UTV TEST: 2020 CAN-AM DEFENDER PRO HD10 DPS

A UTV for bedheads By the staff of Dirt Wheels

Can-Am’s Defender line has been a real hit since it was introduced five years ago. There are many models of the Defender, and arguably the standout of those models is the pair of Defender Pros—the DPS and XT. We have come to expect a certain look for rec-utility UTVs: short front end, big cab area and a compact bed area. Can-Am has changed that look with the Pro. The concept began when a Can-Am engineer was looking at a Crew model. He realized that a standard cab on a crew chassis would be a relatively easy way to create a model with a full 6-foot bed.

One of the challenges was filling the gap under the bed in the portion of the machine where the crew cab’s back seat was. Cleverly, the choice was to leave the back-seat floorboard area. Adding small doors to each side provides a cab-width, weather-protected storage area. While shooting photos and enjoying private trail routes in the Texas Hill Country, we found that enclosed storage quite handy. We could easily store Pelican hard cases inside that storage.

For most, though, the beauty of the machine is that bed. It isn’t just for that tough look. The bed can be used with the sides up like a normal truck bed, or it can be used as a flatbed after removing the sides. The bed will take a full pallet or carry a lot of tools for people who want a vehicle like this to help bring in a paycheck.

At 6 by 4.5 feet, it is narrower overall than a typical 6-foot pick-up bed, but it has no wheel-well interruptions, so the Pro bed is 4 to 6 inches wider than a pick-up bed is between the wheel wells. That same bed is just as handy for fun stuff like camping gear, mining equipment or as a way to haul that giant elk back to camp.

While the engineers were coming up with new parts to create a long-bed UTV, Can-Am joined Honda, Polaris and Yamaha in cutting heat, noise and vibration from the cab area. Buyers are no longer willing to ignore comfort just because they are in an off-road vehicle. In addition to efforts that Can-Am made to refine the interior experience, the long bed puts the cab farther from the engine and transmission package.

THE WHOLE PACKAGE

Those same discerning buyers that are demanding a more civilized interior experience need more than just a new color to sell them on a new machine. Can-Am came up with a Defender frame that is 30-percent more rigid yet is lighter. On top of the frame is basically the same cab floor, but the front and rear firewalls are thicker and better sealed. Those firewalls incorporate integrated heat shields and sound deflectors.

Part of the lower in-cab sound levels are thanks to a new, quieter exhaust system. Can-Am found that most Defender customers drive with the engine under 4,000 rpm for 85 percent of the time. We think that is an indication of the use the Defenders see, as well as the areas they are driven in. As a result, the 2020 CVT is calibrated to shift 500 rpm earlier to reduce the sound under heavy acceleration. It is even quieter if you drop the power output 25 percent by engaging Eco mode. Eco was 90-percent power in 2019. Can-Am also did all it could to chase down vibrations, squeaks and rattles.

MORE THAN BASIC

The Defender Pro has Versa-Pro semi-bench seats that have an adjustable driver seat, flip-up passenger seat (to access storage), underside hooks, reinforced seat material and a contoured bench to improve entrance/exit of the cab.

The 4.5-inch-wide digital gauge displays speedometer, tachometer, odometer, trip and hour meters, fuel, gear position, ECO/ECO Off/Work modes, seat belt, diagnostics, 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.

Can-Am has equipped the Defender Pro with door nets instead of hard doors. That makes sense for those working or hunting. Doors and even full-enclosed cabs are available, though. An adjustable tilt steering wheel and retractable seat belts are standard. A roof is not standard on the DPS version we tested, but ours was equipped with one. Can-Am will have 66 new accessories specific to the Defender line and over 200 in total!

POWER PRODUCTION

The Defender’s 976cc Rotax V-twin engine pumps out 82 horsepower and 69 pound-feet of torque. It runs smoothly with flawless electronic fuel injection. The engine is joined with a Pro-Torq transmission with Quick Response System (QRS). This machine has a turf mode, and we like that. The interior switch for differential lock is for the rear wheels. There is no front diff-lock, and we missed having one, but the Visco-Lok QE auto-locking front differential worked well.

SUSPENSION FOR ALL

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 is 10 inches of travel at all four corners. All Defenders have a new, clean look to the front end for 2020.

TIME TO TEST

During our testing we chose between graded and two-track roads that connected rough and narrow trails through brush and small trees. We hit everything from rocks to silt, but mostly rocks. 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. We were able to compare the long-bed (and thus long wheelbase) Pro to a shorter machine, and the longer machine was more relaxed on climbs and steep drops. It also felt spry since it is roughly 100 pounds lighter than the short-wheelbase cab model we tested.

As well as the Defender Pro handles while being pushed hard, it has suspension and chassis tuning aimed at tighter and more technical driving. Compared to sport models, it takes a lot of steering-wheel rotation to make tight turns. That was perfect when we needed to hit precise lines.

We had conditions that made life with the open cab and door nets pleasant, but for sporty drivers, hard doors would be nice. We can think of a variety of activities where the Defender Pro would be a great play partner, but for all work, we can imagine, the long bed is a knock-out punch.

FINAL THOUGHTS

A base Defender (it comes with the HD8 800cc engine) runs $10,299. The Pro DPS starts at $17,899, but you get the more powerful 1000cc engine, double the bed length and that 83 (!) gallons of enclosed internal storage to go with great towing and payload capacity. In the world of sport trucks, short beds are supposed to be cool, but give us a long bed any time. Go to www.can-am.brp.com or call (715) 848-4957 for more info.

SPECS 2020 CAN-AM DEFENDER PRO HD10 DPS

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

Displacement 976cc

Bore x stroke NA

Starter Electric 

Fuel system EFI

Fuel capacity 10.6 gal.

Transmission PRO-TORQ  transmission 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” 

Brakes:

Front Dual 220mm disc brakes with twin-piston calipers

Rear Dual 220mm disc brakes with single-piston calipers

Tires:

Front Maxxis Bighorn 2.0 27×9-14

Rear Maxxis Bighorn 2.0 27×11-14

Length/width/height 153”/64”/78”

Ground clearance 13.0”

Wheelbase 115.5”

Dry weight 1,833 lb.

Payload capacity 1,700 lb.

Cargo bed capacity 1000 lb. (600 lb CA)

Towing capacity 2500 lb.

Colors White, camo

Price $17,899

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

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