Can-Am Defender UTVs — Off-Road Tests

There's a lot to like about what's new in 2020 Can-Am Defender line.

The glorious Texas sun hung low in the morning sky and spilled soft, warm light across the Hill Country as I careened down one of the Y.O. Ranch’s off-road trails in a new Can-Am UTV. The mixed rock and dirt trail rose ahead of me leading up to a formidable hilltop. I applied more pressure to the accelerator as I met the trough of the hill and felt the machine surge its way forward up the slope.

At the top, a stunningly beautiful plain lay sprawled before me. The terrain—scrub brush and various trees interspersed with open ground and strewn boulders—I imagine, could’ve easily been confused with certain parts of Southern Africa. So, I suppose it shouldn’t have surprised me as much as it did when I looked off the trail to the left and saw two giraffes, one fully grown and the other a youngster standing in the open.

Can-Am Defenders
New model Defenders were introduced and tested at Y.O. Ranch in Texas. (Photo courtesy of Can-Am)

To say the Y.O. Ranch is a different sort of place would be, well, an understatement. It boasts thousands upon thousands of acres of land in the scenic Texas Hill Country a few hours northwest of San Antonio, and ever since the early 1950s when a variety of wild exotic game species were introduced to the ranch, it has been a haven of diverse animal life. On our way into the ranch, for example, we stumbled across three zebras loitering less than 50 yards from the gravel road. In total, roughly 60 different exotic species call this land home, as well as an ample assortment of cattle.

While the ranch and its animals were certainly fascinating, they were largely a backdrop for the true purpose of the trip, which was a formal introduction, and product testing, of Can-Am’s new model year 2020 Defender UTVs. Gathered at the Y.O. Ranch were a host of media personnel, including yours truly, and a number of Can-Am employees to familiarize us with the new models and help us spend some time with them on the trails in South Texas.


Can-Am Defenders
The ‘refreshed’ Defender line has a new smoother and stronger 82-horsepower Rotax engine. (Photo courtesy of Can-Am)

THE DEFENDER REBORN

Although there were several new models and model lines from Can-Am to discuss for 2020, the big news from this event in late September 2019 regarded enhancements, as well as all-new models, in the company’s Defender line. As those familiar with Can-Am products might already know, the Defender is the manufacturer’s workhorse lineup, built for hunters, anglers, farmers and others looking for utility beyond a means of transport from A to B.


To start with, the entire Defender line has received what the folks at Can-Am have described as a “refresh.” At the heart of this “refresh” is a new smoother and stronger 82-horsepower Rotax engine, which offers an industry-leading 69 pound-feet of torque, something I certainly experienced climbing a few of the hills in South Texas, and something that increases towing capability and vehicle performance. Additionally, the frame and front end have also been revised on the Defender models to provide improved ride, durability and protection.

This alone is fairly exciting, but even more so are the three brand new entries to the Defender line: The Defender Limited HD10, the Defender PRO HD10 (available in two model options) and the Defender 6x6 HD10.

Can-Am Defenders
The 2020 Defender Limited HD10. (Photo courtesy of Can-Am)

DEFENDER LIMITED HD10

There’s a lot to like about Can-Am’s new Limited HD10 model, but the most notable feature is probably its climate-controlled cab. This includes both heating and air conditioning, so the user is able to work or play in comfort, no matter the weather. And what’s especially nice about this climate-controlled cab is that the system is automatic, meaning you can set your desired temperature and it will adjust as necessary (heat, AC and airflow) to meet and maintain that setting. The system also reduces the flow of refrigerant in the circuit once the selected temperature is achieved.

During testing, this proved easy to operate. The system functioned as intended, cooling to the chosen temperature, and staying there, making a toasty South Texas afternoon in late September quite cool and comfortable. A new heater system—one that utilizes aluminum, which serves as an excellent heat conductor—also improves heat transfer and efficiency, with 50 percent hotter air temperature at full capacity.


Of course, there’s a lot going on with this new climate control system in the Defender Limited HD10, particularly on the cooling side of things. For starters, Can-Am has included a variable compressor with this system. This means that the Limited HD10’s HVAC system is not linked with its engine RPM, which allows for better performance at a low RPM. By reducing compressor load on the engine, it also reduces horsepower loss and improves fuel efficiency.

