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Can-Am Commander 1000 LTD

March 1, 2012 by  
Filed under Can-Am, Feature Articles, First Drive

2012 Can-Am Commander 1000 LTD

Can-Am Adds a Luxury Off-Road UTV to their lineup

WORDS BY ALAN COOPER // PHOTOGRAPHY BY TROY MERRIFIELD

In the world of UTVs, manufacturers are continuing to offer more options for off-road enthusiasts that give them more while out on the trail or while performing work-related duties.  More suspension, more comfort, more payload, more power and so on are topics manufacturers may take into consideration when updating their current model offerings.  For 2012, Can-Am opted for a luxury approach to update their current XT Commander with the introduction of their new Commander 1000 Limited. The Commander 1000 LTD receives a ton of upgrades over the XT that make it more of a luxury off-road tourer than a sporty UTV. Starting with an XT, Can-Am bolts up new machined aluminum and black wheels that are exclusive to the LTD, as are the new metallic plastic colors. Can-Am also optioned the LTD out with a rear cage net, a two-piece convertible hard top with quick-release velcro straps, a removable in-dash Garmin touch-screen GPS unit, a quick-release half windshield, limited seat trim, a four-speaker stereo with AM/FM, iPod, USB and auxiliary input capabilities, an onboard air compressor, and an in-car adjustable Fox Racing Shox air suspension system with six ride stiffness settings. What we have here is a tricked-out Commander complete with many parts we have installed on UTV builds in the past, but the difference here: it has a warranty.

COMFORT OVER SPEED

Surprisingly, the Commander 1000 LTD has an iPod-compatible stereo unit that allows you to control your music from the dash after plugging your iPod into the cable routed inside the glove box. It also has a USB input that accepts a flash drive for those who don’t want to put an expensive iPod in the glovebox of their off-road vehicle, and an auxiliary input as well. The four speakers are weather resistant and won’t short out when you’re washing your Commander. It’s loud enough to be heard over the Commander’s engine noise and CVT whine at high speeds, and the sound quality is excellent as well. The dash-mounted Garmin GPS unit (Montana 650t) is a touch-screen unit that is removable and features a 5-megapixel camera on the back of it. It’s a little bigger than a cell phone, and due to its position on the dash, your passenger will have to navigate if you want turn-by-turn instructions.

Can-Am’s rear cab net is designed to keep debris and some sun off the occupants’ backs, and it does just that.  At times it can get in the way for access to the bed when reaching into the bed to grab a bottle of water out of the ice chest, or your camera out of a backpack. The net is removable, however. The windshield is a nice piece that we liked, as the quick-release velcro straps allowed easy removal and installation without having to break out any tools. We love the look of the new metallic plastic colors, and they add a classy touch to an already good-looking machine. Limited seat trim adds another upscale touch, and the convertible roof is a plus as well. If you want more sun in the cab, just remove the back portion of the roof for an instantly brighter outlook. There are two velcro pouches at the top that act as sun visors and map pockets. Just like the XT, the LTD has the 4,000 lb WARN winch up front that works great with the supplied remote.

RIDING ON A CLOUD

The 2012 Commander LTD comes with a Fox Racing Shox ACS (air-controlled suspension) system instead of conventional shocks. The system uses an onboard air compressor that can adjust shock main chamber pressure and stiffness at all four corners using a computer-controlled, dash-mounted rocker switch. Stiffness levels of 1-6 are selectable on the dash using the switch, or the user can program them individually front and rear by setting the unit in manual mode. It’s a little cumbersome to get into the adjustment menu using the dash-mounted LCD readout and rocker switch, so take a couple minutes and learn the procedure before you head out. If you’re carrying cargo, you can charge up the rear stiffness a bit to keep it from bottoming and cut down on body roll. Keep in mind you can perform simple adjustments while never exiting the vehicle.  You can also drop the stiffness settings to 1 for a slow, comfortable ride on the trail. It’s fun to play with, and the shocks are still adjustable for dual-speed compression and rebound damping. Think of the ACS system as an electronically-controlled spring. As a bonus, there is an air hose attached to an air compressor located just under the driver’s seat that can be used to air up tires out on the trail.

