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New Can-Am Defender has serious upgrades

Photos courtesy of Can-Am Off-Road New Can-Am Defender Limited side-by-side
The Can-Am Defender Limited model is powerful and agile. It has many nice upgrades from previous years’ models.
Review: This refresh of Can-Am’s HD 10 side-by-side offers plenty of power, a longer bed and a climate-controlled cab.

We got to test the newly upgraded Can-Am Defender HD-10 in Texas recently. The utility task vehicle performed well on our daylong trial, and it offers options such as a 6-foot-long bed and an air-conditioned and heated cab — with plenty of power.

Increasingly, it seems like the makers of UTVs are creating a replacement vehicle for pickup trucks, especially in rough terrain. The new Can-Am fills this bill nicely. It is powerful, quiet and comfortable, and it can carry quite a load.

We took it on some really rough trails in both the six-wheel-drive version (6x6) and the shorter 4-wheel-drive (Limited) model. We also drove the long-wheelbase, four-wheel model (Pro) on terrain that was slightly less rough, with 1,000 pounds of weight in the bed. In every case, the machine shone.

The 6x6 model is a true 6wd that’s amazingly nimble. It turns with almost the agility of the Limited model, and on really rough terrain, the extra axle seemed to smooth out some of the worst bumps. The load capacity on the 6wd and the Pro model is 1,000 pounds, although both are clearly capable of handling more. The 6wd has a slightly higher towing capacity than the Pro model.

Can-Am  Defender Pro hauling logs in its six-foot bed
The Can-Am Defender Pro model offers plenty of power. It offers a 6-foot-long bed for carrying more farm or ranch tools and materials than you could possibly fit in a typical UTV bed.

Here are a few things the engineers at Can-Am have added to the latest upgrade of the Defender:

• A twin-cylinder, 1,000-cubic-centimeter Rotax engine produces 82 horsepower and an “industry-leading” 69 foot-pounds of torque. Torque is key for carrying or pulling loads.

• A complete frame-up and front-end refresh provides improved ride, durability and protection.

• A climate-controlled cockpit, which is fully enclosed. The air-conditioning system keeps you comfortable, and an easy-to-service filter for the cab helps keep the ride dust-free. Just set it to automatic mode and enjoy heating or cooling as needed.

• The cab is very quiet, due to the rear engine placement and engine noise-dampening. It is available as either a three- or six-seater.

• The new 6-foot-long beds have removable, injection-molded sides, so they can be used as flatbeds. There are also many add-ons, such as tool holders and bed-height extenders. Remove a bolt near the back, and they slip out.

The 6x6 model Can-Am Defender climbs a steep hill
The Can-Am Defender six-wheel-drive model has an amazingly smooth and agile ride for a three-axle machine, and provides more traction than a four-wheel-drive model. It has the same load rating, but more towing capacity.


Other impressions from our trial

As for the climate-controlled cab, we drove the machine in the heat of a mid-September afternoon in the Texas Hill Country. It was more than 90 degrees F outside, but very comfortable and dust-free in the cab — even wearing a helmet, jeans and a long-sleeved shirt.

When driving the Pro model with the long bed and 1,000 pounds of weight in the back, we had no trouble pulling inclines and cutting corners. Although we could feel a little more sway in the suspension from the slightly top-heavy load, the machine was very stable.

We did not pull a load with the Defenders, but considering their horsepower and torque, we can’t imagine them unable to pull their rated loads with ease.

The machines are also available with an eco-mode, which economizes on fuel consumption. Although it decreases available power a little bit, we didn’t notice a significant difference in normal driving.

The Defenders can be turned from two-wheel-drive to 4wd with the dash-mounted switch while on the fly.

The twin-cylinder engine was smooth and powerful. When coupled with all the vibration and noise reduction technologies of the Defender, it seemed an ideal power plant. Can-Am says the 2020 model has a 60% reduction in noise from the 2019 model.

The cab is quite roomy — and even with our 6-foot-plus-tall body, there was plenty of leg- and headroom.

For more information about the complete 2020 Can-Am Off-Road vehicle lineup, visit the Can-Am Off-Road website

Take a quick look at the upgraded Can-Am Defender video with product manager J.J. Rivet.


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