When UTVUnderground.com calls and gives you the opportunity to take a three-day trip to the Grand Canyon to go drive UTVs, you take it. After accepting the invitation, many thoughts ran though my head during the weeks leading up to the trip. I really had no idea what to expect. With the forecasted weather being in the single digits and the threat of a storm coming in from the west, I made sure to pack every warm piece of clothing that this Southern California boy could find. The destination: The Bar 10 Ranch, Grand Canyon National Park. The vehicle: 2014 Honda Pioneer 700!
After a quick flight from Southern California to Las Vegas Nevada, I met up with 13 other UTV journalists from all around the country. Some versed in agriculture and farming, a couple from the ATV world and even a journalist from the world of Field and Stream. AS is expected on a media trip like this, Honda had assembled quite an array of seasoned journalists to come test out the new Pioneer 700 and I was thrilled to be the guy to represent UTVUnderground.com!
We boarded a private 15-passenger charter plane on the outskirts of downtown Las Vegas and after another quick 30-minute scenic flight over the Grand Canyon, we landed on a gravel runway just yards away from the Bar 10 Ranch. From the “airport” which is commonly known as “The Arizona Strip”, a full-blown cowboy greeted us. Complete with cowboy boots, a flannel shirt and a fancy belt buckle; this guy was the real deal. I am not trying to be stereotypical here, its just, I know a lot of people that claim to be country, this guy clearly lived it! Just up the road you could see our test subjects (Honda Pioneer’s) in all different variations fully decked out in genuine Honda accessories and precisely positioned overlooking the valley of the Grand Canyon. It was like something out of a magazine…or a perfect ad for a 4wheel Parts catalog.
Once we arrived at the ranch itself, we met up with 3 of Honda’s elite SXS and ATV marketing guys to get a full briefing on the 2014 Honda Pioneer. Truth be told, I couldn’t wait to get in and mash the gas, but I would have to wait until morning to get behind the wheel. After a ranch style dinner complete with their very own free-range grass-fed beef from the Bar 10 Ranch, we sat around the camp fire and listened to “Uncle Ned” tell stories about the land and spent some time getting to know more about the other people on the trip.
The following day, after a hearty cowboy breakfast, we were ready to hit the trails. I chose the 2 passenger Pioneer for this ride. The 2 passenger Pioneer has exactly the same dimensions (wheelbase & track width) and load capacity as the 4 passenger except it does’t have the two rear folding seats in the utility bed. Uniquely, the Honda Pioneer is unlike anything else in the sxs market and provides the consumer with a great utility vehicle that can navigate through most any trail at a price point that fits within most any person’s budget. If you are looking for a UTV to go rip the dunes or a SXS that will break RJ Anderson’s or Ryan Piplic’s world records, than you are looking in the wrong place, for now that is… The Honda Pioneer is built to handle the trails, haul the entire family and carry just about anything you might think of. It’s a true utility vehicle built by SXS enthusiasts that can handle everything you can throw at it. We had our Pioneer absolutely topped out at 44mph (governed) through some really rocky trails and slippery rally roads without one hiccup. We TRIED to get our Pioneer in the worst of situations and there wasn’t anything that it wasn’t capable of doing.
Some of you might have a bad taste in your mouth after the unveiling of the Big Red, and reasonably so. The new Pioneer takes Honda SXS’s to a whole new level. Disc breaks that can stop on a dime and the handling of something you might find in a high performance race shop. Although the Pioneer doesn’t possess any sort of power steering, the handing and steering are second to none. Not once was the wheel jerked out of my hands; in 2wd and 4wd. I was actually really impressed with how well the guys at Honda could make this “utility vehicle” handle. When on the rally roads the Pioneer delivered the fun factor you would expect and when on the trails it performed just as you would want a trail UTV to perform.
One of the most important things to think about when considering Honda for your next SXS is that all Honda SXS manufacturing has moved from Mexico to right here in the United States (South Carolina). This gives the guys at Honda much better access to the people that actually use the vehicles and the ability to make changes without too much interference Additionally, the new breed of side by sides are bing designed and developed by enthusiasts themselves; people who actually use the machines and who know what the people want out of a UTV. UTVUnderground.com had the chance to visit Honda’s facility last year to witness the first Pioneer’s roll off the assembly line. You can read that story HERE.
After an amazing ride through the valleys of the Grand Canyon, it was time to refuel our bodies and head back to the Bar 10 Ranch for some much needed lunch. With dirt in our teeth and smiles on all of our faces, we began to share stories of our first impressions of the Honda Pioneer and the amazing scenery that surrounded us.
Back on the trail after another amazing meal from Uncle Ned and crew, it was time to get some open air to ourselves and see what kind of trouble we could get into. One thing you might notice right off the bat about the Pioneer is the noticeable 3-speed transmission. The engines’ ECU has two different shift modes pre programed; one for slow, mild speed shifts and one for higher rpm more aggressive driving. This 3-speed transmission is a shaft driven transmission with a torque converter. The power is consistent and never seems to run out of torque when you are in a sticky situation or going up hills. One thing that might be unfamiliar to UTV owners that I actually find quite appealing is; no belt slip! Even in the worst of situations crawling through the riverbed at less than 5mph over large boulders. With the efficiency of this shaft driven 3-speed transmission, you can’t help but think about what is next for the Honda UTV market. Doubtful that you will see a belt driven UTV coming out of Honda anywhere in the near future, and the idea of a transmission with more than just one gear is very appealing.
Continuing to punish the Pioneer on yet another epic ride through the Grand Canyon, you really get a sense of the quality and thought-out craftsmanship that Honda is known for. After talking with a couple of the engineers at Honda, I was able to get a much better understanding for the development and precise engineering that takes place in order to create such a dynamic vehicle. Again, the car isn’t going to blow your mind with its power and suspension, but what it lacks there is made up for in Honda’s superior quality and fit & finish assembly. You feel the quality that Honda is known for.
From the highest peaks to the lowest valleys, the Grand Canyon was absolutely the perfect place to put the Honda Pioneer to the test. It was an amazing experience getting to spend 3 days at a one of a kind cattle ranch (The Bar 10 Ranch) with people from all walks of life who share one thing in common; the love for UTVs. Although the Honda Pioneer won’t be setting any world records anytime soon, undoubtedly it is the best bang for your buck when you might be considering a recreational / utility UTV. Whether you are looking to load up your Pioneer with the family to spend a couple days in the back woods or you are on the farm chasing down cattle, you can depend on Honda reliability to make sure you get back home safely without skipping a beat.
Although the test ride is over and all of the mud has been washed off, you can be sure that I’ll be keeping my eye on Honda to see what they have up their sleeve as they reach further and further into the world of UTV’s. Sell your ATV’s and trade in your two wheels, Honda is getting serious and the future looks promising for UTV enthusiasts alike.
See you soon….
Adam “Gunnslinger” Gunn