utv, Can-Am Commander XT-P 1000R
(Photo/Bryon Dorr)

First Drive: Snow, Mud, Sand, and Rocks in the Can-Am Commander XT-P 1000R

Motors Editor Bryon Dorr took the Can-Am Commander XT-P 1000R out for a long weekend adventure in Oregon. Here’s what he loved, what could be better, and a breakdown of this versatile UTV.

I’ll cut right to the chase: The 2021 Can-Am Commander XT-P 1000R is the Swiss Army knife of UTVs. This machine tackles extreme off-road terrain just as easily as it hauls gear around the ranch.

The keys to the Commander’s versatility are a powerful engine (100 horsepower), impressive suspension, and a dump bed.

I took this machine out for 3 days of Oregon off-road adventures in the mud, snow, sand, and rocks. And I also personally witnessed it tackle some truly crazy rock-crawling terrain in the Maze Trail at Sand Hollow, Utah, during International Off-Road Day.

And really, “versatile” is an understatement when it comes to the Can-Am Commander XT-P 1000R.

To see just how fun and capable this UTV is, watch the video below. Scroll down for more of the specifics on my impressions of this machine.

Commander XT-P 1000R Stats

  • $22,690 MSRP
  • 1000R: 100 hp
  • 14″ (35.6 cm) of suspension travel
  • 30″ XPS Hammer Force tires on 15″ cast-aluminum beadlock wheels
  • 4,500-lb. winch with roller fairlead
  • XT front bumper
  • Sport roof and panoramic mirror
  • Smart-Lok front differential
  • FOX 2.5 Podium piggyback with QS3 compression adjustment
  • 7.6″ digital display with keypad
  • LED headlights
  • Black/Orange color (only)
Can-Am Commander XT-P 1000R
(Photo/Bryon Dorr)

What I Liked

The Suspension

Can-Am Commander XT-P 1000R
(Photo/Bryon Dorr)

First and foremost in the things I loved about the Commander XT-P is the Fox 2.5 Podium piggyback suspension.

Even landing after flying more than 4 feet up in the air was super plush. It was also butter-smooth over a wide range of terrain, especially at speed.

At slow speeds, it wasn’t as comfy, but still kept the tires firmly planted on terra firma, aiding in traction.

Differential Lockers

Can-Am Commander XT-P 1000R
(Photo/Bryon Dorr)

Having selectable differential lockers at both ends of the UTV was also super helpful in a wide variety of situations.

In the off-road world, selectable lockers are known as the easy button, as they can get you out of a lot of slippery situations quickly.

If for some reason the easy button didn’t work out for you, the backup piece of mind of an integrated winch is also reassuring when the trail gets rough. And this is especially so when you’re out on a solo vehicle adventure.

Skid Plates

Can-Am Commander XT-P 1000R
(Photo/Bryon Dorr)

The entire underside of the Commander is a skid plate, with reinforcements where needed.

This allows you to slide over just about any obstacle, as long as you have momentum and/or traction on at least one wheel.

Utilitarian Thoughtfulness

Can-Am Commander XT-P 1000R
(Photo/Bryon Dorr)

This UTV has plenty of utility. A big part of that is the full dump bed in the back, with a tailgate. The side panels of the bed come off without tools and have super-useful storage for extra drive belts and small tools.

The Can-Am Lynk storage boxes are an option, but are super convenient, secure, easy to remove, dry, and just generally a great way to secure gear.

In the passenger compartment of the Commander, you also get a few big storage cubbies, which are great for keeping things like snacks, cameras, dry gloves, goggle wipes, and other small things close at hand.

Comfortable, Durable Seats

Can-Am Commander XT-P 1000R
(Photo/Bryon Dorr)

The seats are super durable and actually quite comfortable, even after long days behind the wheel.

They aren’t all that adjustable and don’t offer a ton of lumbar support, but are super impressive for how basic and durable they are.

What I Didn’t Like

Can-Am Commander XT-P 1000R
(Photo/Bryon Dorr)

The Commander has a pretty poor turning radius, which is not great when navigating rocks and tight forest trails.

The steering wheel, your main touchpoint in the vehicle, also feels super cheap. Gloves help but they don’t fix the issue.

While the suspension is impressive, it can’t overcome the short wheelbase when you find yourself driving through a whooped-out trail section. The ride gets rough and control gets squirrelly pretty quick. A longer wheelbase four-seat version of this UTV Commander Max XT-P is on offer, which would probably be much better at speed in the whoops.

As with most UTVs, the Commander is not a quiet machine. You will not be sneaking up on anyone or anything — including wildlife — in this machine.

When driving through water, the front tires tend to push the water forward and spray it back into the cabin. Not sure if there’s a great solution for this, but it is super annoying.

Similarly, the drains in the floorboards let the water come up through them when in deepish water — not a big deal, but something that could be fixed with a one-way valve or drain plug.

The drive selector lever is super clunky. It’s more tractor than a sporty machine.

The only cup holders in the Commander are in the floorboard near the gear selector tunnel. They are not very deep, and they won’t accommodate a Nalgene or bigger water bottle.

The big issue here is that any cup/can/bottle you do put in them will likely work itself loose and end up at your feet, a dangerous thing in the driver’s footwell.

Can-Am Commander XT-P 1000R
(Photo/Bryon Dorr)

I was not super impressed with the XPS Hammer Force (30 x 10 x 15 in.) tires that come from the factory. As with most vehicles, tires would be my first upgrade.

Finally, the seatbelt would regularly get caught in the door latch, preventing the door from closing. This also damaged the seat belt, which will tear over time. This is not only annoying but is also a safety issue in the long term.

Commander XT-P 1000R Final Thoughts

Can-Am Commander XT-P 1000R
(Photo/Bryon Dorr)

Overall, the Can-Am Commander XT-P 1000R is super forgiving and extremely capable in a wide range of conditions.

It’s also not slow, as I managed 50+ mph down the beach. With that said, it had plenty of power, but more is always fun.

The Commander sits in that sweet spot between sporty off-road fun and a utility vehicle for doing work, hunting, and/or camping. If you’re looking for a one UTV quiver machine that can do work — and still have a ton of fun ripping in the dunes, climbing rocky trails, playing in the snow, and getting way off the beaten path — then the Can-Am Commander XT-P 1000R is for you.

To build out your own Can-Am UTV and find a dealer near you to experience one for yourself, check out Can-Am.BRP.com.

Driving tip: It isn’t super easy to have smooth, consistent pressure on the skinny pedal when bouncing around off-road, but if you wedge your heel into the center console, you can have much smoother throttle control.

Bryon Dorr

Bryon Dorr caught the outdoor adventure addiction through whitewater kayaking, and worldwide adventures to remote places ensued. He crafted his own professional path as a photographer, journalist, and marketing consultant in the automotive and outdoor industries, while full-time overland traveling for nearly 8 years. You’ll usually find him out exploring by 4x4, adventure motorcycle, or sports car while seeking out opportunities to ski, mountain bike, and kayak. Bryon now has a home base in Portland, OR with his wife and young daughter.