NEW 2020 HONDAS

— Bigger 4×4 quads, 4-seater Talons & more —

By the staff of Dirt Wheels

A recent invite to a Honda powersports dealer event held at TexPlex Park in Midlothian, Texas, sparked rampaging speculation at the Dirt Wheels’ office. Honda invited us, instructed that we bring safety equipment for driving new UTVs, but declined to reveal what we would be seeing. Honestly, we expected the Honda 2020 powersports model introduction to reveal upgrades to the Pioneer line. Either that or perhaps something all new. Perhaps a return to a single-seater of some sort considering Honda’s history with the Odyssey and Pilot single-seaters during the 1980s. Both of those names are attached to Honda automobiles today, but those original off-road machines should be considered the precursors to the modern UTV market. The pessimists on staff even feared that we were looking at something so mundane that Honda was convinced we would not come if they revealed what it was. We should have had more faith in Honda.

We are sport fans for UTVs or quads, so we were hoping for a sport UTV or a new and updated TRX450R, but didn’t expect new sport UTVs so soon after the release of the Talon 1000X and 1000R. As with the Talon two-seat intro, our crystal ball completely missed. Both of the Talon four-seat models are based on the 64-inch, trail-specific Talon X. There are two models of the same basic machine—the Talon 1000X-4 with the standard Fox QS3 shocks and the Talon 1000X-4 Live Valve with computer-controlled Fox Live Valve suspension. Our expectations for the intro were half right; the Pioneer 1000 did receive significant upgrades, but the biggest news of the event was two different Talon 1000X-4 models! It was a different experience to be there as dealers found out about the new models, and we can tell you that they were enthused. They are convinced that they can sell four-seat sport machines.

Quads were not forgotten, either. Honda is the sales leader in 4×4 quads in the 400cc to 600cc category, and they don’t want to endanger that leadership. The hoped-for, updated TRX450R didn’t break cover. The Rancher, Foreman and Foreman Rubicon have major upgrades, including a 518cc engine for both the Foreman and Foreman Rubicon, in comparison to previous years 475cc engines.

This will be the full Honda Talon line for 2020. A total of three Talon 1000X models counting the two new four-seat versions and the single 1000R. We would assume that a 1000R Live Valve will be added later.

HONDA TALON 1000X-4

Just six months after word hit about the Talon X and Talon R, and a mere three months after they went on sale, Honda has two new four-seat models. Of the two models, the Talon 1000X-4 has the most in common with the current two-seat 1000X. In fact, the two machines share 88 percent of the parts. In every performance aspect, the two models are the same—999cc, liquid-cooled, Unicam parallel twin engine with an integrated dual-clutch transmission (DCT). The DCT uses a gear-to-gear six-speed transmission. One clutch disengages the previous gear, while another engages the next gear, so gear changes feel like an automatic transmission. There are three driving modes: auto, auto sport mode and manual that allows selecting gears via steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. The same is true of the suspension. Fox QS3 shocks control 15 inches of rear-wheel travel and just a touch less in front at 14.6 inches of travel. These shocks are preload adjustable and have three compression damping adjustments that can be made easily and quickly without tools.

Other favorite Talon performance features are carried over, including I-4WD traction-aiding technology, hill-start assist and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD). More than merely announcing the products to dealers, the Honda event at TexPlex had engine cutaways and disassembled I-4WD systems to help dealers understand the product features. It also had some demonstrations. The I-4WD demo had a steep metal ramp for the left front wheel of a Talon to climb. Just as the front wheel was climbing the steep ramp, the passenger side wheel was in the air, and the two rear wheels transitioned onto rollers like those used for cargo handling. In other words, zero traction for three wheels. Nevertheless, the Talon climbed the ramp easily. The front wheel on the passenger side did continue to rotate, but the rear wheels did not—despite being on rollers. Impressive display, but it only backs up what we felt on the trail while driving the Talons.

