UTV TEST: 2021 HONDA TALON 1000R FOX LIVE VALVE TURBO

Radical fun, thanks to Jackson Racing By the staff of Dirt Wheels

In deep, soft dune sand, the stock Talon gets out of turns decently, but with the Jackson Turbo kit performance, the story is different. Acceleration is limited only by traction.

Our enthusiasm for Honda’s announcement for the 2020 Talon Talon 1000X-4 Fox Live Valve was somewhat subdued. Why put the premium suspension on the shorter-travel Talon 1000X platform and ignore the long-travel, wide-stance Talon R? The Talon R seemed like the perfect match for the advanced suspension. Honda did not ignore the long-travel, wider Talon R for long. They announced the Talon 1000R Live Valve at the King of the Hammer event less than a year later.

You have to push the car pretty hard to get all four wheels in the air at once. The front suspension soaks up a lot of take-offs, so only rear wheels leave the ground very far. It lands fine.

ALL ABOUT THOSE LEGS

In a collaboration between Honda, Fox and Bosch, Honda’s Talon 1000X-4 Fox Live Valve was its first off-road model with semi-active electronic suspension. Now it is joined by the Talon 1000X and the subject of this test, the Talon 1000R.

Like the Talon 1000X-4 Fox Live Valve, a dedicated ECU compiles input from the IMU (inertial measurement unit) and sensors on the steering and brakes. Both of the brains of the system are from Bosch, and they adjust the four shocks 16 times per second, and you can choose between normal and sport modes.

We have the most experience with Fox Live Valve shocks on the Polaris Dynamix models, but the Honda system is different. The Honda has two switchable in-car settings instead of three, and the system is active at all speeds rather than kicking in at 20 mph like the Polaris system. The Talon Fox Live Valve shocks have 2.5-inch bodies and dual-rate springs.

With the introduction of the 2021 Talon 1000R Fox Live Valve, Honda combines the 68-inch-wide stance and long travel with high-tech electronic suspension. That suspension adjusts itself to terrain on the fly to reduce bottoming, pitch and roll. The Bosch/Fox Live Valve suspension determines the best compression-damping setting for each shock based on what the car is doing. At any one time, all four shocks could have a different compression setting!

We have been most impressed with the capabilities of the Honda’s i-4WD system. It isn’t quite as effective with the added turbo power. It spins the tires more than a stock Talon does.

MORE STANDARD STUFF

As with the rest of the Talon lineup, the Talon 1000R Fox Live Valve comes standard with interesting technology, notably, the dual-clutch transmission (DCT). In ways it drives like a CVT, since it has automatic shifting modes, but it is a 6-speed gear-to-gear transmission like a motorcycle. On the plus side, the DCT is more effective at transferring power to the wheels than a CVT. In other words, more of the horsepower at the crankshaft actually makes it to the wheels.

There is a full sub-transmission to allow low range, reverse and park functions. Low range is quite effective. The Talon has six gears in low range, so it goes roughly 50 mph in low! For those anticipating swapping to 32-inch or larger tires, a lower low range would be nice. You needn’t worry about melting or shredding the belt, but there is a clutch-temperature indicator on the dash for monitoring DCT status in extreme conditions.

Honda also equips the Talon with i-4WD. Honda chose to use a vastly more complex DCT to bypass a relatively simple CVT and belt to avoid belt issues. In the same way i-4WD is a sophisticated path for Honda to have outstanding 4WD performance without the steering drawbacks common to a relatively simple differential lock. Essentially, i-4WD manages the amount of slip between left and right front wheels, applying torque to the one with greater grip, and it works well.

Honda also included Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD). It is something like anti-lock, but the computerized braking is more sophisticated, so it actually functions on dirt, and it is a key reason that i-4WD works. If one front wheel lifts off the ground, i-4WD feeds torque to the other wheel, while EBD keeps the lifted wheel from spinning wildly. During normal driving, EBD strategically applies braking force to optimize stability under braking, minimizing rear-chassis lift when in two-wheel drive.

These handy controls get a lot of use. On the right are the shifting modes, and the 2WD and i-4WD are on the left. The middle are hill-start and launch modes.

OTHER COOL STUFF

Supportive seats are weather-resistant, and the driver side is fore-and-aft-adjustable. The steering wheel has step-less tilt adjustability, while the passenger gets a grab handle with an innovative quick-release adjustment lever somewhat like a quick release on a high-end bicycle axle.

