Can-Am Commander Limited 1000 Test Hot
In a field of many, many side-by-sides and UTVs, with more being added constantly, what can be done to set a machine apart from the ever-growing pack? One way is to take an already proven side-by-side and throw as many goodies as possible at it right off the factory floor. Enter the Can-Am Commander Limited. Can-Am has set this Commander apart by creating a model outfitted with all the aftermarket upgrades owners seem to want to put on their side-by-sides, and making it available off the showroom floor--saving both time and money. There is nothing “limited” about the Commander Limited (couldn’t resist that one!) In fact, the opposite could not be more true, as this Commander model is more loaded than Mayor Rob Ford of Toronto.
Not Very "Limited"
From the moment you see the Commander Limited sitting on the showroom floor, you know you are looking at something “special” that embodies a step-up from the rest of the pack of side-by-sides out there. The exterior look with all of its tasteful body accents screams a higher-end model. Simply put, the Commander Limited is the “Cadillac” of the UTV industry, coming fully furnished with all the bells and whistles one would throw on a UTV after getting it home, plus other premium features one might not necessarily think of. Can-Am constantly answers the call of what consumers want by adding certain features to meet the needs of their Can-Am-loving public, and the Commander Limited is a perfect example. Jumping into all the added “bells and whistles” starts with the Limited’s color and body accents that not only look great but are fully functional. The Commander Limited comes with a durable painted plastic finish in Pearl White or Pure Magnesium Metallic, both of which look sharp (and we are partial to the Pearl White). Adding to the special color selections are mud guard fender flares, bed rails, and a heavy duty front bumper, not only adding to the look but adding to the Commander experience. Next up would be the roof, windshield, Maxxis Bighorn tires with Limited Finish wheels, and a 4000LB winch, all of which embody the most common aftermarket additions to any side-by-side. In fact, most of these additions are on our checklist of “must” add items to anything we use that has more than a single seat. This is where the features go from "functional and attractive" to "top of the line." The Commander Limited comes with a built in Garmin Montana 650T touchscreen GPS and a sound system (radio and MPS) with four integrated speakers. Now to really knock your socks off, comes the rear FOX Air Assist shocks with onboard air compressor. This allows you to adjust the ride on the fly to six different preload settings, and inflate the tires with the included hose as an added bonus. All of these premium features along with the Commander’s standard features combine to form the Commander Limited, resulting in an experience unexpected from a side-by-side.
Starting With A Proven Baseline
Can-Am took its time to release quite the comfortable and capable side-by-side, with the Commander being the result. The Commander is outfitted with with a laundry list of features starting on its base model, and has been welcomed by the side-by-side enthusiast as a sought-after machine. The Commander is a bit of a “jack of all trades,” offering a tilting bed for those who want to carry things to the campsite, hunting spot, or just around the family property, but also offering the avid trail rider the prowess needed to arrive wherever he wants to go. The Commander can never be accused of not having enough power, no matter the engine chosen, and that power is chewed on and spit out by CVT transmission, offering a high and low range. Throw that in with an independent suspension setup with substantial travel and a Visco-Lok auto-locking front diff with all-wheel drive, and the Commander can tackle anything. The interior of the Commander reminds me of a cockpit with everything controlled by rocker switches, a digital and analog instrument cluster, and the fantastic “Start” button to push which brings the engine to life. All of these combine to form Can-Am’s do-it-all, tackle-it-all flagship side-by-side. Starting from this baseline, the Commander Limited adds feature after feature, taking the base Commander to a whole new level for the side-by-side owner.
Can-Am is known for the unadulterated power that comes bursting forth from their different engines, and the Limited is no exception to this. Since the Limited is a top-of- the-line model, only the Commander’s top-of-the-line Rotax 1000 engine is available. The Rotax 1000 consists of a twin-cylinder SOHC, 976 fuel-injected cc engine; and when all of this combines, it produces 85 horsepower. So if you are wanting power, then power you will get, and to put it mildly, this Commander is fast! As with all Can-Ams, you can feel the power in the deepest parts of your soul when you stomp on the gas. That power results in a smile time and time again; it is simply that much fun. The torque from The Rotax 1000 is enormous turning the earth beneath the drive wheels, and breaking the back end loose is as easy as taking candy from a baby. The power is intoxicating, making you stomp the gas again and again, drifting turns like Vin Diesel in the Fast & Furious movies. The power is raw and undignified making it incredible to have at your disposal.
