Shannon’s Take on the Trip to Canada with Can-Am

| June 14, 2010 | 1 Comment
Can-Am Commander

Can-Am Commander

Shannon  Bushman –

I love new toys.  I’m just a big kid.  When the phone rang a few months ago and I was invited to join in on the media unveiling of the new Can-Am Commander I felt a little bit like I did in third grade when I suspected I might get a new bike for Christmas.    Just so you know how this works I’ll spell it out.  BRP Can-Am want to get the word out about their new toys right?  So what they do is call up the various media outlets, magazines, TV shows, and yes and  They say “Congratulations you have just won and all expense paid trip to an exotic location where you will get and exclusive sneak peek at some really snazzy toys.  Wanna come?”  Of course there are a few details in this little process.  One is you cannot say a word to anyone, not your wife, your mom, your best buds, NOBODY.  Cross your heart hope to die etc etc.  Well in this case they said we could bring two people and since I am SO much fun at parties I was invited.    Do you know how hard it is to keep a secret like this?  I just wanted to run through the streets yelling “I’ve got a secret, I’ve got a secret”.

Guess what?  I’ve got a Secret, I’ve got a Secret!!!!!
Fairmont Montebello

Fairmont Montbello

Finally the time came and a few weeks ago BRP-Can Am hustled a handful of us off to a secret meeting in the woods of Canada to check out the new Commander side x side.  I have to say this being a media guy thing could be a fun gig.  Getting sneak peaks at cool stuff, trips to cool places, dancing girls.  Anyway, we flew into Montreal Canada a few weeks ago and a took a bus ride a few hours into the sticks to an awesome place, the Fairmont Montbello.  If BRP Can-Am was trying to butter us up to get us to say nice things, well all I can say is they know what works. This place is where Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher ran away together. Maybe it was a G8 meeting, whatever.  Its REALLY nice.  You should go there.

Can-Am Commander 1000 X

Can-Am Commander 1000 X

The night we arrived we were treated to free drinks and food, and did I mention the free drinks?  Yeah that was a staple of pretty much the whole event.  I wasn’t complaining.  Anyway after a fantastic dinner and some boring speeches (aren’t they all?), the new Can -Am Commander was unveiled with all sorts of pomp and circumstance, fireworks,  feinting harlots etc.  Well actually they just dimmed the lights showed us some videos and then drew open the curtain.  But it was pretty cool and by that time I was ready pop.  “Open the curtain already”.  Yeah I was pleasantly surprised and scurried around taking pictures, crawling all over it like a six year old on a jungle gym.  BTW, they get all wiggy when you start disassembling their toys at their party.  Its alright, I didn’t have the right tools anyway.  So I drank some more and went to bed with visions of smashing one of their new toys into a tree at high speed dancing in my head.  Must remember helmet.
Can-Am Commander

Can-Am Commander Line-up

After a huge buffet breakfast we loaded on a prison bus and headed to the woods.  I swear, it looked just like one of those white prison buses.  Maybe it was an old school bus.  But we had a great time making it out like we were headed up the river for the last time.  Chris Farley was our driver.  No he’s not dead, he just moved to Canada.  I think he shares an apartment with Elvis.  Oh yeah back to the woods.  This Fairmont Hotel use to be a private hunting club and as a result it just happens to own 65,000 acres, dozens of awesome fishing lakes and Sporting Clays range (more on this later).   The test riding area we used was way inside of this hunting preserve, literally gated off from the world.  No preying eyes allowed.

When we arrived they had about twenty-ish sparkling new Can-Am Commanders, various flavors and colors.  We were quickly split into manageable (Ha!) groups and herded towards one of three areas.  Riding, Engineering discussions and Accessories.  Oh yeah they had their new ATVs there too but who cares right?
Anywho, we got the Accessories tour first and there are a lot of them.  Fifty Five accessories will be available at launch and another 44 are planned within a year.  I suspect this might change but thats a remarkable number of accessories to hit the market with day one.  Check out the two videos on Accessories with Paul Prudhomme. (yeah I did that, I do all my own stunts).
Can-Am Commander Engineering

Can-Am Commander Engineering Presentation

Next we were treated to a fantastic conversation with Luc Bouchard, Engineering Project manager of the Commander.  Luc is sharp, and articulate and his English is so much better than my French.  He was so good I made him give me the whole pitch again on camera.

