No manufacturer has managed to combine hard-working capabilities and off-road luxury better than Can-Am. Excellent power and handling, enormous towing and hauling capabilities, and creature comforts that rival a new pickup are all trademarks of the 2020 Can-Am Defender models. They’ve even got the new truck smell! So what is the best UTV and how does it match up against the hard-working models from Polaris, Honda, Yamaha, and Kawasaki? We’ve created a Top Ten list of the Can-Am Defender’s best features.

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A quick rundown of the 2020 Can-Am Defender specifications reveals just how much these models offer. Highlights are:

  • A whopping 18 different package variations available, with major differences such as single bench seating, 6 passenger crew-cab configurations, 6 wheel units, flat bed units, three different engine choices, and even regionally targeted models such as the mud loving X-MR, or a full cab designed to fight Mother Natures worst

  • Powerful and reliable Rotax engines delivering 38hp on the HD5 models, 50hp is the HD8 models, and 82hp with the HD10 package. All three engines are designed for enormous torque needed for towing or hauling

  • Easy to operate CVT transmissions in every Defender

  • Quick, nimble handling, and excellent trail stability thanks to a low center of gravity and well balanced chassis.

  • New cab with increased comfort and features, reduced noise, more leg room, and easier entry / exit.

  • Pricing for all levels of buyers. Whatever your budget, there is a Defender to fit, beginning at $10,299



We truly admire Can-Am’s knack for getting the most out of every part by making it do several jobs. That’s great design. On the Defender that kind of innovation includes storage everywhere, seats that flip up for extra room in the cab, a dash glove box which can also be removed and doubles as a tool box, and bucket retaining rings formed into the cargo bed. The cargo bed’s sidewalls are molded to include slots for dividers, and the tailgate includes four cup recesses, and a ruler. When folded down it can support 250 pounds. Innovation in the drive line that gets our attention is the electronic belt protection system and the Quick Response System (QRS) transmission, along with the Smart Lok drive system. The Smart Lok is a fully lockable on-the-fly front differential with electronically-controlled automatic modes that always returns maximum traction.



Pulling a trailer or hauling firewood requires a much different power delivery than shooting across the dunes. Working class machines need torque delivered lower in the RPM range and the Defender engines deliver exactly that. (20% more power than competing models) For 2020 the Rotax 976 cc V-twin engine gets a new head design, more torque, and it’s also quieter! All Defenders feature selectable engine modes such as the fuel saving ECO mode, or WORK mode for when you need smooth, steady, torque.

 The Defender engines are mated to Can-Am’s PRO-TORQ Transmission with its Quick Response System. Another great feature is the CVT high airflow ventilation and Electronic Drive Belt Protection. Can-Am’s true four-mode traction system with Turf Mode and front auto-locking Visco-Lok QE insures you’ll always find traction.

On the trail the Defender models are outstanding. The engine responds quickly and crisply to throttle input. The chassis feels firm with no perceivable flex and we didn’t notice any squeaks or strange noises. There is enormous torque for hauling, and we never ran out of power no matter what we were climbing or when fully loaded. Engine braking was noticeable in high gear but had the most effect in low. This is also the best Can-Am clutch yet. It responds with barely perceptible shifts up or down. It’s the engine, though, that earns our highest praise. While it was designed to match the hard working capabilities the Defender chassis is built for, given a chance to run on open trail, it still thinks it’s a sport machine. Winding through the trees is no problem, but when you find an open space it’s happy to run!



There is nothing in the UTV world that rivals the refinement of the 2020 Can-Am Defender cab. It’s apparent the moment you open the doors, which feel substantial. The inside door panel is padded and even features power windows! A dome light brightens the cab at night, and the seats are also sculpted nicely to hold you in place. The Defender cab is spacious, incredibly well built, and the controls are very intuitive and easy to reach. It’s also quieter on the trail thanks to additional insulation in the redesigned firewall and improved door seals, but the biggest feature is the climate control system. Just dial the temperature to your comfort and be on your way. In the center of the dash is either a new 4.5-in. digital display or a 7.6-in. display with keypad on select models. (X mr, XT-P and Lone Star) The front windshield is an automotive quality, scratch resistant grade glass, and it even comes with a wiper and washer kit with a 0.4-Gal. (1.9 L) reservoir. Finally, there is PLENTY of storage thanks to flip up seats and compartments in and under the dash, and cup holders for all!