Ride- Air Included
With so much power on tap, the suspension setup better be able to support that power along with offering a premium setup with the word “Limited” in the name. Premium is what you get with the Commander Limited, with the suspension being the most unique setup from an OEM in the industry. The suspension setup includes 10 inches of travel on all four corners with the Torsional Trailing Arm Independent rear suspension (TTI for short) including an anti-sway bar and dual a-arms with dive control geometry up front just like all Commanders. That, however, is where the Limited version with its Air Control Suspension (ACS for short) steps up to the plate. There is an on-board compressor under the driver seat feeding air to the FOX Air Assist HPG Piggyback shocks. This allows the driver to adjust the suspension stiffness to six different pre-loads on the fly from a rocker switch on the dash. Most side-by-sides allow you to adjust your suspension with either pre-loads or a dial, but being able to do it from the cab at the press of a button is a premium feature I have grown to love. Have to cross a rocky section and need maximum ground clearance?
Hit the rocker switch to adjust the setting to "six" and crawl away. Want to have the plushest most comfy ride across a rutted trail section? Then dial the suspension to "one" and step on the gas. To put the proverbial icing on the cake, you can access the air compressor under the driver seat and attach the included hose to pump up tires. I found that to be a comforting feeling knowing an air compressor is along for the ride for the occasional tire problem.
The Commander Limited is a chameleon of sorts, morphing into what you need it to be. I can think of no other stock suspension on the market with an easier way to dial-in the ride, and that makes the ride in the Commander Limited particularly enjoyable and a personal favorite setup. You can feel the settings of the shocks change as the Commander ratchets itself up to the firmest setting and settles itself back to the softest setting. The Commander handles quite well on a variety of terrains. You want a sport suspension setup…then, boom, you have it. You want a plush ride over long distance….then, boom, you have it. The suspension can be set to soak up the bumps along the trail, offering a plush and comfortable ride. If you want to lean into the corners with a sport-type responsiveness, then you can have that at a push of the rocker switch. The Commander is equally easy to settle into, as learning how it is going to respond to the driver takes little time at all. With its wide stance and rear sway bar, the Commander feels tight and flat in the corners, even at higher speeds. And the entire machine seems to revolve around the driver’s seat position, with the weight feeling like it is towards the rear. Going around our test track as well as out on day-long trail rides, the Commander was fun to drive, accelerating around corners with the back end coming around throwing dirt into the air, along with screaming down the straights, unleashing the fire-breathing Rotax engine. The suspension is not only adjustable on the fly, but is predictable on how it is going to perform. That gives the driver peace of mind when wanting to “push” it some. The suspension package not only provides a comfortable ride but also a smile on your face stemming from the fun that comes from using it.
Adding to the comfort of the ride would be the power steering and the ITC (aka Intelligent Throttle Control.) Starting with the Can-Am’s power steering, the Commander Limited’s system is called "Dynamic Power Steering" for 2013, which is the model we have. For 2014, the Commander lineup has what Can-Am calls "Tri-Mode Dynamic Power Steering," which allows the driver to pick three levels of power assist in the steering system. The amount of assist will then adjust based upon speed and other factors within the setting the driver selects. This Tri-Mode Dynamic Power Steering, I am certain, will only improve the power steering compared to that in our 2013 model. The power steering has an interesting feel which can only be described as "sudden." Whether at a stop or speeding down the trail, it seems like you put pressure on the wheel to turn, and it offers a little resistance to your input, but then it becomes extremely easy to turn all at one time. The power steering offers plenty of assist, and it changes with speed. It absolutely eliminates steering kickback along with torque steer. Nothing on the trail ever jerked the steering wheel or took me in a direction I didn’t want to go. Knowing the 2014 models allow the driver to adjust the amount of assist will make the power steering that better.
