In recent years BRP has impressed media representatives by organizing events that had a grand feeling about them. Not only were the new models and upgrades to existing models numerous, but the places we were invited to ride them, were almost just as impressive. This time around it all seemed toned down a little, in more basic surroundings and familiar feeling trails near Albany New York, where a few of the vehicles presented thoroughly impressed us with amazing performance characteristics.
WHERE ARE THE QUADS?
The fact that no sport quads could be seen on the premises was of course a big disappointment to me and I’m sure to a few of the younger media invited representatives. This was a far cry from last year’s event in B.C., where we were graced with access to too many DS 450 units to be blasted around the Wastelands MX Park track, host of many ATV and Motocross race events, as we pleased. No Renegade, no DS, even Outlander quads were rare, but a fair number of Side x Side vehicles, in keeping with the trends and aiming to please a new kind of client, were beautifully parked in showroom configurations on the pristinely green grass. The four-seat Maverick 1000 Max was the obvious star of that show. Quite sneakier was the new 60 inch wide Maverick 1000, harder to spot among its peers, but which would turn out to be the one that I was most impressed with in the end. More than ever, suspension is the key to enabling more power to be used safely. My trail time in the narrower Maverick 1000 was so cool that I sort of didn’t really miss riding BRP’s awesome Can-Am ATV offerings. Besides, with all that has been done recently by those talented engineers at BRP on the ATV side, we can’t complain. So if you have no interest in Side x Side vehicles, you might get a bit bored with this article at some point. ATV fans know this; 2014 Can-Am ATV offerings stay all the same as their 2013 versions. Outlander 4×4 quads got a total makeover that year, first big change in looks in a long time, obviously influenced by the success of the Renegade’s facia. The most recent new model is the Outlander 650 X-mr, which really tickles us, but sadly there was no copy of one for us to get dirty with at this press event. Instead, a basic Outlander was outfitted with a new radiator relocation kit and snorkel system that they now offer, which means anyone can now get that true mud-ready performance from their Outlander. We tried to get our hands on that sole unit, but it was a coveted item and anyway, we sort of got enthralled by that whole Sport Side x Side thing. I’m still as passionate about ATVs as ever, but those new Maverick Side by Side vehicles are just so awesome to play in! Still, the fact that many sport quad models have recently gone out of production has greatly saddened me and it is surprising as well as encouraging to know that Can-Am still has all three DS 450 models in production. Both the DS 450 and the DS 450 X xc have the same features as in 2012 and the motocross track-ready X mx, the same as 2013.
Come to think about it, there weren’t many Commander units either. One, was profusely equipped with all the niceties you can think of and in showroom condition, and not to be driven, but also another was there, just waiting for it, equipped with BRP’s all-new Apache 360 LT track system. This new obstacle-destroying accessory might be a bit costly, but it is easily installed in about 20 minutes, to transform your Can-Am into the ultimate rough terrain conquering machine. This one we drove through what little mud we could find, and the ease of steering for such a setup was surprisingly smooth and efficient. Many improvements were done to this radical traction upgrade, which by the way, won’t ruin your BRP warranty. Things like double bearings with twin seals for more reliability or improved flotation with a new track with a bigger contact patch and a true 4-seasons all-terrain type of design, make the Apache 360 LT, available for Can-Am Commander and Can-Am Outlander, a very tempting upgrade for hard workers and hard players alike. On top of this, the Can-Am Apache 360 LT track system comes with an electronic DPS module that will not only boost the assistance on your Tri-mode power-steering system, but also recalibrate your speedometer to tell your true speed.
A NARROWER MAVERICK
Everybody was curious about that new 60 inch wide Maverick 1000 X-xc, so it was hard to get our hands on one of the few units but I was patient and was rewarded with a freshly power-washed and beautiful red, white and black version. The seat feels as good as ever, the press of the big round button in the middle of the dash just as satisfying as it struggles a tad, to churn that big V-twin and explode it to life with a short but menacing deep growl. I’m getting used to this higher and further back seating position and this one I expected to become tricky to control under power in turns, a racer’s move only, since it is so narrow. Well it took just one single turn to get me feeling just as comfortable to perform as a test driver than with the X rs. I was truly impressed with the handling similarity, despite the non-negligible width difference. The trail tightens and twists as I keep the pace steady, fast, and fun. I soon realize that the extra room to move permits me to choose different spots in the width of the trail, so I am more able to smooth out the ride by aiming my wheels around rocks and bumps. The Tri-Mode Dynamic Power Steering (DPS) makes that type of quick manoeuvering easier, but I still preferred its lowest assistance level to stay more connected with the ground under me. The vehicle is doing so well that I find myself having to process my overconfidence and constantly remind myself of the possibility that a fellow Side x Side driver might be having the same struggles, blasting towards me in the opposite direction. I slam on the brakes, pretending that I did spot another fast Maverick’s headlights around the next bend. I tuck it in towards the right edge of the trail and paying attention to how efficient and under control that sort of a panic-induced move can be, I had done the same with the full-size X rs not so long ago, and was expecting this one to scare me some. What a champ! This Maverick is truly deserving of its X xc denomination! Sticking to the ground like glue. Snaking its way up tight challenging trails like a mountain deer running from a predator!
