Can-Am is known as the luxury manufacturer in the powersports world, whether it is with their watercraft, snowmobiles, or off-road vehicles. While it’s true they do offer some high-end models with all the bells and whistles, their pricing is pretty much in line with every other manufacturer, sometimes a little more, and sometimes a little less. In the last two years, Can-Am has broadened their horizons by offering new, very budget friendly models with many of the same top-end features. The affordable Spark line of watercraft was the first example and expanded their customer base with sporty, attractive models, and now the L line of ATVs is set to do the same. Recently we had a chance to try one of the new L models, the Outlander L 450, and we were anxious to see what the mid-sized machine could do. The better question might have been - what can’t it do?
WORK & PLAY MACHINE
Like pretty much every other ATV owner, we use our machines for towing a trailer or lawn equipment, hauling a little firewood, and for various tasks around the yard or farm, at least during the week. When the weekend rolls around and we can get away, you can bet we're loading up the trailer for a couple days of trail riding. The trails we ride have a little bit of every type of terrain. There are plenty of deep woods, soft mud bogs, rocks and quarries to explore, and plenty of sand. In short, it can be an excellent weekend of testing. Before we hit the trails with any new machine though, we always give a thorough inspection to check out its features. The Outlander L 450 did not disappoint.
We were very happy to learn Can-Am gave the L models their dual-rail G2 chassis. The G2 chassis is stronger, has less flex, and feels much more precise. It’s a very good design and we were happy to see it on a budget priced machine! At the rear, suspension is provided by Can-Am’s TTi trailing arm suspension, which gets more wheel travel with minimal geometry change, while at the front, dual A-arms and Can-Am’s anti-dive technology results in consistent handling even when the front end is under compression from braking or bumps. Five-way, preload adjustable shocks are found at all corners, controlling nine inches of travel up front and 8.8 inches in the rear.
Powering the new Outlander L 450 is a single-cylinder, 38-horsepower, liquid-cooled, fuel-injected Rotax 450 four-stroke engine with electronic fuel injection. Claimed output is 38hp and even though it’s one of the smaller engines in the Can-Am fleet – smaller than a single cylinder on some models – don’t underestimate its capabilities. Mated to the engine is Can-Am’s CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) which even provides engine braking when descending steep hills. Half a century of snowmobile experience gives them plenty of knowledge on how to make a CVT perform, and once again they got this part right.
One thing Can-Am has really worked on in the last couple years is air flow, both into the airbox and CVT, and around the engine. CVT air intakes were raised much higher in the chassis, allowing us to cross mid-chassis depth water with no fear of belt slippage. The airbox design is now a thing of beauty as well, and with no tools, we can have the air filter popped out for inspection in about 30 seconds. It’s super easy and there is no reason to ignore that simple task. The air filter contains a pleated filter element wrapped in a foam outer layer. Even in the dustiest conditions, it did a good job of keeping our intake clean. Oil checks are also super important, and a dip stick is found on the right side of the engine. So far so good! It was time for a ride.
BACK in the SADDLE
First things first, we really like the silver / grey color of the Outlander L 450. We're not sure why this color has not been used before, but it looks great and the cast aluminum, centerless wheels provided a nice accent. In the saddle it feels very comfortable, not too big or too small, and everything is within easy reach. All the switches are in their usual position with the key ahead of your knee on the left, and the gear shifter on the right. Just ahead of the handlebars is a very nice digital display and you can scroll through its features with a button. About the only feature we didn't care for was the brake lever position. It was rotated too high up on the bar so we loosened the screws and turned it down to a more comfortable, natural position. Rather than a composite rack, Can-Am went old school and used sturdy, steel racks with a durable powdercoat finish. That's fine with us. The racks have plenty of tie-down options, and in the center of the rear rack is a good sized, sealed storage compartment. We really like it! As expected, the racks also readily accept Can-Am’s Lin-Q accessories. We slid the switch to green, watched the display power up, and turned the key. A couple revolutions later, the engine fired to life, and we were on our way.
Throughout the weekend, various riders spent time aboard the L 450, and there was much universal praise. The top things all riders liked were:
“It’s cushy on my tushy.” (Those were one female rider’s words and all agreed.)
The power steering works very well and makes all day rides easy on the arms. (Medium setting is found to be the most favorable.)
The suspension made for a smooth ride in the whoops.
Power was very good and on par with many larger displacement machines.
Splash protection was excellent and floor boards drain well.
Brakes are very good and did an excellent job of maintaining control, even in steep, rocky descents.
It feels natural, neither too big, nor too small.
See first item again.
Easy trail rides are one thing, but we wanted to push the new Outlander L 450 to see how she would handle extreme terrain, and we knew just the place. A huge quarry provided us with plenty of off cambers, rocky hill climbs and descents, huge obstacles to crawl over, and plenty of water to cross. It would be a challenge for both the Outlander and the rider.
When climbing through the rocks and both up and down steep hills, we really began to appreciate the stability of the L 450. It always felt stable and well balanced, even when the back end was much higher than the front on steep downhills. The tires also did well in the rocks and resist cuts, but in sand we needed to engage the Visco-Lok 4wd for better response. The open tread pattern cleans out well in mud or snow and gives a smooth ride, but when riding in a lot of sand, you’ll want to leave it in 4wd.
