2012 Can-Am Outlander 1000 and 800R Review: First Impressions

Lucas Cooney
by Lucas Cooney
Crazy power and brand new chassis

It seems like the folks at Bombardier Recreational Products (BRP) must never go to sleep. Every year BRP’s Can-Am family of off-road vehicles offers major changes and pushes new technologies. The 2012 model year is no different – Can-Am has come out with its guns blazing once again.

Can-Am got a taste of 1000cc power with the introduction of the Commander 1000 UTV in 2011 and decided it was time to move that outrageous mill to its ATV lineup. Not merely satisfied with throwing the engine into the familiar Outlander body, Can-Am gave the new Outlander 1000 and Outlander 800R a ground-up redesign.

If Sport 4×4 ATVs are more your thing, you can read about the 2012 Can-Am Renegade 1000 and 800R here.


While the Outlander 800R uses the same 71-horsepower, 800cc, V-Twin engine it has for the last few years, the Outlander 1000 is a different story altogether. According to BRP, the 80-degree, 976cc, V-Twin produces an industry-leading 82 horsepower – 17% more power than any competitive ATV.

2012 Can-Am Outlander 1000

With a whopping 82 horsepower on tap, the Outlander 1000 is the most powerful stock ATV on the market.

The engine is almost identical to the one found in the Commander 1000. It’s only missing intelligent throttle control (iTC) and a plenum. As well, the Outlander 1000 offers three less horsepower due to a different intake tract.

2012 Can-Am Outlander 1000

Changes to the air filter, radiator and transmission keep the both the 1000 and 800R engine packages running smoothly.

Also part of the ground-up redesign for the Outlander 1000 and 800R is a new air box, which has been reconfigured and placed at a higher and more centralized location for filtering and processing air. BRP says the air box features a dual-room design that improves the air filtration process and the quality of air. It does this by capturing dirty air in one portion of the box and clean air in another section before it sends the air to the engine. The air intake is also higher in the frame, which was designed to improve the Outlander’s performance in the mud and water.

When the filter requires maintenance or inspection all you have to do is remove the seat, console plastic and exterior push plate. The air filter is attached to the air box housing with a new screw-on system and push plate, which create a tight seal.

BRP also updated the transmission to improve performance in foul weather. The cover now features what BRP is calling a more secure 13-bolt system for an improved seal. Additionally, a dedicated drain plug has been built into the cover and is easily accessible should the operator have to remove water from the CVT housing. The automatic transmission (High, Low, Neutral, Reverse) comes with standard engine braking.

Helping to keep the engine running cool is a new larger and more efficient radiator. The result is a cooling capacity of 27 kW on the Outlander 1000 and 22kW on the Outlander 800R, compared to 14 kW on the 2011 800R.


2012 Can-Am Outlander 1000

For 2012 the Outlander 1000 and 800R were outfitted with a new SST G2 frame.

While the new engine will get the headlines, both the big bore Outlanders received wholesale changes to the chassis. Highlighting the updated chassis is a brand new Surrounding Spar Technology (SST) G2 frame. BRP says its welded-steel frame offers updated geometry for increased structural integrity, improved durability and precision handling. As well, BRP says the SST design provides increased strength, a lower center of gravity, and requires fewer components, materials and welds than a traditional tubular steel chassis.

BRP engineers incorporated nearly 16 percent fewer parts on the new frame than the frames used previous model-year Outlander ATVs. The result is a frame that BRP boasts can accept more than two times the force and offers twice the torsional stiffness of the previous chassis.

While they were tinkering with the frame, engineers also turned their attention to the front suspension, which now features what BRP calls a dive-control and anti-kickback geometry that positions the pivot points in space instead of simply adding stiffer shocks and springs. Five-way preload adjustable shocks are outfitted at the front corners, offering more than an inch of additional travel (9.0 in.)

2012 Can-Am Outlander 1000 XT

The front suspension has been altered to offer more than inch of additional travel.

2012 Can-Am Outlander 1000 XT

The TTI rear suspension offers increased rigidity in addition to improved travel.

