Ride Tested – Easy Rider

Ride Tested – Easy Rider

2014.can-am.outlander-max650.yellow.front.jumping.in-air.JPGCan-Am’s Outlander Max 650 so impressed us during our first test rides, we named it ATV of the YEAR last season. There isn’t a single feature that puts it over the top, but as a package, it works extremely well and on the trail it feels as if you’re born to be behind its handlebars. While there have been Outlander Max models for many years, some even so well equipped we call them “trail luxury” ATVs that can be considered the trial Cadillac CTS of the trails, the Outlander Max 650 is something special. It’s when Can-Am redesigned the Outlander ATVs basing them on their outstanding G2 chassis platform that things really took a major step forward in comfort, handling, ergonomics, and ride. We had to have the Outlander Max 650 on our trails.

A Solid Base

The Outlander Max G2 chassis offers strength, precise handling, less torsion, and anti-dive front A-arm technology. The result is consistent handling throughout the shock stroke even when the front end is under compression from braking or bumps. Longer A-arms and a relocated steering knuckle reduce scrub radius for less twitchy handling as well. At the rear the Outlander Max uses Can-Am’s unique TTi trailing arm rear suspension which is similar to the suspension trophy trucks use to get incredibly long suspension travel with minimal geometry change. The difference between the standard, single rider Outlander chassis and the two-up MAX models is the MAX wheelbase is a full 8 inches longer. That’s a considerable difference but rather than feeling too long, whether riding aggressively or just out for a cruise, the Outlander Max chassis works great.2014.can-am.outlander-max650.yellow.right.jumping.in-air.JPG

Can-Am Power

Nobody has ever claimed a Can-Am needed more power when compared to anything in its class. Far from it. Most of the time, the Can-Am engines deliver power that exceeds what is expected for their size, and with the Outlander Max 650 that is definitely the case.

The Outlander family draws its power from Rotax engines and the 650 Max features a 650cc, liquid cooled, EFI equipped, V-twin engine cranking out 62 horsepower. That’s on par with some other manufacturer’s top-of-the-line machine, but rather than being torquey, charging from corner to corner, the 650 engine delivers instant yet easily controlled throttle response, and there is enough horsepower on tap for plenty of thrills. Like all Outlander models running EFI equipped Rotax engines, the Outlander Max is supremely rideable, with spot-on fuel mapping and very predictable power delivery. If you prefer a casual cruise down the trails, it can be as tame as a puppy, but you can crack open the throttle at any time and it’s ready to charge like a lion. At all RPMs, the V-twin engine runs extremely smooth with no hint of vibration.2014.can-am.outlander-max650.close-up.console.JPG

Fit & Trim

Can-Am’s G2 chassis revolution required a second major change to all Outlander models: new bodywork. We really like the styling of Can-Am’s Outlander ATVs. The bodywork is sculpted to fit smoothly around the rider without catching on your boots or clothing, yet it still retains sharp, aggressive lines that hint at the power and sporty nature of the engine and chassis. Even the switches and controls were redesigned, and at the center of the steering column is a multi-function digital display. The relationship from seat, to foot pegs, to handlebars is very comfortable even for riders well over 6ft, and the area between your knees has been sculpted for better feel. Just ahead of your right knee is a stylish shift lever, and down below are a set of full floor boards with a raised peg that both grips well and drains water away quickly. Speaking of grip, Can-Am added a nice touch when they included a non-slip, grippy surface on the top edge of their front and rear composite racks. In the saddle, the seat is soft enough to be plush, yet we never bottomed through it to feel the seat pan below. Since the Outlander Max is meant as much for work as it is for adventure, we want all the storage we can get for tools, tie-downs, or maybe fishing tackle on the weekend. Thankfully, the Outlander bodywork conceals an enormous, sealed compartment (almost 6 gallons!) between the two rear tail lights. Perfect!2014.can-am.outlander-max650.close-up.rear.JPG

Two at a Time

The Outlander 650 Max is no one-trick pony and it’s designed for all day trail comfort from either seat. On all MAX models, the rear passenger seat is raised slightly for a better view of the trail ahead and we love Can-Am’s rear passenger seat which is extremely comfortable. It has a high seat back which definitely makes the passenger feel very secure, the semi flexible hand holds are ergonomically placed and incorporated into the seat structure, and down below, the passenger’s feet are anchored on their own foot platforms with integrated pegs.

