The 2009 Can-Am Renegade ATVs are an amazingly competent blend of sport performance and 4WD.
We tend to think that most ATVs
with 4WD and independent rear suspension fall into the wide-ranging sport utility class - the best combination of high-performance sport quads and the do-all, rugged work machines. Some manufacturers claim to offer a blend of the two genres, but those efforts can fall short, usually on the sporting end. Can-Am
has put its best foot forward on this front with the Renegade line. After riding the Renegade 500 EFU and Renegade 800R EFI for two days in West Virginia’s prime ATV country, we can say that the BRP company definitely didn’t miss the performance boat! Engineers decided to make this bike a racing machine and they don’t pretend to offer a lot of utility work options. Rather, the Renegade models are dubbed as sport quads with a “blend of sport performance and 4x4 terrain ability.” This description is right on the money which means it’s perfectly suited to cross-country style racing, and we never felt the inclination to head out to the farm for some hard-nosed work or to test the 1300-pound towing capacity. Instead, the Renegade line is meant to play.
The bodywork definitely has sport-biased design, which we discovered at the first hint of West Virginia mud. Carrying aggressive lines but no racks, the rider protection is minimal and far less than Can-Am’s other 4WD machines, the Outlander and Outlander Max. That wasn’t really an issue, however, since we were too busy having fun shredding trails. After we finished our ride, we stopped off at the MotorcycleUSA.com Snowshoe GNCC
to watch some of these impressive machines in action on the toughest race course of the series. All of our riders thought about what it would be like to compete, but imagining ourselves on the starting gate with anything other than the Renegade never crossed our minds.
We got the chance to hit some recently hammered race course from a local hare scramble, and riding across the stripped, slimy web of lateral roots often sends either end skating off track and towards some unpleasant trail feature – on our tight routes it was always a nearby tree. The Hatfield-McCoy trail system
and Burning Rock Off-Road Park
can both be described by their abundance of roots. Not only does the independent suspension front and rear help keep the machine in check, but the ability to switch to AWD on the fly meant that we rarely felt out of control, even at our amateur race pace. The Renegades really begin to shine in those high-intensity situations. Trail riding can make the suspension feel extra rigid, especially on the 800, but upping the pace brings the beasts to life. Fortunately, that’s exactly what the fuel-injected motors like to do.
The bikes are almost identical with the exception of the motors. The Renegade 800R EFI is far more potent than the smaller Rotax in the 500 shown here.
The fuel-injected Renegades generate loads of torque from the single overhead cam V-Twin motor that has four valves per cylinder and a sweet exhaust note. Inside the jugs is the biggest difference between the two sibling machines. A 91x62mm bore and stroke on the 800cc R model generates a claimed 71 horsepower while the 500cc is said to make just over 40 ponies with an 82x47mm version. Both Rotax motors work well depending on what your goals are, but in terms of sheer impressiveness, the 800 obviously takes the lead. While there’s plenty to like about the larger model as a whole, every rider in our group seemed to lose sight of most everything once the thumb throttle was buried and the dual 46mm Siemens injectors pumped the liquid-cooled monster full of octane. Delivery is smooth but likes to be poured on aggressively which makes the distance between corners get extra short, so pay attention! The throttle lever is stiff enough that at trail pace it can cause a cramp, but when pushing hard it’s less noticeable. Smashing unexpected obstacles or simply getting caught in a throttle jockey can be bad with a motor this reactive and powerful, and those are the times when a rider can appreciate the rigid thumb control.
“That is the baddest stock machine I’ve ever ridden with four wheels,” says the Burning Rock Operations Manager, Travis, after a stint on the impressive 800R. Travis has plenty of experience with two and four wheeled machines, but with his 6’6” frame and penchant for big horsepower, the larger Renegade suits his style very well. “I’m usually more of a motorcycle guy,” he admits, “but for the type of riding we do if I were to buy a new quad that Renegade would be the one.”
The Can-Am quads handle very well considering their weight, but the 500 is the more nimble of the two.
As for the smaller Renegade, it’s a much more docile powerplant. Our female tester found the 500 to be the best fit for her, but even she had to admit that it was extra work to keep up with the brutish 800R. We spent most of the time revving the hell out of the 500 to keep pace with larger machines, but what it gave up in motor, it made up for with excellent handling. Despite spec sheet claims that the two models share the same 51-inch wheelbase, 34.5-inch seat height, ITP Holeshot tires, suspension components and virtually everything else, the 500 feels smaller and lighter than the 800. All of our riders noticed that it took less effort to turn and stabilize through rough terrain, though pitching the rear end is more difficult on the 500 due to the tame motor and independent rear suspension. Double A-arm suspension up front has 8.5 inches of travel to work with from the preload-adjustable HPG shocks. Mated with the nine inches of travel from each of the rear units and 11 inches of ground clearance, the Renegade is tough to get hung up.
However, in the event that you do manage to get a Renegade stuck, the 614 claimed pounds (dry) proves a lot to manhandle alone. Part of that weight comes from the CVT transmission and the keynote feature, four-wheel-drive. Shifting requires nothing more than selecting high/low range or reverse, but the beauty of this drivetrain and the component that makes these quads stand out as performance vehicles is the selectable 4WD. Bouncing between 2WD and 4WD can be done on the move via a simple switch. For the West Virginia terrain that quickly went from technical rocks to slimy roots and mud holes, we mostly left both models in 4WD all the time. Watching racers on standard sport quads at the GNCC
made the benefits of having that extra traction very visible. The front differential uses Can-Am’s Visco-lok system to distribute varying amounts of lock to the front end. Sensors monitor wheel slippage and transfer power accordingly to the tires that are providing forward momentum. All of our riders appreciated the automatic feature and not having to worry about engaging any additional levers or handlebar switches to provide the needed grip.
The line between sport and utility has been blurred. We love 4WD so having it available on a performance machine is a perfect idea in our mind.
Braking is one of the Renegades’ few weak points. As with most Twins, and just big-bores in general, the engine braking alone is significant enough in many circumstances, but it also makes for a peculiar sensation when applying the rear hydraulic disc. Locking the rear wheel with the brake pedal initiates a slide which continues as the motor keeps the rear end bound up. This caught us off guard a few times early on and requires a stab of the throttle in order to get the center-cast aluminum rear wheels moving again. As for feel and feedback, the foot pedal is fairly standard, but the hand levers are extremely wooden. It takes serious squeeze to get the front or rear brakes to engage heavily.
Combining massive power from the 800, and very manageable output from the 500, the CVT transmission and Visco-lok differential, willing suspension and comfortable ergonomics make the Can-Am Renegades mindlessly easy to ride. We only found the stiff brakes and increased weight to be drawbacks, but considering the benefits that the Renegade offers, this is a unique and absolutely fun option for sport riders. Four-wheel-drive isn’t just for pulling work loads anymore, and the Renegade is at the forefront of speed and technical performance quads.