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2015 Can-Am Spyder RT Review: The Successful Three-Wheeler Hulks Up!

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2015 Can-Am Spyder RT Review: The Successful Three-Wheeler Hulks Up!

By Robert “GODZILLA” Smith III


Everywhere you look these days; companies are inventing or reinventing vehicles that are said to revolutionize the transportation industry. Some succeed; others fail, rather miserably. This Triple-Tired Titan from Can-Am has garnered a Hell-of-a-lot of interest from the public and has been the focus of numerous debates regarding its purpose in this industry over the years. I got My chance to get the entire skinny on this unique vehicle when the Spyder RT was unveiled to specially invited press and guests. All attending were first trained in the art of 3-wheeling on a closed course, followed by a guided tour for a taste of what this truly revolutionary ride is capable of.

New as of the 2014 lineup is the RT model, which at $22,999 sits above the $14,899 RS and $18,999 ST. Those two lesser models soldier on with the original 998-cc Rotax V-Twin paired to five-speed manual or semiautomatic transmissions. But the RT sits atop the Can-Am hierarchy with all-new 1330-cc Rotax triple and six-speed manual or semiautomatic transmissions. (Rotax is a BRP-owned Austrian engine manufacturer whose engines power the company's Ski-Doos, Sea-Doos, and Can-Ams.)


That extra cylinder in the new Rotax triple gives it 15 more horsepower and 16 more lb-ft of torque than that V-Twin. Those might seem like small gains, but they represent 15 and 20 percent increases, respectively. And besides, the RT isn't about racing up a canyon road. At just over a half-ton, this three-wheeler weighs 214 pounds more than the base RS and, with 41 gallons of storage in the saddlebags and top case, is capable of carrying plenty of gear. It can even a tow a trailer-a $4995 option. With comfortable touring in mind, the new engine provides increased torque across the rev range, fuel efficiency, and quietness rather than sportbike-like thrust.


The option list for the Spyder is lengthy and includes floorboards, GPS, LED lighting, unique wheels and finishes, and adjustable rear suspension. Want it all? At the top of the range is the chrome-wheeled RT Limited, which comes standard with every one of these features plus the semiautomatic six-speed.


Tech Tidbit: The Rotax 1330 has hydraulic valve adjustment and can go up to 9300 miles between oil changes. For most riders, that means only one trip to the dealer each year. The new engine's radiators are now mounted up front, away from the rider's legs-so the ride is much cooler than before.


Driving Character: The Spyder RT is an easy-riding long hauler. The new engine is incredibly smooth and refined. It's almost turbine-like in its power delivery, not unlike the character of a torque-rich straight-six in a car. Highway cruising is much quieter now, too, because the overdrive sixth gear (a 0.91:1 ratio) means the RT revs much lower-3600 rpm at 70 mph instead of 5000 rpm. It also means the RT can cruise up to 250 miles at 60 mph on a full tank.


The semiautomatic transmission's character is dependent on throttle position. Change gears modestly at part throttle and the shift action is smooth but a bit mushy. Press that upshift button at full throttle, though, and the Spyder shifts quickly and crisply-like a good, dual-clutch gearbox in a car. Still, the new 1330 engine is a little less engaging than the old Twin, which was raucous, loud, and more aggressive-and I liked that; A Lot!


Lean the Spyder RT into a corner, and this new model feels more stable and a bit sharper than the last one I rode. That's probably because BRP revised the front suspension design on all models last year, giving them shorter control arms, firmer bushings, a stiffer steering column with larger U-joints, and larger 15-inch wheels. The suspension tune, however, is soft, so this is one cushy cruiser.


Just as carmakers have become serious about fuel economy, so too has BRP. The RT's 1330-cc triple and new six-speed transmissions are more efficient than the old powertrains, and a new Eco Mode helps the rider achieve the better fuel economy. Press the button on the handlebars and it relaxes the throttle mapping and displays optimal shift points on the gauge cluster so you can maximize range.


My Grievance: The Spyder's SE6 transmission is a semiautomatic gearbox that uses an electrically operated hydraulic clutch. Press the levers on the bars to upshift or downshift. If left untouched, it will downshift for you as you ride. And that's handy. So why not create a fully automatic mode like the ones in many paddle-shift car transmissions, where the rider could shift into auto and let the transmission perform all the shifting? There could even be a Sport auto setting for more aggressive shifts.



GODZILLA’s Bottom Line: The Spyder continues to attract a lot of attention while cruising… Can-Am plans on having some of the coolest accessories available for the Spyder that’ll put even more plutonium into this high-powered Nuclear Reactor! The Spyder RT is certainly a better cruiser, thanks to the new three-cylinder engine and six-speed transmission. The bike's combination of tech and comfort should keep three-wheeler touring fans smiling on every road trip. And we suspect this powertrain will make its way into the rest of the Spyder line before too long. I’d like to extend a Very Special Thank You to Bernard Guy over at BRP / Can-Am and My partner Jeff Gruhlke for all of their support!



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