We never really understood why anyone would want to ride on the rear of an ATV until we tried it. On the Outlander 650 Max, riding in the rear seat is smooth, safe, and a great way to enjoy the trail. Adding to trail comfort, there is also plenty of room between both riders. From the driver’s perspective, on the trail you’ll forget it’s a two-up machine. With the longer chassis, the rear passenger sits slightly ahead of the rear axle for better weight distribution, and handling and stability is excellent from the slightly longer chassis.2014.can-am.outlander-max650.yellow.front.riding.over-log.JPG

No machine transforms as effortlessly from a two-seat to a single seat machine as the Can-Am Outlander Max. It takes only seconds to pop off the rear seat (no tools required) and in its place a medium sized, sealed storage container that looks every bit like a small fishing tackle box seamlessly fastens down for a continuous rear cargo rack surface. It’s a clever bit of engineering that once again shows the Outlander Max is one well thought out machine.

On the trail there is no handling change when going from a single seat to a two passenger machine. Can-Am engineers did an excellent job of designing the suspension and calibrating the shocks for the widely varying load. This is one machine in which you can head out with your buddies for an adventure in the mud, rocks, or on the trails and not feel a little awkward about riding a two-seater. When you want to spend a little quality trail time with the girlfriend, the Outlander Max makes that super easy as well; plug the seat down and you’re ready to go in seconds. It’s the only machine with this much transformability, capability, and performance.2014.can-am.outlander-max650.close-up.air-filter.JPG

Extra Details & Options

Between spending time on the trails, a little maintenance is required from time to time as well. Nearly all of the Can-Am engines share some common features making regular maintenance easy.

A large dipstick is found on the right side of the engine for quick oil checks, and just ahead of the dip stick is the oil filter access cover. The Outlander 650 (and for that matter nearly every Can-Am engine) runs a cartridge style filter. Pop a few bolts out, slip in a new filter and reinstall the cover, and you’re ready to go again in minutes. At the base of the engine is a magnetic drain plug.

Servicing the Can-Am’s air filter is easy as well, and again Can-Am went with a cartridge style filter. This is a huge improvement over the previous version, and to get to the filter, you first pop off the seat. Between your knees is the airbox which is located high in the chassis for better weight balance, and for clean air flow into the filter. No tools are required to remove the access cover and the filter can easily be slid out. Other features we really appreciate on the Outlanders are the grease zerks on the drive shaft U-joints and suspension pivots. After giving it a bath, you’ll want to squeeze any water out with a fresh shot of quality grease.2014.can-am.outlander-max650.yellow.front-right.riding.on-snow.JPG

Can-Am has always been a leader in offering option packages, and the Outlander 650 Max can be had as a base model, or with a DPS package. The DPS package offers three big features: Tri-mode Dynamic Power Steering (DPS), the Visco-Lok QE auto-locking front differential, and 12-in. cast-aluminum wheels. The Tri-Mode DPS offers three levels of steering assist all designed to give you a little help, especially at low speeds, and a huge secondary benefit to the DPS system is less kickback should you clip something along the trail.

Best of the Best

There are a lot of great ATVs available, but every so often we ride one that is truly something special. They’re the machines that offer great handling and suspension, ample power, comfortable ergonomics, and the ability to do anything we ask. They’re the total package, and the ones we want on every trail ride. The Can-Am Outlander 650 Max is that machine. Although there are more powerful models in the Can-Am lineup, this is the one we prefer. In fact, this may be our preferred do-it-all ATV in anybody’s lineup. You’ll love it as much as we do.


  • Tri-Mode Dynamic Power Steering (DPS™) 
  • Visco-Lok QE  (Quick Engage)
  • 12-in. cast-aluminum wheels
  • 625-W magneto
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February 8, 2014

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