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CAN-AM OUTLANDER

July 1, 2014
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For some reason Can-Am has the reputation of being the high-priced, exotic machine in the 4×4 market. What most people don’t know is, Can-Am Outlander 4×4 ATVs are priced very competitively with other models. The base Can-Am 500 is $7799, and for comparison, a Honda 500 Rubicon is $7999 and the Polaris Sportsman 570 is $6499. As close as we can tell, Can-Am riders are so enthusiastic about the brand that they rarely opt for the base model. The base Outlander is a fine machine, but it is available only in red with black stamped-steel wheels. When was the last time you saw an Outlander 4×4 in red with black steel wheels? We can’t say that we’ve ever seen one out on the trail. No doubt part of the reason why we don’t see base Outlanders is thanks to the attractive Can-Am accessory packages. The first step up is the $8699 DPS package. DPS stands for Dynamic Power Steering, and the package naturally has DPS, but it also includes the Quick-Engage Visco-Lok differential. The QE version has all the benefits of the standard Visco-Lok differential, but with an even quicker engagement point. The DPS model also has cast-aluminum wheels. Jumping up to the $9299 XT package, the highest trim level for the Outlander 500, gets you a winch, heavy-duty bumpers and handlebar brush deflectors. Can-Am makes more than one Outlander, but the 500 is significantly the cheapest. The price for the base 650 is $9599, the 800 is $10,449 and the 1000 is $11,499.

MAKE AN APPOINTMENT


We played for a while in mud and water. The Outlander 500 never hiccuped, and it always got through. There is plenty of power, but the delivery makes it friendly for less experienced pilots.

Our test unit was the yellow DPS model with silver cast-aluminum wheels and, of course, the QE differential in the front. For many brands, when you step down to a 500cc-class model, you end up stepping down in physical size for the overall machine and even downgrading the suspension. Sometimes the engine drops to air-cooled and carbureted. With a Can-Am, the 1000, 800, 650 and 500 all share the same chassis and suspension. You even get the same basic engine. The Outlander 500 V-twin has the same engine architecture of the 1000, 800 and 650—just with a shorter stroke and smaller bore for both cylinders. Since it is a V-twin, the engine is silky smooth and has that wonderful sound the Can-Am ATVs are famous for, as well as more power than any other machine in this class. When you consider the expense of making a V-twin engine compared to a single cylinder, it’s impressive that Can-Am can be so price competitive in this displacement range.

SKIN DEEP


We doubt that treatment like this was what Can-Am had in mind for the Outlander 500, but with Cain Smead at the controls, it handled the landings fine.

Peel off the 500 stickers and you can’t tell the Outlander 500 from one of its brothers by looking at it. As a result, you get all of the comfort, handling and suspension that you get from the 800 or 1000. You also get the new second-generation chassis. When Can-Am went to this G2 chassis, the handling of the machine improved a lot. It employs a double A-arm front suspension and the trailing-arm rear suspension. It keeps the wheels tracking straight up and down instead of leaning up a little bit like they do with A-arms. Can-Am calls its rear suspension TTI—that stands for Torsional Trailing-Arm independent suspension. Travel numbers come in at 9 inches on the front and 9.3 inches in the rear—about normal for the class.

CHASSIS POWER


The Outlander’s somewhat unique rack allows machine-specific accessories to clip on solidly without the use of tie-downs or bungee cords.

When Can-Am upgraded to the G2 chassis, the 500 gained six horsepower. We’ll guess that the increase was airbox-related. It’s interesting that according to the specs, the 500 motor shares the same fuel injection, including the same-size throttle body and injectors as the 800 and 1000. With the twin-cylinder design and huge throttle body, the 500’s twin does come in a little bit shy in bottom-end torque compared to some of the full 550/570cc singles that are in the class. Despite sharing a chassis with those bigger brothers and the physically larger twin-cylinder motor, the weight is about the same as the single-cylinder Polaris Sportsman 570. Performance specs for the two machines are about the same as well. Between the two racks you can carry 300 pounds, and the towing capacity is 1300 pounds. The racks are somewhat unique. If you get Can-Am accessories, they clip and lock onto the racks.

