In case you haven’t noticed already, the Honda Talon is a big deal in the UTV market. According to the corporate minds at Big Red, the Talon has already climbed to the 2nd best selling N/A 1000cc class sport UTV on the market. Wow! Not bad considering that data comes from only about 4-5 months of sales figures.
All sales numbers aside, there are good reasons that the Talon has taken the market by storm. First and foremost, Honda quality is present from the moment you walk up to this UTV. The plastics are attached securely, and when you open the automotive-style doors, you get to feel the Honda quality in motion. A-arms, trailing arms, and powertrain components all exude quality from up close, and our significant amount of time behind the wheel has shown that these Talons are indeed built for battle. Just look at the massive ball joints connecting the front a-arms to the spindles. The only part that has worried us is the single sheer radius rod connections to the rear knuckles on both the X- and R-models, but time will tell on these parts. So far, so good.
The quality continues to shine on the inside. The seats are top quality, along with the seat sliders. If you haven’t sat in a Talon yet, you’ll experience a very neutral seating position and great sight lines out the front. Proper bolstering is present in these seats and they have factory pass-throughs so you can attach 4- or 5-point harnesses without any modifications. The instrument cluster is very clear and easy to read, but those of us who like to have large digital readouts will find the text size a bit small when you are attacking the trails at speed. This has to be one of the main complaints with the Talon interior at this point – we like the fact that it is more bare bones and focuses on the ride, handling, and comfort aspects of driving off-road, but the others in this category are leading in the technology department. I wouldn’t be surprised if Honda ups the ante in the coming years with a bit more technology built into this machine. We’ve already seen that they can do this with the unveiling of the Talon 1000X-4 4-seat UTV, which will hit the market later this fall. Otherwise, the interior has plenty of storage to go along with the creature comforts.
It’s true that everyone has been flocking to the Talon lineup for many good reasons, but consumers also thought that Honda might surprise us with a more powerful version of this venerable UTV. Based on the handling characteristics of both the R- and X-models and the fact that both of them have many safety features built in from the factory, we knew that the stock models could handle additional power from a Turbo. Honda engineers did not hide the fact that they were staying away from releasing a factory Turbo unit, but they did say that there was a high probability a factory-approved Turbo kit would be unveiled. Well, we didn’t think they would do it so soon, but Honda has officially unveiled a Turbo kit that has taken the Talon lineup to an entirely new level of performance!
The nitty gritty… This Turbo kit was designed and developed by Jackson Racing, which is a performance driven company who partners with Honda on many different race-related endeavors. Honda R&D staff partnered with Jackson on the development of the Talon Turbo kit, and they co-tested the kit for durability and performance evaluation. Performance numbers are boosted (literally!) from 104 stock horsepower to approximately 166 (Jackson claims an approximate jump of 60% more horsepower at 8psi of boost. However, we all know it can go higher than that… Honda was transparent about the fact that these numbers are conservative and the stock drivetrain is built to handle much more power). An all-new Garrett Motion turbo charger is utilized – this is actually an all-new turbo design from the ground up and it’s engineered to produce peak performance numbers throughout the entire RPM range. Jackson Racing designed the intercooler in CAD and included a high flow SPAL fan for maximum cooling of the incoming air. The turbo manifold is made out of 304 stainless steel and TIG-welded for longevity. The system allows for direct turbo exit into the factory exhaust system. To complete the kit itself, a factory ECU reflash is included to remap the tuning. It is formatted to run on 91-octane fuel, and the remap also includes revised DCT (Dual Clutch Transmission) shift schedules to get optimized feel and performance out of the stock transmission. Finally, Jackson and Honda expect this kit to pass CARB testing so it will be available with 50-state emissions compliance.
Let’s take a step back on the specs for a second. The first time I saw this Turbo kit fully assembled on a Talon 1000X I realized that this installation is extremely clean and requires little drilling or modification of the stock platform. If you’ve had any experience with Yamaha’s GYTR turbo kit, you’ll see the same precision and quality coming out of that kit as you will see from the Honda version. Japanese manufacturers love to make great all-around machines, but they sometimes lack the performance figures that other OEM’s put into their UTVs. I would say that this Talon Turbo puts everyone on notice as far as stock performance numbers go, and the drive backs this up…
Did I mention this Talon Turbo is a total sleeper?! If you didn’t figure it out yet with the mention of the “stock exhaust” being utilized in this kit, then be put on notice – this isn’t your loud exhaust-equipped buddy’s Turbo kit with that “sounds big, goes nowhere” style. This Talon Turbo sounds just like a stock unit, and the reflashed ECU makes sure that this vehicle fires up with the same authority that the N/A engine does. There are bound to be many “surprise” winners at the drags this desert season…
Putting the DCT into gear is familiar on this vehicle – the gated shifter is easy to use and goes where you want it every time with positive gear actuations. Pulling away from a stop, the clutching of the Turbo-equipped Talon feels exactly the same as the stock unit, and the driver doesn’t feel any big difference in the throttle pickup from idle, either. However, that docile nature, which makes it ideal for slow speed maneuvering and terrains like rock crawling, ends when the throttle is picked up and pressed further into its usable travel. I’ll be honest, I couldn’t help but put the DCT in full manual mode and keep it in 2nd gear when I pulled out of the staging area to drive this Talon Turbo – I mashed it and we were off! From the seat of the pants feel, the claimed “60% increase” in horsepower is conservative, really… This Talon Turbo flat out rips! The stock Talon does a good job of building power up the RPM range until it signs off at about 90% throttle, but this Turbo kit just wakes the entire powerband up, as it should. Mash the gas, grab the right paddle a handful of times, and you fly!
