Can Am UTV Product Reviews

Can-Am Defender Review

Can-Am Defender

By Jon Crowley

Not many utility vehicles have enough power to spin the wheels like this, but then again the new Can-Am Defender HD10 is not your ordinary utility vehicle. Can-Am has targeted the all-new Defender to be 70% Utility and 30% Recreation (Utility-Rec).  By comparison,  the Can-Am Commander‘s target customer uses it for 70% Recreation and 30% Utility (Rec-Utility).

Once Can-Am decided to make a new Utility-Rec vehicle, the set about designing it to be Tough, Capable and Clever.


To make the Defender tough, Can-Am started with their proven Rotax v-twin engine. The flagship HD10 has a 72 hp, Rotax® 976 cc, while the HD8 50 hp, Rotax® 799.9 cc. Both engines are similar to those found in the Maverick and Commander, but have been tuned for work with more torque at lower RPMs. At 4,000 RPM, Can-Am told  us that the HD10 offers 20% more torque than the top selling competitor of the segment.

Rotax V-Twin Engine
Rotax v-twin mated to the new PRO-TORQ Transmission

Unlike the Commander and Maverick, the Defender’s engine is mounted in the rear with the help of a new PRO-TORQ Transmission. This new behind the seat position helps reduce noise, cockpit heat, improve access, and reduce vibration.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see Can-Am move to this setup for other new/updated vehicles as well (finger’s crossed).

The Defender also comes with Hill Descent Control built into Low Range that works very well on steep hills.  I found myself not using any brakes on most descents and there was no need to keep the RPMs up to keep engine braking engaged. And Low-Range is lower than most competitors which helps for engine braking and also hauling and towing.

The all-new high rigidity Defender chassis is made from High-Strength, Low-Alloy (HSLA) grade steel. The fully welded frame include an integrated front bumper and central skid-plate. Even fully loaded the Defender felt solid.

Can-Am Defender
Defender loaded with 1000 lbs. of corn

Defender features a Can-Am-exclusive TTA-HD rear suspension that has been redesigned to handle heavier loads. We tested with the cargo box loaded with 1,000 pounds, just to see how it performed. While I wouldn’t want to drive all day loaded like that, it handled the load well, even with two passengers on an off-road trail.  Quite impressive actually. Plus the Defender can tow up to 2,000 lbs.


True 4-mode traction system with Turf Mode and front auto-locking Visco-Lok Defender offers a new 4-mode traction system providing choices for varying terrain or tasks. Users, via a separate front-and-rear toggle switches, can select between a 2×4 open rear differential for tight turning and turf protection, a 2×4 lockable rear for improved 2WD traction, a 4×4 open rear for more maneuverability in rugged terrain and a 4×4 locked rear for maximum traction. Regardless of mode, the Defender is designed to offer a tight turning radius for improved maneuvering in tight, technical terrain.

Can-Am Defender Rear Locker
Rear Locker actuation is separate from 2WD/4WD

I am a huge fan of the separate switch for the rear locker. This allows me to unlock the rear differential even when in 4WD.  This allows you to increase traction while keeping the turning radius tight. Most other utility vehicles only allow the rear to unlock when in 2WD.

And speaking of turning radius, the new Defender can turn tighter than a Ranger XP 900.

Can-Am Defender
Defender can turn very tight – 26 feet diameter circle

One accessory for the Defender that many business owners may like is Can-Am’s Digitally Encoded Security System (D.E.S.S.) Keys. Comes with 3 programmable keys:

  • Work key: limits vehicle speed to 40 kph (25 mph)

  • Standard key: limits vehicle speed to 70 kph (44 mph) and 10% torque reduction

  • Performance key: no restriction

The Defender comes with a longer range thanks to a 10.6 gallon fuel tank and a super efficient EFI system.  This means you can travel longer distances while out hunting, or go more days between fill-ups on the farm.


Can-Am spent a lot of time with real users of utility vehicles and has infused the Defender with some clever features.

Can-Am Defender
Cargo Box is tough and functional

The Defender Cargo Box is not only tough, but has some neat features which include 4 x steel anchors / tie-down points, 4 x 5-gallon pail recesses, 14 x LinQ quick-attach points and 1×3 and plywood separators and bed extender-ready. Can-Am also beefed up the tailgate so it would handle 250 lbs. with a support in the middle to reduce bending.

When it comes to storage, Can-Am may have gone a little overboard, but in a good way. First up is the glove box. Can-Am calls it a Quick Attach Toolbox because it can be easily removed and turned into a tackle box or tool box.  Might even be a good idea to buy an extra for different purposes.

Can-Am Defender Quick Attach ToolboxCan-Am Defender Quick Attach ToolboxCan-Am Defender Quick Attach Toolbox
Defender’s Quick Attach Toolbox

Next up is the unique VERSA-PRO Bench Seat. The 40/20/40 bench seat is designed for 3 adults.  Middle seat wouldn’t be my first choice if I was going far, but to get from point A to point B on a ranch it is doable. The center seat folds down when you only need two seats and gives you two additional cup holders. The really cool feature comes over on the passenger seat. The seat flips up, and there is a removable enclosed storage container. This is a great spot for lunches, drinks or more tools. Plus if you remove it and flip the seat up, there is a much larger area on the floor for your dogs to travel along.

