2009 Can-Am Outlander MAX ATV Review 0
MotoUSA spent a week in West Virginia surrounded by two-and four-wheeled motorsports. A couple days were spent riding Can-Am ATVs and a few more witnessing the MotorcycleUSA.com Snowshoe GNCC. Included in our ATV testing smorgasbord were the Outlander, Outlander MAX and Renegade lines. As we hopped from one Can-Am ATV model to the next, where the Renegade machines screamed performance, the Outlander models were conspicuously more comfortable. The suspension and seat were targeted at all-day trail riding, which is exactly what we were doing on the trail systems at Burning Rock Off-Road Parkand Hatfield-McCoy facilities in West Virginia. Our sample group included the Outlander 500 EFI, Outlander 800R EFI, Outlander MAX 650 EFI and Outlander MAX 800R EFI.
As we reported in our review of the sport-oriented 2009 Renegade 800 EFI, the larger 800cc V-Twin motor is, in our opinion, the best option by far regarding Can-Am twin-cylinder powerplants. Easy to use and brutishly powerful, the Rotax motor outshines its smaller siblings. The Outlander 500 in this test shares most components with its big brother aside from the sleeved-down motor and slightly less ground clearance and suspension travel due to different tires and a MacPherson front end (opposed to the double A-arm design on the 800R). Ride quality is very similar on the two Outlander models, but we’ll focus on the flagship 800cc version from here on. The same goes for the Outlander MAX 650 EFI which is even closer to its Outlander MAX 800 EFI relative.
“The smaller-displacement ATV is a great machine for beginners as well as riders who simply don’t need the extra power,” says Editorial Director, Ken Hutchison, of the Outlander model line. “For true utility duty I can’t imagine where you would need more power than the 500 offers. However,” he continues moving to the 800, “this baby is where it’s at! I like my ATVs to have some grunt and these 800cc bikes are the ticket. Put this ATV in 4WD and you can probably go anywhere this side of an avalanche and be unstoppable. Hillclimbs are no sweat, water crossing are fun and whether you prefer mud or sand, neither can do anything to slow this quad down. If you force me to choose, the Outlander 800R is the one I will take because it goes anywhere and can do damn near anything.”
That do-anything capacity stems from the Outlander’s muscular 71-horsepower motor (claimed), independent suspension and a continuously variable transmission with intelligent 4WD. With a 46mm throttle body and two Siemens fuel injectors dispensing fuel, the 800 reacts instantly, smoothly and with as much aggression as your thumb wants to dish out.
Considering it’s a V-Twin machine, the claimed 669-pound dry weight is in the mix with class competition. Kawasaki’s non-power steering Brute Force 750i is around 653 lbs ready to roll while Polaris’ Sportsman 850 XP is a whopping 774 lbs without fuel. Comparable single-cylinders like the Suzuki KingQuad 750AXi EPS has a claimed curb weight of 672 lbs, and Yamaha’s biggest Grizzly, the 700FI, is 600 lbs dry. Can-Am uses new cast-aluminum wheels to help keep down weight and mounts 26-inch Carlisle radial tires.
Engineers revamped the suspension geometry on the front end to help make steering lighter. All of our riders commented on the machine’s comfort, and handling was suitable for everyone. The dual A-arm setup in front and independent TTI suspension out back were notable for their stability. Engineers placed the pivot point for the A-arms in front of the wheel, which limits side-to-side movement and allows for the wheels to travel only up and down. We found both ends considerably softer than the Renegade settings, but the increase in comfort was very noticeable. When it came time to spend all day in the saddle, our riders usually looked to the Outlander. The trail pace we ran was well within the Outlander’s capabilities, even during spurts of aggression or when the urge to try something particularly nasty arose. For one particular stint we chased a pair of much sportier Renegades and were able to keep up without much complaint. We lost time only during the tight, twisty sections where the smaller machines were able to maneuver slightly quicker. However, we were pleased to discover that hitting rough terrain at high speed was so well received. It takes a lot to get the steel SST chassis off-line.
