HONDA TALON TURBO
— Testing Honda’s Jackson Racing Turbo kit —
By the staff of Dirt Wheels
Elsewhere in this issue is Honda’s surprising announcement of year 2020 products, including two Talon four-seater models, and updated Pioneer 1000 and 4×4 quads that are significantly changed. Two additional announcements from Big Red concerned a 2020 racing effort in the Pro UTV Turbo class for Best in the Desert and SCORE off-road races. Honda has a long history of racing efforts that promote new sport products, so the fact that the company is fielding an effort in UTV racing is understandable. What is unexpected is the team’s plans to run exclusively in the Pro Turbo class when Honda only builds a naturally aspirated machine. The fact of the race effort necessarily had to be hand in hand with Jackson Racing’s Talon turbocharger system. Yamaha is the other Japanese company with a sport UTV and a proprietary turbo kit available. Both the Honda and Yamaha units were developed with a high degree of cooperation between the brand and the aftermarket. The difference is that Yamaha sells the GYTR kit through its Yamaha Parts and Accessory Division.
Honda has a long history cooperating with Jackson Racing for four-wheel performance, in particular forced-induction performance. That partnership has yielded championships in SCCA, Rally, SCORE and even ice racing! For this turbo kit, the marketing will be different than Yamaha’s program. Jackson Racing will sell the turbo kit through dealers that it establishes. Those can be Honda dealers or other performance shops. It is expected that once a dealer gets experience with the kit, installation could take as little as four hours.
WHAT IT MEANS TODAY
This is claimed to be a true plug-and-play system that is much more than the Garrett Motion turbocharger unit. For one thing, in addition to the various manifolds, the intercooler and a turbo-specific, low-restriction air intake system, the ECU is flashed with all the performance engine-tuning specs. That ECU flash also remaps the DCT shift schedules. The result is an aftermarket kit that is truly remarkable in drivability. The parts and installation look like they could have come from the factory, and with a Honda, that is saying quite a bit about the fit and finish.
Pricing is expected to be $5799.99, and by the time the kit is finalized for sale, it should be 50-state emissions-compliant while running on 91-octane pump gasoline. We recently had the chance to see both a Talon X and Talon R with the kit installed, and we had the chance to perform a back-to-back track comparison between a stock Talon R and one with the Jackson Racing turbo kit installed. The TexPlex Park track in Midlothian, Texas, provided a four-mile UTV cross-country layout. It was a brief but informative test that told us a great deal about the kit and the claimed 60-percent performance increase that it provides.
We got to take two laps of the four-mile TexPlex track in a stock Talon R. We drove one lap and rode passenger for another lap. There were small kicker jumps, big tabletops, sudden drops, G-outs and a whoop section. Some turns were banked, and others were flat. The terrain ranged from packed clay to sand and mud, with the majority being hard surface. It was a fun track and a comprehensive test of the Talon R. There was enough traction and room to run the engine and the DCT gearbox pretty hard. The same is true of the suspension and the tires. In all, we were impressed at how calm and collected the stock handling and suspension package is on a track.
Finally, we were up in the turbo. We had a single lap driving the car. We drove our lap in the stock Talon R with the DCT in manual mode most of the time. We were worried that we might not be able to shift fast enough to avoid the rev limiter with the turbo, so we selected the normal auto mode. Jackson Racing’s flashed ECU feels like it shifts the DCT at least 1000 rpm lower than the stocker does. For our driving style, the Jackson Racing programming improves the comfort and control of the auto mode. Even with the engine short-shifting, there is a lot more power and acceleration on tap with the turbo. It actually feels like a larger engine. It has great torque feeling, so it pulls off the turns with a lot of meat in the power delivery.
The interesting thing is that the whole drive experience feels less frantic and rushed. With the stocker, you spin the engine hard and keep rowing through the gearbox in a track situation. In contrast, the Jackson Talon feels almost relaxed on the track. It isn’t that the added power isn’t a thrill. It most certainly is, but everything is so polished. It is easy to see why Honda trusted Jackson Racing to come up with a solid product. The relaxed feel is most likely why there are no internal engine mods required. We know that the added power—and there is clearly a major increase is performance—must put added stress on the powerplant, but it certainly doesn’t feel like it is abusing the engine.
Would we prefer that Honda built a turbo version of the Turbo? Of course we do. But, since they have chosen not to, the Jackson Racing kit is a very good answer for those looking for more performance from the new Talon.