UTV TEST: Four-season fun 

By the staff of Dirt Wheels

Turning at speed takes a lot of rotation on the steering wheel. At the speeds the Defender is designed for, the steering is light and accurate.


In this fifth year of the Defender, there are nearly 20 variations of the model, and the Limited is the top dog. The Limited is a cab model, meaning that it has a fully enclosed cab with sealed doors, glass windows, and even a front windshield wiper.

Can-Am has other Defender cab models, including six-seat Max models, that all have a heater and defroster. The Defender Limited (in a single cab or Max) has a heater, but it also has air conditioning!

One of the recent trends in recreational and utility UTVs has been engineering increased comfort and civility into the cab area. As UTVs have grown in capability and cab capacity, enthusiasts are spending more time and added miles adventuring. With longer adventures (or more extensive work sessions), and fans that are more experienced and discerning, they are looking for more polished machines.

Honda, Polaris, and Yamaha have all made huge strides in cutting heat, noise, and vibration from the cab area. For 2020 Can-Am has made the same efforts with the rugged, ready-to-work-or-play Defender HD10. You may argue whether it is for you, but you cannot ignore the fact that a closed cab with heat and air conditioning is the ultimate in comfort and civility.

Buyers are not ignoring that fact. In areas with “normal” weather, 25 percent of Defenders sold are cab models. For areas with more extreme weather (mostly cold and snow since they have only had heat before 2020), 33 percent of all Defenders sold have a full cab!



Since it is no longer enough to only have updates like Hyper Silver and Mossy Oak Break-Up Country Camo (though both look great), Can-Am came up with a frame that is 30 percent more rigid yet it is 5 pounds lighter. On top of the frame is basically the same cab floor, but there are new, thicker, and better-sealed front and rear firewalls. They have integrated heat shields and sound deflectors.

A variety of changes make for less sound for the cab to deal with. A new, quieter exhaust system is a start. Can-Am did some studies (made possible by the computerized nature of modern UTVs) that found Defender customers drive with the engine under 4,000 rpm 85 percent of the time.

We’d say that reflects the sort of use the Defenders see, as well as the terrain they are best suited for. As a result, the CVT is calibrated to shift 500 RPM earlier to reduce the sound under heavy acceleration. Want quieter? Engage Eco mode. Eco was 90-percent power in 2019, but it is 75-percent power for 2020.

Can-Am also beefed up cab sealing and did all it could to chase down vibration, squeaks, and rattles. The goal, and the claim, is automotive-quality sealing for the entire cab. The result is that the Limited in-cab sound level has dropped 60 percent over 2019!

We drove past the YO Ranch’s exotic animals. Visitors can lodge, see the animals, and do other activities, but no off-roading. www.yoranchheadquarters.com



Who wouldn’t want to work and play in complete comfort? We can remember a number of frigid days when we would have given almost anything for a closed cab with a heater! And that was in California!

Most of our closed cab experience has been in heat and dust, and we were grateful for the air conditioning. The full cab is very nice. It seals well. It helps to crack the windows before you shut the doors.

Unlike a heater, which can easily be added to any model, the A/C only works on the Limited. It has a longer engine shaft that runs the A/C compressor. Can-Am found the best A/C performance with a belt-driven, variable compressor. A variable compressor offers more capacity at low engine rpm and reduces the flow of refrigerant in the circuit when the desired temperature is reached.

Air conditioning needs a radiator for the coolant, and Can-Am chose an aluminum one. In-cab air is recirculated so it cools faster. The system knows if outside air is needed in the cab, and it opens or closes the vent to outside air automatically. All outside air enters the cab through a dedicated cabin air filter. You won’t pump dust or other particulates into the cab.

Air is distributed by eight ducted vents (four in front, two in the lower feet and two in the front window). Just like luxury autos, you set what degree you want, and the system maintains the number you set.

The Defender Limited has a lot of storage, but this lockable, removable toolbox mounted in the dash top is our favorite storage innovation.



The Defender Limited has A/C, but that isn’t the only difference. Compared to other Defender Cab models, the Limited edition has Versa-Pro semi-bench seats that have an adjustable driver seat, flip-up passenger seat (to access storage), underside hooks, reinforced seat material featuring Limited package trim, and a contoured bench to improve entrance/exit of the cab.

A Limited also has a metal exterior badge instead of graphics, a 7.6-inch instrument display with a keypad, an 850-watt magneto, and an LED signature light under the normal headlight. The whole Limited package adds only $1,000 to $1,100 to the price compared to other cab packages! Limited models come standard with a 4,500-pound-rated winch with a roller fairlead.



The large digital gauge has a mode-changing keypad, and it displays speed, rpm, odometer, trip, and hour meters, fuel, gear position, work modes, diagnostics, a clock, battery voltage, and engine temperature. It has lighter-type DC outlets in the console (10 amp) and two lighted USB ports in the dash storage.

There are power side windows, a flip-up windshield with wiper and washer, adjustable tilt steering wheel, and retractable seat belts. Naturally, with a full hard cab, there is a full hard roof with liner and interior dome light. The auto climate uses the A/C and the heater to manage the exact temperature you set. In the Texas heat and humidity, we set it at 74 degrees and left it.

