2021 Honda Talon 1000R Review
New Fox Live Valve Suspension & Launch Control Mode
Words: Cody Hooper // Photos: Drew Ruiz
Honda fired a shot right into the heart of the sport UTV segment with the release of the Talon, and it has been a hot seller since it hit the market a couple years back. Big Red did not wait long before dropping the 4 seat Talon, and it was introduced with the availability of Fox Live Valve technology as well as a new Launch Control mode. Honda’s new 2021 model-year Talon 1000 two-seat models were then announced, updated with the same Fox Live Valve shocks and Launch Control. Here’s the question- are the new features worth the extra cash to upgrade?
2021 Honda Talon 1000R Review Highlights:
- Snappy DCT Transmission works well
- Crisp throttle response, great engine note
- Live Valve suspension adjustability
- Launch control is a fun trick, but also sometimes useful
- Factory window nets
Honda rolled the Talon’s drivetrain right over into 2021, which is no surprise considering the model’s brevity in the marketplace. It still shines as a punchy powerhouse with a very high level of polish.
The Talon’s 999cc parallel twin cylinder engine has DNA pulled directly from the dirtbike world, particularly in its cylinder head layout. Honda calls it Unicam, which is essentially a single overhead camshaft operating the valvetrain. The camshaft opens the intake valves directly via a cam-on-bucket design, while the exhaust lobes of the camshaft operate forked rocker arms to open the exhaust valves. It allows Honda to maintain tight valvetrain control at high RPM with a significant savings in size and weight compared to a more traditional dual overhead cam setup.
The Talon is rated around 105 horsepower in stock trim, but thanks to its clever drivetrain, it punches a bit above its weight.
The transmission in the Talon is every bit as high tech as the engine, if not more so. A dual clutch transmission has two clutches on the input side, as well as two parallel shafts that contain opposite gear ratios. When you have shaft 1 engaged, the transmission’s second shaft is already spinning and ready to take an upshift. The clutches swap duty, and a shift is made. Dual clutch transmissions are able to shortcut the process of physically changing gears, which means the shifts happen very quickly.
The DCT in the Talon has selectable automatic shift modes (Normal and Sport), as well as full-manual paddle shifting capability. In the hundreds of miles we have logged in various Talon models, we have left it in Sport Auto more often than in full manual. The Talon does a fantastic job of keeping you right in the target RPM range, responding quickly to hard braking and abrupt throttle changes.
The i4WD system in the Honda uses individual wheel speed sensors and a very smart computer to control traction at all four wheels. The system works freakishly well when all sensors and computers are working in harmony, but we have had first-hand experience with a bad sensor that left a Talon stuck in 2WD.
The 2021 Talon R is only listed with the Fox Live Valve option at the time I’m writing this, which is a $2,100 upgrade over the 2020 “base model” Talon R. For that $2,100, you get a Launch Control mode, color-matched frame and ROPS, and the almighty 2.5” Fox Podium Live Valve shock package.
Don’t be fooled- this isn’t just a bolt-on upgrade to the Talon’s existing suspension. The Live Valve system hosts a myriad of sensors and its own brain, which Honda calls the Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU). The IMU and electronic controls are made by Bosch. The Live Valve system can adjust the shock’s compression damping on each shock independently, automatically, and up to 200 times per second, according to Honda.
The rest of the Talon R’s suspension system remains unchanged. Up front, dual A-arms produce 17.7 inches of travel. Out back, Honda’s “4+ Link” rear A-shaped trailing arm design allows a massive 20.1 inches of travel. It’s all really trick stuff, designed to limit bump steer and keep the Talon pointed straight throughout its travel.
Honda carries over the Maxxis MU9H tire here, which is based on the Coronado but tuned for Honda’s own specifications. The tire turns in well, but feels loose on hardpack and doesn’t give a lot of forward bite. Honda’s new Launch Control feature shows the limits of the stock tires’ traction quickly.
The wheels are cast aluminum non-beadlocks. The Talon really responds well to taller tires, and we would recommend upgrading to a good set of 30” tires if you’re planning on using the Talon for desert duty. The Honda’s brakes are strong, with a long pedal.
Interior & Exterior:
The 2021 Talon’s interior and exterior are unchanged except for the color schemes. The 2021 Talon 1000R is only available in “Metallic Grey”, which doesn’t sell the look very well (looking at you, Honda Marketing!). Metallic Grey is the base body color, but Honda applies a slick black graphic package over the top to give it a light contrast. The frame and ROPS (cage) are color-matched to other highlighted trim in a striking, bold blue. It’s a looker for sure.
The Talon 1000R is always a pleasure to drive. We have spent countless hours in previous model years, and we have grown to love them for their polished, comfortable experience and ease of use. This year’s upgrades bring even more automation to the plate, further increasing that comfort and polish. Fox’s Live Valve tech takes all of the effort out of having to tune your own suspension. Tinkerers and driving dynamic purists will likely prefer the adjustability of the standard Fox Podium shocks, but Honda isn’t offering them in 2021 yet.
