HONDA TALON FACT OR FICTION?
If you're a Honda SxS and ATV nut, you've likely seen the "leaked" pictures of what most certainly appears to be a Honda Pure Sport SxS.
Truth is, we don't know if it's true. Having been in the middle of top secret releases my entire life and having signed more embargo agreements than 10 people have over the last 30 years, I would say there likely is such a vehicle and more importantly, the pictures on the web were intentionally leaked.
Here's what we suspect is going on. Honda is among the last to enter the Pure Sport SxS segment and is likely sweating the late release of its entry.
Remember, myriads of Yamaha YXZ100R's are present at popular riding areas across North America. Essentially, by leaking these pics Honda will cause some buyers to cool on their intended purchase of a YXZ - instead waiting to see what the Big H is up to. In the Marketing Department they call this "stemming the tide" and it's a smart move on Honda's part.
So why am I comparing the Talon to the YXZ100R? Pretty much everyone who knows anything about this biz knows Honda won't intro a CVT equipped Pure Sport. They don't make an ATV or SxS with one so they have no real expertise in the design and execution of this type of tranny.
On top of this, Yamaha is Honda's arch Japanese rival in all things motorized from ATVs to generators to outboards. The Talon will, IMO, be purpose-built to compete head-on with the YXZ and will mostly ignore Pure Sport models from Polaris and Can-Am.
This is where it gets tricky: Polaris slays the Pure Sport segment in the sales department. Like it or not, the RZR product line-up captures the lion's share of all Pure Sport SxS sales hands down, running away.
This means if Honda's predisposition to focus on Yamaha is where the Talon is going, Honda will be severely limiting its sales potential. Yamaha is happy with sales of the YXZ, but make no mistake about it, the RZR and Can-Am together are what Pure Sport buyers are consuming.
There's another element of risk for Honda in the launch of the Talon. Horsepower. Honda has not been adept at identifying the SxS market's desire for power and as a result we don't expect the Talon to deliver much more than 100-HP going in.
Take a look at the market: Currently the YXZ makes the lowest HP claim in the Pure Sport segment at around 115-118 ponies. The new Textron Wildcat XX uses the YXZ's triple cylinder engine with a CVT and claims 125-HP. Both Polaris and Can-Am claim horsepower in the 175-plus dimension and appear to have no reason to stop, at least until they eclipse the 200-HP threshold - maybe.
You can make an argument the gear-on-gear, dual clutch tranny in the YXZ and the semi-auto version in the YXZ SS actually deliver more power to the rear wheels than a CVT does.
Okay, maybe there's some truth to that assertion but I'll tell you what - there ain't enough of a difference to claw back a 50 to 75-HP deficit compared to the Polaris and Can-am Pure Sports with CVTs.
So here's my point: If Honda doesn't do what they often do - underwhelm the market's expectation for HP and come in at the 100-HP level but instead come out with a 125-HP (plus) Talon with a dual clutch tranny, they might mow some of Yamaha's grass.
If they intro the Talon with 150-plus HP - either normally aspirated or turbocharged – they'll then get the full attention of Polaris and Can-Am shoppers.
The real issue here isn't whether or not the new Talon uses a DCT gear-on-gear tranny like the YX-Z. The issue is plain and simple: It takes copious HP to win the drag race up Horsepower Hill - and that is precisely what the success of the new Talon will rise or fall on.
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