The good news is that the DCT is up to the task of handling the extra horsepower. In full manual mode, I was pulling the upshift paddle MUCH quicker with the Turbo kit installed – it’s a thrill ride that a driver won’t be able to get enough of. Grabbing gears is easy with the paddles, and I still prefer full manual shifting mode compared to the regular and sport automatic shifting modes. But, having that fully automatic transmission is key for days that you just want to cruise. The way the Talon Turbo builds the additional power so smoothly throughout the entire RPM range is a thing of driving beauty. There is no surge or massive “hit” in the powerband, just gobs of usable horsepower everywhere. The stock tires are also better suited to the increase in horsepower, at least on the muddy and hard pack terrains we drove on.
Through our 2 laps around TexPlex’s motocross track, I couldn’t help but notice that the increase in horsepower really helped bring this chassis to life. It’s like this Talon was built for the extra power right from the factory, and Honda is relying on this Jackson kit to “wake it up”, if you will. It’s not that the stock unit is bad, but it doesn’t fully utilize the high level capabilities of this chassis. More power allows you to sling it into corners wider and pick back up on the gas with more confidence. Yes, you would think that you should be on the gas harder with less horsepower, but the fact is that the chassis is supremely capable of handling the additional horsepower, so you can pitch it into corners harder and exit faster than you ever thought possible in a stock Talon. It really is that much better of an experience.
While we didn’t get to test this Talon Turbo on anything but a fully built motocross track, I would say that my seat-of-the-pants experience gave me full confidence to say that this hopped up version of the Talon would be just as capable as the stock Talon in the rocks and tight, wooded trails. With the power being so linear even with the Turbo kit installed, there are no “hit” spots in the powerband that would make you jump through the rocks or ruts and make it harder to drive in these situations. It really is mapped that good, and the DCT just feels buttery smooth even with all the additional horsepower. Not to mention, and I know this isn’t a conversation you would have while rock crawling, but the full throttle upshifts in the Talon Turbo are just as smooth as the stock unit. Craziness…
The one miss that the Talon Turbo highlighted is the stiffly sprung suspension. Yes, the stock suspension does cycle well, especially on the R-model, but the suspension just needs a bit more finesse in stock form, especially when we look at the rear. It is setup for the big hits, but it could use a bit more compliance in so many situations. The faster speeds that the Talon Turbo can reach only highlighted this harsh movement, especially when we were hitting the widely spaced whoops at speed. A bit more compliance in addition to rebound adjustability would allow these shocks to cycle better and make the ride better for a wider range of riders.
One or two drawbacks to the Talon can’t top the fact that this machine is stellar as a whole. Many people are buying Talon’s purely because they are a Honda product. After putting a good amount of miles in these vehicles, we see why this is happening. And, with Jackson’s Turbo kit installed, the fun factor only goes up. To answer everyone’s question, YES, we would highly recommend this kit for not only its performance upgrades but also its simple and clean installation. Not to mention, this product has been durability tested on Talon prototype vehicles for years already, so you know the entire system works together seamlessly and provides that well known Honda quality.
Needless to say, we are excited to test this Talon Turbo in additional environments. Jackson Racing should have this Talon Turbo kit ready to send out to Honda dealers this Fall, and it has an estimated MSRP of $5799.99. Plus, Honda Financial said that qualifying buyers can lump in the Turbo kit to their new vehicle financing plan and allow dealers to install the kit before they ever take delivery of their new Talon. Or, if you want to do it yourself, installation will take about 6-8 hours of your time.
For more information on Jackson Racing, please visit their website at: https://jacksonracing.com
For more information on Honda Powersports and the Talon lineup of UTVs, please visit their website at: https://powersports.honda.com
Be safe on the trail, and we’ll see you out there!