Honda Heavy Duty Side-by-Side

Honda's Flagship Pioneer 1000s Beat Montana Trails

Dan Miller
By  Dan Miller , Progressive Farmer Senior Editor
The new Honda heavy duty side-by-side comes in configurations that seat three to five passengers. (Photo courtesy Honda)

American Honda Motor Company has added to its rapidly expanded line of Pioneer-model side-by-sides with its new, three-passenger Pioneer 1000 and Pioneer 1000-5 (five passenger).

Heavy demand for these so-called "flagship" side-by-sides has attracted a crowd of manufacturers, each jostling for position in a slice of the utility/recreational off-road market. The Pioneer 1000 is good news for those ready to write a check for a full-size, high capacity and work-capable side-by-side. With its 999cc, twin cylinder, Unicam-design engine, the Pioneer 1000 has the power to run and work all day long.

Honda's Pioneer 1000 is a smartly designed and able competitor to the proven Polaris Ranger 900, Can-Am's new Defender models, Kawasaki's up-powered Mule PRO FX and Deere's Gator XUV 825i. Industry observers estimate sales of these heavy-duty, off-road horses are running at an annual rate of 100,000 units, and more.

"It makes sense that we would want to capture part of that market," said one Honda spokesman. "It is the fastest growing segment [in the side-by-side market]."

A group of journalists test-drove the Pioneer 1000 line on trails in and around the 37,000-acre Paws Up ranch, 45 minutes outside Missoula, Montana. The 1000s have the range to make long trips, carrying 7.9 gallons of fuel.

Honda's Unicam design produces a high performance engine, while minimizing the weight and size of the engine. Worthy of note is that the engine is mounted onto a sub-frame, and that frame is rubber mounted to the chassis to better control vibration. And, just so you know, a flagship side-by-side is said to have an 800cc-plus, multi-cylinder engine among other attributes. The 999cc engine has twice the horsepower of the Pioneer 700. That is horsepower that gives the Pioneer 1000 a high-speed, lower RPM characteristic that lowers engine noise in the cab and reduces driver stress and exertion. Honda's Pioneer 700 mounts a 675cc engine. The Pioneer 500 comes with a single-cylinder 475cc power plant.

The base, three-passenger Pioneer 1000 is competitively priced at $13,999. Price range up to $17,199 for the Deluxe Pioneer 1000-5, with seating for five passengers (not including accessories and other buyer preferences).

The Pioneer 1000 models pack speed -- my driving partner reached 60 mph on a straight section of trail -- and capacity -- tow one ton with a two-inch hitch and carry 1,000 pounds in the cargo bed -- with an itch for the trail. The 1000 features a fully automatic, six-speed, dual clutch transmission. A low-range subtransmission essentially doubles the number of gears to 12; six in high range and six in low range.

A dual clutch transmission (DCT) is more typically found on motorcycles and high-end ATVs. It's a first for side-by-sides, Honda said. The company said the all-gear DCT system delivers more engine power to the ground than the constantly variable transmission found on competitor's vehicles. DCT features two clutches that control different gear sets. So, as one gear is disengaging, the next gear is engaging. The driver experience is quick, smooth and seamless shifting.

In the Pioneer 1000, DCT gives drivers the choice of three, on the go shifting modes -- manual, automatic and a trail enhancing, sports mode. Honda's steering wheel mounted paddle shifters, introduced first on the Pioneer 500, give operators the ability to shift up and down the gear range in the manual setting without removing their hands from the wheel. The paddles are operable in the automatic shift mode, too. It's a feature giving drivers the option for example, to hold the 1000 in a higher-torque, lower gear while towing a heavy load.

The Pioneer 1000 performs its off-road work by way of several drive system modes. There is a turf mode that tightens the turning radius of the Pioneer without tearing up the turf. Operators can also set the 1000 in two-wheel drive, four-wheel drive and 4-wheel drive with locked differential, driving modes.

Carried over to the Pioneer 1000 from Honda's Pioneer 700 is the pair of "QuickFlip" convertible rear seats. Folded flush into the bottom of the cargo bed, they can be raised without tools to accommodate one or two additional passengers, in addition to three in the front. With the seats folded back down, the tilt-function bed resumes its function as a carrier of cargo. But even with the seats raised, the Pioneer 1000's cargo capacity is not entirely lost. Lower the tailgate and mount Honda's bed extender ($299.95) on it and a good amount of secure cargo space is restored.

Honda made good improvement in the Pioneer 1000-5 to the comfort of the ride for rear-seat passengers.

The rear ride in the Pioneer 700-4 can be a bit tough. It's a tight fit for two passengers and the trail ride can be jarring for the heavier-set, let us say. The bed of the 1000-5, from which the QuickFlip seats rise, is a little bit bigger. That increases the size of the foot well and expands side-by-side seating. The suspension under the bed and rear seats has been greatly improved with a self-leveling system. It automatically maintains the correct ride height of the bed when fully loaded with cargo or with two seated passengers. It is an improvement the rear passengers will appreciate.

The improvements Honda made in the suspension overall are appreciated, too. With rocks, gullies and ditches scattered like landmines across the trail, the Pioneer 1000 turned those body cringing moments before impact into relief as the vehicle negotiated the obstacles without protest. It is a combination of suspension and tires that produced the result, Honda said.

All Pioneer 1000s come with 27-inch tires (compared to 24-inch tired on the model 500 and 25-inch tires on the model 700 Pioneers). The Pioneer 1000's fully independent front and rear suspension evens out a trail's bumps and bruises with suspension travel measured at 10.5 inches in the front and 10 inches in the rear. The 1000 and 1000 with electric power steering (EPS) also clear the ground by a full 12.9 inches, while the 1000-5 and 1000-5 Deluxe clears it by 12.4. That's three inches more than the Pioneer 500 and two inches more than with the Pioneer 700).

For more information on Honda's Pioneer 1000 series side-by-sides go to: www.powersports.honda.com

(BAS)

Dan Miller