The all-new Defender is Can-Am’s first full-fledged, no holds barred entry into the utility-recreational side-by-side market. If you follow us at ATV World, you probably already have a good idea of how serious they really are. The Defender is a three seat, high payload workhorse that aims to really bridge the gap between work and play. Can Am engineers have spent the last three years developing the Defender line from the ground up to be Tough, Capable, and Clever.
Aimed directly at machines like the Ranger XP 900 and Honda’s Pioneer, the Defender’s completely new, model specific chassis is mated with either Rotax HD8 or HD10 V-Twin engines. This truly recreational work “market” or “segment“ has been left fairly unchallenged for many years, and the Defender aims to shake things up with a handful of innovative ideas.
To begin with, the Can-Am chassis utilizes very special high-strength, low alloy steel for incredible strength with minimal weight. The main part of the Defender’s cage uses a type of channeled or “profile tubing” to make for super simple mounting of accessory doors and windows. The rolled in channel is used for locating on the ROPS cage, where you would mount a front or rear windshield or doors. We noticed it to be very similar to the recent Polaris Ranger XP cage, and the Can Am guys were quick to point out that they had missed the boat as to hitting the market first with it. Whoever really came up with the design first is irrelevant at this point, but we really liked it on the Polaris, and it seems to work equally as well on the Defender.
A great all-around performing suspension system is another important factor to both work and play. Like most modern UTVs, the Defender’s front end gets a pretty standard looking, dual A-arm set-up and the rear gets a modified dual A-arm type set-up as well. This set-up provides a plush, controllable ride when driven aggressively, and an incredible payload rating when it comes to the “business” side of things. The Defender’s suspension system provides 10 inches of travel, 11 inches of ground clearance, and easy to maintain grease zerks at every pivot point.
When it comes to powering the Defender, Can Am leveraged its proven V-Twin Rotax engine and recalibrated it for true Heavy Duty performance. Setting the new standard for low RPM torque and power, the HD10 is said to produce 20% more torque than its nearest competitor. The 1000cc HD10 puts down 72 hp (61 ft-lb torque) and the 800cc HD8 leads its class at 50 hp (50 ft-lb torque). Can Am engines were completely reworked, in search of every possible ounce of additional torque vs. the typically desired top speed.
Can-Am’s completely new PRO-TORQ transmission was developed to smoothly, quickly and reliably deliver the torque needed for the extreme hauling and heavy payloads that will be expected of the Defender. The new Electronic Drive Belt protection system alerts the driver when low gear is needed, and will even temporarily disable the vehicle until the proper gear range is selected. A hill descent mode is present for effortlessly creeping down steep hills or slopes.
You have to get up close and personal with the Defender to see how innovative and well designed it really is. Body design was heavily influenced by ergonomics and details like sight lines, rather than just looking for an exciting or stylish body. The hood, while it almost looks short at first glance, actually slopes down out of sight for optimal view of the ground in front of you. The cab features tons of intuitive storage including a removable glove box / tool box that you can actually remove and take with you for trail-side repairs etc. Additional storage can also be found under the bench seat, with room for hiding a massive accessory storage container. We also immediately noticed that all of the dash mounted controls, switches, etc. were easy to reach and operate.
The Defender’s massive composite dump box screams workhorse, and internal framework makes it one of the toughest we’ve seen yet. The sturdy tailgate is even said to have no problem holding an average adult male. Bed divider slots are molded into the bed to accept handy plywood dividers, and four super smart, recessed bucket retainers will keep your five gallon buckets from sliding around.
We got to drive the Defender at Harpole’s Heartland Lodge in Nebo, IL. The 1200 acres of trails ranged from basic gravel roads to creek crossings, to tougher, obstacle filled climbs and descents. Right off the bat, you realize the Defender is extremely quick for its intended market or class, especially the 1000cc HD10. The Defender’s power really comes on strong, right off the bottom, and it’s impressive all the way through. We found both machines had plenty of power to easily conquer any of the trail system’s available hill-climbs, and the HD10 even felt like it was gaining speed on the way up.