Based on the Talon 1000X two-seater but with a 28.7-inch-longer chassis to make room for two more people, the Talon 1000X-4 features stadium rear seating. Rather than have the rear seats directly in line with the fronts, the rear passengers sit at 75mm (close to 3 inches) higher than the front passengers and 50mm, (or close to 2 inches) closer together. This arrangement allows better forward visibility so rear passengers don’t see only helmets. We had our 6-foot-1 editor try the rear seat, and it provided slightly more leg room than a Polaris RZR four-seater and had a comfortable seated position.

The only 2020 color will be Pearl Red on the rear fading to Metallic Grey on the front. Firm pricing was not announced, but the targets are $22,000 for the X-4 and $24,000 for the X-4 live valve. The Talon 1000X-4 will be available in the late fall of 2019.

Both the X-4 and the X-4 Live Valve have a 64-inch track width, 15 inches of rear-wheel travel and 14.6 inches of front-wheel travel. The Live Valve model has semi-active computerized Fox suspension.

TALON 1000X-4 FOX LIVE VALVE

Again, with the Talon 1000X-4 Fox Live Valve, the chassis, engine and interior are the same as the normal 1000X-4. All of the difference is in the look with the Bright Orange that fades to Metallic Grey at the front and the color-matched frame, cage and suspension parts. This bright new look signals that there is something special about this machine. In a new collaboration between Honda, Fox and Bosch, Honda has its first off-road model with semi-active electronic suspension. The suspension’s computer crunches data from a multitude of sensors, including an IMU (inertial measurement unit) and a dedicated ECU. Both of the brains of the system are from Bosch. They adjust the four shocks 16 times per second, and you can choose between normal and sport modes.

We have seen Fox Live Valve shocks on the Polaris Dynamix models, and it makes for an incredible ride experience. Among other suspension adjustments, Live Valve stiffens the outside shocks while turning. The Honda system differs from the Polaris version in many important respects. The Polaris system has three settings, but none of them kick in until the machine is over 20 mph. Honda is the first we have seen that uses Bosch for the control units. Honda claims that they didn’t see any benefit in the firm setting, but the Honda system is active at all speeds. We like that idea. Polaris also added the Live Valve shocks on its longest travel models, where Honda has it integrated on the short-travel, 64-inch-wide Talon 1000X platform only.

Honda claims that the suspension provides “an incredible ride and unmatched handling, with minimal body roll and stellar high-speed tracking in rough terrain.” Only Live Valve Talons will have standard electronic Launch Mode for full-throttle launches.

This is the family of revised-for-2020 4×4 quads: the Rancher, Foreman Rubicon and Foreman. The Rancher remains a 420, and the other two get the new, more powerful 518cc engine.

TALON 1000X AND TALON 1000R

There is no surprise that the brand-new Talon two-seaters will not be changed for 2020. Honda has fleshed out the accessory offering, though. We’ve mentioned it before, but the Talons have a 12-month Honda limited warranty, but the HondaCare protection plan can provide an additional four years of coverage. There is no mileage limitation, no deductible and the coverage can transfer to the next owner at no cost. Honda was pleased to announce that the Talon was ranked number two in normally aspirated sport side-by-side sales in the first month that it was in dealers. We’ve heard that Talons are showing up in a wide range of race series and doing exceptionally well with near-stock machines.

Just six months after Honda officially announced the Talon 1000X and Talon 1000R, it has the Talon 1000X-4 and this Talon 1000X-4 Live Valve model ready. Delivery to dealers should be in the late fall.

PIONEER 1000

Honda’s Pioneer 1000 returns for 2020 in a variety of colors and trim levels. The 1000-5 LE is Matte Green Metallic, the Pioneer 1000-5 Deluxe can be had in Honda Phantom Camo, red or Reactor Blue. The Pioneer 1000 Deluxe offers Honda Phantom Camo, red or black, while the Pioneer 1000-5 is either red or olive—that’s a green olive, not a black one. The same two colors are found on the Pioneer 1000. All Pioneer 1000 variants now have electronic power steering, paddle shifters, the same three drive modes as the Talon and a tilt steering wheel. Prices start at $15,799. Our fav is the Limited Edition five-person model. It offers hill-start assist, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) and the I-4WD traction-management system.

