Utility UTV of the Year: ATV.com Awards

Rick Sosebee
by Rick Sosebee
The Can-Am Defender Pro takes top honors

A Utility Side-by-Side is one of the most rewarding tools a hard-earned dollar could be spent on. With so many offerings in the marketplace today, it can be a challenge to choose a favorite. However, in model year 2020 there were some real big strides in “capable working machine” that separated one rig from the others to earn the title of Utility UTV of the Year.

Enter the 2020 Can-Am Defender Pro. This well thought out working machine has all the features the Defender family has made popular, along with some interesting new innovations. In fact, due to an engineer’s mind running on overload for the next big product, the 2020 Can-Am Defender Pro was created from the multi-passenger Defender Max.

The Defender Pro HD10 is a true utility work machine that has some decent trail manners, too. Looking at the Defender Pro HD10 from the side, you will notice the length is very similar to the Can-Am Defender Max. The long bed now extends into and over where the rear seats would have been. The bonus under-bed storage is placed where the floorboard of those backseats used to reside. This creates what most will realize as the biggest enclosed storage compartment in the UTV industry. Some measure it in gallons, but we would say a full-size adult could hide inside the hull of this ship.

2020 Can-Am Defender PRO 14

With 82 horsepower and 69 lb-ft of torque, the Defender PRO has plenty of power for just about any task.

Looking at the 2020 Defender Pro from a hauling capacity, it is immediately apparent that your new ranch truck is here. If the massive six-foot long bed is not quite enough for you, just remove the sides of the bed and you can haul anything from a pallet of feed or even a full-size ATV. This makes the new Defender Pro very versatile and this flatbed conversion makes this rig a rancher’s dream. The 82-horsepower Rotax mill is approximately three feet farther behind the cab and with 69 lb-ft of torque, the grunt for the 1000-pound cargo bed capacity is sufficient. Can-Am not only re-calibrated the CVT for the hefty 2500-pound towing capability, but it also reduced the shift points down by 500 rpm to add to that working situation.

When it comes to strength in the framework, Can-Am made a 30% increase in rigidity to the design while reducing the overall weight by a few pounds. It all adds up to the Can-Am Defender Pro being our Utility UTV of the Year.

Runner Up – Polaris Ranger 1000

2020 Polaris Ranger 1000 Feature

Replacing the XP 900, yet still not the top tier 1000cc model, the all-new 2020 Polaris Ranger 1000 brings a great value starting at $12,999. The powerplant in the Ranger 1000 is indeed a 999cc mill, but it is designed just a little different in this model producing 61 horsepower and 55 lb-ft of torque. The cylinder head is essentially the only thing that gets a redesign on the engine as it now becomes a single overhead cam power plant. From the oil plug to the top of the cylinder is still the same as an XP 1000 motor. Polaris explained that the peak torque performance rpm has been moved down 3000 rpm to help build the biggest portion of the engine’s power down in the low to mid-range, which should help motivate the machine’s 2500-pound towing capacity. This Utility UTV also employs the XP 1000 braking system that had actually been updated last year so that it can safely stop that towable load. Polaris also tuned the PVT belt drive to work fluidly with the engine changes as well as the 1500-pound payload capacity. This is a potent package for this price point and the Ranger 1000 has earned runner-up status as our Utility UTV of the Year.

Honorable Mention – Honda Pioneer 1000

Honda Pioneer 1000

Using Honda’s DCT transmission and electronic power steering, the three-seat Honda Pioneer 1000 is ready to get some light chores done as well as a lot of great trail time. The smaller platform gives ranchers a way to squeeze into and around the barns a little easier but without sacrificing the true power and robust build that farmers, hunters and everyday enthusiast look for. Speaking in terms of shifting, this is all left up to your own preference as the auto mode does the work when engaged and you can easily shift gears on your own at any time with the paddle shift levers behind the wheel. The fuel injected 999cc mill gives you plenty of growl when hauling or towing. The towing capacity is nothing to scarf at with a total in the 2000 pounds range from the hitch and up to 1000 in the bed. With 12.7 inches of ground clearance and four-wheel disc brakes employing 210mm drilled rotors to stop the load, this machine is very deserving of any work and play you might have in store.

Rick Sosebee
Rick Sosebee

Whether he is in Mexico covering the Baja 1000, building ATVs for local racers, or out enjoying the trails, Rick’s passion shows in his stories. Learning to wrench his own machines from his grandfather, Rick also has an undying appreciation for the mechanics of off-road vehicles. Do not let the dirt and mud fool you, though, as Rick also has a deep love for street cars.

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