Our third stop was the Commander test riding. Now if you don’t know this Jose’ Boisjoli is the CEO of BRP Can-Am. He is a pretty nice guy.  He just handed me the keys and said “Have Fun”.    Uh, okay I think I can handle that.  We hopped in an 800 and took off like a scalded cat.  We hammered the trails, maybe a tad harder than we might have in our own rig. I’m not sure Jon appreciated the thrashing I was giving him in the passenger seat, the tree limb slapping him in the face and threatening to impale him.  Hey I managed to keep it upright, probably more a testament to the Commander than my skills.   After about half an hour when we were trying to decide if we were lost I looked around there was Jose’, passing us.  I know, CEO, rides, cool right.  I like this guy.  Apparently he not only rides but is intimately involved in the development of the Commander and was very concerned with our feedback after we returned.
Well it got dark way too fast and we got back on the prison bus with Chris Farley and soon we were back to drinking as usual.  After a fantastic dinner we headed to the hotel bar where Brian Fisher of “Fishers ATV World” regaled us with horror stories of being abandoned in Mexico on a UTV trip.  Note to self, make sure your guide in Mexico isn’t from Flakesinada.
Day two, huge buffet and another day riding.  This was the day I got to drive the 1000 CC Commander.  Just so you know both of these units are very fast and strong.  Its a bit hard to figure out where one leaves off and the other steps in.  Of course its no contest for me.  Bigger is better.  My $.02 of course.  But, keep in mind the 800 is no slouch and will put a huge smile on your face, save you a few bucks and even get better fuel economy.  Hey my daily driver is a Turbo Diesel so you know where I’m coming from.
Clay Shooting with Can-Am

Jon getting ready for a round of clay pigeons

Around noon they hit me with a hammer and used a crow bar to get me off the Commander X.  Of course not all was lost because at this point we ha a choice of going for a ride on a Can-AM Spider or blasting the hell out of things over at the sporting clays range.  Lets see, go fast on pavement or blow things up?  I hate pavement.    I chose wisely, the sporting clays range ate the Fairmont is fantastic.  If you have never shot sporting clays think of it as Golf with a shotgun.  No funny pants allowed.  BTW, I won.  High score, yup that’s me Mr. Deadeye, the blaster, the terminator the…..never mind.

Canadians know how to have a good time.
At this point you are probably going, “okay jabberhead, what about the commander?”
Here are a few of the high points.  Jon will give you all the bit and bytes.  I think I’ll just stick to what impressed me.
The seat height is mid way between the RZR and the Rhino.  The result is a bit more upright position than the RZR but not a lot.  You still feel like you are sitting “in”, not “on” the commander.  There is plenty of leg room, hip room,  knee room, and foot room.  Your elbows and shoulders are not crowded by anything.  You can reach anything on  the dash easily, even belted in securely.    The seats are very comfortable and come in a few different trim levels matching the unit upgrades.
The cage feels like a cage.  It is ROPS, Roll Over Protection Structure approved.  So unlike most UTVs the cage is a real cage, not just and accessory mounting point.  It also looks good and I like that I don’t feel like I need to spring for a new cage right out of the box.  The dash switches are quality and they even left a few open slots in the stock switch panel to add switches.  You don’t have to start cutting holes in your dash with the first accessory you install.
The throttle is a “fly by wire” device.  There is no cable to the throttle body.  The pedal drives a potentiometer which talks to the computer, the computer then decides how to actuate the throttle body.  This is pretty cool because they have programmed the computer to know that if the peddle is bobbing up and down quickly it means you are going over a bunch of bumps fast.  So rather than having the machine surge and release with each stab of the pedal it evens out the throttle.  That said I couldn’t find a section of trail rough enough to make my foot bob up and down enough for a real life test but I simulated it and it works.  The pedal itself if stiff enough than the bobbing problem is not there, but its not so stiff that its hard to keep fully pressed for a long haul.
The tilt steering wheel, tilt dash pod and ribbed floor boards are nice touches.  On the passenger side it is easy for the rider to put a foot up high under the dash and jam themselves in the seat if they want when the going gets rough.  The seat belts have a cool feature, they have a short section of stretchy material that allows them just a slight bit of flex so that the belts aren’t cutting into you in the rough stuff.  This does not mean that they are holding you any less securely, the length of the belt never changes and neither does it s grip on you.  It acts as if the mounting point is moving about and inch or so taking the hard edges off of the bumps.
The side safety nets are well thought out and I doubt you will find yourself wanting to remove them.  They have a quick latch, just like a seat belt.  One click and it fastened, one press of a button and its out of your way.
There is a HUGE glove box.  Way big, larger than you would imagine on a UTV.