Under-seat enclosed storage

Can-Am was able to gain more space in the cab by placing the fuel tank behind the passenger seat. And while we are talking about behind the seats, one of the most beautiful things about the PRO-TORQ Transmission is the engine and clutch are now much more accessible under the bed.  Belt changes are a snap.  And the engine “compartment” is well thought out with hot items on the driver side (exhaust, clutch) and cool items on the passenger side (air intake, fuel tank).

Can-Am Defender Fuel TankCan-Am Defender ClutchCan-Am Defender Engine
Fuel tank on the passenger side and clutch and exhaust on the driver’s side

Can-Am pushed the A-pillar forward to enhance space, ingress / egress, visibility. This creates a short hood which takes a little while to get used to, but I think the functionality of this outweighs that.

Can-Am Defender

In the unlikely event you get yourself into an off-camber situation where you need all four tires pulling hard for you, the Defender comes with front auto-locking Visco-Lok QE.  This system transfers power from the tire that is slipping to the one with more traction.

Can-Am Defender
The Defender is equipped with front auto-locking Visco-Lok differential

In theory, this is a great feature, but I am not a big fan.  You need to realize that I am a hard core rock crawler and my idea of how well the front differential should work is well past what ordinary users need.  I would just like to see Can-Am improve this functionality on all of their UTVs. In most situations, the Defender will do just fine.

Can-Am Defender
Sliding Sideways

I see myself as more of a recreational type rider, but we also have an alpaca ranch where I used a RANGER XP 900 almost every day.  For work, I think the 40/20/40 flat seat works just fine.  Designed for easy ingress / egress, the seats are designed for pure function.  But in off-road type situations like we road at the press introduction, I would prefer more support from a seat. If you traveled on any type of slope, I felt like I needed more help keeping myself seated in the right spot. I am more of a fan of two bucket seats with some side-bolstering and a center console. But I do understand that for a pure work environment a bench is more practical.

Overall I think Can-Am has created a very capable and competitive Utility-Recreation vehicle. It has a proven and powerful v-twin engine that is packaged very well behind the seats. The cargo box is functional and strong.  There are ample storage options in the cab.  The chassis feels strong.  Suspension is plush unloaded and also does pretty darn well fully loaded. Accessory options from Can-Am are well thought out for a variety of work and recreation uses. Power steering felt great is all conditions.  Engine braking and turning was superb. I love the XT HD10 model with the 27″ Bighorn tires and the winch. And the rear differential switch separate from the 2WD/4WD switch puts a smile on my face.

Can-Am Defender XT HD10
My favorite – Can-Am Defender XT HD10

More Can-Am Defender Information

Offset Field Mowing with our Kunz Engineering AcrEase Rough Cut Mower and Can-Am Defender HD10 XT-P

Trail Ride in our 2018 Can-Am Defender XT-P HD10

Can-Am Defender Videos:

Can-Am Defender Specifications:

  • Two heavy-duty, high-torque engine choices: 72-hp Rotax HD10 V-Twin or 50-hp Rotax HD8 V-Twin
  • PRO-TORQ transmission with Quick Response System, high airflow ventilation and Electronic Drive Belt Protection. Extra-L / H / N / R / P
  • 1-year maintenance free (1,865 miles / 3,000 km or 200 hours)
  • Easy access to key maintenance components
  • High-precision, HSLA chassis
  • 4-mode traction system including a Turf Mode (available with Convenience package on HD8)
  • 11-inch (28 cm) ground clearance
  • Double A-arm front suspension with twin tube gas charged shock (10-inch travel)
  • TTA-HD rear suspension with external sway bar and twin tube gas charged shock (10-inch travel)
  • 25-inch Maxxis tires on 12-inch steel wheels
  • Four 220 mm brake discs
  • 140-W lighting output and LED tail lights
  • Tight turn radius
  • Optimal (42/58) weight distribution
  • 2,000-pound (907.2 kg) tow rating
  • 1,000-pound (454 kg) cargo box load (600-pound in California)
  • 1,500-pound (680 kg) payload
  • 2-inch rear hitch receiver
  • 650W magneto
  • Lighter type DC outlet in console (20-A)
  • 12-V (18 amp/h) battery
  • Integrated front steel bumper
  • Central skid plate
  • Multifunction cargo box with sturdy tailgate10.4-gallon (39.5 L) of storage including a water-resistant and quick attach toolbox and under-dash compartments (available with Convenience package on HD8)
  • VERSA-PRO bench seat
  • Roomy and intuitive cockpit
  • Adjustable tilt steering wheel
  • Centrally-located multifunction digital gauge cluster with open storage area
  • Optimized A-pillar placement for improved visibility
  • 4 cup holders
  • Rugged ergonomically configured grab bar and three foot rests
  • Profiled cage for flush mount for available Can-Am cabin accessories
  • Color: Green, Intense Red, Pure Magnesium, and dipped Mossy Oak Break-Up Country Camo

More Resources:

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