2020 Honda Talon 1000X-4 UTV Review: We drive the Talon 1000X-4 Base and Fox Live Valve edition UTVs.
Story: Casey Cordeiro // Photos: Drew Ruiz Photo
After years of speculation, leaked photos, and more than a couple rumors, Honda finally unveiled their much anticipated 2-seat Talon lineup last year. Since the unveiling and on-sale dates earlier in 2019, Honda claims that the Talon 1000R and 1000X models have quickly risen to the #2 sales spot in the naturally aspirated, 1000-class sport side-by-side segment. That’s saying something! Apparently more than a couple people were ready to enjoy a Honda sport side-by-side, just like they have been enjoying Big Red’s motorcycles, ATVs, automobiles, generators, and more products over the years.
Fast forward to June 2019 and Honda unveiled two more significant items in the Talon lineup. The first was the much-anticipated Jackson Racing Turbo kit, which is factory-authorized, made specifically for the Talon models, and almost ready for shipment to Talon dealers everywhere (coming late fall 2019). Many people complained that the Talon just didn’t have enough horsepower in stock form (it puts out 104 HP from the 999cc inline twin cylinder power plant), but Honda already had another secret bombshell up their sleeves with the Turbo kit. That was a great release, but the surprises didn’t stop there…
Frankly, I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t see the 4-seat Talon coming out for at least a year. Japanese manufacturers are usually very predictable when it comes to product launches and just doing one thing at a time. So, when the second big thing to come out of the June press intro was the Talon 4-seat model, my mouth about hit the floor. What a surprise, and a great surprise it was! I think all Honda Talon fans will rejoice with me knowing that Honda didn’t rest on their laurels – they are taking the market by storm, and I don’t see any end to their product innovations anytime soon.
Specs are great, but we were bummed that we didn’t get to drive the new Talon 4-seaters at the initial unveiling. However, our patience paid off and we were able to drive the (2) Talon 4-seat models on a recent First Ride in the high deserts of Nevada. Let’s go over the details on these new 4-seat models… Here is the 2020 Honda Talon 1000X-4 UTV Review.
The first thing to know is that there are 2 different models, both of which are based off of the 1000X chassis, which measures out to be 64” wide with a-arms up front and a 3-link suspension system in the rear. The base model is the 1000X-4, and it includes Fox QS3, 3-position compression adjustable shocks. The upgraded vehicle is the 1000X-4 Fox Live Valve edition. The Live Valve edition comes with electronically adjusted Fox shocks on all 4 corners, a nifty launch control system, and a bit more spectacular paint job with the orange sprinkled on the vehicle in all the right places.
Obviously, there are a couple things that make these Talon 4-seaters unique from their 2-seat brethren. Honda claims that over 80% of the parts from the 2- and 4-seat Talon X models share the same parts, thus making it easy to find accessories or perform repairs (these are Hondas after all, so I’m not sure how many repairs you’re going to have to do to these…). As I mentioned, all 4-seat Talons are built off of the 64” X chassis. Those of you waiting for an R-model 4-seater, which should measure out to 68” wide, you’ll have to continue the wait. Honda won’t deny or confirm that one exists, but we’d place a good amount of money on an R-model ready for production sometime in the near future. Since these are X-models, a 3-link suspension system is found in the back with 15” of travel. The front a-arm-based suspension, which doesn’t have a sway bar (there is one in the back, though), has 14.6” of vertical wheel movement.
While the driveline was extensively R&D’d to give it the same quality as the 2-seater, this 4-seater remains quite the same as the shorter models in terms of powertrain. i4WD remains up front, and this is the system that is essentially a traction control system. It functions with sensors that measure wheel slip. If slip is detected, the i4WD system effectively brakes the slipping wheel, which then routes power to the wheel with traction. This system is so seamless and effective, you never even know it works. And, if you think it’s too good to be true, I have found through multiple experiences driving i4WD that it basically functions as a fully locking front differential, capable of propelling the Talon up a 45 degree incline with just one front driven wheel with traction.