The 12-in. aluminum beadlock wheels, custom steering wheel with brushed-aluminium center part and X-package seat trim and graphics of course adorn this vehicle, but surely the main reason why everything goes so well on the trail are the front and rear FOX PODIUM X Performance 2.0 HPG Piggyback shocks with dual-speed compression, rebound and preload adjustments. The Maxxis Bighorn 2.0 tires, which fit this vehicle to a tee, certainly also had something to do with it. Transfer of power to the ground is sharp yet smoothed out by the Intelligent Throttle Control. Sensors detect driver imperfections in foot play and enable the user to choose between two driving modes: a Sport and a new ECO mode, fitted on all Can-Am Side x Side offerings. Simply put, the system provides even smoother output from your gas pedal, so fuel may be conserved and beginning drivers or those wanting to tone down the jerking effect of all that 101 hp of power, can feel more relaxed. It’s not a huge difference but it can be felt. Of course I tried it for a few minutes, and then kept all of them in Sport mode after that, even on the Commander with the tracks. Well, if you put a piece of chocolate cake in front of me, I’m going to eat the whole thing, cake and icing.
In 2006, the Can-Am name was brought back to recapture the spirit of BRP’s performance focused philosophy, aiming to offer superb handling and advanced design that stay unique in the industry to this day. The Renegade was maybe the best tool for them, to ensure a noticeable Can-Am DNA signature with a machine that is like no other, in more ways than just looks. I have to commend BRP engineers for achieving the same kind of great distinction in the field of Side x Side vehicle design with the already numerous Commander and Maverick offerings. Yes, others are also offering a fine mix of high-performance, comfort and safety, but a Can-Am will always be a Can-Am. Like an American would say with pride that there is nothing like a Harley-Davidson to hit the road, a proud Canadian could say that there is nothing like a Can-Am in the trails. BRP brought Can-Am DNA to the side-by-side market by introducing the 2011 Can-Am Commander with a five model line-up and two engine options. With its creation, they brought forward meaningful innovation and blended convenience and impressively good off-road performance. Shoot forward just a few years and there is now a total of 10 different Side x Side vehicles to choose from at your Can-Am dealer; even more if you count in the fact that the Commander, Commander DPS and XT units are offered with both the 800 and 1000 engines. New for 2014 is the Commander XT-P, which adds toughness for those who know they expect a lot from this efficient terrain conqueror. Heavy-duty bumpers, mudguards, rock sliders and beadlock wheels not only turn your Commander into an even more capable ride, but it makes it look really awesome. Its painted black plastic also takes it up a notch on looks. More important in a driving sense are the added front swaybar, the Visco-lok QE (Quick Engaging) and Fox Podium X Performance RC2.0 HPG piggyback shocks with dual speed compression, rebound and preload adjustments. A 4,000-lbs Warn winch with roller fairlead and integrated wired remote control is also thrown into this sweet package.
The general feel of a Maverick is just as satisfying as a Sunday drive in something like a brand- new Chevrolet Corvette or a Dodge Viper. The laid back seating, deep growl of the engine, flashy displays and rows of buttons, fancy racy feeling steering wheel, even the big round start button, blend nicely to heighten the feeling of driving something technologically advanced and valuable. The comfort of the seats, intelligently designed and real easy to click in side-nets, truly completes this circle for a high-quality feel. The glove compartment handle is made too flimsy and sometimes opens by itself, which is just about the only disappointment we encountered in a Maverick. The heat in the cab situation was improved, by adding heat-reflective tape, same goes for the Commander models, which now also all get the Tri-mode DPS and a spiral bevel gear replaces the old straight bevel gear in an updated rear differential. Know that 2014 Commander models also got improvements like a 3D background on the Analog/Digital gauge and meet new ROHVA standards and future EPA / CARB standards.
