A Range Rover Sport Supercharged is a do-anything sort of vehicle. It can tow. It can go off-road. It’s quick (518 hp) and comfortable inside. If you only had one vehicle for everything, that’s the sort of rig you’d want—a pumped-up SUV.
In the ATV realm, the new 2019 ($9,299, which is $400 less than last year's model) is that sort of machine. It’s fun and it looks cool, but it also provides useful capabilities to justify buying one. Like, sure, you get a kick out of muddin’, but you also need the Can-Am for the next time you've got to cross that bog to hitch up the trailer full of hay to bring to the cattle out yonder on the ranch. The Outlander is either entertainment with a veneer of practicality or the other way around, depending on how you use it.
I didn’t test the upper limits of the Can-Am's 1,650-pound tow rating. My friend Steve strapped a chainsaw to the racks and ventured out on his farm to clear a tree that fell across the trail, but mostly the Outlander was deployed for recreational riding. And in that capacity, it’s a blast.
The model I tested was the 62-hp 650 model (there’s also a 78-hp 850 and the 91-hp 1000R) and I think I’d be happy with that. Top speed is probably beyond 60 mph, unless you're using the digital key that's programmed for what's colloquially known as "brother-in-law mode" to lower it to 45 mph. In any case, the Rotax V-twin has enough punch that a thumb-full of throttle causes the rear end to squat on its independent suspension and the front to nose skyward like a boat climbing on plane. I imagine the 1000R would want to pull a wheelie for about a quarter-mile. Which is fine if you want bragging rights at the off-road park, but not strictly necessary for anything you’d want to do. It’s worth remembering that not so long ago, a 650-cc ATV was considered ridiculously big-bore overkill.
Anyway, your speed is generally limited by the chassis and the conditions rather than outright horsepower. The Outlander feels wide and stable, but you’ve still got to remember that you’re riding on 26-inch tall Terracross tires and the lowest part of the chassis is still 11 inches off the ground—great for rock-crawling or clawing your way up over a steep banking, but you don’t really want to drift it sideways at 30 mph.
That said, two-wheel-drive mode does allow for some roosting and tail-kicking antics on low-grip surfaces like sand. But put it in four-wheel drive and the handling is locked down. You don’t have to think about differential locks because the front end uses a Visco-lock auto-locking differential. Speed-sensitive power steering gives you more assist when you’re going slow, then tightens up as you go faster. You can also choose from three assist modes, depending on the amount of steering effort you want. I never got stuck, but if you think you might mire an Outlander, a 2,500-pound winch is a $320 option.
As with cars, most people can’t afford to buy multiple ATVs to suit particular situations—they want one machine that can play a variety of roles. That’s the idea with the Outlander 650. If you’re feeling goofy, put it in 2WD and nail the throttle. If you’ve got work to do, load up the racks and hitch up a trailer. If you’re going mudding, grab low-range four-wheel drive and plunge in. The Outlander won’t have the absolute capabilities of a high-riding mud monster, a pure sport model, or a dedicated utility machine. But neither does it have the attendant drawbacks that come with that kind of focus. It’s the SUV of ATVs.