Honda Talon 1000X-4 Off-Road Review: Dedicated Ride for Rocky Terrain
I’ve been very fortunate to attend eight driving schools. This one was definitely the slowest, but the fun factor was unquestionably among the highest. I was driving a four-passenger Honda Talon 1000X-4; a fantastic machine for the miles of trails present in the northwestern region of Maui. Yes, that Maui.
Featuring stadium seating for the rear passengers, Honda Talons are quite accommodating. Utilizing a 116.4-inch wheelbase (think Dodge Challenger), they are powered by a 999 cc parallel twin-cylinder engine. The acceleration was very good, even with the throttle rarely pinned to the floor. When was the last time you said that about a rental car – or off-roader?
(Full disclosure: The author drove the Talon as part of a corporate, guided expedition. He paid for the expedition out of his pocket.)
Combined with the six-speed, dual-clutch transmission, acceleration was more than adequate with two adults aboard and the four-occupant Talons had no problem keeping up. Motor Trend reported the engine as producing 104 horsepower. Checking the specifications, the Talon also meets CARB and EPA emissions requirements. The two-cylinder engine did get buzzy at higher speeds, as we found out early during the drive.
The front suspension is a double-wishbone design with 14.4 inches of suspension travel. That is 1.4 inches more than a Ford F-150 Raptor. The rear suspension is a three-link trailing arm type that offers 15 inches of travel, also besting the Raptor by 1.1 inches. Considering the terrain we were driving on, the ride was busy and bumpy but not nearly as bad as one would think.
Weighing under 1,740 lbs with all fluids and a full tank of gas (7.7 gallons), the Talon is obviously very light. It felt nimble and tossable on every segment of the trails. The thought of getting air is something you look forward to.
The wheelbase is actually longer than that of many cars, yet the turning radius of 21.3 feet is a third less than what’s on offer from most passenger cars and made blind U-turns easy to handle. The quick steering also meant the countersteer corrections necessary in the slippery sections were immediate.
I was driving the Talons as part of an off-road adventure/expedition, and when I queried our hosts about the reliability of the Hondas, the reply was that they are essentially bullet-proof. Neither the harsh environs or the abuse heaped upon them by tourists seems to do much damage. There were some complaints about the availability of replacement parts, but it’s unclear if that’s a Honda issue or a location issue. It’s never easy to get parts to an island, ya know.
We drove either 2019 or 2020 models, but for those interested in pricing one out, the 2021 models start at an MSRP of $19,999 and go up to $23,099 for two-seat models. The four-seat 1000X-4 model we drove had an MSRP of $21,999, with a max price of $23,999. The only difference besides the number of seats is the addition of Fox suspension components.
A corporate outfitter led us in a caravan of six vehicles. We moved at a pace that was brisk, but not alarming, over trails consisting primarily of dirt and rocks, with lots of tight turns, bumps, hills, and dips. In addition, there were sections of mud and of red clay dust.
We passed through forests and fields, cliffsides above and below, muddy bogs, branches that slapped the vehicle, and a surprising amount of tall grass along the center of the trail. We did slow, cautious speeds at tight, blind turns. The very narrow trail, rocks, and bumps contributed to the sensation of speed, which, by the way, rarely nosed over 40 mph. Still, at least one driver caught air. Didn’t we mention that we’d have loved to have caught some air?
The seating position in these Hondas is only adjustable fore and aft, and if you’re over six feet tall you may feel a little cramped in the legs. Driving was done in high gear and automatic mode. If this kind of adventure tickles your fancy, keep in mind that throttle response in Sport mode was too jerky for this type of off-roading. On the other hand, occasionally I would pull on the right paddle to upshift just to quiet the engine a bit. Even then, I still had plenty of torque to keep up.
You don’t have to go to Maui to experience this sort of off-roading. And given the recent spikes in Covid cases, you may not want to set foot on/in a commercial aircraft, anyway. But should you live within shouting distance of the kinds of trails a Honda Talon is meant to tackle, 20 large will buy you a nice little toy that makes quick work of tough trails.
[Images © 2020 Rob Eckaus/TTAC, Honda]
BunkerMan on Dec 01, 2020
I've been ATVing for a number of years now, and my local club has a couple hundred kms of trails to have fun on. I started out with a '08 Arctic Cat Prowler 650 SxS, which was a blast. It was a 2-seater and incredibly capable with locking differentials, large tires, great ground clearance, and a nice low range. Nice short wheelbase too. It wasn't fast, but it didn't need to be. I only got rid of it when I accidentally blew it up (long story). I now have an ATV instead of a SxS. It's more fun, to be honest. These days, the SxS seem to be outnumbering the ATVs on our trails. It's unfortunate, because some of the more entertaining trails are just too narrow for the larger versions, like the one in this article. Too often I have come across these large SxS coming in the opposite direction and we both need to slip off of the trail to get around each other. As expected, some of the newer members in our club with SxS are complaining about how narrow the trails are and how they need to be widened. They're missing the plot, I think. These trails have been around for decades and it was not an issue until recently. I can see the appeal of riding around in relative comfort, protected from the elements with doors, a windshield, stereo system, and a heater. It's not for me, though. Riding on the more maneuverable ATV and getting dirty is more fun in my opinion. If you want comfort and protection, just get a Jeep and join one of the many Jeep clubs. You'll have just as much fun. My wife is missing being able to go out on the trails with me since the demise of the Prowler. We're considering a 2-up ATV, but not a SxS.
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