Commander CVT Intake and Electrical

Battery, and fuses tucked up under dash on driver's side and CVT Intake is nice and high


Simple is fine with me.  They put the battery and most of the electrical in one central spot in the dash.  Short cable runs, easy to get to of needed.  Even jump starting a commander is easy, they made special note to make the positive terminal on the battery easy to access.  The stator is 650 Watts.  The four headlights, high and  low beams are 60 watt projectors focuses quite nicely.  I can’t wait to see how they look with four of my 55 watt HIDs installed.  I may not need a light bar on the commander.  But I’ll still get one becuase they are so cool.
Its no secret that the Rotax is a great engine. BRP adapted the 800 ATV engine to a new tranny, added an oil cooler (a UTV first?) and that wasn’t enough they took the same basic components from the 800, stroked it, enlarged the heads, souped it up a bit and turned it into the 1000 CC Commander. I like this idea. They have some miles on the basic engine and while they did make some pretty good mods I suspect they did it with lessons in mind. With two options out of the box I’d say they have done well. It revs smooth and accelerates firmly. The air filter is very simple to  access right through the hood panel. Simple tug on the hood panel and you are  looking at the airbox.
A few clips and there is the filter. No squatting or fighting for access. The kind of thing that makes it way to check every ride. The air box has a water separation feature in case you do get in a little too deep. The airbox looks like it could easily hold a gallon water before the filter even gets wet. And it has a drain that you can inspect simply by looking under the fender well a a clear bulb. If it has any water in the bulb just pull off the bulb, drain and  ride. The air intake is inside the cab at what would amount to a chest deep  water level.

Commander TTI Suspension

Commander TTI Suspension


The front is a standard double A-Arm. The rear is trailing arm suspension. Just like their ATVs. I think this is very good technology and a nice touch on a UTV. When A-Arms compress the suspension it means the wheels must move outward. It makes the tire “scrub” the ground. The trailing arms do not do this. It causes less mechanical wear and tear and your tires last longer. Its basically simpler and generally stronger than A-arms. That’s why trophy trucks use it. If you are concerned about whether you will be able to buy a snazzy long travel don’t worry. Holz Racing Products had their  prototype +3″ long travel kit on a Commander at the event. Its a done deal. The standard, XT and X units all have slightly different setups and I won’t try to get into details. Suffice to say the Commander 1000 X has a high end 2.0 Fox shock and spring setup that will satisfy most of your greedy suspension  upgrade needs right out of the box.


Lots and lost and more on they way.  BRP Can-Am is a smart group and they are good business people who know how much we all spend on accessories and they seem determined to give us all the goodies we want. Watch the videos.

Commander Bed

Commander Bed


Plenty I think.  600lb load capacity in the bed.  Dump levers on both sides. The bed looks like a standard dump bed, but it has a secret.  There is a compartment under the bed.  You drop the trail gate and the bottom of the bed lifts up.  Under neath is a compartment that is quite large and water resistant.  There is another door below the normal tailgate that allows access to this compartment.  The lower compartment and be locked.  I think I could have used this kind of storage on my trip across Borneo.
Hmm Borneo, that gets me thinking…….
If you missed my Adventures in Borneo click here ->

Commander Overview

Commander Engineering Part 1

Commander Engineering Part 2

Commander 1000 X

Riding the Commander

Shannon Bushman  can be found almost anywhere at anytime, annoying everyone and generally enjoying himself. So try not to stare.

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  1. Found another review on the Commander - Can-Am Commander Forum | June 17, 2010

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