Further on back, we find the venerable 999cc inline twin cylinder engine, which puts out a total of 104 horsepower. Those of you thinking that that HP number isn’t nearly enough, rejoice in knowing that the Jackson Racing Turbo kit ($5799 MSRP) will bolt right up to the 4-seat Talon models, too. Mated to this punchy, naturally aspirated engine is a 6-speed Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT). Nowhere else in the side-by-side industry can you find a DCT, and it is really a great performing unit with quick shifts and three different modes for different drivers – full automatic (default mode every time you start the vehicle), sport-automatic mode (faster shifts and the ability to hold shifts longer), and then full manual shift mode that is actuated with the steering-column mounted paddle shifters. In addition, there is a dedicated transfer case mated to this DCT, giving all Talon models the ability to have a true Low range. It is true that sport side-by-sides with manually shifted transmissions can’t match the low-speed crawling capability of a belt-driven side-by-side (typically 5-7 mph in a shifter car and 3-4 mph in a CVT-equipped side-by-side). The Talon strikes an ideal balance between the two with the ability to put the vehicle in low range and enjoy about a 4 mph crawl up steep and gnarly terrain.
The inside is where you’ll notice the most changes from the 2- to 4-seat models. The rear seats in the Talon are essentially the same buckets as you’ll find in the front, and that is a great thing. These stock seats have side good bolstering on both the bottom cushion and on the back side. The back seats are also placed well with their stadium style, which gives them a bit extra height so the rear-seat passengers can easily see over the front and have a clear view of the road ahead. Having the seats slightly inward of the front passengers also helps in the view department. For a guy who is 6’2” tall with long legs, I was pleasantly surprised with how much room there is in the back seats of the Talon. Plus, unlike competitive models, there are no sharp edges to hit your knees on when riding in the back – it delivers a great experience back there with smooth seat backs on the front buckets and nicely allocated space in between the front seat backs and the doors on the side. Of course I still wish there were full half doors from the factory, but I can’t say enough good things about these stock units when we look at their rigidity and fit-and-finish. High quality components are found everywhere in these Talons, and it is apparent right when you sit inside. This automotive manufacturer has taken what they have learned in the automotive market and applied it to these new off-road offerings.
The front passengers enjoy the same ergonomics as the 2-seat Talon lineup. The driver and front passenger enjoy great sight lines out the front, and the driver enjoys an adjustable seat and steering column. I also really appreciated the well placed pedals – these makes all-day adventures much less tiring and more fun when the speeds increase on fun trails.
As I mentioned earlier, the Talon 1000X-4 Live Valve edition has several features that set it apart from the base model. As the name implies, the first difference is the fact that this model has Fox shocks, which feature automatic compression adjustability via the Live Valve system. On the shock side of things, this system takes constant inputs from the computer to adjust the suspension on a millisecond basis. On the computing side, there is a central “brain” of the system, called the IMU, that takes inputs in from the throttle position, steering position, speed, gyrometer, shock position, and other sensors. Based off of all of this information coming into the IMU, the computer adjusts the shocks accordingly on that millisecond basis. Basically, you couldn’t tune the shocks faster if you tried. If you’re turning left, the right side shocks (outside) stiffen up to mitigate body roll. If you’re in the air, then all 4 shocks will stiffen to smooth out the landing and prevent bottoming out. What all of this means is that the ride experience is enhanced in so many ways, whether you are flying down the road at 50 mph and taking on a rutted section where the suspension is working constantly. Or, you could be going 5 mph over a bumpy section and the compression will be loosened all the way up so you don’t feel all the washboard bumps. In theory, it all sounds great, and I can tell you that, in practice, this system really is a giant step above the 1000X-4 base model when you drive them back to back. Credit also goes to the true dual rate spring setup on the Fox Live Valve system (with crossovers). The overall ride quality in this vehicle is noticeably better than the base model in all situations, especially when you are on the common washboard roads nowadays. It also takes the big hits better, and it stays more stable in high speed sections and corners where the system automatically adjusts. I also need to mention that the driver selects between “Normal” and “Sport” mode, and this preselected mode will allow you to have a bit of a say for how the shocks will perform. For the most part, slower speed sections and less weight in the vehicle will allow you to be in Normal mode. Sport mode really came in handy on the whooped-out roads that we tackled, along with the high speed sections. Overall, the system performs really well. It could still be a bit softer overall with a bit of a dialed back spring rate, but it is still pretty good.
