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Can-Am enters utility market with Defender

Company targets competitive side-by-side vehicle market with feature-filled machine.

Holly Spangler 1, Senior Editor, Prairie Farmer

October 16, 2015

4 Min Read

The people at Can-Am had a clear and simple goal in mind when they developed their new Defender side-by-side UTV.

“We needed something to go up against the Polaris Ranger,” says Matt Tandrup, Can-Am’s design and innovation manager. So Can-Am, long known in the performance and racing segments, set out to learn about utility customers.

“We talked to a lot of people, we went to their farms, we did a day-in-the-life with them,” Tandrup says. “We threw hay bales with farmers and tried to find out how they use their side-by-side, and we wanted to see if we could make a better one.”

The result is a machine that offers plenty of power and a host of handy features, and it looks good.

The Defender line offers two Rotax V-twin heavy-duty utility, rear-mounted engine options. The HD10 offers 72 hp at 976cc; the HD8 offers 50 hp at 800cc. The Pro-Torq transmission enhances low-speed riding with smoother power delivery and hill descent control offers smooth and predictable deceleration. The vehicle has a four-mode traction system and three selectable driving modes, which can be set depending on the situation and driver. The Defender also has a digitally-encoded security system with three programmable keys, all located under the hood so they can’t be easily changed. Work key limits to 25 mph; standard key limits to 44 mph and 10% torque reduction; performance key has no restriction.

The separated differential helps give the Defender a nice, tight turning radius, too, which is two feet shorter in a full circle than its closest competitor. Its dynamic power steering capabilities make those quick turns even easier and faster – think moving cows or negotiating creeks.

Taking care
Tandrup says among the top requirements they heard from farmers? Easy maintenance. The Defender is designed to be maintenance-free for one year – 1,865 miles or 200 hours. It has a fully-welded frame that makes it strong and easy to service and a high-rigidity chassis it to make it more automotive-like: no squeaking or rattling as you drive around. 

The Can-Am folks also worked in a host of features and options that make the Defender both fun and useful to drive. The bumper has an integrated back step with a protective anti-corrosion coating. A body side protector keeps you from getting hung up on fence posts and keeps livestock away from the wheels. It’s built for long range with a 10.6-gallon fuel tank.

The Defender was designed to tow up to 2,000 pounds and carry up to 1,000 pounds, with a 56% rear and 44% front weight distribution. Tandrup says they designed the bed with recesses to corral 5-gallon buckets, and steel anchors for tie downs. Can-Am’s LinQ is a quarter-turn quick connect system, and there are 14 located on the top of the bed box. Notches let you divide the box in a variety of ways with plywood, and the tailgate offers 250-pound capacity. With a high-capacity bed, the Defender was designed with well-planned assist and dump points to make it easy. An electric power tilt option lets you fully lift in 20 seconds.  

A bed wall extender option lets you triple the capacity of the box; top panels fold down and the rear door can be latched open or removed.

Up front options
In the front, there’s a 40/20/40 split bench seat for three adults, featuring heavy-duty vinyl and angled corners for easier entry and less wear. A foldable center console with armrest and cup holder comes on the XT model; look for four cup holders on most models. The flip-up seat offers a waterproof storage bucket underneath. You can also pull that out, leave the seat up and you have a completely flat floor space – ideal for taking your farm dog to the pasture. The dash features a removable waterproof toolbox, and visibility was maximized with pillars that are placed out of line of sight.

Roof options include a plastic sport roof and a bimini roof with sun visor. Three windshields are available: full, half, hardcoated full, plus a variety of rear window options. Four basic models are available, with virtually limitless options: the Defender, Defender DPS, Defender XT and Defender XT Cab.

The Defender HD8 lists for $10,999; Defender XT HD10 lists for $17,799; and the Defender XT Cab HD10 lists for $23,699.

For more information, visit

My take - a rider's perspective
I liked the Can-Am Defender a lot. I’ve ridden the trails at Heartland Lodge before, operating another side-by-side vehicle and I really appreciated the features of the Defender on this trip. Can-Am’s new entry was an easy ride, nimble, powerful and I really welcomed the downhill breaking. The rear engine mount made it quiet and cool. Both engines offered plenty of power, and I can see it being used both on the farm for real work – check the cows, check the fence, haul the mineral – and for some fun times riding trails or hunting, too.

About the Author(s)

Holly Spangler 1

Senior Editor, Prairie Farmer

Holly Spangler has covered agriculture for the past 18 years, beginning her career with Prairie Farmer before graduating from the University of Illinois in agricultural communications. As editor of Prairie Farmer magazine, she brings meaningful production agriculture experience to the topics she covers, including a variety of production, management and issue-oriented stories. She also offers up her generation's take on the issues of the day through her monthly column and blog, My Generation.

An award-winning writer and photographer, Holly is a member and past president of the American Agricultural Editors Association. She was named Master Writer in 2005 and in 2015, she became only the 10th U.S. agricultural journalist to earn the Writer of Merit designation. Her work in agricultural media has been recognized by the Illinois Soybean Association, Illinois Corn Growers Association and MidAmerica Croplife Association. Holly was one of 10 recipients worldwide to receive the 2011 IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Ag Journalism award. She currently serves on the College of ACES Alumni Board, and is an advisory board member for the U of I College of ACES Research Station at Monmouth.

She graduated in 1998 from the University of Illinois in agricultural communications, and received the Warren K. Wessels Award for outstanding senior in the College of ACES. Immediately following graduation, she was a founding member of the U of I Ag Communications Alumni Leadership Council, and in 2011, the College of ACES named her an Outstanding Young Alumni.

Holly and her husband, John, farm in western Illinois where they raise corn, soybeans and cattle on 2,000 acres. Their operation includes 100 head of commercial cows in a cow/calf operation. The family farm includes John's parents, and their three children, Jenna, Nathan and Caroline.

Holly is also active in the Illinois Farm Families program, and shares the story of agriculture and communications with a variety of groups and organizations, both within and outside of agriculture. She and her husband are active in state and local farm organizations, receiving the Illinois Farm Bureau's Young Farmer Achievement Award in 2007.

Locally, Holly and her husband serve with their county's 4-H program, their school district and in their church's youth and music ministries. 

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