2012 Can-Am Outlander 1000 XT Review

Rick Sosebee
by Rick Sosebee
A new power king begins its reign

2012 Utility ATV of the Year

Growing up in a competitive, testosterone-filled neighborhood meant that I had to be faster or smarter than the kid next door. We raced our bicycles down the Strickland Drive and then our motorcycles up hills behind the power lines. This time in my life taught me that if I wanted to be successful, I needed to be one step in front of my competition. It seems the masterminds at BRP have had the same experiences at one time or another, hence the wonderfully excessive 2012 Can-Am Outlander 1000 XT.

When BRP released the Can-Am Commander 1000 with its massive engine for model year 2011 I thought the Outlander may have a new thumper between the fenders in the next few years. This didn’t take as long as we had conceived because the very next year we were surprised with the all-new G2 SST chassis and an industry shattering 976cc Rotax powerplant in the Outlander model line.

The SST G2 frame boasts better handling and control with fewer parts. This new chassis has its work cut out for it, though, as the engine is extremely powerful. Riding this big ute through the mountainous areas and tight trails of Northern Georgia proved to be a task and getting the most out of the engine seemed almost impossible. Not because the outrageous mill wouldn’t gladly give it to you, but because you generally ran out of straight trail before you could get to the end of the power range.

2012 Can-Am Outlander 1000 XT Muddy

Even standing still the Outlander 1000 strikes a menacing pose.

This fuel-injected engine uses a 46mm throttle body to breathe, which is similar to its lower displacement siblings. The Siemens injectors provide the fuel for the fire and the engine itself ramps up to prove to everyone once and for all that it is on the top of factory motor-mountain! The response from the near 1000cc powerplant is incredible. Time and time again it would surprise us with its limitless pull from any rpm range. It seems to wait in hiding just like a big cat waiting to pounce. As you throttle up through the rpm range the power just keeps building and power wheelies to get over trail brush or g-outs are only limited to how brave you are with the throttle control. Needless to say the power is very evident and it seems to get better with the number of hours you put on the machine. Kind of like Can-Am didn’t want to freak you out all at once so it’s a gradual break in to what really awaits.

As you sit on the Outlander 1000 you will notice the full coverage of fender protection that seems to stretch out like a blanket on the G2 frame. We had never really worried about coverage for muddy trails or conditions with this amount of fender protection. We could go out and as long as the rubber side stays where its intended the only thing that’s really dirty is the Outlander.

2012 Can-Am Outlander 1000 XT HID Lights Spot

Could some aftermarket HID lights fit in here?

Getting used to the new styling took a minute, but that may be just because I have grown to love the original Outlander. The huge projector beam lights shine through the darkest evenings and the updated gauge cluster hood took on a new look of its own as well. I wonder if some small HID lights wouldn’t fit in the small slits on that hood. The foot wells of the machine seem to drain relatively quickly and provide good control for your feet during regular trail riding. The raised peg design seems to be a bit better than previous years and it gives you a good grip on the machine. I do wish the peg had just a bit more of a kick up at the outside, because you really need all the grip you can get when you’re turning this big machine in tight corners.

2012 Can-Am Outlander 1000 XT Cornering

Better grip on the pegs would be helpful for cornering the burly Outlander.

I do understand that the machine is set up for the general audience, but the Outlander 1000 XT isn’t really the general population style of machine. This is for the go-fast guy who wants to crush his buddies in head-to-head power-to-the-trail competitions. Our only complaint here was that the rear bumper sticks out beyond the plastics. Now this may not seem like a problem, but after rocketing down a brushy trail it felt like the edges of the bumper could be grabbing at branches and limbs along the trail. When stopped for a break I noticed that the left rear plastic cover for the edge of the rear bumper had disappeared. I assumed it had been snapped off by a passing branch and if it could be caught on something and torn loose that meant that possibly the bumper might suffer the same fate in even tighter situations.

Speaking of handling and suspension, the Outlander 1000 XT gets around pretty well with nine inches of travel in the front and 9.3 in the rear. The overall ground clearance is a whopping 12 inches and getting over stuff is simple. After getting better acquainted with the test vehicle I noticed it had a bit of wild manners at speed on the trails. As you pick up speed the suspension seems to run out of its boundaries pretty quick. This is not to say that the suspension is inadequate, but a stiffer spring for all four corners would most definitely improve the overall package plus it would take some of the sway away. Using a totally new chassis means that tweaking is going to be going on for every rider and the styles of their riding. Trust me when I say that getting on the SST G2 from the original SST frame was a change and being stubborn, I didn’t want to believe that this could be better, but it seems it really is. It just needs a little tweaking in the shock area.

2012 Can-Am Outlander 1000 XT Action Fast

We think stiffer shock springs would help improve trail manners when you’ve got the throttle squeezed tight.

One thing I really came to appreciate after spending a wild few months with the Can-Am Outlander 1000 XT is the Tri-mode Dynamic Power Steering. Having the power to turn the 26-inch Carlisle ACT tires in the tight, slow, and rocky stuff is surely beneficial. When you lock the beast into 4WD the evidence and benefit of the power steering is really magnified. In the MIN setting the steering is still a little tough, but as you head into the MED and MAX modes you notice a world of trouble-free steering control. I think I set the Dynamic power steering to MAX and left it there after only a few hours of testing. This proved to be the best area as it seemed to give just enough control at high speeds and plenty on the bottom.

2012 Can-Am Outlander 1000 XT Water Crossing

We came away impressed with the Outlander’s Dynamic Power Steering after months of testing.

Overall, the 2012 Can-Am Outlander has provided many hours of fun and excitement. Having a very powerful engine means that you always have an edge on your competition. This machine was ready to roar into the woods every time the key is switched on. As with any totally new ride there will be things to get used to, but we know the progressive minds at BRP will continually reach for the best of the best. I can’t wait to be see what comes next!

2012 Can-Am Outlander 1000 XT Jump

Related Reading

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

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

2011 Can-Am Commander 1000 XT Review

Rick Sosebee
Rick Sosebee

Whether he is in Mexico covering the Baja 1000, building ATVs for local racers, or out enjoying the trails, Rick’s passion shows in his stories. Learning to wrench his own machines from his grandfather, Rick also has an undying appreciation for the mechanics of off-road vehicles. Do not let the dirt and mud fool you, though, as Rick also has a deep love for street cars.

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