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2017 Honda Pioneer 1000 LE Review

Review by Ben Hill, of Team Hunting Illustrated


Recently I had the opportunity to travel to the Texas Hill country to spend a few days with Honda Motorsports at the amazing, 18,000-acre Ox Ranch near Uvalde, TX.  Amidst the backdrop of rugged terrain and exotic safari animals, the 2017 Honda Pioneer 1000 LE (Limited Edition) was unleashed.  I am the first to confess that I am not an expert when interjecting myself in the side-by-side conversation.  However, my unbiased and innocent view of side-by-side machines was quickly slanted towards RED. 

At first glance, the Pioneer 1000 LE easily passed the eye (candy) test.  The typical Honda Red was replaced with a simple yet sexy matte grey metallic finish wrapped in a beefy black bumper and cage protection.  The only hint of red was more of a bold statement, featuring the new FOX QS3 adjustable shocks and A-arms.   Last but not least, the Maxxis Bighorn 2.0 rubber hit the road on a clean set of 14” aluminum rims.  

Some may say otherwise, but I am sharp enough to see that all 4+ seat side-by-sides have their own unique shape and curb appeal.  There is a wide range of appearances out there.  Some are aggressive and mean, some are long and limo-esque, some look boxey, and some simply look just right.  This machine has dialed in a tight clean image while simultaneously flexing muscle and machismo.   I love the way it looks.

I spent the better part of two days behind the wheel tearing up the trails.  Honda was not bashful in selecting routes that would expose all features of the 1000 LE.   In all honesty, the first feature I wanted to check out was the manual shifting paddles on the steering wheel.  This isn’t a new feature for the Pioneer, but I had to try it out.  A simple flick of the on-dash toggle switch gave me all-access manual shifting.  My mind immediately flashed back to my childhood, working the gears on my 85’ Honda FourTrax - Down shifting into tight turns or ramping up for a hill climb brought a smile to my face.  To add to my excitement, I could toggle into auto mode and anytime I wanted to manually shift gears, I had the ability to do it.  Once I changed gears manually for a turn or climb and the manually selected gear would be held for several seconds before the transmission seamlessly reverted back to fully automatic shifting.  Very cool feature.

KWP 3885
KWP 3923
KWP 3938
KWP 3944
KWP 3949
KWP 3960
KWP 3990
KWP 5310

The automatic 6 speed DCT (Dual Clutch Transmission) is legit.  In fact, you can feel the subtle yet powerfully smooth shifting of 6 gears while cruising.  No belts to worry about or burn up.   Just solid steel gears delivering uninterrupted power from the 999 cc liquid-cooled, twin-cylinder engine.   Don’t worry, I am not going to attempt to sell you on engine specs that I know very little about.  But I am going to tell you that the engine output from this machine is undeniably powerful.  Honda Motor Sports is known worldwide for their reliable pump station.  No additional commentary is needed, case closed on the Pioneer 1000 LE motor and powertrain.

The newest feature introduced on this machine is the I-4WD technology.  I = Intelligent.  In technical terms, “I-4WD incorporates the industry’s first off-road brake traction control system to manage the amount of slip between left and right front wheels, applying torque to the wheel with greater grip.  The result is excellent traction performance in tough off-road conditions, with reduced steer effort and kickback compared to standard diff-lock.”

A very simple yet functional feature of the I-4WD technology is the hill-start assist.  We all know the situation, during a hill climb you unexpectedly have to stop.  This feature eliminates the anxiety of releasing the break and rushing to get back on the gas.  With your foot on the brake, press the hill-start button on the dash and calmly slide your foot over to the accelerator.  The brake will be held automatically giving you a few seconds to ease into your acceleration and continue your climb.  Of course, experienced drivers may find this silly but I picture my wife or another inexperience driver in this situation and I can appreciate the new technology.

I trust the fine folks at Honda and their technical explanation and confidence in the I-4WD technology.  In my own words, this machine was easy and comfortable to handle.  I felt like I had complete control of this machine during all breaking, climbing, and cornering.  We rode over some very rough terrain at a substantial pace.  There were several other drivers that I actually had trouble keeping up with.  We were putting these machines through a serious workout.  I never felt like I was wrestling with the machine to keep it on the trail.  After a long day of hard core driving I didn’t feel beat up or fatigued.

In addition to the I-4WD, the new FOX QS3 shocks on all 4’s adds a touch of coolness and definite comfort.  Each shock can be adjusted from firm to soft ride with the turn of a dial on each shock.  No tools needed, within a minute you can change the feel of your ride.   The front shocks provide 10.6” of travel and 10” on the rear.  I did not experience a “bottom out” when rolling through deep dips while moving at substantial speeds.  I do recall a rather obnoxious section of trail that was loaded with rock chatter.   During this time, I had the good fortune of cruising with the lead engineer of the Pioneer 1000 LE project.  During a scheduled pit stop, he says to me, “Hey check this out.”  Very simple solution to my teeth rattle, dial each shock to the soft setting, problem solved.   

The Pioneer 1000 LE comes in 2 seating configurations, the base LE version features seating for 3 plus full-time cargo bed.  The 1000-5 LE version has 3 front seats and 2 quickflip convertible seats in the back that can transform into a cargo bed.  Either way you go you can comfortably fit three adults in the front and take advantage of the functional cargo bed. 

Dear fellow hunters and sportsman:  I am very familiar with the demands to get your machines in and out of gnarly situations when hunting or scouting.  This machine features 2000 LB towing capacity and 1000 LB payload rating.  The Pioneer 1000-5 LE five seater can easily transform the rear seats into a large cargo bed.  We were easily able to pile several fat harvested hogs in the back.  No doubt this machine can handle the needs of the most extreme sportsman.  The I-4WD will ensure you can grind your way through just about any terrain.  The cargo bed functionality can haul any reasonable load of meat and horns back to civilization.  If there is an adequate trail this machine can get you in and out, no doubt about it.

Overall, the Honda 1000 LE side by side is a very impressive machine.  The motor/techie innovations from Honda Motor Company are undeniable.  Most of the technology may be over my head but there are a few facts I can vouch for.  This machine is an absolute pleasure to drive.  The fit and feel behind the wheel is comfortable.  All of the dash features were intuitive and simple.  The power delivered was more than adequate for any sporting side by side.  After two days of riding, I was anxious for more.  There is no doubt that this machine could not only survive but dominate the mountain in search of big game.  When doing your homework for your first or next side by side, the Honda Pioneer LE should be on your short list.