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2011 Can-Am Commander X Test Drive



One of the more exciting phone calls I’ve ever received was the one from a representative of BRP in April asking if I’d be interested in testing “a new Can-Am product”. They wouldn’t tell me anything more than we were to meet in Brawley California, and have a testing session in Glamis. The crew that was coming to the session had never stepped foot in Glamis before, so I was asked to lead the team to a remote camp area and show them around. I was delighted! We’ve known for some time that BRP was going to be coming out with a UTV and I knew what this was all about! I was so excited that I lost sleep day dreaming about what this machine was going to be like. Having prior knowledge of Can-Am products, I had a really good feeling what I was about to learn about would likely change the UTV game as we know it!

I set out to Brawley the night before we were to meet on a Thursday morning at 6:00am. After meeting the crew for an introduction and breakfast, we hit the road to Glamis. I took them to get passes, and then to a private campground where we would have some privacy. While they were unloading, I was in such suspense that I wanted it to last. I wanted the overall package of what they were about to present to be a total surprise, so I went back to my truck and geared up for the day.

I walked up to the Can-Am rig about the time they were rolling the Commander X out of the trailer! The machine had a disguise similar to what you might see a new automobile wearing while out testing. The first things I noticed were its yellow trimmings. Sticking out like a sore thumb under the disguised UTV were 12” beadlock wheels with yellow lock rings! These are the same wheels we’re used to seeing on the Renegade. Looking up from the wheels and Maxis Bighorn tires, I see that they’re sporting matching yellow springs on Fox piggy back shocks. Looking down from there, what’s this, trailing arms? No way! In the first few minutes of looking at this machine, I knew that BRP had done their homework, and this was going to be an epic day!

Looking around the rear wheel wells I noticed that this UTV has one rear disk brake mounted on one wheel. “We’ve got a live rear end”. This, the trailing arms, the visco-lock front diff, the Renegade beadlocks……… WAIT! “What’s under the hood”? Could it be the V-Twin Rotax 800cc engine currently used in the Outlander, Renegade’s, and the Rhino :)? I had to know and I had to know immediately. I asked one of the crew members if we could remove the hood and take a look. He obliged and began pulling the cowl off. Yup! I guessed it! There sat an 800cc V-Twin Rotax. WAIT! “How big is it”? What graced my ears right then and there sealed the deal that the Commander was going to be a performer. “It’s a 1000cc’s”, replied a Can-Am rep. I was giddy with excitement. I had no question that what I was about to drive was going to be the most exciting UTV ever to come out of a manufacturer! For those who don’t know, I’m a big Rotax fan. The 800cc V-Twin has been swapped into Yamaha Rhino’s for years, and they’ve proven to be extremely reliable, while being one of the fastest naturally aspirated UTV’s ever.

“Is this thing gassed up? When can I drive it”? Oh wait. I should probably check out the interior and body styling first. The Commander X that I was looking at was still wearing it’s disguise. I was told they would remove it for me for a few minutes only, and the cover would have to go back on for our ride.
I jumped into the driver’s seat and began to get a feel for the interior. The first thing I noticed was the yellow trimmed seats. “These are good looking and very comfortable”, I thought. The seating position was also very comforting. I felt low to the ground with good pedal position, and a great overall feel! The digital gauge readout is behind the steering wheel, and it moves up and down with the Commander’s tilt steering. Nice touch BRP. The instrumentation and dash layout, along with the full center console has the look and feel of a sports car. The console houses 2 cup holders, a sporty passenger grab handle, and the shifter. The Can-Am also has very nice side nets. I normally find side nets to be hard to use and annoying. Not these. The front of the side net has a frame of sorts and a buckle similar to a seatbelt. The latch is stationary on the frame making securing the net almost effortless. Again, nice touch BRP!

“Alright, let’s get a look at this thing”! I took a few steps back as the covers were being removed. Once the front cover was removed I saw a style that I was familiar with and love. The projector headlights and buckets looks just like a Renegade. The styling is like nothing we’ve seen on a UTV. It looks fast! The yellow and black hood opens accessing the radiator, overflow tank, and the neatly tucked away air box. Looking down the sides I notice factory nerf bars, or rock sliders. Moving onto the back I notice the styling in the rear is also different than what we’re used to seeing. Again, it looks sporty, but something’s different? Upon further inspection I see that the bed tilts! “Awesome, we have a true sport-utility here”! The bed looks big and useful. In the bottom of the bed there is what I would call a false floor. When you pull it up you’ll find a ton more storage space underneath. This area can also be accessed from the rear of the bed, under the tailgate.

