2020 Can-Am Defender Limited Review
The 2020 Can-Am Defender Limited comes absolutely loaded from the factory with most any feature you’d want from a stock Utility UTV…and a few you probably didn’t even think of.
Think back to 10 years ago for a second… in the utility UTV market, we essentially had options from Kawasaki, Polaris, John Deere, and a couple of others. The vehicles were work-driven and pretty rudimentary – their sole purpose was getting work done efficiently while saving money compared to buying pickup trucks and trailers. After thinking about those vehicles, can you imagine that just 10 years later we have new utility vehicles that include automatic climate control (HVAC, including heating, ventilation, and air conditioning), electric roll down windows, and a fully sealed cab, all from the factory?!
I definitely wouldn’t have imagined that this would happen, but, hey, technology is pretty nifty! For 2020, Can-Am keeps pushing the envelope with their new Defender UTV’s, which are usually tasked with the nitty gritty work around the ranch and some occasional fun on the trails. With a wide variety of Defender models, Can-Am seemingly has something for everyone, even those who want to “have it all” with the Limited edition, which gives you those oh-so-cool features like the automatic climate control, integrated front winch, a full cab with a windshield wiper on the glass front window, electric roll down windows, and so much more. Let’s take a deeper look at the 2020 Can-Am Defender Limited…
First, you should know that the Can-Am Defender Limited comes with all of the upgrades that have been incorporated across the Defender lineup for the 2020 model year. These include a thicker firewall that better seals off the heat from the engine and the cab. In the Limited, this was obviously imperative with the HVAC system and keeping the cabin air in the vehicle. Also new for 2020, the engine has a reworked exhaust that keeps the noises down compared to previous models. The frame has been upgraded and strengthened to offer 30% more rigidity compared to previous years, plus it weighs 5 lbs less. In the Limited package, specifically, there is a cabin air filter to make sure the HVAC system is always blowing clean air and an 850-W magneto that is capable of powering an abundance of accessories that you can add to this Defender. And, there is a recalibrated CVT transmission that effectively lowers the shift line by 500 RPM.
Some of the same basic features remain, all of which make the Defender one of the most capable utility vehicles out there. The 976cc Rotax V-Twin engine puts out 82 horsepower and 69 lb-ft or torque. The machine includes electronic hill descent control and three drive modes (ECO, ECO off, and Work). As far as differentials are concerned, the rear diff can be unlocked in Turf mode, and the front diff is the Visco-Lok QE auto-locking unit. For driver comfort, power steering is obviously included with Can-Am’s DPS unit. For 2020, the lower front A-arms have been arched. In total, the front suspension has 10” of movement and the rear cycles a total of 10” has well. Dual 220mm vented discs are found on both front wheels, as well as the rear wheels, and the new models have a new brake holding mechanism that effectively acts as a parking brake. If you’ve experienced a Defender before, you know the old “clunk” that the transmission gives you when you take it out of park and put it into gear, and this new brake holding mechanism solves that noise and potential transmission issues.
On the inside, the enhanced full cab is really what separates this 2020 Can-Am Defender Limited from previous model years. The sealing is better and fit and finish is really well executed. There is plenty of insulation in the cab to try and keep the exterior air out and the conditioned air in the vehicle. I was impressed with the HVAC system’s seamless integration into the cab, too. It doesn’t take away much usable space at all, and the controller is nicely integrated into the dash. For the driver, the Defender’s 7.6” digital instrument cluster is also a very nice touch – it displays everything you need and has an easy-to-use touchpad for changing the views on the display.
Driver comfort hasn’t changed for 2020 – the Can-Am Defender Limited is a great place to be sitting for a long work day. The functionality of the cab is still one of, if not the best, in the industry with flip-up seats for massive storage capacity, a built-in tool box in the dash, and huge amounts of storage space in the cab. The contoured bench seat is really well executed with quality materials and solid attachment points. Everything is easy to get to, driver controls included. The only thing that still needs a bit of work in the cab is the actual cab system. Yes, it seals well and shuts completely with a positive latching system, but it squeaks pretty loud as you drive down the road. The squeaking is only heightened when the trail gets rough. Maybe some kind of lubrication would make this go away? I’m not sure, but it sure makes for a quite noisy ride.
