Honda Talon

honda talon

Honda’s no stranger to either off-roading or powersports, which makes it odd the company took so long to jump into the sport side-by-side market. But the Talon 1000X and 1000R mark the brand’s entrance into the high-performance SxS sandbox for 2019, and those machines come with a segment first: a dual-clutch transmission. From the powertrain and suspension to the styling and durability, Honda wasted no time flexing its know-how in this fast-growing segment.

The Good: The performance and balance from the Talon 1000R’s suspension beggar belief. Plowing over washboard trails, skipping over dips and small jumps, a two-seater SxS should feel more chaotic. A short wheelbase can get swallowed up between high-frequency crests in the tail, upsetting the whole machine, but the adjustable Fox Podium shocks soak up everything for a stable, planted ride.

Who It’s For: There’s intense brand loyalty in the SxS segment — in fact, it seems Honda’s banking on it with the Talon duo, betting most customers looking to buy a Talon won’t be first-time Honda buyers, whether that means past cars, motorcycles or any other of the countless machines Honda manufactures. The Japanese brand’s first sport side-by-side is positioned to lure the faithful into the lifestyle, and if they happen to sway a few buyers away from Can-Am and Polaris, all the better.

Watch Out For: The slightly more affordable Talon 1000X starts at $19,999, which is a lot of money for what the Talon brings to the table. The similarly priced Polaris RZR Turbo and Can-Am Maverick X3 Turbo are, as their names suggest, turbocharged and more powerful. Honda claims the competitors’ CVT belt transmissions bleed horsepower and their final figures aren’t accurate, but buyers who swear by the spec sheet may not be convinced, and there’s no arguing with Honda’s sparse interiors. Honda justifies its price tag by claiming their engineering and architecture is more durable, but you’ll have to take an expensive plunge to prove them right.

Alternatives: Honda was upfront that they benchmarked the Talon against the Polaris RZR and Can-Am Maverick. The turbo-powered machines are segment stalwarts; if there’s a crown to be stolen, it’s coming from one of those two machines.

Review: In the world of side-by-sides it all comes down to weight, power and control. Style and aesthetics take a back seat: nail the first three and it doesn’t matter what the machine looks like. The Polaris RZR and Can-Am Maverick are hideous handfuls of plastic, metal, and rubber, but expertly bolted together and some of the most capable off-road machines I’ve ever driven. As Honda’s first foray into sport side-by-sides, the Talon needs to come packing heat. Luckily, Honda has a deep and storied well of engineering expertise from which to draw.

When Honda announced the Talon, its dual-clutch transmission grabbed the headlines. A DCT is hardly a new invention — it’s been shifting car gears for years, and Honda already features the technology in its utility-minded Pioneer side-by-side — but on the sport side of the SxS market it’s a first, and a big deal.