Honda Powersports recently launched four-seater versions of its Talon 1000 Fox Live Valve race-inspired SXS. With a larger and heavier chassis and the design angle pointing toward hauling a family, less aggressive performance makes sense. But luckily, Honda disagrees.
I drove and sat as a passenger in the brand-new Honda Talon 1000R-4 for 2 days at Mid-America Outdoors in Jay, Okla. I pushed the car on rocky two-tracks and creek beds, across dusty and grassy fields, up and down chewed-out and ledgy climbs, and on a manicured off-road race course. Our media group of eight experienced all the vehicle offers, both day and night.
In short: Make no mistake, the 2023 Honda Talon 1000R-4 is not your family off-road cruiser. It inherited DNA from Honda’s off-road SXS racing program. And, combined with the FOX Live Valve system, it produced an extremely capable off-road machine. The racing-inspired performance is guaranteed to jolt even your nonexcitable, eye-rolling teen into a gleeful Dakar Rally fan.
- Engine Longitudinally mounted 999cc liquid-cooled Unicam parallel-twin four-stroke
- Induction Fuel injection, 46mm throttle bodies
- Compression ratio 10.1:1
- Front suspension Double wishbone; 17.7" travel, FOX Podium 2.5" shocks w/ Live Valve
- Rear suspension Multi Link trailing arm; 20.1" travel, FOX Podium 2.5" shocks w/ Live Valve
- Transmission Automatic DCT w/ 6 speeds + Reverse & high/low sub-transmission
- Brakes Hydraulic calipers w/ 250mm discs; Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) system
- Peppy engine
- Dual Clutch Transmission provides quick, positive gear shifts without power loss
- FOX Live Valve suspension optimizes chassis control and comfort
- Good price for category
- Seat belts uncomfortable for some
- Non-turbo induction
- FOX Live Valve mode switch not convenient
Honda Talon 1000R-4 Spec Sheet
Motorsports products have endless spec sheets, but these are the numbers on the 2023 Honda Talon 1000R-4 that hint at the off-road performance potential. Petrol heads will rejoice.
First off, the drivetrain. Honda chose a normally aspirated 999cc parallel-twin four-stroke that delivers 104 horsepower. These horses are modulated through a dual-clutch, six-speed (non-CVT!) transmission with automatic and manual shifting modes. Direct front and rear driveshafts eventually turn 28″ x 9″ x 15″ front tires and 28″ x 11″ x 15″ rear rubber. The Talon 1000R-4 has two- and four-wheel, and high- and low-gearing drive modes.
The FOX Live Valve suspension engulfed my attention the minute I saw the massive-looking (I’m a moto guy) 2.5-inch diameter FOX Podium shocks. The front gets 17.7 inches of boing, while the rear enjoys 20.1 inches of travel through a decidedly different five-link trailing arm system. The Talon 1000R-4 has 13.2 inches of ground clearance and a 118.7-inch wheelbase, and the Live Valve has a normal and “sport” setting.
Each wheel has a hydraulic caliper that clamps down on a 250mm disc, modulated via an Electronic Brake Force Distribution system.
The claimed curb weight is 1,843 pounds full of lubes and with the 7.7-gallon fuel tank topped off. The 2023 Honda Talon 1000R-4 is 68.1 inches wide, which is narrow for a long-travel UTV. The vehicle is 152.5 inches long and 79 inches high. It offers a 22.6-foot turning radius. Honda offers classic Pearl Red and totally banger Navy Blue color schemes.
MSRP for the 2023 Honda Talon 1000R-4 is $25,799. This makes it the lowest-priced, fully featured, non-turbo sport four-seater around. But, of course, you can spruce it up to no end with Honda Powersports accessories.
2023 Honda Talon 1000R-4 Review
I was immediately impressed with both the suspension and the drivetrain on our first nighttime drive through a wooded course at Mid-America Outdoors. Even though my test vehicle had effective optional lighting, the heavy airborne dust from the Talons ahead kept visibility to a minimum.
This meant that I couldn’t anticipate most of the drops or ledges that littered the course. But the FOX Live Valve, in Sport mode, swallowed up every obstacle. Not once did I feel like the chassis was out of control.
The FOX Live Valve adjusted damping rates run continuously in the background to help keep the chassis level and to limit sudden and big changes in positioning. Sport mode also keeps the body of the vehicle a tad higher, which helped in the plentiful and deep ruts. I also noticed that body roll in high-speed or sharp turns was limited — and that the rear end felt really planted on rough and ledgy climbs.
Remember that all this was at night, so I had to really pay attention to its feel, as the visual inputs weren’t there. The passenger, an experienced motorcyclist, commented that the ride was super smooth for what the undercarriage was experiencing.
Shift & Steer
I ran the 2023 Honda Talon 1000R-4 in manual shifting mode and 4WD for the night session. I immediately appreciated the drivetrain, particularly during climbs. The immediate throttle response, without the lag and leaking of power I’ve become accustomed to with turbos and CVTs, was awesome.