Can-Am Defenders
The cab’s climate-control system is automatic, and efficient. (Photo courtesy of Can-Am)

The climate system is a recirculating design, which helps cool the inside down faster, particularly on hot days. And eight different output vents are strategically located throughout the cab for improving heating and cooling efficiency: four front vents, two lower feet vents and two front window vents. These made short work of keeping cool inside the cabin. An easily accessible cabin air filter is also located under the front hood of the vehicle, which makes maintenance or replacement a snap.

If we were going to limit discussion to two key features on the Defender Limited HD10, the first, as discussed, would be the climate-control system. The second would likely be the innovations made to the cabin/cockpit to make it more spacious, better sealed and quieter. Improvements in sealing across the cab keep out dust and also help boost heating and cooling efficiency. Indeed, the cab is fully enclosed with a glass front and rear windshield, and doors features electric windows.


The cab on the Limited HD10—the industry’s largest according to Can-Am—has also been designed so that it offers 15 percent more space than the manufacturer’s main competitor. And thicker, sealed front and rear firewalls serve as integrated heat shields and deflectors, providing both a sound and heat barrier from the engine.

Can-Am Defenders
The Defender Limited HD10’s cab is described as the industry’s largest. (Photo courtesy of Can-Am)

The new Defender Limited HD10 is chock-full of features designed to mitigate sound and its negative effects on the driver and passengers. A new low-sound exhaust system yields a distinct lower sound; meanwhile adjustments to CVT calibration reduce the shift line by 500 RPMs. So, as you are accelerating quickly, shifting sounds will not be as loud. There’s also the new iTC (Intelligent Throttle Control) ECO Mode, which allows for smoother engine performance and minimized cockpit vibration and noise. In fact, all of these innovations together contribute to a 60 percent reduced sound level compared to Can-Am’s 2019 Defender CAB models. The iTC ECO Mode is found on the other two new Defender models as well.

Can-Am Defenders
The 2020 Defender Limited HD10. (Photo courtesy of Can-Am)

If all that weren’t enough, the Defender Limited HD10 also comes decked out with “Limited” features. These include Limited edition seats and badge and LED Signature lights. And it’s even outfitted with a 7.6-inch display with keypad.

In short, if you want to cruise around, completing your hunting, fishing, farming or working tasks in comfort, you’d be hard pressed to find a better steed than the Defender Limited HD10.

Can-Am Defenders
The 2020 Defender Pro HD10. (Photo courtesy of Can-Am)

DEFENDER PRO HD10

If you’re looking for a workhorse UTV that can help you out on the farm or in the field, one of the Defender PRO HD10s might be your huckleberry. Available in two different models, the PRO DPS HD10 and the PRO XT HD10 offer loads of utility in terms of functionality and storage. In terms of differences between the two models, they are fairly straightforward, but not insignificant. The XT model features a front bumper, 500-pound winch, roof, brake-holding mechanism and reinforced XT seat skin.

The first thing one likely notices when looking at either of the new PRO models when compared to the Defender Limited, or any of the prior Defender models, is the longer, quite substantial cargo bed. Measuring 6 feet in length and 4.5 feet in width, the PRO’s bed offers ample storage for just about anything you could envision, and enough torque courtesy of the same new Rotax 976cc V-Twin engine found on the Limited to haul it. For perspective, that box length is comparable to some truck beds. And it’s about two feet longer than the bed on the standard Defender models.

Can-Am Defenders
The Defender Pro HD10 cargo bed measures 6 x 4.5 feet. (Photo courtesy of Can-Am)

The features found on the PRO’s cargo box don’t end there. It’s also easily convertible into a flatbed configuration in a matter of seconds if you have a project or task that requires such modifications. The cargo box is integrated with Can-Am’s LinQ attachment system, so the user can customize the box as desired, whether it’s with a LinQ Gun & Tool Holder, bedwall extensions, cargo rack, etc. And the bed is designed so it can easily be pivoted up to dump out whatever you’re hauling. That’s a lot of versatility just in the rear cargo box alone.

And if that wasn’t enough storage, the PRO models have side-to-side storage as well in the form of a dual-access cargo hold located underneath the bed and between the rear axle and the cab. The 83.6-gallon storage space opens via a flip-up door on either side of the vehicle. So, in short, storage is in ample supply for users with the new Defender PRO.