A roof comes standard. It has a front lip to keep water and mud from dripping into the front opening. A horizontal pass-through split in the top is claimed to provide downforce at speed, but Honda tested it to make sure it was aerodynamic when the vehicle is towed on a trailer, even if the car was towed backwards!

Full side nets close off the door windows. With the retractable lap belts, the nets certainly do add a feeling of safety, but at the expense of some vision to the side. The seats have pass-throughs for harnesses if you want more safety. LED headlights have high and low beam. The hood, bed cover, battery compartment and fuse box can all be opened without tools. A small toolkit is in a special container under a rubber strap beside the passenger seat. High-impact, slippery plastic skid plates protect the underbelly. Inside the roomy bed area are six integrated tie-down points so you don’t launch your cooler or tool bag.

ENTER JACKSON RACING

Never a brand to waste a good engine design, the Honda 999cc four-valve Unicam parallel-twin engine is over-square with a 92mm bore and a 75.2mm bore. While it is tuned differently, the Africa Twin adventure motorcycle and the Honda Pioneer 1000 both use variants of this engine. The Talon has the most highly tuned version with the most power.

When we asked for a Talon R Live Valve, the only one available was equipped with the Jackson Racing turbo kit, a kit developed with the blessing of Honda. Otherwise, our Talon 1000R Live Valve was completely stock. We have had a very brief experience in a turbo-equipped Talon, but only for a single four-mile lap on a UTV racecourse. Since that time, Jackson has obtained CARB EO number D-700-6. As a result, it remains emission-legal, and that is a sign of exceptional research and technology used developing this package. It is claimed to bolt on in four hours or less with an experienced tech and provide a claimed increase in power of over 60 percent at 8 psi of boost. That should put the Talon over 160 horsepower. With a weight under 1600 pounds, acceleration is prodigious.

Jackson’s goals were to make the turbo kit plug & play with performance and driveability that feels factory yet with automotive reliability. Jackson has many years turbocharging Honda engines, and they chose to start with a high-efficiency Garrett Motion turbocharger developed directly with Garrett. Added to the package is a compact intercooler hidden under the cover in the bed area. A high-flow SPAL fan is used for maximum cooling. You will notice that the fan is louder and runs more often and longer than the standard Talon fan does.

Much of the excellent driveability is thanks Jackson reprogramming the ECU. It changes the engine parameters, but also the DCT shifting. In normal auto mode the Turbo version short-shifts and is quite smooth. Power and acceleration are impressive, and the car feels as calm and civilized as a machine this fast can. In sport auto the DCT revs farther and downshifts earlier for a more aggressive feel. We like the acceleration in sport but not necessarily the downshifting. It would be great on a track but not on a trail with elevation changes. Fortunately, in either auto mode you maintain control. We kicked it up a few gears on descents using the paddle shifters.

You also have the option of manual mode where you do nearly all of the shifting with the paddle shifters. You are not in complete control. The computer will not allow the car to stall, and it downshifts to low when you stop. Despite all the power, the Turbo Talon will run on pump gas with at least 91 octane.

All of the parts of the Jackson Racing turbo kit look like they could have come stock on the car. The kit has a CARB EO number, so it remains emissions-legal.

CHASSIS WORLD

The one-piece frame was engineered at Honda R&D America. It feels plenty robust, and we would expect that having seen how Honda durability tests its vehicle frames. To combat corrosion, the frame has an e-coat dip, is oven-baked and powdercoated before an additional oven bake. With no mods, 44 percent of the weight is on the front end.

Up front the Talon R has double-wishbone front suspension with 17.7 inches of front-wheel travel. In the rear there is a unique setup Honda calls a 4+ link suspension system. Honda gave the Talon R 20.1 inches of rear-wheel travel. Some long-travel systems have sweep, where the rear-wheel track gets narrower and wider during the entire stroke. Some also have toe changes. During the travel the wheels can angle. The Honda design is claimed to limit toe change to only .3 degrees through the entire 20.1 inches of travel. Only the Talon 1000R has a 68.4-inch width. The other models are 64 inches in track width.

TIRED OUT?

Honda worked with Maxxis to develop a proprietary 28×9-15 front and 28×11-15 rear tires. Having 28-inch tires on a 15-inch rim doesn’t leave much sidewall to add to bump compliance. You feel a lot of the terrain surface with the Talon, and we feel that part of that is the tire choice. On the other hand, the Talon 1000R corners like crazy. Part of the able handling and the ability to slide corners better than any current UTV is thanks to the tires and wheels.

