By David Crowley
After trying out the Honda Talon 1000R in the Oregon Dunes this week, we weren’t disappointed by any means. Even before its release, the industry was buzzing –– expectedly so, too, as this was Honda’s first off-road vehicle built solely for the sport segment, an area of the industry they see as growing quickly. Yet, the Talon wasn’t designed with only the sand in mind –– favoring flexibility over specialization instead and making it suited for a broad range of different terrains as opposed to pigeon-holing it into only one.
What separates the Talon from other UTV’s isn’t it’s speed, power, or maneuverability –– but its adaptability –– whether to different terrains or driving styles. With a dual-clutch transmission (DCT) it operates similarly to a sports car: smooth and seamless. Similar to other beltless systems before it, the DCT eliminates the need for a belt but separates itself from the others by remaining automatic.
Simply removing the belt may sound trivial, but there can be major benefits to a beltless system. Honda bet a lot on their new DCT –– and it was an undeniable step into untreaded waters for the performance UTV industry –– but so far, it’s seeming to work out quite well. A interesting move indeed, only time will tell if Honda’s gamble of an entrance into the sport segment pays off.
As the name implies, it implements two clutches as opposed to one –– resulting in a flawless transition between gears since the next one is always teed up and ready before you even need it. The Talon’s six-speed DCT offers two seperate automatic modes, Sport and Drive. When in Drive, the car shifts at exactly the right moment per usual, boasting an efficient transfer of power as well as an exceedingly simply user interface. This mode doesn’t holds gears as long, making it perfect for more leisurely and relaxed driving.
In Sport mode, the Talon still shifts automatically, but keeps the RPM’s higher, resulting in a more aggressive and engaging experience perfect for shredding the dunes and more intense driving on rough terrain. There aren’t many negative tradeoffs for this added flexibility, either. Although you will not be able to outpace your friends turbos in the sand, the Talon is still able to tackle even the steepest dunes and exceeded my expectations overall.
But that’s not all. For the driver that wants a more unadulterated feel to their vehicle, the Talon boasts a manual mode as well, allowing for full control of the transmission. Although not a traditional clutch, easy-to-reach paddle shifters mounted on the steering wheel allow for an integrated platform. Moreover, you can even use these paddle shifters to override automatic shifting –– perfect for downshifting before a turn to make quick work of accelerating out of the corners. Additionally, the car will conveniently re-enter its automatic mode after manual intervention.
Rugged Radios was nice enough to hand over the keys so we could try their Talon 1000R out, and our retro looking Honda helmet by Arai finished off the look perfectly. Despite the aftermarket additions –– including GMZ Sand Stripper tires, KC lights, PRP seats, Assault mirrors and Rugged Radios intercom, radio and helmet blower –– the factory quality still stood out easily in our short drive, though this is something Honda fans are familiar with already. The car felt well-built, connected, and sturdy, yet nimble and powerful too.
Furthermore, and something quite unique about the Oregon Dunes as well, was the fact that we were able to quickly transition from dry sand in the dunes to wet sand around the small lakes that dot the recreation area and even single lane trails curving through trees. Nonetheless, the automatic shifting from Talon’s DCT made these transitions not only seamless, but engaging and fun too. While other dune-specific vehicles may still reign supreme in the sand, the new Honda Talon excels with its flexibility and adaptability across very different terrains and driving styles.
If you are looking for a UTV that will be used 100% in the dunes, or if your riding buddies primarily drive turbos and like to run hard, the Talon might not fit the bill. But if dunes aren’t your sole focus, the Talon 1000R is worth a look.
Big thanks Rugged Radios for trusting us with the keys to their awesome Talon!