Smartly designed Utility UTV impresses
Possibly the one most anticipated vehicle for ranch hands, land owners and hunters coming from BRP was the Can-Am Defender. This vehicle provided the Can-Am lineup with a true Utility Side-by-Side vehicle that workers and hunters could relate to.
Seating Capacity: 3
Bed Capacity: 1,000 lbs
Towing Capacity: 2,000 lbs
Ground Clearance: 11.0"
This rugged, powerful machine embodies the working class with a few small touches that make it a great trail rider as well. Fast forward a couple of years and we have had our 2017 Can-Am Defender hard at work for about six months now. During our testing in the North Georgia Mountains, we proved to ourselves just why we still think this would make a great asset to any home or business.
After long days on the trail and in the thick of rocky, most times tight, steep hills (both up and down), the Defender proved it could earn its keep. The competition in this category is intense, with one company slicing out a huge portion of the pie, yet the Defender still left an impression of greatness with us.
We all know the traditional specs and if you are even remotely interested in this machine you have read them through. It is our opinion that the real-world tests we performed in these machines would allow us to see just how well the rig worked and not what a number chart could show us. The testing of trail worthiness was completed over 500 acres of varying mountain and field laden terrain. Most of these trails were a tad wider than our machine, but the small twisty rabbit trails leading to those gave our Defender a workout.
Some of the trails where we had driven the 2017 Can-Am Defender stepped out into very tight merge points with other trails. But even with two adults in the cab and a 90-degree hook back onto the next loop, not only did the machine turn in well, but it felt stable doing so. Can-Am boasts that the Defender has the tightest turning radius in its class and we can verify that is a very maneuverable machine.
Speaking of tight trails, we did take our 2017 Can-Am Defender HD10 into the woods and cross several streams. At this point we locked the Defender into 4WD and proceeded to not only cross slowly, but at the adjoining banks we were able to climb out (wet, muddy tires and all) and over the water breaks with no problem. The grunt of the Rotax mill gives up plenty for those needing more reaction from the engine. One thing we noticed was the slightly smoother pedal or throttle delivery while in work mode. The three-position switch mounted on the dash is a throttle-by-wire map control switch that has three positions. We found that Normal and Work modes suited us best, yet there is an ECO mode for those looking to get the most mileage out of their fuel. Climbing out of rocky, rut-filled sections of the property would also seem like a chore, but a steady pace and throttle walked us right up those sections easily.
As we traveled up through the tightest sections of the trails where briars and branches reached out to get us, the nets seemed to capture the intruders but not without sacrifice. We do not have an issue with nets, but worrying about them getting hung up on trailside brush does distract our mind a little and tears in these just begin to get worse without many options except to replace. We’d love to see a door either half or quarter sized up the opening instead. Not a deal breaker, but worth noting.
We took some time to load a small utility trailer with construction materials located around the barn. The shocks on the 2017 Can-Am Defender are simple preload adjustable units and we twisted the stepped per-load cam up a couple of clicks for the trailer load and overall rear end height so the trailer tongue wouldn’t clip the ground should our speed get the better of us. The Defender shocks seemed a touch on the soft side and sagged a bit when the trailer was hooked up. As for actually pulling about half of its towing capacity, the Can-Am Defender did not disappoint. It seemed to not really notice the extra weight when it came to the engine output and towed our trailer easily. Again, our only concern was the shocks’ droop when the tongue was loaded.
As for weight in the bed, we have had as much as 500lbs of rock in the bed of our Defender HD10. During this test our speed as well as trail or pasture obstacle approach would be determined with caution. Loading these big UTVs and then thinking you can haul ass isn’t going to work out so well for the occupants. Slow, steady and in low gear is how the manufacturer intended when loaded down. Taking that into consideration, we handled ourselves accordingly. Our Defender performed well on both uneven terrain as well as off-camber trails during this test. The Tri-Mode DPS or Power steering was a life saver as well when trying to maneuver the loaded trailer around steep grades and slow turns.
If we look inside the cab of the 2017 Can-Am Defender XT, we find a luxury working vehicle with two removable storage boxes as well as a small cubby right over the gauges in front of the driver. This is serious attention to detail from the engineers. The passenger seats even flip up out of the way for whatever else you may need room for. The seats’ bases are chamfered on the entry corners for easy entry and the A-pillars are also moved forward. This gives an even easier entry for larger riders.
The transmission could be a little difficult at times when trying to get it into or out of gear, but we also took into consideration the pressure on the transmission at the time we were moving gears. Having the big Rotax V-Twin mounted on the driver side behind the cab did pull most of the heat and noise from the cab area; however, we have been in quieter cabs.
Overall the 2017 Can-Am Defender HD10 XT is a serious competitor in the Utility UTV market. This machine will make a great workhorse with a reliable engine and drivetrain, as well as a company that stands behind its product.
Our testing might have not been exactly the conditions you ride in, but after three days of final testing in this rig it was clear that it still looks great and handles tasks as needed. We had some great unloaded trail rides in the cab as well and recommend you do the same if you feel so inclined.