2023 HONDA TALON 1000R-4 REVIEW
It’s been nearly five years since Honda introduced the Talon sport side by side. Shortly after the two-seat launch, the four-seaters were added; however, only the narrow X4 model made the lineup. Until now, the missing machine was a four-seat, long wheelbase, long travel offering from big red.
Two years ago, we got so tired of waiting, we built one for ourselves out of a Talon 4X with the help of HCR Racing and Assault Industries. You can see that build at www.utvactionmag.com/assault-ind-honda-talon-hcr-3-build/. Recently, Honda finally announced a 2023 Talon 10004-R, as they call it. Basically, it’s a 68.1-inch-wide machine equipped with Live Valve, Fox Shox, and this is what we thought of it after an initial test drive.
HOW DOES THE PRICE COMPARE?
At $25,799, the Talon 1000R-4 is a grand more than the Talon 1000X-4 Live Valve. What you get is a four-inch wider stance, a two-inch longer wheelbase, and a wheel travel increase of three inches in the front and five inches out back. By today’s standards, we consider those numbers “mid-travel.” Keep in mind, mid travel is good. Some “long travel” UTVs have too much suspension travel and either feel slower when driving, produce too much body roll, or drag the bottom of the car before it even uses all of its suspension. Secretly, Baja racers are reducing the wheel travel of Can-Am X3s and the RZR Pro R. Additionally, this Talon is more than 6-inches narrower than a typical long travel car (X3 XRS, ProR, Turbo R, Speed), which could be a benefit on some trail systems. Kawasaki’s KRX is the same width as the Talon 1000R. The 2023 Honda Talon 1000R-4 is $4,200 less than a comparably equipped Kawasaki Teryx KRX4. A Polaris RZR XP 4 sells for $25K but is not offered with Live Valve suspension. Heck, for that price, you don’t even get a roof. Arctic Cat and Yamaha don’t produce a pure sport, 4-seat side-by-side.
DOES IT HAVE A TURBO?
No, the 104-horsepower, normally aspirated, twin-cylinder engine is mated to a dual-clutch, six-speed transmission. Since, there is no belt, very little power is lost between the time you stab the throttle and the tires start spinning. You can have your dealer install a Jackson Racing Turbo kit ($6000+labor) with a 60-percent horsepower boost if needed. Furthermore, the aftermarket can boost engine performance as well with Turbo and Supercharger systems. Even without a turbo, the Talon engine is super peppy and exciting to drive. Throttle response is instant thanks to being completely gear driven and no power loss or slippage through a CVT system. Shifting between gears is nearly seamless using the paddle shifter. For casual trail riding or driving at a race pace, we liked how the computer shifted for us. Sure, it’s fun to paddle between gears from time to time or in certain situations, but 90 percent of the time, the computer shifts better than we do. We preferred the manual setting when climbing hills and found ourselves down-shifting when coming into corners. For those unfamiliar with this system, you can manually shift through all six gears or let Honda’s computer software shift for you. Furthermore, in Automatic mode, you can also override the system easily by simply flicking the paddle shifters at any time.
As far as power to the ground, the extra four inches of vehicle width doesn’t hurt the seat of the pants feel in the machine. Whether driving in the tight woods or down a straight gravel road, it’s still fast and sporty. The Talon 1000R-4 does not have that marshmallow or heavy feel you get with some long travel machines or after adding a long travel suspension kit.
WHAT DOES LIVE VALVE GIVE YOU?
Up front, dual A-arms provide 17.7 inches of travel. The rear end has a unique 5-link trailing arm style setup offering 20.1 inches of travel. All four corners feature 2.5” Fox Live Valve shocks that are computer controlled and can be adjusted in the cockpit with the flip of a switch between sport and normal. No matter what setting you choose, the computer always provides additional rebound and compression-damping inputs behind the scenes to keep the car level and limit bucking. Typically on Hondas, Live Valve adds about $2,200 to the machine’s price tag, so if the extra 2 G’s are keeping you out of the Honda dealership, wait for the non-Live Valve versions, which will be out later this year. However, the Live Valve also gives you Launch Control and Hill Start Assist for that extra investment. As it sounds, Launch Control will allow for full-throttle starts and the ability to dump the clutch in the event that a drag race breaks out on your trail ride. Without directly comparing them yet, we are confident, stock for stock, the Talon 1000R-4 will beat any other naturally aspirated four-seater in an impromptu drag race. Can-Am’s Maverick Sport 1000R Max or the Yamaha RMAX4 might be the only ones to give the Talon an honest run. Finally, in Live Valve-equipped Talons, the driver has the option of pressing a Hill Start Assist button (HSA) on the dash to temporarily hold the vehicle in place without the need to apply pressure on the brake pedal. This comes in handy for people who aren’t used to two foot driving and in certain rock-crawling situations.
