Saturday, March 26, 2011

2008 Honda TRX700XX First Ride

Powered by a big bore Single  Honda s new TRX700XX is an innovative quad that just might reshape the future of sporting ATVs.
Powered by a big bore Single, Honda's new TRX700XX is an innovative quad that just might reshape the future of sporting ATVs.
Bigger is better right? Well, at least that's what I kept repeating to myself over and over shortly after I received my First Ride orders on Honda's all-new '08 TRX700XX. And with Honda's assertion that their new sport quad features their largest, most powerful four-stroke Single they've ever produced, my concern was certainly warranted. I mean c'mon, does the ATV world really need an almost 700cc sport quad?

To find out Big Red invited MotoUSA as well as one very deserving member of their Honda Rider's Club of America (HRCA) out to Dumont Dunes OHV area, just south of America's furnace, aka Death Valley, California. Contrary to what the name implies sand and dunes aren't the only terrain one can expect to encounter. The secluded desert spot boasts thousands of acres of trails complete with pretty much everything imaginable from big rock gardens, typically dry, and for us wet river beds, as well as wide open flat expanses that provide a truly diverse riding playground.

If it weren't for Honda inventing its revolutionary three-wheeled ATC90 back in 1970, we probably wouldn't be writing this, so it comes as no surprise that its high-end TRX model incorporates some dazzling technological innovations that not only set it apart from other manufacturer's four-wheeled offerings, but will help shape the future of sporting ATVs.

Powering the Double-X is an entirely new liquid-cooled 686cc Single that was modeled after Honda's ultra-reliable XR650R off-road motorcycle powerplant. Like its XR650R brethren, the compact engine is a SOHC design and utilizes a four-valve cylinder head, with 37mm valves on the intake side and 32mm on the exhaust. Beneath, the cylinder boasts 102 x 82mm bore/stroke dimensions and a 10:1 compression ratio. A gear-driven counterbalance helps quell the tremors pumped out by the 4-inch-wide piston. A dry sump lubrication system eliminates the need for an oil pan and within the external oil hose a wire mesh filter prevents oil slosh and aeration. The clever setup thereby reduces the engines height and helps to lower the machine's center of gravity. Making sure that the engine is always operating at the correct temperature, a thick 28mm aluminum radiator is mounted beneath the handlebars - protecting it from any potential trail hazards.

Climbing aboard the Double-X for the first time reveals a comfy seat which tapers more narrowly as the seat reaches the tank junction.
Power on from the 686cc Single is transferred to the rear of the TRX700 via a new centered chain final drive.
Both fuel injection and electric start grace the TRX700XX and allow the rider to fire up the engine with the turn of a key and simple push of a button. The huge, almost two-gallon airbox supplies the air while a single Denso fuel injector squirts fuel from the three-gallon fuel tank through a 44mm throttle body. Exhaust is purged via a quiet, spark arrester-equipped stainless-steel muffler.

Power is transmitted to the Dunlop-shod 11-inch rear aluminum wheels via a five-speed transmission (with reverse) and an innovative centered chain final drive. In fact, the unique chain drive is a key design component Honda specifically engineered in order to meet the 700's design goals. Not only is the setup much lighter than a shaft drive found on other big-bore quads, its also more efficient. However, chain final drives do have some inherent problems when applied to an Independent Rear Suspension (IRS). Typically, the chain and rear sprocket get in the way of the rear suspension components, thereby sacrificing handling. Engineers solved this dilemma by fitting a pair of gears around the countershaft sprocket which position the rear sprocket exactly 33mm left of the machine's centerline.

This design feature facilitates the use of optimum equal length A-arms and drive shafts. The upper steel and lower aluminum pieces attach to the steel frame, which features a removable subframe component. Rear damping is courtesy of dual preload adjustable coil-over shocks with piggy-back reservoirs. The gas-charged units make use of 9.3 inches of travel before hitting the stop. A rear sway bar attaches to the frame and lower A-arm helping to prevent excessive body roll.

Up front, the independent double-wishbone suspension consists of long travel steel A-arms damped via unique dual-stage shock absorbers - the first of its kind for Honda. Both the short top spring and the larger main spring are single rate but when used together they perform much like a progressive rate spring - allowing for superior bottoming resistance, yet response reaction over small bumps and chop. Front suspension travel measures 10.5 inches.

Our testing time aboard the all-new TRX700XX took place just south of Death Valley  California  but we still managed to find some water to splash around in.
Our testing time aboard the all-new TRX700XX took place just south of Death Valley, California, but we still managed to find some water to splash around in.
As I slid on my off-road gear, yesterday's nervousness morphed into excitement as I gazed across the TRX's shapely plastic body panels. At the previous evening's tech presentation Honda showed us early design rendering of the 700 and the production unit almost completely imitates the artist's conception. However, it would have been better if they selected flashier color combinations other than Metallic Black/Red and Metallic Black/Silver to emphasize its modern shape.

