Two years ago, BRP officials confirmed that the company was developing a UTV as part of its Can-Am brand and strongly hinted that it would have a performance slant. That touched off rumors that have swirled for 24 months – until now, when they’ve been replaced by facts.
In May, the new Can-Am Commander — available with a 71-hp 800-class engine or an 85-hp, 1000-class engine – was unveiled to the off-road media, with a public launch in early June. With its release, the Commander 1000 became the highest output mass-produced UTV on the market, but there’s a lot more to this machine than just strong powerplants.
“It’s a true Can-Am,” said BRP President and CEO José Boisjoli, adding that the handling, power and technology of the new Commander will make a mark on the UTV industry. “Our goal is to be No. 1, not for the ATV or UTV industry, but for the true enthusiast.”
While many were expecting a vehicle somewhat patterned after Polaris’ ultra-popular, sporty Ranger RZR, the Commander chassis is dimensionally more similar to a Kawasaki Teryx, with a 118.3-inch length and 58.6-inch width. It also features a unique and sizeable two-level cargo box in the rear, a 1,500-pound towing capacity and a rugged chassis featuring a solid center I-beam – Can-Am engineers didn’t forget that the U in UTV stands for utility.
From the cockpit, however, the machine’s playful nature becomes apparent. The Commander features the best stock seats we’ve ever tested in a mass-produced UTV. The seating position is lower than in a Teryx or Rhino, but taller than an RZR. Tilt wheel, quick-attach side nets, passenger grab bar, dual cup holders and high-end gauges are standard equipment.
The machine starts using a sports-car-like push-button ignition switch in the dash. Both the 800- and 1000-class twin-cylinder engines rumble to life with the low, almost V-8-like sound of a Can-Am Renegade or Outlander 800R. The power hit, particularly with the 1000, is strong right off the bottom end.
BRP engineered a lot of technology into their new flagship Commanders, including a throttle-by-wire Intelligent Throttle Control (iTC) system that allows the driver to choose between two different driving modes utilizing a dash-mounted toggle switch. In the Sport mode, the gas pedal and fuel injectors seem connected, meaning any movement of the throttle will result in a rapid reaction by the machine. When driven in the normal mode over bumpy terrain, however, the iTC system takes out most of the herky-jerky feeling felt in most UTVs due to the driver’s unintended foot movements.
Also, the Commander will come standard with two keys, and a third key is also available. The black key allows the owner full access to the engine’s capabilities. The grey key limits top speed to 44 mph. An optional third key, colored orange, limits top speed to 25 mph – an important consideration for worksite applications.
The Commander utilizes a dual A-arm front suspension and BRP’s unique TTi rear suspension, each offering 10 inches of quality travel. Four-wheel drive is available at the push of another dash-mounted button, and the front differential uses Can-Am’s Visco-Lok system. We found the Commander to be very agile for such a big machine when hucking it through the woods at a private ride site north of Montreal.
Can-Am claims the Commander features industry-leading fuel mileage (18.6 mpg on the 1000, 19.7 mpg with the 800) and easily the longest range in the industry, thanks to a 10.6 gallon fuel tank.
The base Commander 800 retails for $11,699 (U.S. dollars), while the 1000 carries a $12,799 MSRP. Much like their ATVs, Can-Am will also offer upgrade packages. The Commander XT ($13,199 in the 800; $14,299 in the 1000) comes with a 4,000-pound winch, upgraded tires, wheels and gauges, a rugged bumper, bed rails and mud guard, and a leather-covered steering wheel. The Commander 1000 X ($14,699) comes with Fox HPG piggyback shocks, upgraded tires, wheels and gauge, rock sliders, X-package graphics and a heavy-duty bumper and leather steering wheel cover.
BRP officials said the Commander will be available by late summer or early fall across North America, but only at select dealers – not all Can-Am dealers will sell (or want to sell) the new UTV product.
In the profitable parts and accessories business, Can-Am is launching its new Commander with 55 available accessories – from roofs and windshields to lights, bumpers, plows and more – and another 44 accessories will be available by next June, according to Can-Am Parts, Accessories and Clothing Product Manager Paul Prudhomme.
At the same event, BRP officials also took the wraps off the rest of the 2011 Can-Am lineup, and it features two headline grabbing additions:
• The Can-Am Outlander 800R EFI X mr ($13,099 MSRP) is designed to be the ultimate box-stock mud machine in the market. It comes standard with super-aggressive, 30-inch Gorilla Axle Silverback tires; an air-control suspension that can raise the machine’s ground clearance to 14 inches when fully extended; an integrated snorkel system, with raised intake and exhaust for the CVT, and intake for the engine; raised and tilted rear footpegs for mud riding; dual-mode dynamic power steering; and a radiator that’s relocated to the front rack.
• The Can-Am “Outlander 800R EFI X xc ($12,449), featuring the high-end shocks, dual-mode power steering, the fast-engaging Visco-Lok QE front differential, a half-inch front sway bar, a heavy-duty front bumper and other features. It plays off the success of the Renegade 800R X xc model, which was recently named ATV Magazine’s 2010 ATV Of The Year. psb
Copyright 2010 Powersports Business