Sharing a weight close to the 800 and 1000, and packing plenty of power and acceleration, it’s a good thing that the 500 also shares the larger Outlander’s brakes. They’re good ones: dual-ventilated disc brakes up front with dual-piston calipers, and a single-ventilated disc in the rear with a twin-piston caliper. The Outlander shares the basic Can-Am control layout, so all three brakes are controlled by a single lever on the left side of the bar. There is a rear brake pedal that controls only the rear brake. The right side of the handlebar has only the throttle and 4WD controls. Staying a bit on the unusual side, the fuel-filler neck peaks out through the right rear fender.

Can-Am chooses the Carlisle Badland tire for the Outlander. The Badland is a good all-around tire tread pattern, and it works best on packed and hard surfaces, but not that great anywhere else. We can see why so many Can-Am owners are running aftermarket tires for sand or mud.

SIREN SONG


The Outlander 500 will even get the front wheels up when you need them up. That isn’t always the case with other CVT transmission quads.

Honestly, it doesn’t take a genius to realize that a big part of Can-Am’s sales success is due to the motor. The 500–1000 V-twin engines have such a great sound—something like a small V8 Trophy Truck. Throttle response is silky smooth, the engine revs cleanly and is happy with rpm. In the case of the 500, the power off the bottom is a little soft, but if you get to more technical trails, you start appreciating that smooth and slow roll. And in conditions where the 800 (and for sure the 1000) might be too jumpy and hard to control, the 500 is just perfect.

The engine is always willing with plenty of top speed. No 4×4 chassis is that happy at full speed. They are set up to be nimble in the tight rather than be rock solid at speed. The Can-Am is quite happy zipping along, eating up two-tracks or even cranking it on smooth dirt roads, but like any 4×4, it’s going to be happiest in a little tighter-going.

We were able to jump the 500 a little bit, and it handled it fine. We also got out to play in the mud—again, no problem. The 4×4 just pulled through, smooth and clean. Our riding area for this test had a lot of slippery roots and rocks coming up out of the clay. In all cases the 500 was planted, willing to go and had the gear ratios to maximize the performance.

Unlike many CVT 4x4s in this class, when you do need to get the front end up, the Can-Am 500 will allow you to grab a wheelie to get the job done. One thing about the TTI suspension, when you roll into the throttle, the back squats and pushes the tires into the ground. It really has exceptional traction driving forward.

In most cases the Can-Am’s traction-sensing Visco-Lok front end works well, but even with the QE, we sometimes miss a true diff-lock. We could also wish for a tire with more aggressive tread and more sidewall strength, but those are minor issues.

CONCLUSION


A nice hitch comes standard, but it looks like it doubles as protection for the rear differential.

Spend a little bit of time at any sort of extreme 4×4 ATV competition, like mud bogging or even endurance races, and you will see a lot of Can-Ams. After spending some time with the 500, we completely understand. The neutral feel of the chassis, the way the suspension works, the light steering and, most of all, the smooth and energetic power from the V-twin make this a package that makes you want to go out and have an adventure. The riding position (seated and standing) is comfortable and roomy. The machine is very attractive with top-of-the-line styling, and it’s very effective at getting the job done. Add in the fact that the weight and the price are right where they should be in the class, and it makes the Outlander 500 a great value and a great 4×4.


This gated shifter handles gear selection. It is easy to use and has a positive engagement.


2014 CAN-AM OUTLANDER 500

Engine    99.6cc, liquid-cooled, SOHC
    V-twin, 4-valve 4-stroke
Bore x stroke    82.0mm x 47.0mm
Fuel system    EFI 46mm throttle body,
    2 Siemens VDO injectors
Fuel capacity    5.4 gal.
Starting system    Electric
Final drive    Shaft
Suspension/wheel travel:
  Front    Double A-arm/9″
  Rear    TTA independent/9.3″
Tires:
  Front    26x8x12 Carlisle Badland
  Rear    26×10-12 Carlisle Badland
Brakes:
  Front    Dual 214mm ventilated
    disc brakes w/ hydraulic
    twin-piston calipers
  Rear    Single 214mm ventilated
    disc brakes w/ hydraulic
    twin-piston caliper
Wheelbase    51.0 inches
Length/width/height    86″/46″/44″
Ground clearance    11.0″
Seat height    34.5″
Total rack capacity    300 lb.
Towing capacity    1300 lb.
Curb weight    713 (dry) pounds
Color    Yellow and light gray
MSRP    $7299

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