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2019 Can-Am Outlander and Defender put to test in Black Hills

Ride through winding trails and steep terrain of the Black Hills National Forest puts new 2019 Can-Am Outlander and Defender to the test.

Winding through 20 miles of ponderosa pine and aspen groves, up and down steep, rocky inclines, and stopping for the occasional cattle crossing is a surefire way to put any all-terrain vehicle to the test.

Nebraska Farmer took part in a recent trail ride to test out Can-Am's new 2019 Outlander series ATVs and Defender series side-by-sides in the Black Hills National Forest.

Among the new features for the 2019 Outlander is an upgraded suspension with front-arched A-arms, front sway bar and Torsional Trailing-arm Independent rear suspension. The TTI suspension is designed to handle twists and turns like those encountered in the Black Hills of western South Dakota — some tighter than 90 degrees to avoid rocks, gullies and cow pats.

Also, exterior upgrades were made, too. The 2019 Outlanders have new front grilles, new aluminum bumper corners and mudguards. An optional rear-mounted cooler offers food and drink storage for long days on the trail.

A tried-and-true feature that's been available on the Outlander for several years is a rear storage compartment — roughly the size of a glove box — useful for storing tools, fencing equipment or reporter’s notebooks.

On those straightaways where you can get up and gallop, the 2019 Outlander comes with Rotax 650, 850 and 1,000 cc engine options with 62, 78 and 91 hp., respectively. If these options seem a little overpowered, the Outlander 450/570 option is still available, albeit without the 2019 exterior upgrades.

Noteworthy is the lower price compared to previous model years. The 650 starts at $8,399 ($400 lower than 2018) and the 850 starts at $8,999 ($750 lower than 2018).

Farmers and ranchers will also appreciate the 1,650-pound tow rating that goes with the 91-hp Outlander 1000R, which Andrew Howard, who manages media relations at Can-Am, notes is "the largest production ATV engine on the market."

A handy new feature on the 1000R is the intelligent Throttle Control (iTC) system, providing three driving modes — sport, standard and work (a similar feature was introduced on the Defender side-by-sides a few years back). It's useful for operating on the variable terrain that farmers and ranchers deal with regularly, especially when combined with the upgraded 1,650-pound towing capacity.

Starting at $9,999, the 2019 Defender side-by-side has also received an upgrade with a towing capacity of up to 2,500, compared to 2,000 pounds previously.

A new Adventure Roof Rack accessory capable of towing up to 75 pounds provides another storage option on top of the available options like in-bed truck boxes and center console storage under the 40/20/40 bench seat on the Defender XT package.

Available since the Defender was launched in 2015, the engine's belt protection system is worth repeating. It serves as a kind of check system to automatically switch gears when needed, preventing driver errors and protecting the belt from spotting and burning.

The engine also has electronic hill descent control, making it easier to descend steep, rolling terrain, such as a rocky trail while making a tight turn.

Some features may seem extravagant, particularly on the XT Cab package, which includes a flip-up windshield, sliding rear window, doors with electric windows and an integrated heater. However, these kinds of features can make a difference on a chilly day on the farm or ranch. It's also a reminder that many features in today's side-by-sides are designed for operator comfort, much like modern tractors.

"Can-Am has really been pushing the rider experience. Whether you're trail riding or working on the farm, you want to be comfortable on that machine," Howard says. "It's all about reducing fatigue. It's the same reason a lot of modern tractors have features to increase comfort on their machines."

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