We have never driven a UTV that feels less likely to lift the inside wheels in turns. That is especially true of rutted turns. With the Jackson turbo, there are many low-traction situations where the tires don’t feel like they have what it takes to corral the power available. While the tires are clearly a handling bonus, they don’t do the shocks any favors. We’ve driven Talons with taller tires, and the ride clearly improves. The trade-off is more caution required snapping into turns and ruts.

Fox’s 2.5-inch Live Valve shocks give the Talon substantial advantages over standard shocks. They allow the suspension to adjust for the terrain almost instantly.

FOX LIVE VALVE

Switching the Talon 1000X-4 to Fox Live Valve made a significant improvement in ride quality over the standard version. It is easy to tell the difference between the Live Valve standard and sport settings on the Talon R. Unlike the 1000X-4, though, neither setting offers much in the way of ride comfort. Perhaps the Honda test crew aimed for a setting for ultimate performance on big hits thinking that the wide and long-travel 1000R will attract owners who crave performance and drive hard whenever possible. One of our days with the Talon Turbo was on trails sprinkled with water-bar jumps. With the suspension on either setting, the Talon handles the jumps with ease and lands softly. The same is true of abrupt G-load dips and ruts.

You do feel that the relatively small tire diameter results in an abrupt feel on some cross ruts. We tried to push the car hard enough to get the suspension to handle big whoops, but we never got it to level out and pound through them. All other facets of the handling are quite good. The chassis is nimble yet stable and reactive yet planted.

Positive engine braking with the DCT and the effective work of the EBD make even tricky descents a snap. There is no sliding or drama in any conditions.

TURBO TIME

The Talon 1000R has always had a super-capable chassis. In some instances, so good that you feel like you are full throttle all the time pushing the machine to the suspension’s happy place. That is no longer the case with the Jackson turbo kit installed. Traction and running out of trail both conspire to limit the amount of time you can stand on the throttle hard.

We did get to play in small dune areas, but did not get to big dunes with paddle tires. The Jackson Turbo Talon feels like it would totally rock in the dunes. As it is, you are constantly evaluating and responding to the available traction. The engine is responsive, and it rips. It is most controlled with the DCT in normal auto mode.

While we expected the turbo kit to be a huge bonus in the fast areas, we were pleasantly surprised to find that it is just as happy on slower technical rides.

Typical Honda quality and attention to detail abound. The car is easy to climb into and is comfortable once you are in. The nets greatly add to the feeling of safety but restrict side vision.
Paddle shifters behind the tilt-adjustable steering wheel got a workout with us. You can ignore them if you like in the auto modes, but we used them to force up- or downshifts.

CONCLUSION

For a high-end sport UTV with Live Valve suspension, the retail price offers a lot of value. Add the $5799 turbo kit and the price is right up there with other super-sport turbo UTVs with smart suspension. It certainly has performance that won’t embarrass you no matter what the other cars on the ride are. Like all Hondas, the Talon has great human engineering, great looks and a feel of quality. Adding the turbo enhanced a lot of the Talon’s best qualities without adding significant liabilities.

HONDA TALON 1000R FOX LIVE VALVE WITH JACKSON RACING TURBOCHARGER SYSTEM

Engine Liquid-cooled, four-stroke, four-valve, Unicam parallel-twin

Displacement 999cc Bore x stroke 92.0 x 75.15mm

Fuel system EFI

Fuel capacity 7.3 gal.

Starting system Electric

Final drive 6-speed dual-clutch transmission with P/R/N/H/L

Suspension/wheel travel:

Front Double wishbone, Fox Podium 2.5 shocks w/ Live Valve/17.7”

Rear 4+ Link trailing arm, Fox Podium 2.5 shocks w/ Live Valve/20.1” 

Tires:

Front 28x9x15 Maxxis

Rear 28x11x15 Maxxis

Brakes:

Front Hydraulic w/two 250mm discs; Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) system

Rear Hydraulic w/ two 250mm discs; Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) system

Wheelbase 92.7”

Length/width/height 123.9”/68.4”/75.6”

Ground clearance 13.0”

Payload capacity 299 lb.

Curb weight 1,556 lb. (1,561 lb. CA)

Colors Metallic Grey

MSRP $23,099

Jackson Racing Honda Talon Turbocharger system $5,799

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