ST. GEORGE, Utah — 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. Plastic bodywork covers plastic fittings inside. The inline two-cylinder engine thuds and whines, sounding a bit like a generator crossed with a moped. They aren't elegant devices, with none of the passion or emotion that radiates out of two-wheeled enthusiast machines like, say, a Triumph Bonneville.
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 4x4 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. There's less bodywork to mangle, more specialized capability right out of the box, and a very healthy aftermarket scene chock full of sexy accessories to upgrade these rides with — with the only caveat being how you'll get it to the off-road park. It's why the originator of this entire class of ATV, the Polaris RZR, is so wildly popular.
All this is old news to the ATV crowd, but Honda's M.O. has always been to bridge the gulf between automobile and powersports. 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.