A wet Warwickshire woodland in Autumn seemed the perfect place to try out the new Can-Am Commander. Open up the 1000 cc Rotax V Twin engine, see how good the Maxxis Bighorn tyres were and generally have some fun!
This relatively new style of 4x4 has evolved out of the Quad Bike, usually seen either driven too fast around a Council Estate, or with a bale of hay attached, on a muddy hillside in Wales, driven by a chap in coureroy trousers wearing a flat cap. Somewhere between these two acivities lies the ‘leisure’ market. People who like to race their Quads, or use them to gain access to those places beyond the reach of the car - and possibly even the conventional 4x4.
When Joseph-Armand Bombardier formed Bombardier Recreational Products (BRP) in Quebec, Canada back in 1937, he launched a small tracked vehicle to cope with the deep winter snow. This grew to Snomobile production, then Jet Ski’s and Quad bikes. Along the way the company acquired Evinrude engines for the nautical range and the Austrian engine company, Rotax, for the Quads and ATV’s. They have built up a formidable reputation over their 70 year history for both reliability and performance.
‘The figures speak for themselves’ assured the PR people and stepping into the latest, most powerful, addition to their range it was clear that this had been designed to be comfortable, safe and fast. The 976 cc Rotax V twin is a thing of beauty in its own right, though exactly where it is in the Can-Am Commander remains a mystery, as it is well protected by thick plastic bodywork, but hit the start button and a lovely big V twin noise arrupts from somewhere, tempting you to give the throttle paddle a blip, just to enjoy the noise!
Slipping the gear lever into ‘forward’ I set along a farm track towards to dense looking woodland ahead. Before entering the woods, we all enjoyed a flat out blast around a course laid out on wet grass, just to sample the handling, which was confident and stable, even when pushed. Then we were into the woods, wet leaves under our tyres and unforgiving tree trunks inches away. The rutted tracks through these woods are used by Land Rovers and the Can-ams were bucking and weaving about from one rut to the next, but never seemed in difficulty. On steep climbs the viscous coupling, locking front diff, maintained traction at all angles, on all surfaces, while the big engine thumped away somewhere behind my right shoulder.
The route was well planned to demostrate the competent performance of this machine and dropping into deep water , I was relieved to be wearing decent boots as the water rushed over the sides of the cab, filling the footwell. The bow wave up front indicated that we were in about two feet of water, yet this seemed no problem and it was a case of the driving backing out before the machine.
Over a light lunch out in the woods, there was the chance to take a more detailed look and ask questions. I am always wary of the term ‘fly by wire’, knowing that when breakdowns occur, it is usually some elecrical fault behind the problem. Water and electrics are not happy companions, but BRP’s experience with high performance jet skis means that if anyone knows how to keep water out, they do.