CanAm Commander XT – Side by Side

_WRP9703wBy Marissa Baecker

The Okanagan is by far some of the best real estate in Canada offering the best of outdoor activities. From skiing to water sports we welcome the seasons and all the outdoor activities that they offer. On a long weekend, the West coast residents head inland to the Okanagan and Okanagan residents head for the hills and what better way to climb them than in a CanAm Commander 1000 XT side by side, 4×4.


A 15-minute drive in any direction and your choice of landscape waits to be explored. An abundance of storage makes this machine a hunter’s dream quad boasting a cargo box that can hold up to 600 lb. combined between upper and lower storage and a towing capacity of 1,500 lbs with a 2-inch reach hitch receiver and an optional 4,000 lb. winch for the front easily operated with the flick of a switch, so pack plenty of gear and plan for extended wilderness camping. The rear upper cargo box even has a bed release for tilt assist unloading of additional wood to fuel the fire or other heavy items.

With a full 10-gallon fuel tank, a bottle of sun-block bug repellant and a cooler full of goodies, my body molded into the Recarro-like adjustable seats as thought I were getting into the cockpit of a plane, and the tilt steering to my preference, I hit the gas pedal at the bottom of Gillard Forest Service Road and was immediately disappointed.

“That’s it? That’s all this thing’s got?” were the thoughts going through my head as the needle on the speedometer was quivering barely below 60 km/h. Granted the Commander may not look like much in its bare bones dress with its ROPS approved, 2-inch steel cage (making a helmet optional), mesh doors, no windshield or roof but surely with a Rotax 1000 liquid-cooled V-Twin, something wasn’t right.

Commander_XT_analog_digital_gaugeReading the analog/digital display was simple enough but there was nothing to warn me of any impending doom. I even shut off the ignition and tried it again before I remembered the D.E.S.S. or the digitally encoded security system and checked which key was in use. When you turn the key, the digital display is programmed to the send the owner’s name across the dial like a stock market ticker. “B-A-N-N-E-R  R-E-C-R-E-A-T-I-O-N”. According to CanAm, this is an industry first anti-theft device. The Commander comes with two keys – one that limits the top speed to 70 km/hr (not buckling up your seat belt will provide the same restrictions) and the second with no restriction on speed or power. You can even get an optional third key to limit the power and speed to 40 km/h for learning teenagers or work sites.


Upon switching the keys, I was a little over zealous with the gas pedal and climbing a dirt surface at around 80 km/h, with power-steering, the Commander developed a mind of its own and became more like flying than driving. This is what I anticipated. Perhaps saving the 82 HP for the loose shale and rocks while climbing at a 60 degree angle was more purposeful than ascending up a dirt logging road.

This tiny two-seater can tackle challenging terrain without even leaving two-wheel drive. The 14” cast aluminum wheels sporting 27” Maxxis Bighorn 2.0 tires rip over rocks with the same ease as a garburator eating vegetable peels. With the extra power the CanAm offers, the back end, while swaying on a dirt straight away at high speed, remains solid on constantly changing terrain whether it is climbing steep hills over rocks or making its way over logs and mud.

CanAm offers pre-load adjustable motion control shocks with 10 inches of travel in the front and independent rear suspension with external sway bar in the rear. With 11 inches of ground clearance, traversing over narrow trenches the bottom remained clear of the dirt. When the water comes in, the floor of the Commander fills but water quickly recedes out the drain in the floorboards.

After more than two-hours, taking every trail that appeared in my path, going in opposite directions, coming out at dead ends, through woods, meadows, clear cuts and more, my best attempt to get lost was a failure. Just as I entered a heavily wooded area, spooking a few deer, I saw a truck with some dirt bikes which was fine until I saw another, and then a camper, a picnic table, another tent and “What the heck? What are all these people doing here?”


A group of campers relax on a floating dock as they trawl Chute lake by electric motor.


As I stopped at the lake, and saw a floating dock full of people fishing, I realized I had ascended upon Chute Lake Resort through the back door that I didn’t know existed.

There in the water right in front of me appeared to be an oil spill but one that kept moving. Upon closer look, it was a school of tadpoles at various stages of growth all huddling together in the shallowest water possible to avoid becoming food for the larger critters that the people on the dock were carefully casting after.


Tadpoles at various stages of growth huddle together in the shallowest water possible to avoid being eaten by fish.


If you have never been to Chute Lake Resort, put it on your list. As my Commander sat parked outside the lodge with a cooler full of food and beverages, I sat at the picnic table in the sun with a slice of the best homemade pie I can remember eating.

MSRP for the addition of the Commander XT to your toy box – approximately $16,200.



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