First Ride: Can-Am’s New 2012 Outlander and Renegade Models

Can-Am, Home Page Slide Show — on July 11, 2011 at 11:56 am

This is an excerpt from “More Bark, Less Bite” in the upcoming September issue of ATV Reviews. Read the full story in the magazine for full details and ride impressions, along with all the information on the remaining changes to Can-Am’s exciting 2012 off-road lineup.

We’ve got some big news for ATV riders — huge news, actually. How big, you ask? Nine hundred and seventy six cubic centimeters of Rotax V-twin power bolted into all-new chassis for Can-Am’s 2012 Outlander and Renegade ATV models, which were two of the sportiest utility-based ATVs on the market.

Welcome to the braver new world of Can-Am.

A brand that already had the sport’s most powerful engine has upped its own ante by bringing a version of the radical 976cc, fuel-injected, 80-degree V-twin unveiled in the 2011 Commander 1000 UTV to top-end Outlander and Renegade 4×4 ATVs.

Behold: Can-Am's all-new 2012 Outlander 800 and 1000 models!

Behold: Can-Am's all-new 2012 Outlander 800 and 1000 models!

But this isn’t just a story about big horsepower – any brand could drop a big powerplant into an existing chassis. Can-Am went several steps beyond, placing that and the 800-class powerplant in a new chassis, with notably different suspension geometry, more subtle spring and shock settings, funky new styling, three-mode power steering, a new rack system and much more.

On the Renegade, the new combination of powerplant and chassis seems profound. On the Outlander, though, the combination creates an interesting dichotomy – there’s even more power for hard charging, but the new suspension and handling setup are less aggressive, offering a more stable, planted and plusher ride in a tighter feeling frame.

Can-Am also unveiled an expanded Commander lineup and rolled out details on its returning 2012 Outlander, Outlander Max, Renegade and DS sport models.

New Upper Level Outlanders

Can-Am has been on a roll in recent years, gaining market share while targeting aggressive trail- and free-riders with performance-first machine that can certainly handle some task work, but are designed around fun.

The plan has been working well, but Can-Am also realized that targeting only the aggressive racer-wannabe crowd is limiting. With its new chassis, the company seems to be giving a nod to the other brand that’s been gaining market share – Polaris with its Sportsman XP lineup – by creating a machine with a more plush and controlled ride, all while trying to maintain its performance edge.

The Outlander's new multi-function composite cargo racks accept PinQ quick-attach accessories.

The Outlander's new multi-function composite cargo racks accept PinQ quick-attach accessories.

That’s our take after some time above the seat and behind the bars of the new Outlander 1000 and 800R models. With industry-leading, 71- and 82-horsepower powerplants, bold designs and rider-tailored ergonomics, they still exude performance. But new suspension designs and shock and spring settings make the biggest Outlanders more stable and plush than their predecessors.

It starts with a new SST GT frame that’s heavier than the old Outlander frame but feels tighter and stronger when pushed hard down a trail. Connected to it is a new dual A-arm front suspension with what Can-Am is calling “dive-control geometry.” Basically, by using an upper A-arm that is tilted down rearward and un-parallel to the lower A-arm, Can-Am officials say they have created a front end that won’t dive or roll-over as much in corners, while at the same time increasing rear squat for better acceleration. Also, a new, shorter spindle and suspension arms that reach deeper into the wheel reduce kickback and add stability.

Aside from a new frame and engine, the new Outlander has a new radiator, exhaust and silencer, new dive-control front suspension, redesigned TTI rear suspension, 214mm disc brake with twin-piston calipers and new 12-inch cast-aluminum wheels.

Aside from a new frame and engine, the new Outlander has a new radiator, exhaust and silencer, new dive-control front suspension, redesigned TTI rear suspension, 214mm disc brakes with twin-piston calipers and new 12-inch cast-aluminum wheels.

Riding the new Outlanders, the first thing that grabbed our attention, of course, was the power – especially on the 1000. It’s got dragster-like acceleration, rapidly surging forward with the sort of hard pull previously only available on a highly modified 4×4. The first time you pin the throttle, it may even make you grimace, like the first big drop on a roller coast ride. By the second time, you’ll be smiling!

What’s interesting, and encouraging, about the new setup is that this incredible power is more easily controlled than on previous big-bore Outlanders. The ride seems less twitchy, meaning less likely to lift a front tire or seem like the rear wants to pass the front. In past reviews, we’ve said base Outlanders seem like they had too short of a wheelbase, and that the longer Outlander Max seemed more trailable. Not so anymore – the new suspension geometry and the spring and shock settings it enabled creates a more stable ride.

That new, more tame feeling is also felt in bumps and ripples at low- to moderate speeds. It was more plush feeling overall, plus the big Outlanders have better brakes and a tighter-feeling, less creaky chassis.

We did feel a trade-off, though. Official spec weights weren’t released, but Can-Am engineers admitted that Outlander models in the new chassis gain 20-30 pounds over their predecessors. In most conditions, we didn’t feel that girth, but when pushing hard and especially when landing after going airborne, new Outlanders felt heavier and landed harder than Outlanders of old.

Overall, the Outlander feels larger in its new clothes — taller, heavier, wider, longer and the plastics are more squared off, suggesting that you’re piloting something larger than before. The seat is exceptionally soft, the new headlights are brighter, and new rubberized plastic racks strike a nice balance between competitive designs  – featuring the good look and a quick-attach accessory system like Polaris’ Lock & Ride, but maintaining an open design with multiple tie-down options like steel and aluminum racks.

All New Renegade, Too

The Renegade 800 and 1000 models also ride on a next-generation chassis, although the lookis much more evolutionary than revolutionary. We have no problem with that, though.

The Renegade 800 and 1000 models also ride on a next-generation chassis, although the lookis much more evolutionary than revolutionary. We have no problem with that, though.

Visually, the biggest Renegade models (meaning the new 1000 and the returning 800R, plus X xc versions of each) look similar to their predecessors. Hidden beneath the plastic, though, is the new, tighter SST G2 frame, plus tweaked front suspension geometry for better dive control, stability and comfort shared with the biggest Outlanders.

Improved cooling enabled by a larger radiator, better belt protection thanks to a new CVT cover and more range allowed by a large fuel tank all conspire to make a better Renegade for 2012. And, upgraded X xc models also benefit from the upgraded tri-mode power steering system.

On the trails, the new Renegades changed less, year-over-year, than their Outlander counterparts, and that’s a good thing. By design, the Renegade is and should be more aggressive – we wouldn’t want Can-Am to soften the edges as much as it did on the Outlander.

The Renegade 1000 is a rocket ship, and doesn’t feel as overwhelming as we thought it would. The power is exciting, addictive and a blast on the trails. While it looks like a sport quad, It has a lot of mass and traction — it’s planted and forceful, rather than light and toss-able. The ergonomics are great – especially comfortable between the seat and the tank, which is noticeably more slender than before, which makes it easier to move your body around through twisties.

This is an excerpt from “More Bark, Less Bite” in the upcoming September issue of ATV Reviews. Read the full story in the magazine for full details and ride impressions, along with all the information on the remaining changes to Can-Am’s exciting 2012 off-road lineup.

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