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Styling both inside and out plays a HUGE role in how a machine and rider interact, and the Defender styling team did an EXCELLENT job in creating a working relationship. Build quality is outstanding, and absolutely no detail was overlooked! Defender styling takes cues from the automotive industry and careful attention was paid not only to ergonomics, but to details like sight lines. Rather than a bulbous front end that limits one’s view, the Defender hood slopes down and out of sight. It presents a robust and ready for action/sporty look. Bumpers are integrated into the front end, and accessory bumpers present additional protection. Defender styling didn’t end with just the hood and cab area. If you’ve ever had to wash a Side x Side after a muddy ride you quickly realize mud gets EVERYWHERE in the chassis. To alleviate that problem, once again the design team looked to the automotive industry, and the Defender gets wheel well protection much like that on your truck. Thank you Can-Am! At the front end that extra mud protection is even sculpted to duct hot air to the side after it passes through the radiator rather than through the cab. Once again, it’s an example of innovative thinking and attention to detail.


The Defender models were designed with strong working capabilities, but also excellent features for recreational users. One ride on a wide-open trail is all you need to realize they’re incredibly close to a crossover sport machine. Can-Am performance DNA runs deep in the Defender lineup, and that is more evident than ever with the 2020 models as a longer, wider chassis means improved handling over rough or winding terrain. The Defenders are fun to drive, and they definitely blur the line between work and play.

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In your truck you don’t fiddle with the air conditioning; you set it and forget it thanks to active climate monitoring and a variable rate compressor. For 2020 Can-Am gave the Defender Limited this same feature. All you need to do is to set the temperature on the digital display and system will take care of itself, deciding whether heat or air conditioning is needed. It’s perfect for cool mornings headed to the deer stand, followed by warm afternoon tracking or stalking sessions. A secondary benefit of the variable rate compressor is increased efficiency, meaning less load on the engine and better fuel management, and twice the cooling capability at low RPMs


7. TRANSFORMERS of the UTV WORLD – DEFENDER PRO and DEFENDER 6×6 DPS. An enormous rear bed measuring 72 x 54.5 x 10 in. (180,3 x 138.4 x 25.4 cm) gives these models the largest cargo bed in the largest in the industry, and in the case of the 6×6 DPS model, also the largest towing and hauling capability at 3000lbs, and 1000 lbs respectively. That means if you need a small, off-road dump truck, this is the Defender for you! It can haul your tractor tires, round bales, a pallet load of fertilizer, or a half grown steer, all while towing a trailer loaded with enough lumber to build a small barn. The huge cargo bed has one other trick though; the sides come off, creating a flat bed version for over-sized loads. True 6×6 and 4×4 drive modes mean unbeatable traction over sticky terrain, even when fully loaded. You can load your deer blind in the back, and drive it into the woods with ease! Finally, thanks to the extended wheelbase there is plenty of space for storage, and under the 4-wheel Defender Pro bed is the largest enclosed storage area on any UTV. A door on each side allows easy access, and you can crawl through it to the opposite side. We did! The Defender Pro and Defender 6×6 DPS are true workhorses!

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The Defender chassis is built from Can-Am’s dual-phase alloy steel, giving it higher strength while keeping weight in check. Additional reinforcements to the 2020 chassis resulted in 30% more rigidity, but also a 5lb weight loss. Arched double A-arms and independent rear suspension controlled by gas filled shocks do an excellent job of taming the ride. Sway bars at both ends keep the wheels planted in the corners, and up to 13” of ground clearance (depending on tire size) let you can cross most trail obstacles easily. If you hit anything bigger it’s your fault! Dynamic electronic power steering makes it easy to dart around anything in your path. We give the Defender high marks for delivering a smooth, controlled, and sporty ride.


We love how Can-Am engineers recognized maintenance is a big part of ownership and they designed the Defender to be easy to service. Under the hood are the fuses, accessory electrical connections, and the brake fluid reservoirs. In the engine compartment (under the cargo bed) there is easy access to the air filter, dip stick, and oil filter. These components were specifically located away from hot areas and the exhaust. Other critical parts such as the battery, bushings, drainage and cleaning holes, and light bulbs have been strategically positioned for ease of maintenance as well.


The Defender is already available in 18 different configurations, but just in case you still can’t find exactly what you need, accessory integration allows you to truly make it your own. Every Defender benefits from the LinQ accessory system and the huge list of factory approved parts. Everything from track systems to coolers can be added.


The Defender lineup really challenges what a hard working UTV can be. The tools for hard work are all there, but so is the ability for tons of recreation when the week is done. They’re outstanding machines for work or play.

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March 3, 2020

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