2019 Honda Talon 1000R And 1000X First Drive Review

Apologies to the talented Honda Powersports design team, but the Honda Talon 1000X and 1000R are — like most side-by-side ATVs — homely contraptions by enthusiast car standards. They look chunky and top-heavy.

2019 Honda Talon 1000R

Notice that I haven’t said a whit yet about how the Talon twins move, because the first time I barreled into a whoop the size of a foothill at 45 mph and braced for a violent impact that never came, I started scheming, doing some desperate and feverish math. Could I sell my old, tired 4×4 pickup and pull one of these on a trailer with my Subaru track car? Use a Talon as intended, and you have too much fun to sweat the rough edges.

To be real about it, the rough edges are what help sport-oriented side-by-sides like the Talon hit a price point that can put Baja buggy-like capability in your garage for about $20,000. Since we’re usually more oriented to roadable pickups like the Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro or the Chevy Colorado ZR2, driving the Talon demonstrates that there’s a whole world of off-road performance available for a fraction of the cost or upkeep of that kind of truck.

The company almost singlehandedly rehabilitated the bad-boy image of the motorcycle with the friendly, approachable Super Cub. So while the Talon is a little late to the sporty side-by-side game, and a little tamer than its turbocharged competition, it’s likely to have more crossover appeal to the uninitiated. That is why we traveled to the Sand Hollow area near St. George, Utah — an off-road wonderland, to put it bluntly — to see what sort of appeal the Talon 1000X and 1000R have for the roadable vehicle crowd.

Like all great driving machines, there’s a point at which conscious thought gives way to muscle twitch and instinct, and you find yourself dancing in the desert to the stilted tune of the Talon’s lumpy twin. Scoop the rim of a giant bowl, crest the top and get a few inches of air, jig around the rock around the bend, and soak up a bump that’d break other machinery. The goofy bodywork, the gruff engine, the snatchy DCT fade away as the Talon tosses sand and mud skyward.

It works on two levels, being an excellent machine on its own that also reveals the broader appeal of all SXS’s. The Talon is like an everyperson’s Ariel Nomad for a quarter the price, a hilarious ZFG bundle of the sort of rarified, distilled entertainment that takes serious coin to emulate in a streetable vehicle. It’s easy to see why sporty SXS sales are exploding — and why I’m browsing the ATV classifieds instead of shopping for a winch bumper or rear locker for my truck. If I’m considering crossing over, maybe this SXS thing has some legs.

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