The Intelligent Throttle Control is on all Commanders but worth talking about. The throttle control in all of Can-Am’s side-by-sides uses a drive-by-wire system for the throttle.This opens up a world of possibilities, and Can-Am takes advantage of that.
There are two modes called "Progressive" and "Sport", similar to the modes on super cars. Progressive mode filters out unwanted foot inputs such as a foot bouncing on the throttle on a rough trail to provide smooth power delivery. Sport mode makes sure the power responds to the smallest change in the throttle’s position, responding to the driver’s every whim. Here is the good news: both of these modes work exactly the way they are described. The results are quickly noticeable when changing from Progressive to Sport.
Any side-by-side touted as a trail-eating vehicle must be capable across the spectrum of mud, rocks, ruts, hills, and rough stuff, and the Commander delivers strongly in this department. Push the rocker switch on the dash to take it from 2WD to 4WD and the Visco-Lok QE system goes to work engaging the front wheels for the traction you need and transferring the power to the front wheel that has the most traction. The QE part of the Visco-Lok engages that wheel and transfers power even quicker than the standard Visco-Lok. Time and time again in the slick stuff or rocky hill climbs the 4WD drive engaged and delivered us out of the abyss that was the trail in front of us. Cornering at higher speeds also benefited noticeably from engaging the front wheels, making sure the Commander Limited went in the direction it was pointed. Couple the 4WD with 11-inches of ground clearance and Maxxis Bighorn tires, and the Commander Limited will take you where you want to go. Knowing you have a WARN 4000LB winch offers the peace of mind you will make it through and return to tell about it.
Interior Comforts Galore
No other interior is more reminiscent of a cockpit than a Can-Am, and the Commander Limited takes that to an extreme level. The instrument cluster to the rocker switches put you within an arm’s length of controlling everything the Commander Limited has to offer. No other side-by-side on the market brings such a level of, dare I say, "luxury" to exploring the outdoors. The rather astounding thing is the Commander Limited does that straight from the factory floor proving you can tackle the wild blue yonder in comfort and capability. The instrument cluster not only looks high-end, mixing analog with digital in a tasteful way, but keeps the driver informed of what is happening with the machine at all times. The wrapped tilt steering wheel has a sharp “Can-Am” centerpiece, adding yet another detail which proves the Commander Limited is special. The seats are high back and support the driver from head to toe, keeping the driver in place in the rough stuff, and have the word “Limited” stitched into the upper part of the seat backs.
After a long day of hitting the trail, the seats felt just as comfortable as when the ride started. The center dash includes the rocker switches for the control of the headlights, Intelligent Throttle Control, 2WD/4WD, and winch, along with the key hole, engine “Start” button and a 12V DC outlet . The center console includes cup holders for both big and small beverages, and sports a passenger grab handle. Looking at the roof, it is obvious it is made of high-quality materials, protecting you from the sun and rain. The half-windshield pushes the air up and over your head, and it works surprisingly well. The rear net really does keep the majority of the dust out, and the mudguard fender flares keep the mud and water out of the cab. The bed rails not only add accents to the machine as a whole, but help tie down the gear in the bed. The glove box offers plenty of storage for snacks, phones, and a few other items. There are even driver and passenger visors that fold down from the roof and you can store a couple of items in them.
Diving into the high end Commander Limited goodies means talking about the the built- in-yet-removable Garmin Montana 650T Touchscreen GPS (that was a mouthful) and the four-speaker sound system. Many of the places I love to ride are rather remote, so a good GPS is a must. The Garmin Montana 650T being mounted in the dash is perfect, and removing and replacing it is very easy. No messing with having to run a power cord to your GPS, and no having to find a place to mount it either. Not only is it a touchscreen, making it easy to use, but also a 5MP camera to boot. "Well done!" to Can-Am on offering this feature on the Limited. Of course the sound system is the other premium feature mounted in the dash, and the four speakers are mounted under the dash and behind the seats. The sound system is compatible with an iPod/iPhone and other MP3 players, and offers a USB and auxiliary ports accessible from inside the glove box. The unit also includes a radio. Many people would love this feature, and a sound system makes sense in a such a premium side-by-side. I have found myself using it around our testing facility more than out in the wild, but it is easy to use and is a quality sound system. So at the end of the day, the Commander Limited backs up its “Limited” namesake with premium features found on no other stock side-by-sides.