Can-Am blessed the Defenders with a handy bed that tilts easily and has a stout tailgate with quality hardware to open and close it.



The Defender’s 976cc Rotax V-twin engine is good for 82 horsepower and 69 pound-foot of torque. We found the electronic fuel injection to be flawless. The healthy engine is coupled with a Pro-Torq transmission with Quick Response System (QRS).

Conditions in Texas provided an excellent test combining a few fast, open stretches with tight, twisty, rocky, and technical driving. We could never fault the transmission performance or ratios. This machine has a turf mode, and we like that. The interior switch for the differential lock is for the rear wheels. There is no front diff-lock, and we missed having one.


Suspension on the Defender is handled by arched double A-arms with a sway bar in the front and arched TTA rear suspension arms with an external sway bar. There are 10 inches of travel at all four corners. All Defenders have a new, clean look to the front end for 2020.

Can-Am has designated the Defender Limited’s somewhat luxurious three-man bench seat—the Versa-Pro. They are comfy and look great with camo.


We are fans of the 27-inch Maxxis Bighorn 2.0 tires. We tested on the historic YO Ranch at the western edge of the Texas Hill Country in central Texas. That part of Texas has a generous helping of sharp-edged limestone rocks and ledges. We had no tire issues. As well as the Limited is equipped, some may want to spiff it up for specific purposes. Can-Am will have 66 new accessories specific to the Defender line and over 200 in total!



We had a mix of graded and even paved roads that connected rough, cobby, and narrow trails. We hit everything from rocks to silt, but mostly rocks. Since the YO Ranch is such a unique environment, we had to watch out for deer, African antelope, and a small herd of zebras (seriously) in addition to rude and vociferous swans and intimidating Texas longhorns.

As much as we wished for longer travel in the roughest rock sections, most of the time we appreciated the low center of gravity and nimble feel of the 62-inch track width. Remember, that the cab, A/C, and all that glass up high make the three-seater single cab weigh 1,928 pounds dry. Other cab models we have driven have felt top-heavy, but the Limited did not.

As well as the Defender Limited handles fast sections, it is obvious that the suspension and chassis tuning is aimed at tighter and more technical driving. Compared to sports models, it takes a lot of steering-wheel rotation to make tight turns. That was perfect when we needed to hit precise lines, but less so when we bumped up the pace.

There is no question that the closed cab with climate control is the ultimate in luxury. It was great in the heat, but we can only imagine how great it would be in the cold, wet, and snow! The set-and-forget temperature is very nice, though we found that the fan noise was consistently high. It certainly wasn’t a problem, but the cab is so quiet that you hear other sounds that you normally wouldn’t. A stereo would be easy to install and welcome.

We can think of a variety of times and places that the Defender Limited would be a great play partner, but we can’t think of any work situation where it wouldn’t be flat amazing. It has good power, strong brakes, a solid drivetrain, and nimble handling.

The terrain at the YO Ranch is rocky and challenging with heavy brush to deal with. The Defender Limited was about perfect for the conditions.



Just as with high-end autos, there is a price for luxury. Part of that cost is the weight, and another is the price of $25,199. To put that in perspective, the base Defender (it comes with the HD8 800cc engine) runs for $10,299.

We are certain the base Defender is less fun, certainly less comfortable, but it likely does 90 percent of the same work. Here’s the deal: in inclement weather, the Limited will encourage you to get out and work, while the base Defender will motivate you to hide in the house.

The same is true for hunting, camping, exploring, or whatever your hobbies are. Plus, if the weather truly turns ugly, the Limited will keep you comfortable in conditions where an open machine might not even keep you alive. Call us sissies if you must, but we will happily drive the Defender Limited any time. Go to www.can-am.brp.com or call (715) 848-4957 for more info.

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We like the new front-end look, and the enclosed cab is starting to look pretty normal to us. Body-color on the lower door would be nice.
This easy-to-service cabin filter cleans all air that the heat or A/C system imports to the cab interior. Modern automobiles have cabin filters also.
The A/C compressor is mounted under the bed with belt drive from an extended engine shaft. Thus, A/C won’t bolt on other Defenders.


Engine V-twin, OHC, liquid-cooled, 4-stroke

Displacement 976cc

Bore x stroke N/A

Starter Electric 

Fuel system EFI

Fuel Capacity 10.6 gal.

Transmission PRO-TORQ with Quick Response System (QRS)

Final drive Shaft

Suspension/wheel travel:

Front Arched double A-arm with sway bar /10”

Rear Arched TTA with external sway bar /10”


Front Dual 220mm disc brakes with twin-piston calipers

Rear Dual 220mm disc brakes with single-piston calipers


Front Maxxis Bighorn 2.0 27×9-14

Rear Maxxis Bighorn 2.0 27×11-14

Length/width/height 126”x 65”x 79”

Ground clearance 12.0”

Wheelbase 83”

Dry weight 1,928 lb.

Payload capacity NA lb.

Cargo bed capacity 1000 lb. (600 lb California)

Towing capacity 2500 lb.

Colors Can-Am red

Price $25,199

Contact www.can-am.brp.com, (715) 848-4957

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