The back end of the big bore Outlanders was also tweaked for 2012. BRP’s Trailing Torsional Independent (TTI) rear suspension has been reconfigured to offer increased rigidity and improved suspension travel at 9.3 inches (23.6 cm) and to include a removable external sway bar. According to BRP, the updates lead to lower pivot points, providing geometric squatting for improved traction and the transfer of power to the ground as well as a slightly different feel compared to previous Outlander ATVs.

Other changes to the 2012 Outlanders include new 12-inch cast-aluminum “computer optimized” wheels (mated to 26-inch Carlisle Badland tires), which feature a center-less design to reduce unsprung weight. As well, reinforced composite cargo racks (200 lb. rear/100 lb. front) replace the previous tubular steel setup and feature an anti-skid surface and numerous edges and holes for use with tie-downs and bungee cords. A new skid plate has also been added to the Outlander package.

2012 Can-Am Outlander 1000 XT

New composite front and rear racks have been added to the big bore Outlanders for 2012.

Early Riding Impressions

We’d like to get a little more seat time to give you a full review of the 2012 Outlanders, but our test rider was willing to pass on a few early thoughts.

2012 Can-Am Outlander 800R

Power from the new 976cc engine is outrageous, but this is not a machine for the inexperienced.

As expected, the new motor in the Outlander 1000 is a beast. Acceleration is incredible and the engine produces absolutely brutal power, despite nice manners at slow speeds. Experienced, power-mad riders will appreciate what this mill has to offer, but this is not an ATV for everybody.

Our rider found the front end felt light, which makes steering a little tricky when you’re on the gas. Also, with so much power on tap, the Outlander 1000 can be hard to control – especially for less experienced riders.

Our test rider felt the new chassis had a little more flex than the previous-year Outlanders, but thought it handled well in the 800 package. It was fine in the 1000 package as well, but you’ve got to use that that robust power carefully.

Option Packages

If the base model Outlanders aren’t exactly what you want, both the 800R and 1000 are available in Can-Am’s XT package.

Highlighting the XT package is the new Tri-Mode Dynamic Power Steering (DPS), which now allows the user to choose between three different levels of steering assistance (MIN, MED and MAX) depending on the terrain. This is another envelope-pushing advancement from BRP and one we are pretty excited about testing fully.

2012 Can-Am Outlander 800R XT

With the updated Tri-Mode DPS, users can choose between three different levels of steering assistance

Mated to the DPS is a Visco-Lok QE, which is basically a quicker-engaging version of the Visco-Lok front differential found on the base model Outlanders.

Other XT features include a 3,000-pound Warn winch, a custom finish on the cast aluminum wheels, 26-inch Carlisle ACT radial tires, heavy-duty front and rear bumpers, 650-watt magneto, handlebar wind deflectors, and optional painted plastic.

2012 Can-Am Outlander 1000 XT

The Outlander XT models offer a host of performance and styling upgrades.

The Outlander 800R is available in two other packages, the XT-P and the mud-specific X mr, but neither uses the new G2 chassis. The Outlander 800R X mr (a superb and ridiculously fun machine, by the way) actually uses the longer two-up Outlander MAX chassis, while the 800R XT-P (and LTD) uses last season’s G1 chassis.

Related Reading

2010 Can-Am Outlander 800R EFI XT-P Review

2010 Can-Am Outlander 800R EFI Review

2009 Can-Am Outlander 400 EFI Review

2009 Can-Am Outlander MAX 800R EFI XT Review

2009 Can-Am Outlander 500 MAX EFI Review

Lucas Cooney
Lucas Cooney

I have been working exclusively in digital media since 1997. I started out with TSN.ca, spending nearly nine years creating and editing content on Canada's leading sports website. I left to join VerticalScope, Inc., one of the world's largest online publishers, to start a number of powersports publications. While at VerticalScope, I've helped create and oversee content for a wide variety of different publications, including ATV.com, Off-Road.com, ArcheryTalk.com, Tractor.com, RVGuide.com, and many more.

More by Lucas Cooney