Water crossings are always fun and the Outlander L 450 has no problem diving in for a swim. We spent considerable time crossing ponds up to and beyond the floor boards, and never managed to get the belt wet thanks to the CVT air intake which is mounted high in the chassis. We love how the floor boards drain water away quickly, but they also have one other great feature. Can-Am offers an excellent, sturdy foot peg molded into the floor board. This is not the case with all manufacturers, but Can-Am really gets this one right. It allows your foot to pivot as needed, and still keeps you firmly attached to the machine.
Wherever we took it, the chassis and engine of the L 450 ran like a champ. It has enough power to conquer anything we asked, and the CVT responds well to throttle input, and during backshifts. Sometimes shifting from forward to reverse can be slightly notchy, but overall we were very happy with the performance of the Outlander L 450. There is very little we would change. Except for one thing…
DITCH the HITCH
A hitch is one of man’s most useful and earliest tools for applying force to a load. It’s one of those things that is hard to improve on. Can-Am didn’t, and the hitch on the G2 chassis has surely set evolution back untold centuries of innovation. Here’s why:
1: It is made from a single, formed piece with ears that fold down along each side as gussets.
2: The gussets effectively block each side of the attachment hole.
3: Most pull behind implements use a clevis style hitch. You cannot turn with a clevis style hitch attached because the d*&$ ears / gussets limit the clevis rotation.
About the only way to use the hitch on the Outlander L is as a tie down point, or as the mount for a ball hitch. This is questionable as well, though, because most ball hitches carry higher loads than a clevis hitch, and you don’t want to overload the rear end of your ATV. That will only cause bad things to happen. The best option for the Outlander hitch is to remove it entirely, toss it in the metal recycling bin, or use it as an artificial reef in your aquarium.
FIVE YEAR WARRANTY
We take care of our machines, but we’ve all seen riders abuse their ATVs or Side x Sides mercilessly and it truly breaks one’s heart. To make sure you’re happy with your purchase not only now but in the future, Can-Am is offering an unprecedented five year warranty on the new L models. That’s a huge statement about quality and faith in their machines, but there are a lot of hombres we wouldn't give that much leeway to. It’s great to see a manufacturer stand behind their products with such a bold move!
OUTLANDER L OPTION
It wouldn’t be a Can-Am without option packages and the new L-Class Outlanders have an available DPS package with the following features:
Tri-Mode Dynamic Power Steering
Visco-Lok QE front differential
500-W Magneto for more accessory power
12-inch, cast-aluminum wheels with center-less design
Available colors: Can-Am Yellow, Light Grey with Can-Am Red decals or Camo
If you often like to ride with your significant other or a buddy, there are even MAX versions of the Outlander L models, and the seat can be removed for when riding single. Either way you can’t go wrong.
What Can-Am considers “basic” would be considered high-end in some other manufacturer’s lineups. The Outlander L 450 delivers beyond its price and promise in almost every area. Its features, power, comfort, and good looks make it a winner and we’ll gladly take one to the trails anytime!
2015 Can-Am Outlander L 450 specifications
ENGINE: 38 hp, Rotax 427 cc single cylinder, liquid cooled with EFI
TRANSMISSION: CVT, P / R / N / H / L, standard engine braking
DRIVE TRAIN: Selectable 2WD / 4WD with Visco-Lok auto-locking differential
POWER STEERING: Available on DPS models
FRONT SUSPENSION: Double A-arm, 9 in. (22.9 cm) travel
FRONT SHOCKS: Gas Coil over body, preload adjustable
REAR SUSPENSION: Torsional Trailing arm Independent (TTI), 8.8 in. (22 cm) travel
REAR SHOCKS: Gas Coil over body, preload adjustable
BRAKES (F & R) Dual 214 mm ventilated disc brakes with hydraulic twin-piston
FRONT TIRES: Carlisle Trail Wolf 25 x 8 x 12 in. (63.5 x 20.3 x 30.5 cm)
REAR TIRES: Carlisle Trail Wolf 25 x 10 x 12 in. (63.5 x 25.4 x 30.5 cm)
DIMENSIONS / CAPACITY: 83 x 46 x 49 in., (211 x 116.8 x 124 cm)
WHEELBASE: 51 in. (129.5 cm)
GROUND CLEARANCE: 10.5 in. (26.7 cm)
DRY WEIGHT: 678 lb (308 kg)
RACK CAPACITY: Front: 120 lb (54.4 kg), Rear: 240 lb (109 kg)
STORAGE CAPACITY: Rear: 2.9 gal (10.9 L)
TOWING CAPACITY: 1,300 lb (590 kg)
FUEL CAPACITY: 5.4 gal (20.5 L)
GAUGE: Multifunction Digital: Speedometer, tachometer, odometer, trip & hour meters, fuel, gear position, 4 x 4 indicator, diagnostics, clock
WINCH: Prewired for available winch
12V outlet: Lighter type DC outlet in console, standard connector in the back
LIGHTING: 70-W from dual 35-W front light / brake light
WARRANTY: 6 months limited warranty