The paddle-shifting action was quick and without any of the weird, disconnected feelings of other electronically shifting systems. I was also glad that there would be no belt issues, another thing I’ve accepted unwillingly. I’ve fried belts in Baja before and had to monitor belt temperature for an entire run down the peninsula.
The steering was very precise for a car with so much suspension travel, undoubtedly aided by the FOX Live Valve. I placed the tires exactly where I wanted them when straddling the numerous ruts deep enough to swallow a wheel.
I also appreciated the power steering’s return-to-center feature. On turn exits, I could loosen my grip on the steering wheel, and it rotated back to center without me forcing it. This made turn exits much less busy in the arms and hands.
Talon 1000R-4 Driving Dynamics
The next day proved hot and dusty, but at least we drove in daylight. I felt free to drive the 2023 Honda Talon 1000R-4 hard and, well, I drove it like I didn’t own it. Everything I felt at night was reinforced during the day with higher speeds and more aggressive driving. This time, I used the automatic shifting mode and switched between Normal and Sport FOX Live Valve modes.
The automatic shifting was surprisingly good. Shifts were crisp and quick, and it was rare that I felt that I would have run the revs out further or been in a different gear. On tricky, loose climbs, I did feel like I needed more control over gearing. But the 2023 Honda Talon 1000R-4 never failed to top out. And sometimes, I wanted to downshift entering turns.
But, in both cases, toggling a paddle overrode the automatic shifting system. When I did get stuck behind someone on a hill, the Hill Start Assist made two-foot driving unnecessary.
Switching between the FOX Live Valve modes produced substantial changes in how the chassis responded to the terrain. The normal mode had noticeably lower damping rates for both compression and rebound. It felt better on the wide-open, fast sections between wooded trails.
The suspension was more compliant with smaller bumps and holes, delivering a more comfortable ride at higher speeds. But the body roll was much more pronounced, which brings me to my one big, niggling complaint.
The toggle switch to change suspension modes was in a hard-to-reach place, low and left of the steering wheel. If that switch were easily accessible, I would have toggled between the two modes often. And I’m sure the ability to do this would improve overall performance and comfort.
With one passenger on board, I felt the power was appropriate for shredding in the woods. My feeling is that with four on board, I would have wanted more low-end grunt on the more challenging climbs.
I also felt that the 2023 Honda Talon 1000R-4 was more appropriate for desert-style driving, with more wide-open spaces taken at higher speeds. In this environment, with less abrupt transitions from flat ground to suddenly climbing out of a hole, I felt the power would be appropriate most of the time, even with four on board.
I’ve driven UTVs with nearly 200 horsepower in the desert, and the lack of traction in sand limited the usability of power. So, I’m basing that statement on those experiences. Yes, having that kind of power was more fun at times. But for having fun with family, the Honda felt plenty powerful. (But, I do know there are turbo and supercharger kits available.)
A final nick from my 5’7″-tall co-pilot. Both the front driver and passenger seat belts hit her right on the collarbone, causing discomfort. Adjustable height belts would cure this minor complaint.
Honda Racing Heritage
The Honda Powersports staff made sure we understood the racing DNA that the Talon 1000R-4 inherited. Two race cars were on site, both based on the production chassis and powertrain but with the appropriate modifications for the highest level of off-road UTV competition. The four-person chassis is in play, but the space for rear passengers houses things like radiators (moved from the front to prevent damage) and fuel cells.
What was surprising to me, coming from a motorsports background, is the use of a mainly stock powertrain. Although this gives the nod to durability, it’s usually a high cost of performance relative to heavily modified engines.
But engineers and pro drivers assured me the production-based motor configuration is plenty powerful. I took a ride in the co-driver spot in a desert racing machine with a professional driver, and I can attest that the combination of his driving skills with the production-based powerplant was incredible.
And to back it up, I took another stint in the co-pilot seat of a bone-stock 2023 Honda Talon 1000R-4 with another professional driver. Two hot laps on a short course track, complete with jumps, proved that the engine could deliver enough power for everyone but the most skilled. The stock suspension was lacking for this task. But, laps on a professional UTV race track with a professional driver were an “extreme use” case, as in the most extreme.
The Launch Control feature found on the 2023 Honda Talon 1000R-4 is another attribute that links to racing. This allowed a full-revs, clutch dump start. Maybe it wasn’t necessary on this trip, but it was fun.
2023 Honda Talon 1000R-4 Review: Conclusions
Honda’s recipe for a high-performance off-road SXS befitting of adrenaline- and adventure-filled families was hard to argue. A peppy engine, incredible and advanced suspension package, relatively low price, and legendary Honda reliability make the 2023 Honda Talon 1000R-4 hard to resist.
The racing DNA was apparent, and the performance backed it up. No, it’s not turbocharged or supercharged. But, the responsiveness of the DCT and the stock motor characteristics didn’t make me miss a turbo once. And if a turbo or supercharger crosses the line from want to need, they are out there.
I have been wildly spoiled with motorsports vehicles for decades, but I admit, I will be insanely jealous of any kid I see in the back of a 2023 Honda Talon 1000R-4.