We drove the Can-Am on the rocky trails of Brushy Mountain Motor Sports Park just outside of Hickory, North Carolina.  The tight, twisty trails of this park left little room for error when piloting the hefty Commander, but to our surprise, it was more nimble than anticipated and a fun departure from the wide open spaces on the Southwest trails.  In North Carolina, we tested the ACS system on the trail, utilizing all six levels of adjustability and programming the front and rear separately as well. On level 1, the Commander sits low and has a large amount of body roll, and the ride is soft and smooth. Click it up to around 4 or 5, and the shock stiffness level is nearly the same as the Commander X model’s Fox shocks. At level 6, the bottoming resistance becomes very stiff. The air shocks feel much different than a standard spring/oil shock, as if the air pressure increases the rebound speed slightly. The tires stay in contact with the ground very well, with Fox’s excellent reputation for quality these air shocks should stand up to the Commander’s heavy weight and utility-oriented chores. The LTD handles very well, much better than the XT and almost as well as the X. Steering feel is more precise on the LTD than it is on the other two models, but the extra weight slows it down a bit in the twisties. Find a ride height setting you will use most often, then adjust the clickers on the shocks until the Commander handles the way you want it to. This way, you can bump the stiffness up or down depending on trail conditions or ride speed.

LIKE A MUSCLE CAR

85 horsepower is nothing to sneeze at, and the Commander uses every bit of that power to

haul its heft around. We are guessing the extra accessories (roof, netting, paint, winch, windshield, air compressor, lines, shocks, GPS, stereo) adds about 200 pounds worth of total weight to the already-stout Commander, bringing it to around 1500 pounds dry. The 976cc 4-valve per cylinder 80-degree V-twin engine thumps out a thundering 85 horsepower, which is second highest in the class, trumped only by Polaris’ 875cc 88 horsepower parallel twin. The computer controls — Can-Am’s throttle by wire system mainly — introduce quite a bit of delay into the acceleration curve between when you stomp it and when it goes, and the power limiter kicks in if the rear wheels spin too quickly or come off the ground in order to save the drivetrain. It hinders the acceleration quite a bit.

The suspension allows 10 inches of travel at all four corners just like the other Commanders, but the new Fox Racing Shox ACS system allows you to drive harder and keep your foot down longer. It feels controlled and is super-adjustable, lending a sporty feel to an otherwise luxurious UTV. As reported in our Long-Term Review, our test unit has about a year of hard use on it now, and we have yet to be stranded by a mechanical failure.

While some of us would like to see a sportier version with longer A-arms and rear trailing arms or a 4-seat option, we also recognize that this is only their first year into the UTV market with much to be learned from and a few bugs to work out, as with any new vehicle.  It’s hard to remember when our only options were a Yamaha Rhino, Polaris Ranger (before the RZR) and Arctic Cat Prowler. However, BRP revealed to us that they will cover all major segments of the UTV market within the next two to three years. Does this mean that they will come out with a 50” unit as well?  Hard to say, but our bet is a 4-seater and more suspension travel is at the top of the list. Until that time, we would like to see Can-Am offer a quicker-engaging Visco-Lok and EPS as an option at minimum and standard dual disc brakes in the rear.

We waited on releasing this article until Can-Am could get us definitive pricing for their 2012 models, and if you’re interested at this point, make sure you’re sitting down. The 2012 Commander 1000 LTD (in Pure Magnesium or Orbital Blue color) has an MSRP of $19,199 — before tax and license fees. The Commander comes with a ton of accessories, and they come at a price — the suspension system alone is worth well over $4,000 when you take into account the compressor, shocks, and electronics. The stereo also isn’t cheap, and the GPS is over $600 retail, so it’s easy to see why the price adds up, and as a package, the Commander LTD is pretty sweet. If you plan on tricking out your UTV, why not let the manufacturer do the hard work for you AND supply a warranty on all the parts?

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