The Can-Am Commander 1000 and the Polaris General 1000 occupy the same spot on the spectrum of side-by-sides. They’re both halfway between the pure sport performance of a Maverick or a RZR and the pure utility of a Ranger or Defender.
Their unique capabilities make them very appealing to many—you can use them to help around your property, and still open up the throttle for some fun recreation on the weekends.
But when it comes to the Can-Am Commander Vs. the Polaris General, which one is right for you?
First let’s take a look at the specs of the latest iteration of each vehicle. That means we’ll be comparing the 2021 General (not the XP version—we want to keep it as apples-to-apples as possible) to the 2020 Commander 1000. This gives us a baseline for comparison, but it’s far from the whole story.
*Wheel Width: 60″
Put them side by side, and the General is the winner by a small margin.
It packs in more power, higher ground clearance, more suspension travel, and a longer wheelbase on a shorter frame.
You also have to pay attention to the front differentials of each of these machines. The Commander is rocking a Visco-Lok front diff (although it can be upgraded), while the General is loaded with its true, on-demand AWD front diff.
With a differential that locks into four-wheel drive in a fraction of a second, as opposed to the several seconds Visco-Lok takes to lock, the General has a clear advantage.
And while both machines have quality engines, the Rotax V-twin of the Commander tends to vibrate a bit less than the ProStar, potentially resulting in a more durable machine. This narrows the General’s on-paper lead a bit, but doesn’t change the game.
But what’s the real difference when you’re behind the wheel?
Real world riding means a whole lot more to the prospective buyer than numbers on a page. They’re both capable trail machines, but the General has the edge thanks to the lower gear range and the superior front diff.
If you’re just going out for a cruise on an easy, well-maintained trail, you might actually prefer the Commander over the General. The torsional trailing arms are very cool. They keep the camber just about perfect through the whole range of travel. When you let loose on a trail, this thing can keep great traction through every bump and bounce because of that camber.
Also the Commander’s cab comfort beats the General’s every time… when you’re sitting still. The seats are more comfortable, you have a bit more room, and the overall feel of the cab is just better.
Except… there is one big problem with the Commander’s cab, and that’s the engine. It sits right behind the seats and it’s LOUD and it’s HOT. With some added insulation under the panels, it can be manageable, but otherwise, riding on warm days sucks, and chatting with your passenger will make you hoarse.
But still, if you can tolerate those problems, and there’s no technical terrain, you’ll have a good time with a Commander.
Thanks to the extra inch of ground clearance and suspension travel along with the better front diff, the General is better suited for obstacles on the trail. If there’s a log, a washout, a ditch, or a big rock in the way, the General will handle it. No problem.
When the General encounters a log, the front differential will lock the instant one of the front wheels starts to slip. Essentially, it doesn’t slip at all. Both tires have the opportunity to gain purchase, and the UTV’s low-end power pulls it up and over in no time.
Contrast that with Visco-Lok on the Commander, where you really just have three-wheel drive. When it encounters a log and a wheel slips, it just keeps on slipping for two or three full rotations before it can lock. By then, the Commander has undoubtedly rolled back off the log and lost its momentum. Plus, its higher gearing makes it struggle more to clear obstacles in the best of circumstances.
Undoubtedly, if the trail is rough, the General wins.
The Polaris General has better access to its engine which makes things like changing the oil and oil filter much easier than on the Commander. Just drain the oil, reach in from the passenger side to replace the filter, then refill it with the dump bed raised.
On the Commander, accessing the engine requires you to remove the passenger seat and two of the plastic panels beneath it. It’s a lot of extra work just to change the oil.
Inspecting and changing the clutch belt on a Commander requires a similar amount of effort on the driver’s side—a far cry from the General’s exposed clutch on the driver’s side below the dump bed.
And there are other examples, too. Suffice it to say, if you’re going to do your own maintenance, the General has a huge advantage.
Storage space is important to consider as well. Both of these machines have plenty, but they put it in different places.
The General’s cab is packed with compartments and consoles that give you 9 gallons of storage. Wallets, gloves, papers, drinks, and more all have room right in the cab. That’s in addition to the 59 gallon dump bed.
The Commander 1000 has about half that cab storage with 4.8 gallons. But it makes up for it with its dual level cargo box. It’s a standard dump bed with a hidden storage compartment beneath the bed. It can be used even when the bed is full, or, with the removal of a panel, it can become part of your total dump bed capacity. The lower storage compartment adds approximate 30 gallons of storage. Not bad especially when you add that to the approximately 75 gallons the upper dump bed has.
We’re calling this one a tie. Both setups are very nice to have. Maybe someone will put tons of cab and bed storage in one machine someday.
At the end of the day, you can reduce the argument down to Polaris’s superior engineering vs Can-Am’s better craftsmanship.
The General is designed better and the Commander is built better. When you’re sitting in the Commander’s cab, you can feel the craftsmanship that makes it a premium ride. From the seats, to the dash, you’ll notice the difference when you switch over to a General’s cab. The General has a less comfortable feel and a cheaper look.
By all accounts, the Can-Am’s Rotax engine has more endurance than the General’s Prostar, although both should last plenty long.
Let’s not forget the number of recalls the General has had compared to the Commander. There just tends to be more problems on average with the General than the Commander, but with normal use, both should rarely need servicing.
What we love:
What we love:
For our money, we’re going with the Polaris General. We love the extra power and performance, and we especially love difficult trails. The Commander’s just not up for that.
While we do like the Commanders cab, we can’t ignore the heat and noise from the vibration. It’s tolerable in the winter and unbearable the rest of the year.
Plus, we never leave our machines alone, and we’d rather work on the General.
If you plan on sticking to easy trails and want to insulate your cab panels, a Commander might be better for you. But for the way we ride, the General can’t be beat.