Serious Fun: Driving the BRP Lineup
Owning a truck or SUV brings a host of benefits, among which is the ability to tow or carry "toys" or motorized products that can also be used for work in locations where the pavement ends. We recently joined powersport company Bombardier Recreational Products to try out some of its all-new and updated offerings for motor enthusiasts, and to see some of its concept and prototype models.
BRP, originally the Bombardier company that pioneered the Ski-Doo, set up test rides in Montreal's Parc Rene-Levesque at an "ultimate playground" located on the city's waterfront.
BRP's product brands include Ski-Doo, Lynx, Sea-Doo, Evinrude, Rotax, and Can-Am. Among its portfolio of products are snowmobiles, watercraft and boats, outboard engines, all-terrain and side-by-side vehicles, and roadsters, plus Rotax engines for karts, motorcycles, and ultralight and light aircraft.
"The author travels over land and sea -- on the GTI Limited 155 and Can-Am Spyder Roadster (right)."
"Hey, Sue, how'd you like to try another version of our Sea-Doo?" asked the BRP watercraft guide as he corraled our group into a donut-shaped collective, after a mile-long wild ride across Lac Saint-Louis, on the outskirts of Montreal.
I was straddling a GTX 155 S model. The "S" indicates sport, and that's what had drawn me to jump onto this particular power-sport water machine, which has a new hull design and lots of other cool upgrades. "You should switch with someone and try out the touring model. That has a suspension system," he added, as our small cadre of testers bobbed on the choppy waters of this picturesque lake, which joins the St. Lawrence River and makes up a portion of Parc Rene-Levesque.
It had been a few years since I'd been on a personal watercraft, but my knowledge of Ski-Doos, ATVs, and motorcycles, along with my competitive nature, made me think I could keep up with our instructor, and ride at the front of the pack. Despite all the cool new technologies on my ride -- brakes, intelligent throttle control, and reverse gears, for instance -- I was struggling and found myself bogged down in the wake of the front-runners, as well as speed-limited by the waves on this open waterway.
Switching to a GTI Limited 155 with a touring seat and high-performance variable trim, I was amazed at the difference. I now sometimes was the leader of the pack of fellow journalists. Wow, I thought, it's like testing trucks and vehicles of all different types. As a driver, you're only a part of the equation; vehicle technology is the other, extremely critical part.
After all, that's why I was here in French-speaking Montreal at an urban park -- not simply to listen to the BRP press conference, but to sit in the saddle of a few fun sport machines and come home with a few takeaways of a more personal nature.
For example, some would say BRP is known for building some of the fastest "skis" on the water, with its competitive and highly regarded Sea-Doo line, and for offering the most extras like brakes and suspension. It's the only brand of personal watercraft that offers brakes, which work by reducing power, and using a "brake" gate to create controllable drag. Personal watercraft brakes can cut stopping distance in half. PWCs have suspension systems as well, for ride comfort and to reduce fatigue. The hull can move separately from the upper deck, with up to 6 inches of travel. Sounds great, but we took a ride across a choppy waterway to see for ourselves and learned a lot, even during a short ride.
"The Can-Am Outlander X mr is built for work and play in the mud."
I had started my test drive day with BRP's all-terrain ATVs and side-by-side models, where a track was set up with open stretches to test acceleration; dirt side hills to evaluate traction and handling; and obstacles, such as logs, rocks, and V-ditches, designed to give a sampling of terrains found in the places where owners and enthusiasts typically ride.
BRP's modern-day, rec/utility products are a far cry from the first versions that came to market in terms of build quality and creative feature content. Examples of the latter include integrated winches to thoughtful stowage and carrying capability to protective features for vehicle and rider.
I love playing in mud and riding in the back country; therefore, I tried the new Can-Am Outlander X mr, which has several mud-riding features, including an adjustable, on-the-fly air-control suspension and an integrated snorkel system, and the new Can-Am Renegade 500, which mixes sporty trail performance and 4x4 versatility. While different in character and ride demeanor, BRP's new models feature improved suspension and surprisingly good ride comfort and trail manners; impressive engine performance; enhanced ergonomics. They also include features that are found on some of today's trucks, such as power steering-steering assist, suspension dive-control geometry, and visco-auto locking front differentials.
Moving on to the luxury-laden Can-Am Commander 1000 LTD, I rode over the same course on a side-by-side vehicle that BRP says is designed to take comfort and convenience to the next level. It's powered by an 85-horse, 976cc Rotax engine and has accessories like a Warn Winch, a touch-screen Garmin GPS, air-control Fox Racing Shox, and a sound system with four integrated speakers. After leaving the course, I longed for a longer test drive in each.
My final ride of the day was on two versions of BRP's unique, three-wheeled Can-Am Spyder Roadsters. No one else makes this type of "trike" -- others have two wheels in the rear. First, my bias: I grew up on motorcycles and, I must admit, I have rolled my eyes in disdain at trikes, a word that BRP does not use when describing this motorcycle product.
While I don't plan on ordering a Roadster any time soon, even if I do win the lottery, I now get why a small cult community has formed for these motorcycles that not only give a sporty ride (of course, I rode the sport version first and the touring second!), but also advance safety, with a stable front end that extends a motorcycle's visibility to others on the road, to address one of the top reasons given in motorcycle/car crashes.
Plus, the roadsters are attractive, with cool paint schemes and seat trims; along with six-spoke chrome wheels; exhaust tips; mirrors; and new amber-colored, multifunction LCDs. Sport versions come with new gas-charged, anodized-aluminum FOX Racing Shox front shocks that are adjustable for preload and have improved compression and rebound damping.
"Can-Am's Renegade 500 mixes sporty trail performance with off-road versatility."