The other feature that is significant on the Fox Live Valve edition is Launch Control. Yes, it’s the real deal! It took me a minute to learn how to engage it (if you ever have problems, make sure you press hard on the brake and that should fix everything). But, once I had it down pat, the system is simple to use. Press brake, press launch control switch, pull both paddles, release brake, floor it (or whatever throttle position you want, just press the gas!), release pedals and hold on! This system is great because you don’t have to floor the vehicle to get the launch control to engage, which could help you get out of sticky situations on the trail. Launch Control is awesome and works as described, even with 4 people in the vehicle, but it also points out one huge flaw with the stock Talon 1000X-4 vehicles…
Probably the biggest thing that Honda didn’t get right with this vehicle are the tires, and we said the same thing about the stock tires on the 2-seat models. Don’t get me wrong, the tires look cool with their tread pattern, but the combination of the tread pattern, little sidewall (needs 29” or 30” tires, really), and large wheel diameter just make these tires gather the nickname of “sir spins-a-lot”. They lack forward bite. They do steer okay in the washes in i4WD, but they are still squirrelly and all over the place in almost every other terrain. If you buy a Talon 1000X-4, you’ll want to change out the tires pretty quick.
As far as carrying additional cargo, the Talon still has a sturdy cargo box in the back that has specific tie down points. It works well for a variety of carriers, which Honda does sell as accessories. Many manufacturers are putting in spare tire holders built into the plastic these days, and I hope Honda puts in some kind of step system in the future.
For me, one of the absolute highlights of the Talon 1000X-4 drive experience is the sublime handling of this chassis when you’re on graded roads in 2WD, or i4WD for that matter. This is a good handling 4-passenger side-by-side that is predictable, stable, and fun to flick into corners. The ability to drop a gear upon corner entry with the paddles, get back on the gas early, fling the back around for some controllable oversteer on exit, all while you’re grabbing gears to keep the slide going, is an epic experience! I had a blast backing it into corners, and anyone who drives this machine will appreciate the rally-style fun handling of it. Even with 4 people in it, both models exhibit these fun, flickable handling traits on flat roads.
So, the chassis has great handling dynamics, the DCT and engine combination make this exhilarating to drive (and these features really separate it from the pack of other 4-seat side-by-sides), and the interior is comfortable and well laid out for all 4 passengers. Those are all great features of the Talon, plus the fact that it is a Honda – you know it’s going to be reliable and ready to go for many years.
The downsides are the stiff suspension (especially on the base model), tires, and possibly the lack of overall horsepower. From my driving experience at the location that we were testing (high desert, no sand dunes or other power-robbing terrain), this Talon 1000X-4 is a great family vehicle that is made to dominate this type of terrain. Yes, it has a couple downsides, but most of those things can be fixed.
Would we buy it? Absolutely. Which model would we recommend? If you can afford to spring the additional $2000 cost, the Fox Live Valve edition is the Honda Talon 4-seater to buy. You’ll really appreciate it if you go with the upgraded model, and we don’t always say that about side-by-sides. The upgrades to this model are purposeful and functional, making every aspect of the machine better than the 1000X-4 base model.
The base Talon 1000X-4 retails for $21,999 MSRP, and the Talon 1000X-4 Fox Live Valve Edition retails for $23,999 MSRP. Both models are shipping and should be at your local dealer now. Stay tuned for more articles on the Talon 1000X-4 here in the near future.
Until then, be safe on the trails, and we’ll see you out there!