Honda’s Pioneer 500 is unique in the class. It has a rear rack instead of a bed. It is very compact, and the features and price keep it a leader in 500cc UTVs. It is unchanged for 2020.

PIONEER 700

In our opinion, the reliable, versatile and affordable Pioneer 700 needed some love. It remains a strong seller (Honda’s lineup is second in UTV sales), but the 700 would benefit from a low range in the drive system. It is Honda’s largest single-cylinder UTV. Prices start at $10,999. Depending on the model, colors are Honda Phantom Camo, Pearl Red, Matte Silver, Metallic Silver, red and white.

There is much good to say about Honda’s largest single-cylinder UTV. It has comfort and quality going for it. We’d like to see the addition of a low range to make it perform better.

PIONEER 500 

Honda’s compact Pioneer 500 is a popular side-by-side. It is narrow and nimble, with a proven ATV drivetrain that provides for a 1000-pound towing capacity. It doesn’t get any changes for 2020. Prices start at $9199, and it comes in Honda Phantom Camo, Moose Brown, red and white.

Honda installed this clever I-4WD demonstration stand. As the left front wheel starts up the ramp, the right front is in the air and the two rear wheels are on rollers. It climbs with one front wheel pulling!

2020 HONDA ATV LINE

At TexPlex Park, Honda unveiled its 2020 ATV lineup, which includes important updates to the FourTrax Foreman, Foreman Rubicon and Rancher models. Utility models that are back but unchanged (except for some colors) are the Recon and Rincon. The TRX250X and TRX90X sport models also return for 2020.

We almost feel stupid making a big deal out of it, but the Foreman, Rubicon and Rancher all get an improved reverse system. Instead of the tap dance required in the past, simply pull the reverse trigger in the front of the left-side handlebar switch and back you go. In addition, all three now come with racks that readily accept Honda’s new Pro-Connect line of modular cargo accessories. The Foreman and Rubicon both get larger 518cc (up 43cc) engines for increased power.

Honda arranged the Talon 1000X-4 interior nicely. The rear seats are almost 3 inches higher and 2 inches closer together than the front ones to improve the rear passengers’ view to the front.

FOURTRAX FOREMAN RUBICON

For 2020, Honda’s extremely popular, do-it-all 500-class FourTrax Foreman Rubicon benefits from more of the very qualities that have long made this model such a popular choice with customers. All Rubicon models come standard with independent rear suspension (IRS) for traction and comfort, and they now get added power where it’s used the most—in the low- and middle-rpm ranges. On non-manual models, engaging the reverse gear is now a simple operation accomplished electronically via a single lever and can be operated easily and quickly, without the need to engage neutral. Four Rubicon models are offered, three of which come with a high-tech Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT), and those three now feature manual-shift override capability so that riders can command gear changes at will, even in automatic mode, enabling use of engine braking for situations like corner entry and descents. Automatic mode takes over again a few seconds after manual inputs. The Rubicon models’ front and rear cargo racks now have more flat surface planes for more carrying options, and they integrate with Honda’s new Pro-Connect line of modular accessories. Off-road-legal in all 50 states, all Rubicon models get a new front grill, as well as an updated 50-watt LED assist headlight and a 1.9-liter front utility box that can be accessed from the rider cockpit when stopped.

FourTrax Foreman Rubicon DCT EPS Deluxe has either Honda Phantom Camo or Matte Green Metallic. Red and olive are available for the FourTrax Foreman Rubicon DCT EPS and the FourTrax Foreman Rubicon DCT. The FourTrax Foreman Rubicon 4×4 EPS has Honda Phantom Camo, red and Matte Molasses Brown. Prices start at $8,699.

