It’s no secret that I like ATVs, and testing them out is a lot of fun. I grew up riding machines from “another brand,” but I’ve been very interested in Can-Ams for quite a while now. There are quality machines coming from Canada-based Bombardier Recreational Products (of which Can-Am is a subsidiary), a large and far-reaching company that makes everything from snowmobiles to boats and more. Their personal watercraft line, Sea-Doo, recently took the market by storm with a feature-packed budget machine called the Spark. Can-Am has their own budget-friendly, entry-level machine in the Outlander L series. When they offered to lend me a new Outlander L 500 DPS, I didn’t have to think much about it.
I’ve always looked at any ATV with the tag “entry-level” as being an underpowered machine without the features of the higher-priced (and higher-performance) vehicles out there. In other words, I usually am not a big fan of entry-level stuff simply because I’m not that market. I’ve been riding for a while and I know what I like and what I can do with it—but enough touting myself. Let’s just skip right ahead and say that the Outlander L 500 may have an entry-level price, and it may be pretty friendly to novice riders, but it has plenty of power and features to make it a serious contender for any rider looking for a budget-friendly machine.
Power, handing, and value
The heart of the L is its 46-horsepower, eight-valve, liquid cooled, single-overhead cam Rotax 500 V-twin engine. The engine has a lot of torque on the low end and builds very smoothly as you accelerate. The engine has a pretty noticeable hit in the mid-range as you build up to the top end of the power. The fuel comes via electronic fuel injection, which helps with the power delivery. It has more than enough power for most situations and is a capable machine for the trail or for work. It will tow up to 1,300 pounds, too. It’s also very controllable.
The next part of the L 500 DPS that is important to note is its frame. The L models are built on a new SST G2 frame. “SST” stands for “surrounding spar technology,” which is designed to use fewer welds, but have increased durability and integrity, as well as being stronger compared to a tubular-steel frame. “G2″ means that the the frame design is from a new generation of technology Can-Am first introduced with their Renegade 1000 machine a while ago. The Renegade 1000, for those who don’t know, is an insanely powerful performance machine that will rip your arms out and leave you with stumps. Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration, but it is very powerful and has amazing handling. The Outlander L frames are pretty responsive and offer great handling, too. They’re also cheaper for Can-Am to produce.
Making some of the components cheaper is the key to making the new L 500 DPS more affordable. I was recently at an industry event and was talking with some of my fellow power sports media folks. We got to discussing how when companies release something that is tagged as entry-level and do things to reduce the costs, there are some folks that immediately complain that the machine doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of the higher-end machines. Who wouldn’t like to pay for a Chevy Sonic and get a Camaro? The Can-Am is closer to its big brothers than you’d think, though.
Can-Am also uses cheaper (although perfectly capable) Carlisle Trail Wolf tires at all four corners of the Outlander L 500 DPS. They also went with a steel tube rack instead of the more popular composite. Personally, I see nothing at all wrong with steel racks and the L 500 DPS’ seem perfectly fine and functional to me. The front rack holds 120 pounds and the rear handles 240.
The suspension is another area that Can-Am did differently. The front setup is a double A-arm design offering nine inches of wheel travel with a five-way preload adjustable shock. Out back, Can-Am used a design closer to that of a side-by-side. They set the L up with a torsional trailing arm setup. The advantage is that it allows the wheel to move vertically, with fewer moving parts. Fewer parts means it’s cheaper to produce, and the setup actually creates a suspension action that is smooth and efficient. There is also a five-way adjustable shock with 8.8 inches of travel.
Overall the suspension is very good for the caliber of machine. It soaks up obstacles with relative ease and keeps things responsive to aggressive trail riding, as long as you don’t try to be too aggressive. Simply put, it helps keep things controllable.
Odds and ends
The DPS model, which I tested, offers Can-Am’s Dynamic Power Steering. Having ridden machines for years without power steering, I won’t do that anymore. When looking to buy a machine, always opt for power steering. When you’re going trail riding, hunting, working the field, or anything else, it keeps the steering controllable and light, while also absorbing hits to the wheels that could jerk the bars from your hands. The L 500’s DPS system lets you choose the amount of assist you want, allowing you to set up the handling based on your preferences. Nice touch, Can-Am!
The DPS model also comes with some nice-looking cast aluminum wheels instead of the standard steel ones. The DPS model also has a 500-watt magneto, perfect for powering extra lights, heated grips, or more stuff from the 12-volt power outlet.
The four-wheel drive setup operates using Can-Am’s Visco QE system. A simple rocker switch on the right grip selects between two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive with an automatically engaging locking front differential for those times when you’re needing all the help you can muster.
About the only thing I didn’t like about the L 500 DPS is that it tends to get pretty warm against my left leg. I think the body cladding keeps some of the heat in. It doesn’t seem to affect the machine at all, but after a while, it got pretty toasty.
The plastic seems to be pretty high-quality stuff. My unit was decked out in Next Vista camo. They dip-coated the finish. I recently saw this process on a tour with another manufacturer and it is pretty sweet how they do it. The camo finish looks great on the L 500 DPS.
So would I recommend buying a Can-Am Outlander L 500 DPS? You bet I would! It offers a nice, controllable ride that everyone from an entry-level novice up to a more experienced and slightly goofy power sports writer can handle and enjoy. The price, which starts at $7,899 for the model I tested, is right in the ballpark for an entry-level machine, but the Outlander L 500 DPS packs in a lot of extra value for that price. I like the way the industry is going, trying to produce quality machines at lower prices. It also comes with the best warranty I’ve seen yet: five years with unlimited mileage, and it’s transferable between owners. If that doesn’t help make you want to take a look at it, nothing will!