Luxury, I-4WD performance and convenience By the staff of Dirt Wheels
Honda’s Pioneer 1000 was all new in 2016 with unique features like a 1000cc engine, a six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters and over 10 inches of travel. Honda calls the 1000 a “multi-purpose” UTV, meaning that it is a willing and capable work machine but has the comfort and performance to make it a desirable sport sidekick. In 2016, Dirt Wheels said it was “as sporty as four wheels and a roll cage get at Honda,” but the introduction of the 2017 1000 and 1000-5 Limited Editions equipped with I-4WD and adjustable Fox QS3 shocks establishes a new level of UTV sporting performance at Honda.
In addition to the shocks and high-tech 4WD system, the Pioneer 1000-5 Limited Edition means a machine convertible to five-person seating, a large and effective front bumper, aluminum A-arm guards, a skid plate, 27-inch radial tires on 14-inch cast-aluminum rims, LED headlights, illuminated dash switches, paddle shifters for the DCT, electric power steering, new cabin-storage compartments and cup holders, a seat as luxurious as a bench seat gets, red springs and suspension A-arms and color-matched bedsides and door panels. While it might sound minor, there is a new transmission-mode memory function that remembers whether you were in automatic, sport or manual mode, and returns you to the same mode after engaging reverse. There is also a pre-wired winch harness for all 2017 Pioneer 1000 models.
WHAT IS I-4WD?
Honda’s all-terrain division worked with Honda automotive engineers to come up with a system that gives you the advantages of a differential lock without the drawback of hard steering. When you select 4WD on the dash, you are selecting I-4WD. Like almost all UTVs, the rear differential is locked so both rear wheels get the same amount of power at all times. With I-4WD, when one front wheel starts to spin, the system brakes the spinning wheel and applies more power to the wheel that has traction. There is no need to stop to engage diff-lock, and there was no heavy steering or kickback at any time during our testing.
Since the I-4WD system is dependent on that ability to brake the wheels selectively, the braking system also senses load. For example, the front brakes have proportionally more power and the rear brakes have less power when you descend a steep grade. Both the I-4WD system and the braking system are never apparent in the cockpit. Braking is smooth and controlled under all situations, and so is 4WD. You never feel the system changing power or braking to different wheels; it just works. Thankfully, the Pioneer shows none of the odd traits that automotive anti-lock brake systems can exhibit on loose surfaces. A side benefit is that Honda was able to offer the LE with hill-start assist. If you stop or get stopped on a hill, hold the brake and depress and hold the hill-start switch on the dash. When the indicator light flashes, you can take your foot off the brake and the Pioneer will hold on the hill while you move your foot to the throttle and accelerate up the hill.
While Honda considers I-4WD to be the standout feature of the LE, for us that honor goes to the adjustable Fox QS3 shocks. All Pioneer 1000 models, except the LE, use self-leveling rear suspension with a series of hydraulic chambers to automatically adjust to the correct ride height. That system has a nice ride, but push it in the rough and the ride wallows. The 2.0-inch-bodied Fox shocks offer threaded preload adjusters and a Quick Switch three-position, compression-damping adjuster. At low speeds the ride is cushy as ever, but the car retains its composure far longer into the performance envelope. It still isn’t our choice for whoops, but it rides extremely well on the trail. The performance should stay excellent since the shocks can be rebuilt or even valved for different performance.
When you get in a Honda automobile, you expect superior human engineering and comfort. While the 1000 was pretty nice, we weren’t feeling that same Honda-ish attention to comfort in the Pioneer lineup. Honda reshaped the 2017 bench seat and increased the padding, and the difference is amazing. The car feels rich and welcoming when you enter the cockpit. The five-seater has the same wheelbase as the three-seater, but the cage extends to the back of the bed. The bed floor cleverly converts to two flip-up seats that are surprisingly comfortable. The seat belts are comfortable and convenient, and the doors open easily using either the inside or the outside handles. They don’t need to be slammed shut.
We found the pedal positioning natural. Controls for the drive modes are on the dash. A gated lever allows you to select between 2WD, 4WD and turf modes. A rocker switch selects auto shift for the DCT or manual shifting with the paddle shifters. Pushing on the bottom of the shift switch engages sport mode to extend the rpm before each shift in auto mode. A second delightfully smooth, gated lever selects park, reverse, neutral, high and low. Low is 42 percent lower than high.
Throttle inputs to the Honda are immediate with the sort of smooth and seamless delivery you want for utility work, but the acceleration is plenty zippy for fun and serious four-wheeling. It isn’t the sort of response that generates wheelspin when you mash the throttle. The Honda has all the power that the tires and terrain can use, but rarely more than you can effectively use. When the terrain opens a little, the pace is brisk and there is ample power for towing, carrying loads or even using a heavy drag to smooth dirt roads.
The Honda’s Dual Clutch Transmission is an all-gear unit with two clutches and no CVT or drive belt. One clutch manages the even-numbered gears and the other clutch the odd-numbered gears. As one gear runs out, the next gear is already engaging. Whether you let the Honda shift for you or you select the gear with the paddle shifters, the engine-management package rolls off the power so each gear engages super smoothly. You feel satisfying acceleration all the way through the speed range and a new surge with each shift.
Unless we were just cruising, we opted to use the paddle shifters. It is fun to have perfect control of when the next gear engages for rock crawling and faster driving as well. Even if you are in automatic, you can use the paddle to grab a quicker, more immediate shift up or down.
Honda’s DCT offers nice engine braking, but it rarely breaks the rear wheels loose. For descents, we much preferred having the transmission in manual mode.
While we were hoping for something sportier from Honda, we hadn’t expected that it would be a nicely refined and more comfortable Pioneer 1000. The LE makes trail explorations a real treat. We had cold and windy weather while testing the LE, and a windshield would have been welcome; otherwise, we can see putting some serious mileage on this machine. The top-of-the-line 2016 Pioneer 1000 cost around $17,000 but the 2017 1000-5 Limited Edition is $21,599. That is expensive but understandable. There is additional expense to add I-4WD, and purchased separately the shocks are $1995 for four.
HONDA PIONEER 1000-5 LIMITED EDITION
Engine type liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, 4-valve, Unicam parallel-twin
Bore x stroke 92.0 x 75.15mm
Fuel system EFI
Fuel capacity 7.9 gal.
Starting system Electric
Final drive 6-speed dual-clutch transmission with P/R/N/H/L
Front Double wishbone/10.5”
Rear Double wishbone/10.0”
Front Hydraulic w/ (2) 210mm discs
Rear Hydraulic w/ (2) 210mm discs
Ground clearance 12.4”
Payload capacity 1000 lb. (600 lb. for California models)
Towing capacity 2000 lb
Curb weight 1,773 lb.(wet)
Colors Matte Gray Metallic (painted)