In person, this new Rubicon looks amazing. It has Pro Connect racks, a front storage box, larger front driveshaft guards and a 518cc engine.

FOURTRAX FOREMAN 4X4 

The FourTrax Foreman 4×4 is more than ever ready to tackle any job, thanks to a displacement increase to 518cc. All three Foreman models have swingarm rear suspension that keeps weight low and provides a great, unsprung platform for a tow hitch. For 2020, they have the same new assist light, front utility box, and front and rear Pro-Connect-compatible racks as the Rubicon, and the flagship Foreman 4×4 ES EPS gets the new, simpler reverse lever, which is particularly welcome for jobs like plowing that involve frequent transitions between forward and reverse motion. Prices start at $7399, and, depending on the model, colors are Honda Phantom Camo, red, Reactor Blue, red and olive.

Fox Live Valve shocks can adjust many times a second with inputs from the Inertial Measurement Unit, a steering position sensor and more. It operates at all speeds with two on-the-fly settings to choose from.

FOURTRAX RANCHER

No ATV is offered in more variations than Honda’s FourTrax Rancher, and no ATV has been sold in greater numbers. With no fewer than eight different models offering myriad combinations of transmission (automatic DCT, Electric Shift Program and manual), rear suspension (swingarm and independent dual arm) and steering types, plus two- and four-wheel drive, the 420cc Rancher family packs maneuverability and muscle into a tough ATV. All Ranchers receive the new Pro-Connect-compatible racks and front utility box, and the two automatic transmission types (DCT and ESP) get the improved reverse lever and manual-override capability. Prices start at $5499. Some of the colors available (depending on the model) are Honda Phantom Camo, red, Moose Brown, olive and Active Yellow.

This simple red lever engages reverse on the Rancher, Foreman Rubicon and Foreman. The one-finger reverse actuation is a huge improvement over the former multi-step process.

FOURTRAX RINCON

Powered by a liquid-cooled, fuel-injected, 675cc single-cylinder engine, the FourTrax Rincon is Honda’s largest-displacement ATV. Noted for the plush ride delivered by its Independent Rear Suspension, the Rincon is also capable of hard work. The engine is mounted longitudinally to align the crankshaft with the vehicle’s direction of travel for more direct connection with the rear axle, and an automatic three-speed transmission with hydraulic torque converter is standard.

The Pioneer 1000 and the Talon models use this same basic engine architecture. It has no CVT to worry about. The Talon engine is tuned for more power than the Pioneer powerplant.

FOURTRAX RECON

Honda’s smallest multi-purpose ATV is air-cooled with an overhead-valve, 229cc engine. Combine that with a lightweight and nimble chassis and you’ve got a fun, hardworking machine. Transmission options include manual foot-shifting or Honda’s ESP handlebar-mounted push-button gear selector. Available in red or olive.

Honda’s new-for-2020 Pro-Connect racks have a greater percentage of flat surface. Dedicated accessories connect easily and quickly to the new racks.

TRX250X

Honda’s largest sport quad is a hit with rental companies for the bulletproof reliability and ease of use. This popular sport model’s longitudinally mounted, air-cooled overhead-valve 229cc engine’s SportClutch boasts the best of both worlds—anti-stall technology but with manual override capability. Independent double-wishbone front suspension and a rear swingarm keep things smooth. Colors are red or Metallic Blue.

All of the Honda Pioneer 1000 models get EPS, tilt wheel and paddle shifters. Until 2020, only some of the high-end models had all of those features. They also gain the same shift modes as the Talons.

TRX90X

The engine that started it all. This is still a great choice for getting young riders started on a quad. The 86cc, single-overhead-cam engine possesses enough torque to keep up with the bigger ATVs on family rides, yet has Honda’s trademark user-friendly power delivery. Best of all, Honda quality means the TRX90X can bring multiple generations of new riders into the sport. Colors are red, olive or white.

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