Hunters and outdoor enthusiasts primarily want two things in a side-by-side: capability and comfort. They’re looking for a vehicle that can take them and their buddies to places their trucks cannot, while minimizing exposure to the elements and the adverse terrain beneath the tires. Helping a cab full of hunters—up to six of them—make it through mud and mire comfortably is the job for which the Max X MR version of Can-Am’s 2020 Defender side-by-side was designed.
Can-Am (can-am.brp.com) introduced the Defender in 2016. It was the company’s first side-by-side designed primarily for utility. For 2020, the Defender line is revamped with a more powerful Rotax 976 cc, V-twin engine that produces 82 horsepower and 69 pounds-feet of torque. The Defender’s Pro-Torq transmission features the Can-Am Quick Response System, a lower gearing ratio, and electronic drive belt protection that alerts the driver if the vehicle is in the wrong gear for the task or conditions.
Features of the Max X MR that hunters will immediately notice, though, are the 14-inch cast-aluminum wheels with 30-inch ITP Cryptid tires and the increased, 15-inch ground clearance. I put these to the test in the black gumbo mud of northeast Texas, and even when the slop seemed to swallow half the tires, the Max X MR churned its way through. At times there were five adults in the cab and a full load of duck-hunting gear in the bed, but the vehicle never hesitated.
Of course the Max X MR is well suited to traversing solid ground as well. Along with a 4WD Mud mode, the drive train has Turf (to prevent tearing up grass), 2WD and 4WD Trail modes. Can-Am’s Smart-Lok allows the driver to change the mode and the front differential state on the fly. The Smart-Lok differential features a clutch that is engaged electronically, based on sensors that feed data to a module that instantly determines how much pressure should be applied by the clutch. The result is superior handling across varied terrain and speeds. More driver assistance comes from electronic hill-descent control and Can-Am’s Dynamic Power Steering.
The Max X MR suspension features arched double A-arms with a sway bar in the front, and Can-Am’s arched Torsional Trailing A-arms in the rear. Travel is 10 inches. A full-length composite skid plate, aluminum rock sliders and mud guards provide protection. The vehicle also includes a 4,500-pound winch.
The cab has dual Versa-Pro bench seats with bolsters. Passenger seats flip up, and the benches are contoured to improve entry and exit. The driver’s seat and the tilt of the steering column are adjustable. Gauges and indicators come in the form of a 7.6-inch digital display.
The cargo box measures 38 inches long, 54.5 inches wide and 12 inches high. It has a 1,000-pound capacity (600 pounds on the California version). Total load capacity of the vehicle is 1,650 pounds, and it is rated to tow 2,500 pounds. With an overall length of 161.9 inches, width of 64 inches and height of 82 inches, and a dry weight of 1,999 pounds, the Defender Max X MR ($21,499) is not compact, but it is more than capable of getting a blind full of duck hunters through the mud in complete comfort.