2021 CAN-AM COMMANDER XT-P TEST

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.

This Commander comes with the Smart-Lok front differential, as well as Trail and Trail Active settings. This feature makes the steering super light at all times, as it only puts power to each front wheel when necessary.

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.

A set of beefy, arched A-arms are found out back, as well as a sway bar and 2.5-inch Fox QS3 shocks. Bottom-out protection was great, as was the consistent 13.5 inches of ground clearance.
A bash plate, brush bumper, winch and LED light bar are all standard on the Commander XT-P. They all worked great and looked good enough to make the extra investment worthwhile for these goodies alone.

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.

An even 14 inches of travel is provided on all four corners with Fox QS3 shocks for control. All of our testers felt they were a little on the stiff side, but it seemed to get better after we put an initial 100 miles on the machine.

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.

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Other than the instrument cluster behind the steering wheel, the dash is sparse yet filled up and doesn’t have room for any accessory switches. The LED light bar switch on this car is down by the driver’s right elbow and is either blocked or bumped by your arm often.

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.

Both bed sides are removable on the Commander, exposing the storage pockets. The driver’s side held a spare belt and tools, and the other could fit a tow rope or small scissor jack.

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.

The new XPS brand tires on this Commander look like a cross between a Maxxis Liberty and a Rockzilla. These tires are built by Wanda, who makes tires for Walmart and the Ocelot brand that is sold at Chaparral.

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.

A 976cc V-twin engine powers all of the new Commanders. It’s the same proven powerplant found in the Maverick sport line, as well as in the Outlander and Renegade ATVs. It’s powerful enough to be fun and super reliable.

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.

The air filter can be accessed without tools. However, it’s not a washable element. Uni and Twin Air both make foam elements for this car that are affordable and reusable.

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.

We love the deep glove box that Can-Am provides on the dash in front of the passenger. The driver gets a smaller one that is good for a set of gloves or glasses.

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. 

SPECS:

2021 CAN-AM COMMANDER XT-P 1000

ENGINE/TRANSMISSION

Engine type Liquid-cooled, V-twin, 4-stroke

Displacement 976cc

Lubrication system Wet sump

Additional cooling Auto fan

Induction EFI

Starting/back-up Electric/none

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

DIMENSIONS/CAPACITIES/WEIGHTS

Fuel capacity 10 gal.

Wheelbase 90.6”

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.

ROLLING CHASSIS

Frame Steel tube

Suspension/wheel travel:

  Front Dual A-arm w/ prel./ comp.-adj. 2.5”

Fox shocks/14”

  Rear Dual arm w/ prel./ comp.-adj. 2.5”

Fox shocks/14”

Brakes/actuation:

  Front Hydraulic discs/left-side pedal

  Rear Hydraulic discs/left-side pedal

Parking Park position on range selector

Tires:

  Front 30×10-15 XPS Hammer Force

  Rear 30×10-15 XPS Hammer Force

ELECTRICAL

DC outlet Console

Lighting:

  Front 2 LED hi/lo headlights w/ accents

  Rear Dual LED brake/taillights

DETAILS

Instrumentation Digital or analog speed/odo/trip/

hour/rpm/fuel/gear/clock/2WD-4WD

Colors Black/orange

Minimum recommended operator age 16

Suggested retail price $22,199

Contact http://can-am.brp.com

See more photos and details on 2 and 4 seat 2021 can-am Commanders here: 2021 CAN-AM COMMANDER 1000 | UTV Action Magazine

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