Former 4X4 Mag and Motorcycle News Editor Mick Matheson puts the new “quad meets car” CanAm Commander through its paces.
“Scared anyone yet?” I asked as I jumped into the driver’s seat of the Can-Am Commander 1000. “Or more to the point, has anyone managed to scare you?”
Greg Murphy grinned from inside his helmet and shook his head. The four-times Bathurst-winning V8 Supercar driver was riding shotgun at the launch of the new side-by-side (SSV) vehicle and had no idea how good or bad a driver he was getting each time we journos swapped around. He’s a braver man than me.
And less cautious. I suppose charging around places like Bathurst’s mountain circuit in a V8 Supercar at championship level must raise your threshold for fear, because just as I was getting used to this cross between a quad bike and a rally car, he pointed to the next corner and yelled, “Give it some!”
So I did. Not everything – I still had no idea how the Can-Am would react to getting too much, and the plunge off the edge of the NZ South Island mountain would’ve allowed me plenty of time to mull it over before we reached the bottom. I put pedal to metal as I steered in and … wow! The SSV drifted gently and powered up the track, so controllable I didn’t need any more geeing up from my navigator.
We hit the bends a bit quicker each time. Just before the top, Murph, thinking I might not notice, flicked it into two-wheel drive but I adjusted my approach to suit and discovered the little rocket loved to steer with power on. This was fun!
Can-Am has been building excellent quads for a long time now, and most recently upset the status quo by introducing an odd but exciting three-wheeled motorcycle called the Spyder. Parent company BRP also produces Sea-Doo watercraft, Ski-Doo snowmobiles, Evinrude outboards and more. It owns Rotax, too, and the famed Austrian engine maker provides the Commander’s powerplants.
Naturally, one of the markets Can-Am has in mind for the SSV is us hunters. We use quads, bikes and four-wheel drives, and side-by-side vehicles are beginning to make an impact with us, too, although it’s mainly the Americans who’ve taken to this relatively new concept so far. Can-Am has waded into a category that already has some fairly advanced designs out there, with seats for up to six people and various sports versions, but the Commander has a few new tricks to show us.