Climbing aboard the Double-X for the first time reveals a comfy seat which tapers more narrowly as the seat reaches the tank junction. The footpegs are wide and offer the rider a good platform to move around on. Behind, rear mudguards incorporate neat footrests which allow the rider to further stabilize their footing. Reach to the handlebars is also pleasing but taller riders will find the bars a bit on the low side - especially while standing up. Despite the lack of lever adjustability they fit our hands well and seemed like they could reasonably accommodate riders with diverse hand sizes.

Pulling the cable-actuated clutch lever reveals its super-light pull, however, its engagement felt grabby during launches. Dial in some throttle and the rider is rewarded with a steady stream of manageable, easy-to-use torque. Keep the throttle pinned as long as you want, because the TRX's completely flat powerband feels like it will never end. In fact, we can't even recall one instance of ever hitting the rev limiter.

The big-bore Single inside the TRX700 has enough oomph to get things going out in the dirt.
The big-bore Single inside the TRX700 has enough oomph to get things going out in the dirt.
"The motor rips," said HRCA's guest, Joe Bernal. "I'm surprised. Despite its weight, it has the motor to pull it around. It's almost deceiving how quick it is. It's hard to say without having both bikes here but it feels like it may be faster than my TRX450R at home."

But don't let Joe's assertion scare you, because the Double-X's engine feels about as docile as Hulk Hogan on reality television. Although, if speed is what one is after, simply grab an upshift from the precise, engaging gearbox. The versatile gear ratios allow the riders of all skill levels to always find a suitable gear regardless of the terrain. We found top gear to be super tall and had a difficult time holding the throttle pinned long enough to expose the TRX's top-speed, but you can take our word that it's definitely fast enough to get the adrenaline pumping. On the opposite end, first gear is short and makes launching possible regardless of whether you're parked on a sand dune or flat ground. However, for the times when you run out of talent, just pull the right-hand side plastic reverse lever and push the gear shift lever all the way down and you're backing right on out of those potential sticky situations.

Braking is courtesy of dual hydraulic disc brakes recessed within the 10-inch aluminum front wheels. Out back, a single hydraulic disc brake spaced 66mm opposite the rear sprocket facilitates the IRS and aids in machine balance. The brakes worked well and weren't at all grabby and very easy to use. All four wheels also incorporate nifty removable metal wheel scrapers to help prevent mud build up.

One thing a rider will not have to worry about on the new TRX is rear traction  as the rear tires hook up almost too well  making power slides more difficult than a regular ATV.
One thing a rider will not have to worry about on the new TRX is rear traction, as the rear tires hook up almost too well, making power slides more difficult than a regular ATV.
Despite Honda's assertion that the TRX700 tips the scales at 505-pounds ready to ride, it certainly didn't feel that heavy. Steering is light and the bike changes directions quickly and controllably without a hint of nervousness. On the trail it felt balanced and tracked straight even in whoop sections as long as the rider stays on the gas. Bump steer was never really an issue unless you hit a really large obstacle at speed. Traversing across the rock gardens is where the 10.2 inches of ground clearance really came in handy and if it's not enough, slippery plastic impact guards allow the TRX to slide over taller obstacles while protecting the components underneath. The suspension's impressive articulation keeps all four tires in contact with terra firma and helps capitalize on traction provided from the grippy rear tires.

The excessive amounts of rear traction exposed the Double-X's one and only potential flaw. Unlike your typical fixed-axle sport quad which has the ability to spin the tires at a controlled rate in the corner, the TRX700's setup actually bites into the ground far more effectively, which make it more tricky to power slide. Slides start nicely enough, but sometimes the rear tires find traction when you least expect it.

"It doesn't power slide quite as well as a straight axle setup, but its still pretty good. It just takes a different kind of riding style to make it work," said our resident TRX enthusiast. "It depends on where you ride.Overall though, I'd take the plush ride and control of an IRS over a straight axle if I had a choice."

Want to test the suspension  That s what jumps are for and the big ol  TRX holds its own in the air.
Want to test the suspension? That's what jumps are for and the big ol' TRX holds its own in the air.
We assumed a big-bore quad of the 700's size might expose its size in the air. We were wrong. Not only does it have the engine to pull you over steep sand lips, its front-and-rear independent suspension soaks up hits with amazing compliance. Landings were always supple, which of course encouraged us to try it again. We also came away impressed with how balanced the Double-X is in the sky. It never pitched front or back and always floated completely level.

Ringing in at $7699, the Honda TRX700XX comes with an impressive one-year factory warranty, but it wasn't until the next morning that the big quad's greatest attribute came to life. Not only did we have a total blast riding through the dunes, trails and everything in between, we did it in complete comfort. A non-IRS equipped sport quad would have beat us up pretty bad, but upon waking the next morning we weren't at all sore and ready to do it all over again. How many times can you say that after an entire day in the dirt? So does our planet really need a 700cc sport quad? Maybe not, but I sure do.

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