Side-by-Side Off-Roading Family Fun and Adventure in the Honda Talon

Love the idea of bonding on the road, and a little thrill? So do the folks at Honda. Their Talon 1000R-4 side-by-side is a perfect fit for family treks.

Get ting ready to rumble int the Honda Talon 1000R-4 side-by-side! Photo: Sue Mead and Faith Wehner

Made for Families with More Fun and Comfort

“You start out driving, and I’ll just watch for now,” said my 21-year-old niece Faith Wehner.

I could tell that Faith was excited about off-roading in the all-new 2023 Honda Talon 1000R-4. We were on our first ride in this model after just learning about its capabilities at a press conference, with a quick hands-on overview of switches and gauges by Honda’s support staff and engineers, and she wanted me to take the wheel.

Plus, we were heading out for a night ride at the highly-regarded MidAmerica Off-Road Park, so that added an element of challenge for motoring on a collection of moderate and extreme off-road trails that traversed meadows, snaked through woods and wound through streams that we would only be able to see with our headlights and light bars atop this Side x Side model.

I travel the country and, at times, far beyond test-driving cars and trying out fun and diverse models of many different types, like this side-by-side vehicle. Faith, a third-year college student who grew up in a log cabin in the woods of Peru, Mass, has had experience driving an ATV (all-terrain vehicle) and a snowmachine during her growing-up years, however, was perhaps a bit daunted by our group that was made up some of Honda’s professional racers, Honda engineers and powersports journalists that had gathered for a two-day trip to this renowned riding and racing 4WD park with over 1,600 miles of trails, in Jay, Oklahoma.

We were there for the introduction of this new 4-seat version of the popular Talon series that has been updated in a number of ways that will make it more appealing to families. I really enjoyed assessing the attributes of this new trim version, as I have driven other Honda side-by-sides, as well as the first-generation version of the Talon that was designed with two seats and engineered more for racing and as a compliment to Honda’s Pioneer series.

Related: Life on Three Wheels: My Time with the Polaris Slingshot 

Side By Side Honda Talon 1000R-4

My niece and I are ready to explore the trails in the side-by-side Honda Talon 1000R-4. Photo: Sue Mead and Faith Wehner

For the Love of (Side-by-Side) Mud

I love to play in the dirt and mud—it’s actually one of my favorite pastimes and is one that many adults have given up since childhood, although more and more individuals, couples, and families are using many different types of vehicles to get into the backcountry to see the beauty of landscapes around the US and beyond and experience nature in a way that is more up-close and personal, whether in a 4WD vehicle, a camper, a tricked-out overlanding model, a motorcycle, or a side-by-side.

When the invitation came to try out this new Talon trim model from Honda that is all about families who like wide open trails (and wooded tracks, too), along with the opportunity to bring a guest, I jumped at the chance.

This side-by-side comes with a new live valve suspension system that makes things smoother, as it can respond in real-time rather than as just preset settings, and also has an improved turning radius and a number of other updates. Talon offerings are for sport, racing, and multi-use; farmers and ranchers seek them out for tasks on job sites and family homesteads, not only as working vehicles but also to take the family out for fun. Honda likes to call them call them the Family Performance Driver and Family Trail Driver.

Related: We had a lot of Fun at MudFest

The Honda Talon 1000R-4 Side-By-Side. Photo: HondaThe Honda Talon 1000R-4 side-by-side. Photo: Honda

Fun New Side-by-Side Details

Designed for families and friends who enjoy spirited driving in a 4-seat cab with the ability to motor at high speed and over rough terrain capability, the side-by-side Honda Talon 100R-4 now has more elbow room and stadium-style seating (higher in the rear). There are 17.7 inches of front suspension travel and a bit more than 20 inches in the back. A new electric power steering system improves performance with 87 percent more torque assist, which means it’s easier to steer.

Also of note, there are full-coverage doors to protect passengers and help keep water and mud out of the cabin, plus additional storage capacity, and more cupholders and storage pockets—and increased thickness for the side pipe tubing for the roll-over protection system. Also new are aluminum wheels and Kenda tires with thicker sidewalls to help prevent sidewall punctures.

Related: Conquering the Road in the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392

A Girls Guide To Cars | Side-By-Side Off-Roading Family Fun And Adventure In The Honda Talon - Honda Talon 1000R 4 Sue Mead 1

Family bonding in the side-by-side Honda Talon 1000R-4. Photo: Sue Mead and Faith Wehner

Side-by-Side Riding

On day two, Faith and I set out for more trail riding. I started in the left seat, trying out both the automatic and manual modes, using normal and sport modes, and appreciating the fast and precise gearing changes that come as a result of the dual-clutch transmission. When we traveled along some of the more technical trails that had steep inclines and descents, with mud and rocks, we were happy to have Honda’s brake-traction control and the Talon’s limited-slip differential that directs traction to the wheel with the most grip. Despite uneven terrain, the Talon’s double wishbone suspension in front and the multi-link set-up in the rear gave us a somewhat plush ride at low speeds and a stable ride at higher speeds.

After a mid-morning break, Faith was ready to take the wheel. She had enjoyed the ride in the comfortable sports seats with three-point harnesses and the adjustable T-grab handles to use when the ride was off-camber and on a side-hill angle, but now it was her turn. For me, it was a thrill to watch her commandeer the side-by-side with confidence—even over some tough terrain. At the end of the day, our appetites had been whetted to do more trail rides and take more trips together. After dipping into the on-site “lazy river” and joining in the evening’s meal to tell stories with the other participants, we began to dream of other adventures, hoping that the next invite would come soon!

A Girls Guide To Cars | Side-By-Side Off-Roading Family Fun And Adventure In The Honda Talon - Honda Talon 1000R 4 Sue Mead 4.Jpeg 1

Driving a side-by-side Honda Talon 1000R-4 is a confidence-building experience. Photo: Sue Mead and Faith Wehner

What the Honda Talon Costs

Pricing for the Honda Talon 1000R starts at $25,799 for 4 and $23,999 for the 2-seater version. The folks at Honda feel the R model is supremely functional as a family performance driver, and it sure is – with more than 3 inches greater suspension travel, a 2-inch longer wheelbase, and 4 inches greater width. Additionally, another electrical ground was added to the front of the vehicle to simplify wire routing for electronic upgrades and over 60 accessories, such as over fenders, splash guards, auxiliary lights, and GPS. Also available is a heater, inside rear-view mirrors, and outside mirrors.

Disclosure: I was a guest of Honda for this test drive. Travel and accommodations were provided, but all opinions are my own. Additionally, A Girls Guide to Cars may earn a commission from affiliate links in this story.

Sue Mead, who was among the first women to test and compete in the off-road field, travels the globe... More about Sue Mead