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2016 Honda Pioneer 1000: Ride And Review

Posted in Features on December 20, 2016
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We love Alaska and we love wheelin’! We put the two together recently to test Honda’s all-new 2016 Pioneer 1000-5 on a nearly 50-mile-long run from the jumping-off-point of a popular trailhead system along the Knik River drainage, in Butte, to get an up-close and personal view of the Knik Glacier.

The Honda Pioneer 1000 is powered by a purpose-built 999cc parallel-twin engine that boasts the most displacement in the side-by-side industry, and has the industry’s first Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT). The six-speed automatic has a sport mode and manual paddle shifters that can override the gear selection; it also has “transient shift detection” logic that mitigates multiple up-and downshifts and downshifts automatically when detecting a descent.

The 5-person models come with a sophisticated Electric Power Steering system (EPS) that reacts to vehicle speed and steering input to give precise driving feedback and reducing steering effort (and thus driver fatigue-an important criteria for backcountry travel!)). This is true even with the front differential locked, as kickback at the steering wheel is nearly eliminated in technical terrain. Tilt steering comes on all models with EPS.

The new model is able to haul 1,000 pounds (600 pounds for California models) and tow 2,000 pounds. The Deluxe model has standard LED headlights (37W high/low beam) that have a bright, wide beam pattern, with minimal power consumption.

We were of course hoping that it would be the perfect vehicle for what we had in mind. Located in a rugged and remote region north of Anchorage, the Knik River Public Use Area has a number of off-road trails that make it a popular destination for 4WD enthusiasts, and for others that use it for a wide variety of recreational pursuits, including hunting, fishing, trapping, target shooting, boating, flying planes, horseback riding, biking, hiking, camping, and wildlife viewing.

Joining us for the day-long adventure were avid off-road enthusiasts Paul Vanona and Eric VanDusen, Jr., who are firefighters and search and rescue personnel at the Butte Fire Department. The firefighters are familiar with the trails from their own four wheeling trips and because this trails system is used for off-road training for the local fire department that has a small cadre of 4WD vehicles used for search and rescue operations in the backcountry.

Fording one of the largest glaciers in southcentral Alaska, the Honda Pioneer was right at home on the Knik Glacier ice field.

Also along were Dave and Gwenn Bogart, of Wasilla, who brought their Honda Rancher ATV for more personal seat time and to provide a second vehicle as a winching aid, for tying off when crossing deep water, and for the safety backup of having a second vehicle, if needed. Besides, when wheeling with friends, more is always better.

There is a collection of things that we love about the new Pioneer 1000 that we drove on our Knik Glacier adventure. The power is great and there's plenty of torque-on-tap, especially when using the paddle shifters, which we found really helpful for steep descents and slick surfaces. And, having a selection of drive modes kept us from getting stuck-being able to "lock" the differentials is a blessing in deep mud and over treacherous track. Also on the 'positives' list is the ability to weather-protect riders and cargo with the windshield, hard doors, roof and even a heater. And what's not to love about seating for five, with the flexibility to carry fewer passengers and more gear? That said, with four onboard, there is little room for true stowage; the space behind the rear is limited to a few items of a slender nature.

Dubbed by Honda as their ”Flagship” UTV, the Pioneer 1000 has a 6-speed fully automatic Dual Clutch Transmission, a 998cc engine, fully independent suspension and rides on 27-inch Maxxis Bighorn 2.0 tires. There are also a host of add-ons available from Honda to make the Pioneer anything that you need for the trail.

We did tick off a couple negatives though. The front doors leave a lot to be desired ergonomically and practically, as they swing rearward and the straps designed to hold them don't do a good job. In fact, they are on a recall (we had our redesigned locally in Alaska at Hartley Motors, a Honda dealer in Wasilla). We also had dust intrusion from the underbelly that seeps through a number of open seams. And, although we traveled over some rough terrain and didn't experience any damage to the vulnerable bits under the front end, we made note to take extra care and plan our driving line carefully, just in case.

Every time we take it out, we like the Pioneer more and more. We have taken it on three adventures including one winter mountain climb and plan on many more, including mushing with Iditarod sleds dogs at a training camp north of Fairbanks in Sept and Oct. We’ll let you know how those outings went, and if we still like the 2017 Honda Pioneer as much as we do now.

Powered by a 999cc parallel-twin engine that boasts the most displacement in the side-by-side industry, the Pioneer has the industry’s first Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT). The six-speed automatic has a sport mode and manual paddle shifters that can override the automatic gear selection.
The front and rear independent suspension systems are based on a dual A-arm design and fully independent suspension front and rear, with 10.5 inches of travel up front, 10.0 inches in back. Ground clearance is 12.4 inches. Standard on five-person models (and available as an accessory for the three-person models) is a self-leveling rear suspension system, which automatically maintains the appropriate ride height when fully loaded.
The interior has a bench seat for up to three passengers, with hand-hold straps and a shoulder belt for the center passenger (center seat is positioned high and forward for comfort and space). We liked the hard doors with nets that keep mud and debris out of the cabin. There are two open dash-storage areas and a weatherproof glove box.
Butte, Alaska is the jumping-off point for the Knik River Public Use Area. One of the main trailheads is at Jim Creek, where there is a large parking and off-loading area. The journey started with the Pioneer running along wooded tracks, with small waterholes and muddy ruts, as way was made to the open Knik River basin area.
The all-new Pioneer 1000 wowed us with its ground clearance, angles of approach and departure, water-fording depth, 4WD traction and the new sporty transmission with paddles that can hold a gear, when desired, or doing the shifting of its own accord.
While ATVs remain popular and are used for work and recreation in Alaska, the side-by-side vehicle is the fastest-growing category in powersports, and the multipurpose Pioneer model is set to take their share of the market.
We challenge the new Pioneer in wind, weather, water and mud. The low-range sub-transmission has a 1.42:1 ratio (like a 4WD truck), essentially doubling the number of gears from six to twelve. Drive-system modes include 2WD (locked rear differential), 4WD (locked rear/limited-slip front differential), Differential Lock (locked rear/locked front to maximize available traction), and Turf Mode (2WD with a limited-slip rear differential, to protect lawn or crops).
Six Honda Genuine Accessory packages are available for the Pioneer 1000s: All-Weather, Trail, Hunting, Work, Protection and Custom. There are more than 70 individual accessories, including wheels, colored body panels, roofs and tops, windshields and windscreens, doors, rear panels, covers, protection, winches, plow blades, towing components, electrical, and seat covers.
The air inlet is positioned high under the hood, to help achieve a clean supply of air and top-notch clearance for water fording.
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