Clutching is top notch as well, with predictable engine braking and butter smooth shifting. The engine and clutch have really been designed for low end, working performance, but they still provide excitable acceleration and a fun all around driving experience. Power steering feedback and settings were also set up for work, but felt equally impressive on the trail.
Impressive Maintenance Schedule
We all know the kind of neglect most farm machines will see in their lifetime. The recreational utility market is also comprised of many lesser experienced users and owners. With this in mind, Can Am engineered the Defenders to make ownership as easy as possible with the most lax maintenance schedule in the industry. Can Am engineers claim to have scrapped the entire break–in schedule with zero required maintenance for 3000km or 200 hours? This seems like a ridiculously long time, but Can-Am’s engineers swore to it, and are currently backing it up with an unheard of 36-month limited warranty.
What To Improve On
While the all-new Defender is definitely a great machine and it felt very refined in many ways, we did notice a few mention worthy shortcomings. There were two different lower seat bases between the base model and the XT. We noticed the foam density in the cheaper model to be overly soft and a little insufficient. After a few hours on the trail, you were really feeling the bottom of the pan. They also lacked any real bolstering to help keep your butt planted where you wanted it. Can Am guys did mention that some of the models were prototypes, but they were also due for dealer delivery very shortly.
Another area of improvement could be the seatbelts. Different height drivers will appreciate the belt’s new, adjustable draw point to avoid neck chafe, but we did really notice a tendency to lock up and tighten on the waistband. A final little complaint was the in-cab storage shelf that needs some sort of a gate or a better angle to keep your belongings in it, and not dumped on the floorboard.
This is going to be a great machine for anyone looking to work, play, hunt, etc. with the same UTV. The incredible work capability is going to be hard to top with its 1000 lb. box capacity and 2000 lbs. towing ability. The shortcomings in the seat comfort can be avoided with the more equipped XT models, or you might find yourself adding another layer of foam for those long days in the saddle. The Can-Am Defender is most definitely innovative and exhibits many automotive or truck like qualities.
2016 Can Am Defender HD8 & HD10 Specs:
- Engine: 799cc or 976cc liquid-cooled 4-stroke; Rotax, V-twin
- HP: 50 hp HD8 or 72 hp HD10
- Torque: 50 ft-lb HD8 or 61ft-lb HD10
- Fuel: Intelligent Throttle Control (iTC) with Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI)
- Transmission: PRO-TORQ Transmission w/ Quick Response System (QRS), high airflow ventilation and Electronic Drive Belt Protection Extra-L/H/N/R/P
- Drive Train: Selectable 2wd / 4wd with Visco-Lok auto locking front differential
- Driving Assistance: Electronic Hill Descent Control
- Front Suspension: Double A-arm / 25.4cm (10”) of travel
- Rear Suspension: TTA-HD with external sway bar / 25.4cm (10”) of travel
- Front Brakes: Dual hydraulic 220mm discs with twin-piston calipers
- Rear Brake: Dual 220mm hydraulic discs with single piston caliper
- Tires: 25×8-12 / 25×10-12 Maxxis Base Model: 24x8x12 / 24x10x12
- Length: 305cm (120 in) Width: 157.5 (62 in) Height: 193cm (76 in)
- Wheelbase: 211.5cm (83 in)
- Seat Height: 73cm (28.7 in)
- Ground Clearance: 28 cm (11 in)
- Fuel Capacity: 40L (10.6 gallons)
- Dry Weight: 632.7 (1395 lb)
- Turning Radius: 792cm (26.0 feet)
- Towing Capacity: 907.2kg (2000 lbs.)
- Payload Capacity: 680kg (1500 lbs.)
- Lighting: 140-W lighting output w/4 35-Watt headlights and LED tail lights
- Magneto: 650 watts
- Gauges: Multifunction digital: Speedometer, tachometer, odometer, trip and hour meters, fuel, gear position, seat belt, diagnostics, clock, auto shut off
- Warranty: 3 year limited warranty
- MSRP: $12,499, $14,549 DPS, $17,749 XT, $26,899 XT CAB