2021 CAN-AM COMMANDER XT-P TEST
The Commander was the first UTV from Can-Am. It was introduced soon after the RZR. It had more creature comforts and a much better trailing-arm rear-suspension system, whereas the RZR had A-arms. Another unique feature of the original Commander is that it had two compartments in its dumping bed—a standard one on top and a semi-sealed one underneath. What we hated about that Commander was that the engine and clutch (CVT belt) were between the passengers and under a bunch of bodywork, making it hard to work on. Well, for 2021, Can-Am ditched the trailing arms and the second cargo trunk, moved the engine, and gave this next-generation Commander full doors and an aggressive new look. UTV Action’s 2021 Can-Am Commander XT-P test tells how the new machine performs.
HOW DOES THE COST COMPARE?
Can-Am has a few versions of this new Commander. Our test model is the XT-P 1000, which compares directly to the Yamaha RMAX and Polaris’ General or General XP. The XT-P 1000 sells for $22,199. There is a base model that has smaller tires, less wheel travel and fewer goodies that goes for $16,399. Yamaha’s similarly equipped Wolverine RMAX XT-R goes for $1000 less than the Commander. The Yamaha is similar in engine size, wheel travel and features. This version does come with a Magellan GPS unit that Yamaha dubbed the Adventure Pro. Polaris’ General XP 1000 sells for $22,999. The General has its own GPS unit called Ride Command, as well as other comparable features, such as beadlock wheels, full doors, a roof and winch.
HOW FAST IS THE COMMANDER?
Can-Am has been using the proven 976cc V-twin engine in ATVs, the first-generation Commanders and a few Mavericks for years. It’s back in the latest Commander, and it’s fast. During the 2021 Can-Am Commander XT-P test, we got the Commander to 71 mph. It gets to that top speed quickly as well. It’s not turbo, push-your-head-into-the-seatback explosive, but regardless, it’s thrilling. The motor puts out 100 horsepower and is not overly loud in the cockpit but sounds great going down the trail.
DOES IT HAVE A BELT?
Yes. A CVT transmission connects the mid-engine to the gearbox at the back end. Access to the belt is easy and situated behind the driver’s seat. We drove our Maverick Sport for over a year, and we were hard on the gas and the belt never failed. In normal conditions, we expect this machine will be the same. Furthermore, this machine is a first of its kind that actually has a dedicated spot to hold a spare belt. If you lower the tailgate and remove two quick fasteners, the left bed-side fender comes right off, exposing the storage area. The area holds the clutch removal tool as well.
HOW ARE THE SHOCKS?
Can-Am installed huge 2.5 Fox QS3 shocks on all four corners of the Commander. In stock trim, the springs are set up on the stiff side. This is one of the first items we tested, because we noticed that the bed floor was higher than on any other vehicle in any class. We were worried that this would affect the center of gravity and make the machine tippy. We loaded up a 55-gallon barrel with water and strapped it in the bed to represent a heavy load. To our surprise, the Commander handled the weight very well. Even on steep inclines and off-camber trails, the car did not lift a tire or feel unstable. The stiff springs and flat-profile, 10-inch-wide, XPS Hammer Force tires are to be thanked for that stability.
Since the shocks are easy-to-adjust Fox QS3s, one turn to the softer setting did make the ride more comfortable, and in the opposite direction they were very forgiving. On this car, the suspension travel numbers are limited to 14 inches all the way around, which is the same as the Polaris General XP and slightly less than Yamaha’s RMAX. What helps the Commander’s suspension action even more is the wheelbase. At 90.6 inches, it’s as long as an RZR XP, over 3 inches longer than the RMAX and 7 inches longer than any General. Extra wheelbase allows the machine to ride better in the bumps and corner very predictably. It takes out any twitchiness a shorter car might exhibit.
HOW DOES IT HANDLE?
Great. The seating position is very low, and you feel like you are sitting in an X3 when you drive the Commander. That keeps the center of gravity low and handling assets high. During the 2021 Can-Am Commander XT-P test, we found it turns precisely and will slide if you want, but you should be in 2WD for that. It’s very nimble and flickable, although the plastic steering wheel is rather slippery. The right set of gloves can help add traction. We have even seen guys use sand paper to put a rough coat on aluminum or plastic steering wheels like this. A respectable 13.5 inches of ground clearance helps prevent the underbelly of the long-wheelbase car from getting hung up.
WHAT KIND OF 4WD SYSTEM DOES IT USE?
Can-Am gives the Commander XT-P its top-of-the-line Smart-Lok front differential. Originally, this system was introduced on the rock-crawling X3. Not only will you now know your front diff is in lock mode, but the computer analyzes certain aspects of the car’s movement and the mode you choose to tighten or free up the system. Frankly, it takes a little getting used to, since there are so many switches and indicators for the system. We would actually prefer a simpler version; however, it does work well, and we have yet to get the Commander stuck. On the rear end, this Commander features an unlocking rear diff known as Turf mode. In some situations, you can use it to turn sharper. We like that the car won’t leave huge black marks on a concrete driveway or tear up asphalt.
HOW’S THE COCKPIT?
The leg room is good and the seats are plush. As we said earlier, the seats are low and the rear dump bed is high, so it blocks some view out of the back of the car. On the good side, this Commander comes with a rear-view mirror; however, if you are larger than a skinny teenager, you will be rubbing shoulders with your passenger the entire ride. There is no center console or storage area to separate you. In fact, other than the two very convenient glove boxes, there’s very little room for additional accessories or even switches.
WHAT IS OUR FINAL ANSWER?
It’s better than we expected. At first glance, the Commander looks like a Maverick Sport with additional bodywork and a dumping bed. That is somewhat the case, as the drivetrain, most of the suspension and the brakes are the same; however, the large 2.5-inch Fox shocks and new XPS eight-ply tires make the Commander handle even better than a Maverick Sport. It’s a good car if you are not too broad-shouldered and if you like the look over the Maverick Sport. It’s definitely in the running for our 2021 New UTV of the Year; however, we will first compare it to the Yamaha RMAX and Polaris General XP to actually see if it will be the top choice in the category. If you can’t wait that long, you definitely won’t be disappointed buying the 2021 Can-Am Commander XT-P 1000.
2021 CAN-AM COMMANDER XT-P 1000
Engine type Liquid-cooled, V-twin, 4-stroke
Lubrication system Wet sump
Additional cooling Auto fan
Starting procedure Turn ignition switch w/ brake on
Type Paper pleats
Access Behind panel
Transmission Dual range w/ reverse
Reverse procedure Move range selector to “R”
Drive system Selectable 2WD/4WD w/ auto diff-lock
Final drives Shafts
Fuel capacity 10 gal.
Overall length/width/height 130”/64”/75.3”
Ground clearance 13.5”
Claimed dry weight 1725 lb.
Bed weight limit 600 lb.
Hitch 2” receiver
Towing limit 2000 lb.
Frame Steel tube
Front Dual A-arm w/ prel./ comp.-adj. 2.5”
Rear Dual arm w/ prel./ comp.-adj. 2.5”
Front Hydraulic discs/left-side pedal
Rear Hydraulic discs/left-side pedal
Parking Park position on range selector
Front 30×10-15 XPS Hammer Force
Rear 30×10-15 XPS Hammer Force
DC outlet Console
Front 2 LED hi/lo headlights w/ accents
Rear Dual LED brake/taillights
Instrumentation Digital or analog speed/odo/trip/
Minimum recommended operator age 16
Suggested retail price $22,199
See more photos and details on 2 and 4 seat 2021 can-am Commanders here: 2021 CAN-AM COMMANDER 1000 | UTV Action Magazine