“The Outlander 800 EFI is the ATV that I spent the most time on during our tour of West Virginia,” says Ken. “What I like the most about this machine is how easy it is to ride for long periods of time, regardless of the terrain. In the mellow stuff, it was comfortable for the long haul with a relaxed riding position and plush seat. When the terrain was rough, it didn’t wear me out at all.”
Looking at the ATV market, Can-Am figured out that these four-wheel enthusiasts actually like doing this stuff together, sometimes as a couple. That’s when designers came up with the MAX concept – a way for the competent Outlander models (400, 500, 650 and 800 models available as MAX versions) to expand their horizons with the addition of passenger accommodations.
Every ATV comes with a warning sticker explaining the dangers of passenger riding and urging operators to avoid riding two-up. At some point we’ve all ignored those pesky labels and it’s immediately obvious that carrying a second rider on a standard quad is inherently difficult for several reasons.
“Back in the day we rode with passengers all the time,” recalls the former mullet, Ken. “I always thought it must’ve been tough to hang on to a 2-stroke three-wheeler, but I never lost a passenger. In this day and age where most manufacturers warn against riding two-up, Can-Am embraces it and I give them props for doing so. Seriously, it’s so much fun to bring your significant other.”
The MAX is designed to address passenger issues rather than avoid them. The pillion is raised above the driver’s seat which places the passenger at a higher vantage point. Ever hit the brakes on your regular quad and had the passenger’s helmet smash into the back of your head? That’s basically the idea here. Raising the passenger a few inches gives them greater vision of the trail ahead which allows them to actively participate in the riding experience rather than lurch blindly side-to-side and try to react. The passenger still looks to the side of the operator, but it is much easier without being at the same level. Also, by having a tiered saddle, it creates a section of lumbar support for the driver to lean against. The Outlander and MAX machines both feature extremely comfortable seats.
To match the higher seat, a set of raised floorboards are included as well as hand grips on either side of the seat. Integrated into the rear rack, the grips are very sturdy and easy to access without being obtrusive while climbing on or off the machine. Comments from our passenger revealed that the ergonomics were very natural. We negotiated trail segments several times with the passenger holding the driver’s waist and then again using the provided handholds. Not only was the ride improved for the passenger, but the operator was able to ride more effectively once she let go of his waist. Being able to anticipate what was coming and having the hand and foot controls to provide input adds to the entire experience.
The MAX frame is lengthened in order to make room for a second person which makes for a wheelbase that is eight inches longer than the standard Outlander. This keeps both riders in front of the rear axle to keep steering and handling characteristics on par. We definitely noticed the extra length. As you would expect, there is a measure of added stability on the MAX, but the standard Outlander is much more nimble and aggressive in tight or technical situations. Both models come with skid plates and we abused them about the same, the MAX because it high-centers more easily and the Outlander because the added mobility urged us to look for trouble.
Having the convertible rack/seat system is a nice feature. One of the only drawbacks we noticed about having the passenger seat is that the raised bump hits the driver’s butt if riding solo. The MAX does not lend itself to standing, whether one rider or two. Can-Am has integrated a system which allows the passenger accommodations to be removed and replaced with a cargo box to accompany the 5.3 gallons of storage already built into the rear rack. This feature greatly increases the machine’s ability when ridden without a passenger.
With 1300 lbs of towing capacity and racks that hold 100 lbs up front and 200 lbs in the rear, the Outlander models are capable of work, but we really got the impression that these machines are happiest on the trail – Michael Swift has used the Outlander 800R EFI to claim the 2009 GNCC 4×4 Limited championship. The MAX is especially geared towards recreation, because who, in all honesty, needs back support and handholds to ride doubles around the ranch? Nobody, they’ll just ignore the warning stickers on a standard ATV like they always have. But, when it comes time to take the lady out for a weekend exploration (or if she wants to take you out), there’s little argument that the Outlander MAX EFI is perhaps the best way to go.
“When we were out at Burning Rock OHV Park we saw a number of folks who actually were riding Outlander MAX two-up,” Ken notes. “In every occasion the pair appeared to be retired couples, and if riding as a team gets more people into the OHV community, then I say more power to them. The MAX is a great concept and I hope to see more OEMs following suit in the immediate future.”