Capability wise, the Can-Am Defender Limited retains all of the towing and hauling capacity that you’ve come to expect in an HD10 model. You can tow up to 2500 lbs and you can haul up to 1200 lbs in the rear cargo bed. The suspension is nicely tuned when you’re hauling a load – it keeps the vehicle smooth and well in control. I really like how you can feel all 10” of suspension working to keep the ride smooth and in control, whether it’s loaded down or not. Credit the use of front and rear sway bars in an effort to keep the vehicle from swaying side to side under load. When you get out on the trail, the Limited’s 83” wheelbase combined with 82 horsepower both give this machine plenty of “fun factor” to sling it around tight corners and enjoy wide open trails with lots of straight line stability. I love the fact that this engine still has plenty of power to break the tires loose even with an estimated dry vehicle weight of 1928 lbs. There is a bit of lag when you grab a foot-full of throttle as the compressor is running, but you would only notice it after driving a Defender that doesn’t have the HVAC system. Overall, though, the compressor is seamless and doesn’t make any additional noise.
Can-Am put a lot of work into the integration and development of this HVAC system, and it shows. While we couldn’t get the inside of the cab ice cold in the 90+ degree Texas heat while testing, the air conditioning was still much better in the cab compared to standing outside. The fact that you have a/c in a utility vehicle is still mind boggling to me, and this system works very well keeping the cab cold, even at idle. I was laughing to myself several times after leaving the Limited idling and enjoying the cold air as much as possible. It sure is worth the entry price if you live in a hot environment! Luckily for me, the Defender’s engine temperature never rose when I did this, and the a/c kept blowing cold.
If you drive a Defender MAX chassis (6-passenger layout) and this three-seat chassis back to back, you will notice how the three-seat chassis of the Can-Am Defender Limited is quite a bit rougher in the suspension department when the trail gets rutted and rocky, but that is really only because of the wheelbase. If you do like the longer chassis and want the HVAC system included, you’re in luck because the Can-Am Defender Limited does come in a MAX version as well (MSRP: $27,899).
Specific to the Limited package, there are several more features that make this one stand out, including an XT front bumper that includes a 4500 lb winch, LED signature lighting, and XT seat skins on the seating surfaces. The LED lighting package is great for identification for those in front of you, and the XT bumper/winch combo will really come in handy if you live in a place with unpredictable weather. With stock 27” Maxxis Bighorn 2.0 tires, you’ll be able to get out of many muddy and snowy situations, but the winch will provide a great backup. Plus, full underbelly skid plates come standard on this Defender Limited – awesome!
In total, you can get over 200 accessories for the Defender lineup. Just in 2020, Can-Am added 66 new accessories to help users of all types better utilize its Defender vehicles. After using several of its LINQ attachment systems, I can say that Can-Am accessory integrations are very well done and all of them serve a great purpose. The Headache Rack and Gear Grips are some of my personal favorites to carry a wide variety of gear in the back.
Overall, the $25,199 MSRP of the Can-Am Defender Limited still offers a great value for all of the features that come with it. Yes, it’s much more expensive than a standard Defender, which you can get for less than $15k. However, if you truly want it all and want a vehicle that is going to last, then this Defender pushes many of the buttons that make us say that this is a great overall machine. The HVAC system paired with the full cab is the real reason that you buy the Limited, and the extra features, like the front bumper and winch combination, are why this machine keeps paying for itself year after year. Plus, it has plenty of power to pull trailers around the ranch or keep up with your kiddos on the trails. If Can-Am can get a few of the squeaks worked out (sorry, had to…), then the Defender Limited will truly be complete. Check them out at your local Can-Am dealer today.
More by Casey Cordeiro