HOW DOES THE NEW CHASSIS FEEL?
The added suspension travel made a great handling four-seater even better. On smooth twisty trails, the added width and travel are hardly noticeable. There is no additional body roll, and the steering is just as precise. Honda put a beefier EPS system in this machine to help with steering effort as well as offering a return to center feature. This means while exiting a tight corner, you basically reduce grip on the steering wheel, and it will rotate perfectly back to straight. This reduces busy hand-over-hand driving.
Where the Talon 1000R-4 really shined was when the trail got rough. The three and five inches of additional wheel travel provides plush bump absorption and bottom-out protection, especially in the stiffer of the two suspension settings. We could not get the machine to bottom out during this 50-mile test drive. The real test will be to see if the over thirteen inches of ground clearance will help keep the rear end from dragging in big desert G-Out situations. This is where we quickly found the limits of the Yamaha YXZ, the Kawasaki KRX, and Polaris RZR Pro XP platforms. Speaking of bottom-out protection, Honda didn’t add a more robust skid plate directly under the engine as we had hoped for. However, we did learn that when you use the harder suspension setting, the ride height is slightly higher, so underbelly scrapes are definitely reduced. Furthermore, if Honda put 30-inch tires under the Talon, bottoming resistance would increase even more. The new 28-inch Kenda, 8-ply tire is better than the old choice from Maxxis, but the tire size is just too small for our liking. However, out of the 10 vehicles we had on our group test ride, there wasn’t a single flat.
WHAT ELSE IS NEW?
Inside the cabin, a new dash moves the instrument cluster from center to behind the steering wheel, leaving more room for a new switch panel that can accept five accessory switches and is complemented by a powered buss bar under the hood to make the electrical component connections a breeze. All new, full doors are molded with cup holders and storage pockets front and back. Additionally, the cavity under the front seat has a top net closure providing more convenient storage. Outside, new outer CV joints are found with a better nut design, as well as a superior sealing differential. Strength was also added to the steering rack, and the EPS system was resigned to offer over 50 percent more assistance. Strength was also added in the ROPS as well as gussets to the upper A-arms. Finally, four new aluminum wheels are wrapped with those 28-inch Kenda tires we mentioned. The offset of the rear wheel is still greater than the front, so keep that in mind if you are considering aftermarket wheels. You will have to order different wheels for the front and back, or add a 1-inch wheel spacer to the rear to keep the machine’s width uniform from front to back.
Our test drive took place at Mid America Outdoors around their “woods” trail system. While we were impressed with how well the slightly larger Talon 4 did on those trails, we think it will shine even more or wider, faster trails out west. Honda’s four-seater will surely be able to tackle the rough trail sections out west, the whoops in the dunes, and we know it can take on tight trails too. It’s the vehicle we have been waiting for. It’s in serious contention for our 2023 New UTV Of The Year award against the KRX4 and the two Segways. After we spend a few weekends out west with the 2023 Honda Talon 1000R-4, we will make that final call. If you can’t wait that long, It’s at select dealers now, and like we said, if you want to save a little cash, the non-Live Valve models will be announced soon, and we expect those to be just as good.
2023 Honda Talon 1000R-4 HITS
Lowest cost, full-featured, NA, 4-seater
Great mid-travel suspension comfort
New full doors and storage pockets
Easier 12V accessory integration
No CVT belt worries
2023 Honda Talon 1000R-4 MISSES
Small 28” tires
Driver Armrest needs padding or removed
Could use stronger rear skid plate
2023 HONDA TALON 1000R-4 SPECS
Engine…OHC, two-cylinder, 4-valve, 4-stroke
Bore & Stroke…92mmx75mm(2)
Transmission…Auto/Manual DCT w/6 speeds
Front…Dual A-arms w/ 17.7” via 2.5” Fox Live Valve Shox
Rear…Trailing Arms w/20.1” via 2.5” Fox Live Valve Shox
Brakes…4-wheel hydraulic discs
Fuel Capacity…7.7 gal
Cargo bed capacity…299lbs
Colors…Pearl Red, Navy Blue