbase of 118.7 inches, this ship sails like it’s cruising on water, wide and stable – diving when it needs to, rocking but not rolling, smooth (enough) over rough seas.
In the light of day, and perhaps with some newfound confidence, I was able to pick up the pace through some of the more dynamic and wide-open sections of path, in particular on a few areas which effectively amounted to a slalom between a grove. The chassis and steering were tight and nimble at these spots and inspired even more faith after feeling the car bite through. Paired with the shocks on-hand, it made higher-speed maneuvers relatively simple to perform with self-assurance. The Talon felt planted even in higher-speed curves, when it took a bit of effort to stay on the line. It is worth mentioning that it felt just as comfortable and capable at this spot as it did at slower speeds in more technical terrain.
A second trip through the creek provided more much-needed cooling and gave a second chance to check how effective the doors were at keeping the outside elements where they should be. The descent into the creek had a relatively steep grade, but the brakes, traction, and tires, alongside some fierce engine braking from the DCT transmission, worked together as they should in a drop, maintaining a comfortable velocity as it worked against gravity. After a relatively easy climb out of the creek, we continued on our way beneath the canopy.
The final obstacle on our ride was an intimidating ascent to the road back to the park. The SxS ahead of us became stuck and took a fair number of attempts to make the climb, ultimately letting one of our guides take the car to the top. Witnessing this whole ordeal admittedly built up some internal doubts over my abilities, yet after a little guidance on how to pick a good line and commit to the gas, the Talon managed it with minor effort. And what an exhilarating and rewarding feeling I had reaching the crest. The only casualty from this effort was a loud and quick puncture in the driver’s rear tire, which was audible during the ascent, but I made the executive decision that changing a tire would be better suited to the top of the hill rather than the bottom. If things had worked out differently here, it was reassuring to recall that the Talon comes with a winch from the factory, even if we were grateful to not require it.
If I had to give you the low-down on the Talon 1000 R-4 Fox Live Valve in a few words, I would say that the driving experience not only provided comfort, but it also offered more than enough oomph to stay engaged and have real, quality amusement behind the wheel. The suspension and ground clearance make for plenty of room to be a hooligan and handle more technical terrain when we veer off-track.
The overall punchy nature of the 999cc engine and the famed DCT transmission made the acceleration feel better than expected for a naturally aspirated OEM unit, and I would imagine pairing that with any form of aftermarket forced induction would only increase the giggle factor when pressing the right foot to the floor. The only downsides to the driving experience were the occasional worries over just how durable a factory skid plate would be (but it turns out that was a me thing). Then, there were some slight concerns with my left knee hitting the cupholder in the driver’s door time and again. To sum it up, I had little complaints and a lot of fun.
Overall, I’m excited to see how this model evolves, and the cool builds destined to be made in the future using the Talon 1000 R-4 Fox Live Valve as a base. And I can easily see the appeal for the Talon in the target market of “active drivers” who want something engaging and capable of carrying reasonable loads of passengers and possessions. If you want a performance side-by-side crafted for leisure, which gives you all the good feels right from the showroom floor, then the Talon seems like the complete package.