Time to drive it! We geared up and put the first two Commanders to ever ride in Glamis to work! I strapped in, turned the key on, and pushed the start button on the dash. I immediately heard a sound I’m familiar with. The smooth rumble of the Rotax V-Twin under my right foot! I checked the shifter for gear selection. Shifting from park to high, I noticed the shifting is very smooth and the clutch is silent. The throttle response is quick utilizing drive by wire technology.

I took my time idling the machine through the flats and into the virgin dunes. There was not a track out there on this particular Thursday! The dunes were extremely soft, and the transitions were sharp. Being used to a long travel UTV, I was a bit nervous at first. Leading the group into the dunes I pushed the 4wd button and started making some lines. The first thing I noticed was the performance of the suspension. Transitions were smoother and more stable than I’m used to in a stock width machine. The Fox shocks and trailing arm suspension soaked up the g-out ‘s with ease. Once we hit part of sand highway I was able to get a feel for how it would work in the whoops. I turned down Sand Highway and let her rip! The acceleration was amazing. I was doing 50 in no time and headed towards some gnarly whoops. Instead of slowing down, I let them have it. 50+ MPH, and straight as an arrow over some of the larger whoops you’ll see in the dunes.

I took the Can-Am reps up and over to the Osborn Overlook. The Commander did awesome in the big dunes. It was incredibly fast through the bowls, and went over the sharp razorbacks with ease. The power and acceleration is amazing! Standing on the gas in this machine is a rush to say the least. I’ve driven every stock UTV out there, and this one is the fastest by far! We stopped to take a break and check out the view. Getting out of the Commander and trying to explain my built up excitement to 3 people who speak very little English was interesting. The language barrier took a bit of getting used to, but I think everyone knew how I felt by the size of the ridiculous smile on my face! One of the gentlemen spoke English and he took note of nearly everything I had to say about the UTV. After a short break, I suggested that we head down to the sand drags to open this thing up and see just how fast it would go in the sand. We took a spirited ride over to the drags and I took a few laps to get a feel for the bumps. I found a line with no bumps and let her rip. The car accelerated up to 50 in what felt like no time and kept pulling all the way up to 65mph. I think it had a couple more in it. It will likely be in the 70mph range with a set of paddles or on hard pack.

On our drive back to camp I decided we couldn’t leave without taking the guys to Oldsmobile Hill. There, I could also get a feel for the Commanders hill climbing performance. We weaved our way through the dunes and over to Olds. When we got to the bottom, the Can-Am boys were a bit taken by it. They asked me if I was seriously going to climb it. I said, “Of course I am! I’m not passing up this opportunity” I buckled in and took a medium pace through the whoops and then stood on it! Going up the right side of the hill felt very fast and instead of slowing down over the top, it maintained most of its speed. I then took it over to the not so steep side where everyone gets their speed numbers from. This time I hammered it through the bumps and stood in it as hard as I could. I was shocked to look down at the gauges and see that I was going 50mph over the top of the hill. This UTV means business!

It dawned on me that we used to have fun driving UTV’s 35mph down the drags only a few years ago. The same UTV’s were lucky to even get over the top of the hill, let alone at 50mph! This sport has progressed so far in 4 years that I cannot even vision what it could be like in 4 more. These things might have wings and we can fly them to the dunes!

My overall experience testing the Commander X was unbelievable. Having had some experience with Can-Am products in the past, I expected something nice that would definitely have some horsepower under the hood. What I saw and drove was a great looking machine that’s been so well thought out, I couldn’t find any one thing I didn’t like about it. I was asked what I did not like about it, and I honestly had to take a moment to go back over the unit one more time. All I could come up with was, “well, I guess the muffler could look sportier”. I believe that what I drove that day is going to be the UTV that sets the pace in today’s UTV market. This is what the people have asked for, and they got it. I did some thinking about all the major complaints from UTV owners and by the looks and performance of the new Commander, BRP did some thinking to.

Specifications
http://www.commanderforums.org/forums/can-am-commander-news/105-2011-can-am-commander-1000-family.html

Thanks to Jon Crowley of www.UTVGuide.net for putting in a good word for me, and Can-Am for making this opportunity possible!



Brian Bush
www.UTVForums.net
www.UTVRacing.com
 

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Well Brian, Lance has his Rhintax, but I will have the commander x sitting right next to it....can't wait for the dealer to call & tell me Come & Get It......Barbara
 

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Congrats on your purchase Barbara! You're going to love it!
Thanks for the in depth test drive article....what you say about the sxs is 100% better then any ad that Can-Am could put out considering how hard you drive your Rhino....one of my 1st purchases will be Muzzy's exhaust......Thanks Again
 

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Great Review Brian. We especially love the 2" cage as Axia Alloys already has a full line of rollcage accessories available for it.
 

