As if I didn’t have enough to be excited about when I first started as editor of this magazine, this screamingly new Can-Am trail beast was charmingly sitting in LC media’s garage, waiting for me to muster up enough courage to try and push it as far as it was capable of. I knew I had that important responsibility now, of bringing it up there, where it truly shines. Leaving everyone and everything else behind in a cloud of dust, I pushed the beautiful stealthy looking beast, to fully understand it.
The Renegade 800 was at that time still creating quite a stir with its very new and differently bold aggressive power and looks. With it, Can-Am was delving into a new world, bringing all wheel traction to sport riding and solving the problem of demands for more power, by giving the off-road public more than they could ever fully harness. This was obviously not a machine aimed at the masses; demanding of a previous knowledge in diverse types of quads and their different driving aspects.
It is clear that it is absolutely not a quad for beginners, and that it can be extremely dangerous in the event of bad rider judgement or piloting error. When one finally reaches a point where he can overcome the feeling of being driven instead of driving, this ride defies the feeling of a heavyweight 4×4, with enormous power and the snappy type of throttle response and acceleration, usually only found on lightweight 450 racing quads, and this, only the very wise can safely manage. For a guy like me, for whom it all started on 3 wheels a very long time ago, I had just scored it big, and this thing was just heaven sent!
Great across the board
Funny how time flies when you’re having fun! Now a year later, that beast still serves as our backup ride for every outing and/or photo shoot we go out on. Mostly just to carry my large body here and about as scout for cool and good-looking spots to ride and shoot. Of course, this means we rode it quite a bit, and hats off to Can-Am for letting us do so. It says a lot on how confident they are in their products. Right off the bat, I will give away the end verdict, so that you can all truly appreciate how much I found this unit to be great overall, before I start pointing out a few pet peeves which are just normal to have, they all do.
Power Wise: perfect! Handling: great. We will have to get back to this subject in more detail later. Is it comfortable? That’s one question left open for discussion also. It could be great for some, ok for others, and maybe pitiful for those who consider getting sprayed in mud inconfortable.
Getting dirty should be in your mind set when opting for this elegant monster, which doesn’t offer much protection from flying mud, water and whatever else you throw yourself into. All this power and 4 x 4 capabilities are bound to have you searching for opportunities to throw yourself in huge mud holes, just because you can. We surely did, and never needed a winch. We also pushed it to the max on a long stretch of flat gravel trail connecting two systems through an open field, where it took me up to 119 km/h and a tinier guinea pig up to 122. Imagine my surprise when first hearing the news that the 09 version had 9% more power. The very advanced chassis and suspension package is certainly good for it, but it’s the riders I’m starting to worry about.
Like no other
Not once did this mega powerful mill complain with abnormal noises, overheating, stalling, faltering under our aggressive thumbs’demands. This 800cc V-TWIN Rotax engine has massive amounts of torque and a very generous amount of horsepower. It is very adequately fed by an electronic fuel injection system with a 46mm throttle body and two Siemens VDO injectors. The throttle response can be scary for some, and the whole ride’s feel and physiognomy needs some getting used to, even for experienced riders. Thing is, there was never a 4×4 ATV with that much power.
All of its innovative technologies work amazingly great individually and as a whole. The TTI rear suspension system with a single arm allows the wheel to travel in a perfectly straight motion, which eliminates trail scrub throughout the stroke. Camber changes are no more with this ingenious set-up and we think it is by far the most advanced and efficient system on the market. The Single Spar frame design is also a wonderful thing which makes the whole ride solid as a rock while staying fairly light. Not only is it built like no other, but it leaves others struggling to keep up. The Visco-lok traction control system is also quite fancy and effective in most trail riding situations and takes care of engaging traction to the front wheels automatically when needed. This does mean that it can many times feel more like a 3WD than 4WD. I didn’t hate its behaviour in very deep snow, but Fitto, my companion did.
The front pulling from side to side as the wheels constantly look for grip Independent, was sometimes insufficient and annoying to him. I was clearly faster than him on the Sportsman 850 XP in many drag races in untouched grounds with 3 feet of snow. We kind of wished we had a button we could push to fully lock up the front on a few occasions like when we would attack challenging climbs, but it was great to let it do its thing when riding through series of very different surface types in tight sequence. From hard to soft snow for example, or from dry dirt to wet mud, you get to just have fun playing the throttle through all of it. I personally felt there were more advantages than disadvantages to this system.
The specially designed ITP tires were amazing on all the many surfaces we rode on. A little less aggressive sidewall thread would help the handling in tighter situations. Sliding the back wasn’t always easy; the beast had a tendency to quickly gain momentum, a bit too much for my taste, in very tight trails.
I want my maintenance please
At around the 500 km mark, our loyal new friend told us it was due for maintenance with a scrolling message on its digital display. The 2008 Can-Am Renegade 800 is also equipped with an on board diagnostic center. This is certainly something you could leave to the experts at your local dealer, but just so you know, you can pull codes from your machine. This is quite simply done by turning your key to have the lights on, setting the multifunction gauge to engine hours and pressing and holding the selector button while quickly toggling the HI-LO beam 3 times. Keep your finger on the selector until ACTIVE P_CODE shows up on the gauge. If there are any fault codes to be read, they will begin with a P followed by 4 numbers. Otherwise the word END will appear. To exit this diagnostic mode, press and hold the selector button again for 2 seconds. There are 60 possible fault codes. Sadly, without a shop manual, you can’t interpret the code but you shouldn’t have any trouble finding out what they mean on the web. It took only a few minutes to get the belt cover off, to discover a very clean environment inside and a very healthy belt.
Very few glitches
After the small rear storage box opened on its own a few times, we were scared to use it, so we emptied the contents and never again trusted it. The rims are also quite weak and we pumped up pressure to 15 lbs. in the front tires to protect them.
A small, but sometimes annoying problem was the sticking shifter; rocking the machine while giving the shifter a quick jerk, always solved this small but annoying problem. I would say that the shifter and wheels were the only things I didn’t agree at all with. It’s much stiffer to operate than any we have tried, and personally, I would prefer it to be on the left, so I could switch to low in a quicker manner without having to totally let go of the throttle when for example: I am right in the middle of climbing some gnarly steep and rocky incline, that gradually gets worse than I thought it would be.
Fact is that the low gear choice becomes almost crucial when climbing up steep hills, since throttle response is so aggressive it could easily send you flying backwards. In this type of challenge, the 2008 Can-Am Renegade 800 can be a handful and the front end can feel quite light if you’re just gunning it up there in High gear. Long and steep climbs are not something we recommend you challenge at all with any quad, but if you still end up having to do it, you will be much better off taking it easy in Low and let the Visco-lok do its magic. Trust me you don’t want that thing to flip over you. It’s not that it is any heavier than it should be; for such a big bore 4×4 quad, it’s actually pretty light at 270 kg (597 lbs), which is a little less than a Grizzly 700. You just need to stay aware of this extra weight factor and not be as bold as you would be on a 450 2wd racer.
Trust me, you don’t want to get a stuck throttle with this baby, something that did happen to us on only one particularly intense cold morning after a much warmer day. It was a quick and easy fix, as just a few sequential jerks were needed to free it back up to normal operation, so you might want to give it a little try before putting it in gear when it is very cold.
Despite these few things that could be improved on, I’m in love with this beautiful machine! But I might just cheat on her a little and try to get my hands on that 9% more powerful 2009 version.
For more information on the above mentioned models, please visit the Can-Am Off-Road Website