Can-Am Defenders
Side-to-side storage in the Defender Pro HD10. (Photo courtesy of Can-Am)

The new PRO also features Can-Am’s new Dual Phase Steel Frame, which offers both more rigidity for added durability and reinforcement and a reduced overall weight. In fact, the new frame provides 30 percent more rigidity while weighing five pounds less than the previous frame. Like the Limited and the 6x6 HD10 (discussed below), the PRO utilizes the PRO-TORQ transmission. This transmission includes a Quick Response System (QRS) and features optimized ventilation with Electronic Drive Belt Protection. It also incorporates a gear-on-gear rear differential. A selectable “Turf Mode” is also available to users. This was designed to help the vehicle run on areas where the user may be concerned with leaving ruts or damaging grass. And then of course there’s the standard 2WD as well as a 4WD with Visco-Lok QE auto-locking front differential.

Can-Am Defenders
The 2020 Defender Pro HD10. (Photo courtesy of Can-Am)

As with the Defender Limited HD10, engineers at Can-Am have also worked to reduce sound levels when operating the PRO. The engine has been moved farther away from the cab. A new, thicker firewall has been added. And a low-sound exhaust system has been developed. Like the Limited, the PRO’s CVT calibration has been tweaked to reduce sound as well.

While the Defender PRO may not have some of the comfort features of the Limited, there’s still a lot to like and much that should appeal to farmers and outdoorsmen everywhere.

Can-Am Defenders
The Defender 6x6 HD10. (Photo courtesy of Can-Am)

DEFENDER 6X6 HD10

Can-Am’s new Defender 6x6 HD10 might look similar in initial appearance to the PRO, but it brings an additional axle and even more traction to the Defender lineup. It is the perfect choice for someone looking to tow and carry more while also traversing difficult terrain.

Like the PRO models, the Can-Am Defender 6x6 HD10 features an extended, adjustable cargo box that is LinQ compatible, meaning it too can accept all the different Can-Am LinQ accessories. As with the PRO’s bed, the sidewalls on the 6x6 can be removed for a flatbed configuration.

Can-Am Defenders
The Defender 6x6 is perfect for hauling on difficult terrain. (Photo courtesy of Can-Am)

One sacrifice to getting that extra axle and traction is that you do lose the PRO’s underneath storage compartment. But, if you navigate areas with adverse terrain, that might be a willing tradeoff. The Defender 6x6 HD10 certainly had no trouble handling any of the obstacles we faced at the Y.O. Ranch.

Given the added axle, the 6x6 is also the heaviest of the three new Defender models, with an estimated dry weight of around 1,944 pounds. The Limited is close behind at around 1,928 pounds. With the additional axle, options include selectable 4WD or 6WD with Visco-Lok QE auto-locking front differential.

Despite the added weight, and the addition of two more tires, the 6x6 felt just as nimble on the trails as the PRO or Limited Defender models. And given the extra traction with the third axle, certainly even more capable.

Can-Am Defenders
The Defender 6x6 HD10. (Photo courtesy of Can-Am)

DEFENDER ACCESSORIES

Last but not least are the new accessories for the 2020 Defenders. Thirty-six new accessories were introduced back in June 2019, with an additional 30 added in September 2019. So, users now have more than 60 different potential accessories to consider along with their new Defenders.

New Defender accessories run the gamut from bumpers to skidplates to toolholders and various bed extensions. In short, Defender owners can choose to configure their UTVs in a whole host of ways to suit their needs and specific projects—which places a lot of power and functionality at users’ fingertips.

BLAZING NEW TRAILS

Overall, there’s a lot to like about the new changes to the Can-Am Defender line. This is both in terms of the three brand new models introduced and the Defender “refresh” as a whole. The impressive terrain and expansive landscape of the Y.O. Ranch in the Texas Hill Country was a perfect testing ground to see what the new Defender UTVs were cable of, and they did not disappoint.

The Defender Limited HD10 brings a ton of innovations to the UTV market, most notably its climate control system paired with its spacious, sealed cabin. The Defender PRO, in either iteration, offers a flexible workhorse that can hold and haul impressive quantities while offering a pretty comfortable (though not climate controlled) ride. And the Defender 6x6 HD10 offers the user an added traction boost to handle virtually any terrain one is likely to encounter—all while offering exceptional towing and storage capabilities.

These three models alone meet many of the needs that ranchers, farmers and outdoor folks might have, and who knows what else may yet be on the horizon for the Defender line. In any case, the Can-Am Defender line has plenty of options for those in the market for a dependable, comfortable, safe UTV that brings a lot of functionality to the table, whatever the intended use of task might be.

Editor’s Note: For full specifications on each of these three new models, or any models in the Can-Am Defender lineup, visit can-am.brp.com.

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