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Cool pictures bro! That day had to have been a blast. Thanks for sharing your experience with us and I hope you have many more of these :)
 

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Here is what HUNTERWORKS have to say about them, and he knows the Rzr:

"
Can Am Commander UTV
I have been about to bust for so long about the Can Am Commander. I had the opportunity to be a beta tester like a few others and spend quite a few hours in the seat of all the models.
When we got to test ride the vehicles we had the competition there to ride as well. When you ride one vehicle say a month apart from another brand vehicle they all ride the same but when you can get out of one and right in another the differences become so apparent. Right from the beginning I knew the Commander was totally different, it feels like it has long travel when it does not. I have never been able to drive across terrain as fast as I could with the Commander. The rear swing arm suspension just soaks it up.
I rode all the models from 800 to 1000X and they all handle and ride great. I remember after riding the Commander for the first time and then getting into a Rhino I thought I had it in low range. The dash was in metric so I didn't know how fast I was going, I actually pulled over to check. The power and speed is just that much of a difference. Me and another test rider drag raced the Commander 1000 against a RZR and there just was no comparison, the Commander simply just left it. Comparing the suspension of the Commander X to the RZR S again was no comparison, the Commander's suspension just soaks up whatever you want to give it. I can tell you I was trying to just break the unit when I was testing, I ran it so hard and totally abused it and it just keep on giving back. The rear swing arm suspension with Fox shocks is so predictable and plush without the feeling of being too soft. I can tell you a heap of thought goes into one of these vehicles, they just don't throw one together.
The basic difference in the lowest 800 model and the 1000 X is just tires, wheels and engine, the dimensions are the same. Do not think if you buy the 800 model you will be settling, it will still outperform anything else out there.
A couple years ago I collected some data on our forum about how to make the perfect UTV, this information was given to Can Am so they could hear from the end user and they applied it. It is hard to remember all the details at this point but I can tell you every decision on every part of it has been thru with a fine tooth comb. I remember one detail that is good compared to others. The air filter is under the front hood and the intake is ran from under the dash of the passenger side of vehicle in the cab. This should keep the dirt and water ingestion to a minimum. The bed is a very unique, the bed has a bed under the bed and it is also a dry storage area. The storage area under the bed is sealed off with rubber gaskets and it also has a removable section between the bed and under bed storage to make for a very large compartment.
The seats are the most comfortable I have ever ridden in and they come out of the vehicle and can be placed on the ground to be used as a camp chair by design. The engine in the 1000 is a 800 Rotax stroked to make it a 996 and it just plain powerful. I think the clutching is off on the 1000CC but spot on, on the 800cc. They told me if they clutched it differently all you would do is spin with all the power it has. I say let it spin!! Of course the aftermarket will take care of this!!
I remember the seat belts being comfortable too and the ergonomics of all controls very good.
Unless they changed something top speed was 70mph and there is no rev limiter. The way they control this is by the throttle blade opening since it is a throttle by wire instead of a cable. So at 70mph the throttle just stops opening, it will vary its’ opening to maintain 70 mph if you hold it there but no missing or cutting out which is much nicer.
What I can tell you is, it is the most advanced UTV I have ever ridden, it is the best handling UTV I have ever ridden and the most powerful UTV I have every ridden, and just like Can Am is known for, you open the box and it is ready to go. I could take a bone stock 1000 X model and win all the races if I could just stay away from the trees I am known to hit.
If I had anything negative to say about the unit it would be these two points. Just like every other UTV the steering rack is the weak point but the aftermarket will fix that. The other thing is I am not a fan of the under bed storage compartment but only cause it will limit the use of a dual exhaust which will be a much desired item."


;)


 

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Discussion Starter #11
Thanks Troy! I cannot wait for some more seat time myself! The Commander is a serious performer in the sand dunes!
 

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Iam looking forward to getting a ride in on it at ST. Anthony dunes on the 25th of June. The last time I was there I bloow the engine in my Suzie the 2nd day we were there and cut my trip short we were going to be there 10 days but I cought the first bus home to Seattle and thats why I am in Montana.
 

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Damn you Brian... You lucky SOB. Well all I can say is that Roger loves his Rhino now. But now im in the market to get a SxS because of some medical probs. Ill have to give you a call someday and see whats up with this dream machine. Cant wait to see a LSR kit on the Commander.
 
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