Honda invited Dirt Wheels to several
fun and informative days at the Ox
Ranch working the 2017 Pioneers. We
concentrated on the Pioneer 700-4
Deluxe while on the 33-mile loop that
Honda and Ox Ranch guides had laid
out. With 18,000 acres to play in, the
loop encompassed a great variety of
terrain that was representative of what
an owner might encounter. We had no
sand dunes or gumbo, but if you wanted an abundance of rocks, hills, cacti
and shallow creek crossings, as well
as ample animal viewing opportunities,
it was unbeatable.
WHY NOT A PURE SPORT UTV?
While the biggest and baddest sport
UTVs get more than their share of
glory in the pages of most enthusiast
press, the numbers tell a different story.
According to Honda’s research, as the
UTV market has evolved, the combined
number of utility- and sport-model
side-by-sides sold doesn’t match the
number of multipurpose UTV sales
(though sport SxS sales numbers nowadays nearly match those of Utes).
Thus, while Honda certainly has the
technology to produce a competitive
sport side-by-side, for “Big Red,” it
makes more economic sense to con-
centrate efforts on the multipurpose
segment of the market, which it claims
to own with the multiple Pioneer
models built in Timmonsville, South
Carolina. Breaking that down further,
the multipurpose market is divided into
three categories, with mid-size and
full-size side-by-sides posting nearly
equal sales numbers, both dwarfing
the sub-500cc segment.
The 2014 700 was Honda’s first
Pioneer, and it fits right into the
popular mid-size UTV slot. While
still powered by a liquid-cooled,
overhead-valve, 675cc, single-cyl-
inder engine with fully automatic
transmission, it’s available in four
configurations now—base 700, 700-4
(with room for up to four passengers)
and the new Deluxe version of both.
It earned a number of improvements
for 2017 Deluxe editions. Among these
is electric-assist power steering and
a dual-mode transmission, which features a fully automatic mode, as well
as manual mode with paddle shifters
activating the electronic shifting.
Conveniently, the driver can instantly
override the auto mode on the fly by
hitting either paddle, making it the
best of both worlds.
If you want to up the pace a little, the 700-4 is more than willing to follow suit with
decent power over a broad spread, an automatic transmission that almost reads
your mind and suspension that is up to the task, especially on smoother two-track.
The dash in the 700-4 Deluxe is simple—start the engine; choose automatic transmission (AT) or manual transmission (MT) mode; pick 2WD, 4WD or 4WD with diff-lock; and then put it in drive (or reverse). After playing a bit in MT, we left the knob
in AT since you can still hit the paddle shifters for manually executed up- or downshifts on the fly.