Though the Commander Limited is more of a Thoroughbred than a workhorse, it is a cross-over capable of doing work. The dead giveaway the Commander is meant for some work is the size and capacity of the tilting cargo bed. The cargo bed comes in with a weight capacity of 600LBs, and can carry a full load of rocks, dirt, wood (my personal favorite), a dead deer, or plenty of gear for the camping trip or trail ride. Clearly the cargo bed on the Commander wasn’t an afterthought but garnered plenty of engineering intended to make it useable for actually hauling things. You can tow things also with a rating of 1500 LBs using its 2-inch receiver hitch.
A key feature worth noting on any Commander is the storage compartment under the rear cargo bed which is easily accessible and large in size. In fact, the kitchen sink would almost fit in this storage compartment. Though I am certain it would not keep your gear dry if you submerged the storage compartment, it did keep our gear dry even after splashing through some streams on our rides. The fact is being able to open the compartment and carry all your gear for the day's ride and keep it out of the elements is a huge plus. I wish more manufacturers could provide storage like this on their side-by-sides. It is also innovative in the fact you can remove the panel on the bottom of the cargo bed to make the entire thing a single hauling bed. So there is no lack of storage on the Commander.
Making It Event Better
There are a handful of things we feel like can be improved on the Commander Limited. First, I know manufacturers have to put something on the sides of machines to keep people who refuse to wear a seat belt from falling out, and side nets currently seem to be the answer to this,though doors are appearing now. The side nets on the Commander need work as they are always difficult to use. Buckling the side net is well thought out and easy to do, but when unbuckled the side nets are just in the way when you enter and exit the Commander. No matter what you do they wind up catching your backside as you climb in and getting tangled with you. The side nets also make it all but impossible to get the seats out and then back in to the cab if for some reason you want to take them out. With manufacturers going to doors on their higher-end models, hopefully the Commander Limited will be revamped to include those rather than nets. To be fair, very few side nets are unobtrusive, though they can be.
The heat from the engine against your leg in the cab needs to be addressed. The engine is mounted under the center console and along the footwells, and, from this position, heat pours out from behind the console and along where the driver’s leg rests. In colder weather that is fine, but on a nice or hot day the heat is very noticeable, and, having tried one day to wear shorts to run around the property, I couldn’t rest my leg on the inside of the center console. There should be a way to dissipate the heat coming off the engine to make the cab cooler.
Wrap Up, Final Thoughts
When I reach for the keys to a side-by-side to climb into and hit the trail in, I reach for the keys to one that is capable, comfortable, and, I am fairly confident, able to return me whence I came without incident. The Can-Am Commander falls into this category and the Commander Limited adds premium features which make the journey even more enjoyable. When I think of Can-Am machines, I think of power and details placing them at the head of the pack from an innovation and engineering standpoint. The Commander Limited embodies these attributes. With all of the aftermarket companies making accessories for side-by-sides owners are adding to their machines, it only makes sense to make a premium model right from the factory with some of those accessories. The Commander Limited doesn’t just throw a GPS, sound system, roof, windshield, bed rails, winch, and more at a Commander, but it integrates the whole package into the machine to make it part of the Commander, and the result is a cohesive side-by-side. The Commander Limited looks good, performs well, is comfortable, is extremely trail capable, and includes features not found on any other side-by-side straight from a Can-Am’s assembly line. Through all of my adventures putting the Commander Limited through the paces from the Texas hill country to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, this machined kept me wanting to reach for its keys again and again. The Commander Limited is for those who want to play on their side-by-sides and maybe do a little work with them, but who also want to do these things with more capability and maybe even more luxury than most machines provide. Stay tuned for our upcoming video review of the Commander Limited.