The Live Valve system looks at vehicle-mounted sensors for input, and then makes programmed adjustments to the shocks’ stiffness based on what it thinks will deliver the calmest, smoothest ride. It can read steering angle, inertia (pitch, yaw, roll), brake pressure, engine RPM, speed, gear position, and throttle position. Bosch’s high-tech IMU control unit parses this data multiple times per second, firing off small changes to each individual shock up to 200 times per second. This allows the computer to ramp valving changes up and down, smoothing out the blend between soft and stiff adjustments.
The system works very well. When you turn, it stiffens up the outboard shocks to prevent body roll. Mash the brake, and the fronts stiffen up. The Talon’s brain works to control the ride very well, providing a comfortable ride at low speeds with a firm and confident feel at high speeds. Honda even gives you a dual mode switch, so you can select Normal shock tuning or Sport shock tuning. Sport provides a stiffer, more reactive ride. It affords great bottoming resistance on jumps and in whoops.
Some drivers at more advanced skill levels may not prefer the feel of the Live Valve-suspended Talon over the standard model. The Live Valve system is great at keeping the ride flat, and it sometimes overrides the driver’s desire to fully transfer the car’s weight under hard braking or cornering. If you’re the type that enjoys breaking out the tape measure and setting spring height, crossover, and keeping notes on clicker positions, then Live Valve may not be for you either.
For the rest of the UTV Offroaders out there that just want to hop in the seat, buckle up, and hold it wide open- the 2021 Talon 1000R with Live Valve offers a massive amount of comfort and confidence. It pegs the needle on the fun factor scale, with that parallel twin always wailing at high RPM. The Talon is made better by the revisions made to the shock tuning on the 2021 model as well, independent of the Live Valve system, which only replaces the compression adjuster. If Honda releases a 2021 Talon 2 seat model with the standard Fox Podium shocks, we hope they use the same settings.
Outside of the suspension updates, the Talon experience is nearly identical to previous models. It still offers the most high-tech transmission on the market. It doesn’t offer the raw, serious-natured shift control of the YXZ1000R, but it has an automatic mode, and one that works darn well to boot. Honda’s new Launch Control feature has a 5-step procedure, made that way for safety reasons. From a stop:
- Hold the brake. Hard.
- Press the Launch button, wait for light.
- Pull both paddles back, hold.
- Let off the brake, don’t roll into anything. Apply desired throttle.
- Release both paddles simultaneously, and enjoy!
It’s fun, and quite effective at getting the Talon out of the hole. We do wish that Honda would have removed the switch from the equation, like the system in the YXZ. Just pull the paddles, rev, and take off. Launch control is most effective on the trail, however. If you need an extra boost out of the hole, the Talon’s launch control feature can be fired off at less than full throttle. It isn’t something you will use often, but it will make you grin just knowing it’s there for when you want it.
The 2021 Talon 1000R gets a big thumbs up from the crew here, and it packages a massive amount of high-end technology into a very fun-to-drive UTV. All of that technology comes at a cost though, which happens to be $23,099. That’s a price tag lodged deeply in turbo car territory, but after driving one, you’ll agree it’s a steal.
2021 Honda Talon 1000R Review Specifications:
ENGINE & DRIVETRAIN
- Type: 999cc liquid-cooled Unicam® OHC longitudinally mounted parallel-twin four-stroke; four valves per cylinder
- Cooling: Liquid
- Fuel Delivery System: Fuel Injection (PGM-FI), 46mm throttle body
- Drive System Type: Six-speed automatic Dual-Clutch Transmission (DCT) with high/low subtransmission. Two drive modes with 2WD and i-4WD. Three shift modes (standard, sport, manual w/ paddle shifters).
- Power Steering: Electronic Power Steering (EPS)
- Front Suspension: Independent double-wishbone, 17.7 inches of travel
- Front Shocks: Fox Podium 2.5 Live Valve
- Rear Suspension: 4+ Link trailing arm, 20.1 inches of travel
- Rear Shocks: Fox Podium 2.5 Live Valve
- Front Brakes: Dual 250mm hydraulic discs
- Rear Brakes: Dual 250mm hydraulic discs
TIRES / WHEELS
- Front Tires: 28×9-15 Maxxis MU9H
- Rear Tires: 28×11-15 Maxxis MU9H
- Wheels: Cast Aluminum
- Overall Vehicle Size (L x W x H): 9” x 68.4” x 75.6”
- Wheelbase: 7”
- Ground Clearance: 0”
- Curb Weight (pounds/kg): 1556 lbs (1561 lbs for CA models)
- Cargo Box Capacity: 299 lbs
- Towing Capacity: N/A
- Fuel Capacity: 3 gallons, including 1.1 gallon reserve
- Instrumentation: Digital Speedometer/Trip Meter with Multi-Function Gauge
- Lighting: LED
- Steering Wheel: Tilt adjustable
- Other Standard Features: Launch Control, Sport Mode, Selectable i4WD
- Factory: One Year Transferable limited warranty; extended coverage available with a Honda Protection Plan