Top notch two-seater loaded with features
Can-Am continues to refine its line of Outlander ATVs with several new features highlighting the 2009 Outlander MAX 800R EFI XT. These include even more power, revised steering geometry, and a better skid plate to protect the underside of the ATV.
Climbing on the Outlander MAX, even with another person on board is surprisingly easy. The seat is comfortable and the distance to the handlebars and footpegs is just about perfect. The second seat sits slightly higher with raised foot platforms and passenger grips to hold onto. This allows plenty of room for the passenger to move around and not interfere with the operator. We’ve ridden a lot of 2-seat Can-Ams over the years and seen a great variety in rider sizes without hearing a complaint about the passenger affecting the control of the ATV.
Like many upper-end ATVs, the Outlander has a great gauge pod that houses the digital speedometer with a bar tachometer that scrolls across the top. Also on the gauge are the fuel gauge, gear selection, 4WD operation light, and several engine function lights. The odometer, two trip odometers, trip timer, hour meter and digital tachometer are all selectable one at a time via a small black button. To keep from accidentally leaving the key on and running the battery down, the Outlander has an auto shut-off system that automatically turns all the electrics off after 15 minutes of non use.
The ignition key, located just to the right of the gauge pod is part of a digitally encoded security system. The engine will not start without this key inserted, and a duplicate key can only be purchased through your Can-Am dealer after showing your ID. A great idea, but it doesn’t come cheap. On the right handlebar are the thumb throttle and the rocker switch to select between 2WD and 4WD. On the left handlebar is the hand lever that controls the braking to all four wheels. That same lever can also be locked to engage the parking brake
Powering the latest Outlander is a revised version of the incredible-sounding, liquid-cooled Rotax 800cc V-Twin, SOHC, 8-valve engine. It’s fueled by a pair of throttle body injectors that have been programmed for more than 10 percent better fuel efficiency than before and yet still produces more power than the previous model. Can-Am says the Outlander 800 puts out a whopping 71 horsepower. Now while it’s easy to say that there’s no way you need an ATV with that much power, all it takes is one ride up in the high mountain trails after a fresh 12 inches of snowfall and you’ll find the power of the big 800cc Twin very welcome indeed. We powered the Outlander through snow drifts where other ATVs struggled to even follow in our tracks! And while the power’s always there when needed, you don’t have to push that thumb lever all the way when just cruising. It’s always better to have it there if you want than to not have it when you need it!
The CVT automatic transmission has high range, low range, neutral, reverse and park all selectable by the gated lever on the right side of the ATV. Drive choices are 2WD or 4WD. When in 4WD, the front differential has Can-Am’s new revised Visco-Lok that now senses wheel spin quicker thus allowing for a faster engagement of the limited slip differential when true four-wheel drive is needed. Although called names like Visco-stuck (and worse) in the past due to the front differential’s inability to lock up well enough to provide traction to both front tires when needed the most, we found the new system to work on par with any of the other limited slip systems out there. With that said, we greatly prefer to have full control over the drive system with the choice to select 2WD, 4WD, or a full lock of the front differential.
The frame on the Outlander is unlike any other ATV frame on the market. Called Surrounding Spar Technology by the folks at Can-Am, the frame is basically one big single center frame channel. This system not only keeps the mass of the ATV centered, but also works as a continuous skid plate running the length of the ATV. While the center spar has been problematic in the past for denting too easy, for 2009 it is now better protected with an additional plastic skid plate running the full length of the frame.
Another departure from typical is Can-Am’s Torsional Trailing Independent rear suspension. This consists of a pair of trailing arms that pivot on a torsional sway bar that’s located in front of the rear wheels. Pivoting the trailing arms like this allows the rear wheels to travel up and back rather than up and out like typical A-arms do. Without this scrub, the tires track perfectly straight, not trying to steer the ATV as the suspension works. We’ve found this to be by far the best rear suspension system we’ve ever ridden and wonder why no one else has switched to this system.
The front suspension is a more standard dual A-arm setup but with the top arm being aluminum. The front geometry has been revised slightly for 2009 to make the steering a bit easier – especially when riding downhill with the added weight of a second person on board. The suspension travel is an amazing eight inches up front and nine inches in the rear. The shocks are five-way pre-load adjustable front and rear.
The brakes are a pair of inboard mounted discs up front and a single inboard disc in the rear operated by a single lever on the handlebar or a foot pedal on the right floorboard. The inboard mounting of the brakes result in less unsprung weight and therefore helps to improve the handling of the Outlander. Often overlooked by utility ATVers is how much increasing unsprung weight affects the handling. The lighter that everything not held up by the suspension (hence the term unsprung weight) the quicker it can react and the less impact it has on the rest of the ATV.
Another big factor in handling is the center of gravity. The lower the most of the weight of the ATV is, the less tippy it will feel in turning and in off-camber situations. Another feature on the Outlander to help in all of this is the mounting of the 5.3 gallon fuel tank low behind the seat.
The racks on the Outlander are some of the best with the front rack capable of holding 100 pounds and the rear 200 pounds. Located under the rear rack is a 5.3-gallon sealed storage compartment.
The rear rack is rather small when the second seat is in place, but without the pillion there’s an additional storage box that can be quickly snapped in place. And that is the magic of the Outlander MAX. With the second seat in place it can comfortably carry a second person without them interfering in the operation of the ATV. And, even without the second person, the added length of the ATV makes it a far more stable machine than the shorter wheelbase, standard ATV. That alone is worth the additional length.
We have never hidden the fact that we absolutely love two-seat ATVs as they give you the ability to safely carry another person with you when you explore the back country trails. This safety is a result of a longer ATV that keeps the passenger from interfering with the control of the ATV and providing a more stable platform. But we like that when even when ridden without the second person that the longer wheelbase gives the ATV a more stable platform without taking away it’s maneuverability in the tight stuff.
The Can Am Outlander MAX XT 800R is certainly one of the best two-seaters we’ve ever ridden. The 800cc V-Twin puts out great gobs of power and sounds wonderful doing it! Unfortunately, the engine can run so hot it can be almost unbearable in any weather above freezing.
Unlike any other ATV, even most sport quads, racecar-type technology is found in every aspect of the design including the trick single-spar frame, great-working and light-weight suspensions, and inboard brakes. And although most of that works incredibly, the single lever braking has very little feel to it, and the rear pedal has absolutely none. We also noticed that the ignition key becomes almost impossible to reach when the handlebars are turned to the right. And the price (Base MSRP – $9,799; XT MSRP – $10,849) is absolutely shocking.