In 2019, Honda released their first sport side by sides with two models, the Honda Talon X for tight technical trails and the Honda Talon R for more wide open terrain. With the 2020 model year came the release of the Talon X4 and Talon X4 Fox Live valve models. While there was plenty of excitement around the release of the 4 seat Talon X from Honda, some were left asking, where is the 4 seat R? Finally, after 3 full model years, Honda answered the call with the new Honda Talon R4 Fox Live Valve.
By the Numbers - X4 vs R4
Talon R4 Overview
The first question most will be asking is, what makes the new Talon R4 Live Valve different than the Talon X4 Live Valve, so let’s start there. The truth is, both machines are very similar, right down to the available color options with all Fox Live Valve models being available in either ‘Pearl Red” or “Matte Navy Blue”.
In fact, from a 100 yards, you may not be able to tell one from the other. However, there is one major change that easy to see as you get closer and sticks out like a sore thumb once you’re pushing it on the trails and that is the additional width and suspension.
The new Talon R is now 68.1 inches wide and has the same suspension setup as its 2-seat little brother. Out front it has independent double wishbone suspension with 17.7 inches of travel; over 3 inches more than the Talon X4. In the rear you will find a 4+link trailing arm set-up with 20.1 inches of travel; over 5 inches more then the Talon X4. As for shocks, you will find 2.5 inch Fox QS3’s on all 4 corners. We’ll dig into the performance and handling later.
The rest of the differences between the X and R are subtle. The wheel base is just 2.3 inches longer, ground clearance is improved at 13.2 inches, turning radius is just under a foot wider at 22.6 feet and the R4 out weighs the X4 by 48lbs.
We were lucky enough to spend a few days in eastern Oklahoma at the Mid America Outdoors off-road park testing out the new Talon and getting some experience behind the wheel.
We started off with a night ride in some tight trails in the hills and creeks around the park. A few weeks prior to our arrival, there was an Ultra 4 race on some of the same trails and the night before, there was a HEAVY downfall of rain. Needless to say, there were some heavy ruts through the trails which made for an epic night ride.
The next day, we spent the first half of the day riding trails that varied from tight and technical with some rocky hill climbs to short stretches of wide open terrain. The second half of the day we were able to jump in a completely stock Talon R4 with Baja 1000 winning professional racer Eliott Watson behind the wheel and run it around the recently completed short course track designed by Travis Pastrana and friends.
To see what the Talon R4 was capable of with a professional driver behind the wheel was in a word, shocking. With that in mind, let’s jump right into suspension and handling.
Suspension and Handling
For those who prefer a more wide-open riding style and a smoother ride, the Talon R4 is big step up from the Talon X. With the suspension in Normal mode, the R4 feels smooth through tight technical trails absorbing most of the bumps and jolts that come with choppy terrain. The additional travel and width should keep most people comfortable for a full day of riding.
When the Live Valve suspension is switched into Sport mode, the R4 become more stable and planted feeling, especially as you push it through tight corners at speed. This was made even more apparent when we hit the short course track with Eliot Watson. He had no problem pushing the Talon R hard into corners with the R4 remaining stable throughout. He also hit multiple jumps along the way, in some cases clearing doubles and the suspension had no problem handling it. Not once in the laps we took did that R4 bottom out. With the right person behind the wheel, the suspension and handling were impressive.
While the suspension performance was impressive, in our opinion it could benefit from a third live valve mode. A Sport mode for high speed or high clearance situations, a Normal mode for every day driving, and a Comfort mode for choppy dirt roads and trails. A comfort setting would also help account for those times you find the back seats empty and provide a smoother rider for 2 passengers riding in a 4 seat machine.
While the new suspension will get most of the attention, Honda has made a number of improvements with the new Talon R4 that we feel bring enough impact to address.
Having spent plenty of time behind the wheel of a Talon X, steering was one of the improvements that stood out to me the most. The steering is well balanced giving you plenty of assistance while not sacrificing feel. The improved steering is thanks to a new electronic power steering (EPS) unit that increases torque assist 87% and includes a return-to-center function that helps you get back in a straight line coming out of corners. It also has a new and improved steering rack for increased strength and durability.
While we are talking steering, a question a lot of people will have is, how is the turning radius? The turning radius on the new Talon R4 is 22.6 feet. For perspective, that is just short of a foot wider than the Talon X and over 8 inches more narrow than the Kawasaki KRX 4. We had no issues with making tight turn in the wooded trails of Oklahoma.
Engine and Transmission
The Talon R4 carries over the same Africa twin used in the other Talon models with same 104 horsepower from the factory. The trans is also the same however, there were some improvements to the electronic control system that were definitely noticeable over the 2021 and older models. The tip-in, or responsiveness to putting your foot on the accelerator has been improved allowing for smoother engagement and a less jerky feel going through rough terrain. In addition, on prior models sport mode for the transmission was only available in high gear and is now available in both low and high. This gives you the ability to stay in automatic mode but will shift down quicker when you need it and let the RPM’s get higher before shifting up.
Honda has a great combination with their engine and transmission and there is a reason the big players in the UTV market are developing a DCT… ahem Can Am. Truth be told, having been a Honda Talon owner in the past, I miss the feeling and control of a dual clutch transmission.
With the Talon models now nearly 5 years old, Honda has had time to listen to the consumers and make some changes based on their feedback. They have added new full doors as a standard feature to help keep the dust and mud out. The doors have a more finished look on the inside and include cup holders and storage nets.
The wheels and tires are new with some great looking aluminum wheels and new Kenda tires with thicker sidewalls.
They have increased the cage side-pipe thickness from 1.5mm to 2.3mm giving you more protection in event of a rollover and lastly, the Talon R4 has the gauge cluster properly located on the dash directly in front of the driver.
The Talon R4 is priced at $25,799 US. That is $1,200 cheaper than a similarly specd Polaris RZR XP and $2,700 cheaper than a similarly specd Kawasaki KRX.
With the initial release of the Talon in 2019, Honda set out to create a UTV with industry leading handling and responsiveness, the durability, quality, and reliability they are known for, all designed around an exciting family friendly experience. As with any new model release, there are lessons learned in the first few years of production that usually translate into a better overall product down the road. This was certainly the case with the new Talon R4 and while many waited impatiently for its release with only hopes of it one day coming, the result of that wait is and impressive rig that is a great fit for just about anyone looking to have a comfortable and exciting time with their family on the trail.