Honda took a different approach to the open-class sport quad, and judging from its desert racing success, it definitely did something right.
When designing the TRX700XX the Honda
crew decided to take the road less traveled. The question is, “should they have?” The murdered-out TRX is a definite departure from conventional sport quad thinking. Honda engineers did away with the straight rear axle and swingarm found on the majority of sport ATVs
, replacing it with double wishbone independent rear suspension. With two Baja 1000 wins they must have gotten it right. Right?
The short answer is, “sort of.” The suspension works well in some situations and is sub-par in others. Let’s get into where it excels first. If you spend most of your time smashing through uneven, choppy terrain while sitting down, this is the ride for you. The fully independent rear suspension works wonders in situations where one wheel is being shoved towards the sky while the other is dropping into a hole. The shocks are plush and soak up stutter bumps and rocky sections very well. You can even sit down through most of it. It’s really does shine in this respect, but so does the Rincon
for that matter - Honda’s big-bore utility quad. There lies the problem. When you buy a sport ATV you want to be able to do more than be comfortable in the chunky bits. There’s jumping, bombing through whoops and power-sliding to consider. If you want to sit down and plunk around in the rocks, Big Red offers other options, and with 4WD.
Once the 700XX encounters any standard sport quad terrain, things begin to go wrong. First, power-slides are unpredictable at best. The rear suspension allows the TRX to roll as it’s pitched into a slide. Once the roll is in effect, the outside rear tire grabs serious traction. This results in one of two undesired scenarios. One, the 700XX ends up going straight while you are trying to turn, which is the lesser of two evils. Two, the tire hooks up and pitches the ATV up onto two wheels. Bicycling a 505-pound ATV at speed is not a desirable thing to do.
When you really start hammering the whoops and chop, the rear end protests by kicking badly. With only pre-load adjustment available on the front and rear shocks, there’s no chance of sorting out the bucking suspension woes. The engineers may have had it right with the independent concept, but the bean counters got it wrong. Skimping out on suspension adjustability really hurts the Honda’s performance and fun factor. We would expect the Honda to be much closer in handling performance to the Raptor with a good set of aftermarket shocks.
In the air the Honda flies straight and landings are plush, as long as the two back tires touch down at the same time. Landing one-wheel-first while on the gas can cause the TRX to veer off its intended line. The rear tires really direct the path of travel. In many situations there are so many off-the-wall handling issues that it makes you wonder how good this ATV could be with a straight axle and swing-arm.
The TRX’s 686cc single-overhead-cam loves to be revved out. The bottom and mid-range power is not as punchy as the Raptor despite turning higher numbers throughout the rev range on the Two Brothers Racing dyno. However, long after the Yamaha signs off, the Honda
is still pulling. In the tight woods and turns the double-X requires constant rowing through the gearbox to keep the revs up in the meat of the power. We experienced a hiccup and stall issue with our test unit that became frustrating. A quick stab of the throttle from a dead stop would cause the Honda to cough and die about 10% of the time, always when you least expected it. We suspect the TRX is too lean on the bottom end of the fueling map.
The motor likes to be screamed, which works well in open terrain. Once the pace slows down in technical situations, the TRX needs a lot of shifting, which is fine because the transmission is great.
The transmission is pure Honda quality, smooth as silk. Shifting through the gears is trouble free, which is good since the Honda’s transmission will get a workout. The ratios are spaced well and you are not left looking for another gear on the top end like the Raptor. Shifting into reverse is easy, but the reverse lever positioning was not a favorite of our testers. The lever is somewhat hidden down low between the tank and front fender. Reaching for the lever just feels awkward in comparison to the Raptor’s well-placed knob.
The styling of the TRX is funky, but grew on us as the test progressed. Black plastics look great but scratches easily, but the seat is uber-comfortable with thick padding that’s just right in the stiffness department. The cockpit area felt cramped for our taller testers in the six-foot range. The parking brake is the same set-up Honda has been using for decades; a procedure of pushing a button down on the clutch lever, pull the lever in, and then flip a cover over the button. The Yamaha
’s single flip lever is so much easier to use. Where the 700R has a digital dash with a speedometer, odometer, and trip meters, the 700XX falls short with just four indicator lights on the handlebar-mounted dash.