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TESTED | HONDA TALON | First Impression | Tested

Honda has a new toy that's sure to get your roosters crowing!

While a little late to the party, Honda made sure it nailed the brief with the Talon. It pinched the 999cc SOHC parallel-twin out of the well-established and trusted Africa Twin adventure machine and paired it with a six-speed and dual clutch transmission (DCT) that allows you to drive it in manual (without push a pedal) or fully automatic.

In auto mode a clever ignition system does its best to make gearchanges swift and seamless but more on this later. A huge radiator and thermo fan take care of the cooling and worked flawlessly on the 40 degree day we tested the Talon.

One of the best features on the Honda Talon is the suspension. Honda has opted for a set of Fox Podium 2.5 shocks which are among the best dampers you can get on a stock machine. They operate a double-wishbone front-end with 449mm of travel while, out the back, Honda has opted for trailing arms with a toe link set up and 510mm of travel. Honda has designed the Talon to carry as much weight as possible over the front-end (44%), kinda like a Porsche, cool huh?! Only you probably shouldn’t jump a Porsche, while the Talon loves getting its wheels off the ground.

The cockpit comprises two pretty comfortable race seats with belts and a centre console that allows you to select high and low-range on-the-fly as well as all-wheel-drive or rear-wheel-drive. The brakes use a clever piece of tech that distributes the braking force to the wheels that need it most while a traction control system helps out.

The Honda is comfortable from the moment you slip into it. The cockpit isn’t as cramped as some of the other offerings and the driving position allows for maximum vision. The dash components are easy to understand and the drive selection is just like an auto car. The paddles behind the steering wheel are light to pull and easy to reach. I wouldn’t call the Talon’s dash display sophisticated or ground-breaking but when it’s exposed to dust, mud and rain who needs a fancy instrument panel?

Once you turn the Talon on and sink the boot in you instantly get a feeling of sure-footedness, just like Honda’s CRF-R motocross range. Handling and stability is where it shines. We could motor through open paddocks bashing over rocks, logs and other farm occupants without feeling a thing. But, as is expected on SXS machines nowadays, it still felt twitchy and sharp when steering it through corners. With more suspension travel then most of its competitors, the Talon felt even more comfortable when getting air under the 28-inch tyres. Jumping was no problem and the weight bias felt even.

The engine produced a torquey power curve but, compared with some of the other machines I’ve driven, it signed off a little early. For drivers coming from two wheels, the power will still make you grab for the holy shit bar in the passenger’s lap but the engine would benefit from an aftermarket exhaust or, ideally, a turbo. With sports mode engaged (via a switch on the dash) the engine finds a little extra juice that will increase the heart rate but having tested turbo options in other brands it’s hard not to compare.

The gearbox caught me off guard initially. Some of the Talon’s competitors run a CVT clutch setup with a belt final drive whereas Honda uses a chain-final drive and a DCT gearbox.

The transition between gears felt a little clunky early on and was noticeable when accelerating but after I switched it to manual I realised this system is not only far more fun but, if shifted properly, can improve corner speed, especially on exits. If left in second or third for most rutty corners I discovered the Talon found better traction and more torque when powering through and exiting. It allowed the machine to coast through corners in a taller gear rather than engine brake when you decelerate mid-way through a corner. It’s also loads more fun smashing the paddles behind the steering wheel like you’re behind the wheel of a Supercar!

We had an opportunity to use the Talon as a farm mule and it impressed. Because of the long suspension travel and solid ground clearance (331mm) we could also slowly climb rock ledges and gnarly gullies. The tray in the back had more space than most of its competitors too, which meant we could carry most of our fencing gear.

I’ve always seen these machines as race buggies but Honda’s Talon 1000R is more than just a remote control car on steroids. The tray at the back, linear power, super-comfortable suspension, Honda reliability and more agricultural touches (like the basic dash and low range) make the Honda feel more versatile than other SXS I’ve tested. The Talon 1000R is the kind of machine you could race on Saturday and use around the farm on Monday. Now wouldn’t that be nice on a dirtbike?