Is it us or is the sport side-by-side segment all of a sudden getting crowded?
Honda, as you know by now, is the latest powersports manufacturer to jump into the sport side-by-side segment and looks to make an immediate impact.
Can the new Talon X and Talon R do that?
Heck, yes and here are nine reasons why.
1. Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT)
This is Honda’s ace in the hole in the sport side-by-side segment. It seems most manufacturers have that one or two features that help set them apart from the crowd. DCT is Honda’s.
DCT isn’t new to Honda powersports vehicles but it gives the driver more options than other sport side-by-sides. The six-speed DCT offers two automatic modes—Drive and Sport—and well as the opportunity to use manual, where the driver changes gears using paddles attached to the steering wheel column. Pull on the right paddle to upshift and on the left to downshift.
Even when you’re driving in the automatic transmission (AT) mode, you can override that by pulling on one of the paddles. Say, for instance, you’re going a little too hot into a corner and want to use the transmission to help slow you down more, simply pull on the left paddle to downshift. Or, if the AT is not as quick as you’d like coming out of a turn, pull on the right paddle.
And going from AT to MT or back again, simple press the toggle button on the dash. While it there is a MT option, there is no clutch to worry about depressing when shifting up or down while in MT.
And if you want to push the vehicle just a bit more, run it in Sport mode, which changes the shift points change at a higher rpm.
Some might not like the automotive-like feel of the DCT. We admit we prefer the MT because we feel more engaged in the driving of the Talon. However, we “forced” ourselves to use AT on the day we mostly rode trails in the Talon X, just to get a better feel for how it works. We did use the paddle shifters to override the AT a few times but mostly stayed in AT. It does work great and the Sport mode indeed has the AT shifting at a higher rpm.
It was pointed out to us that the Talon’s DCT has a 50 percent shorter shift time than the Pioneer 1000, which makes sense seeing as you’re going to drive the Talon more aggressively than the Pioneer.
It is a great system and one that ramps up the fun of the Talon (and other Honda powersports vehicles).
Another interesting piece of innovation on the Talon (and Pioneer 1000) is Intelligent 4WD. The system manages the amount of slip between the front wheels, applying torque to the wheel with greater grip. If one wheel is spinning in mud or snow or just spinning in the air while rock crawling, but the other tire has traction, the brakes on the spinning wheel engage and I-4WD multiplies that brake force be a preset number, transferring that force to the wheel with the traction, giving it more torque.
Where we noticed this feature the most was while riding in Sand Hollow State Park in the rock section, where we did, indeed, have a spinning wheel (maybe more than once) while rock crawling.
3. Hill Start Assist
Okay, so maybe this feature wouldn’t be on most folks’ top 10 list but until you try it, you don’t know just how good it is. We tried it a half dozen times in various conditions and it is such a sweet little feature.
We’ve never really had an issue starting from a dead stop while on a hill. But apparently it scares a few people who drive in CVT-equipped vehicles and the vehicle rolls back a bit before heading up the hill when gas is applied.
With HSA, while your foot is on the brake, you press a button on the dash, take your foot off the brake and the vehicle doesn’t roll back, instead moving forward when you press the throttle. HSA only keeps the vehicle stopped for two or three seconds so you do have to give it gas but it works great, even on steep hills. Disclaimer: Honda says HSA can hold the vehicle on a slope up to 60 degrees.
4. Shock Package
We’ve long been fans of the Quick Switch 3 shocks with dual rate springs from Fox. Perhaps the biggest attraction is how easy it is to switch from one setting to another. There is something to be said for shocks that offer more setting options (multiple clicks) for more fine tuning but for the majority of riders who will drive the Talon X (2.0-inch body) or Talon R (2.5-inch body), the three settings will cover most riding conditions and terrain.