TO THE MAX
As soon as I had the chance to put my helmet on the dash of a Maverick Max, sort of our way to somewhat reserve a vehicle for a test ride at such events, I did. Before heading out into the woods, all by myself, at the helm of this cool futuristic-looking school bus for trails, as we jokingly called it, the first thing I did was to encourage cooperation between all of us media people. In the spirit of what this vehicle stands for, I asked that all of us try and display it in the pages of our respective magazines, with a full load of avid trail riders enjoying its performance aspects and comfort. Most agreed and this gave me a chance to hop in the back seat and see what that felt like, keeping the best, which is of course driving it, for last. Incredibly my knee caps didn’t bang or rub on anything as I got in, which I can’t say about any other 4-seat Side x Side so far. Once inside I was even more impressed with the fact that I had a few inches to spare between my knees and the back of the front seat, when I was sitting proper like a punished schoolboy facing a corner. Sadly that’s not where your knees stay when your driver is conquering rough terrain with the confidence this vehicle inspires. In a perfect world all manufacturers would add a bit of padding to the lower part of the center beams of the roll cage, just where it counts. Boy is it weird to be looking off to the side and seeing the trail up ahead! Despite the fact that the 113.8 inch wheelbase makes this vehicle rail the trail more than a shorter Maverick, the 101 hp delivered by the 976cc Rotax V-twin is enough to make the rear of the vehicle slide under power, even with a big kid like me in the back. The vehicle has a surprisingly tight turn radius for a four-seater, which combined with the Tri-mode EPS made the counter-steering seem effortless for our driver to bring everything back in line. It was during those intense moments that the handholds became obviously well-positioned and a necessity to feel good about being at the mercy of someone else’s off-road driving talents. Visibility was great for the rear passengers, giving me a heads up a few seconds in advance when my giggling driver decided to shower us completely with brown water, a bit too early in the day for my taste.
Enough of this, I want to ride! Eh drive I mean! This means new yellow dirt eating family machine, I wanted a chance to drive empty also, so to not traumatise anyone with my usual voluntary driving errors and tinkering with the limits only fit for a test driver on the job. It is my responsibility to share as much as I can on the driving knowledge I acquire with my sometimes extreme techniques. This vehicle type is still very new and none can say that they are experts driving it. Crashing, in my mind, is simply not an option when trusted by passengers to keep them safe. So if I am pushing such a vehicle in performance, it’s in the right setting, on familiar ground, alone in the vehicle but with buddies present. Jumping, although clearly not recommend by any manufacturer, seems to be something a lot of users are drawn to do with a Side by Side. First thing I need to say about that is the fact that any such vehicle is not designed for such abuse, and will only survive it if the risky stunt is done perfectly. Throwing it up in the air is easy enough, but making sure it lands well is a whole other thing. Making the vehicle fly straight and level is an absolute must if the landing is to be smooth with all wheels and their respective suspension unit sharing the extreme load. This can only be achieved when the ramp is longer than the vehicle, straight and level. With such a long four-occupant Side x Side, that’s something you will rarely find perfectly prepared for you out in nature. Know that jumping with a two-seat Side x Side is already tricky and that it is much more so with something like this Maverick Max. Commitment is very important, hesitation your worst enemy. You can’t afford to get scared in the ramp and ease off the gas while climbing it! This will slow the rear wheels and send the vehicle into a dangerous nose dive as soon as it leaves the ground. Once all wheels are in the air, it’s pretty much a waiting game and the way you launched up will determine the outcome. It’s important to stay hard on the gas until your rear wheels have left the ground, but it is also important to ease your foot off the pedal before the wheels touch the ground again. Landing too much on the gas can cause a spindle to shear right off a CV joint or worst, damage your differential or other drivetrain parts, no matter what brand your vehicle is. Again, let me underline the importance of manufacturer’s warnings, you can decide to not completely follow those guidelines, but then you can’t turn around and blame them for bad design, if something breaks while performing non-recommended manoeuvres. The best thing to do is just let others try these things and smile at their successes and failures.
To get back to this particularly long Side x Side, which has a bit more wheelbase than the Polaris RZR4 XP 900, and a little less than Arctic Cat’s Wildcat 4 1000, flew nicely. My unit was an X-rs version, meaning it was a bit better-prepared for such childish behaviour with Fox 2.5″ body shocks instead of the 2.0″ found on the basic Maverick Max. The power to weight ratio is a little better on this vehicle, compared to the two others, which made it easier to keep the front end up, but the centered position of the engine makes it a bit more prone to front end diving, while in the air. Everything else like seating comfort, controls and many other fine features are exactly the same as in any other Maverick, nicely done. Another point that I find important for any potential Side x Side buyer to know about the Max, is that once you’re into your bubble and concentrated on using all that performance properly, preferably still well below its full potential, you forget that you’re driving such a large trail conquering vehicle. In other words, you’re not really giving anything up on performance when you choose the Max and that vehicle truly has the potential to positively affect the lives of those dear to you. That should give you a lot to think about.
For more information on the above mentioned models, please visit the Can-Am Off-Road Website