For those in the market for a new UTV with plenty of years of credibility and backed by one of the bigger names in the industry, the Can Am Defenders are likely towards the top of your list.
Defenders are known for offering some of the best one-two punches of power and speed among utility-focused UTVs, but these models don’t come without certain drawbacks and limitations.
That said, adding a few of the thirteen best Can Am Defender accessories can help these models overcome most shortcomings.
In this full review of the Can Am Defender line, we’ll highlight all of the good and bad with these models in the following areas:
- Brief comparison of current Defender models and prices
- Build quality
- Performance and handling
- Design and durability
- What Owners Love
- What Owners Don’t Love
2024 Can Am Defender Models & Costs
Can Am currently offers four main Defender models in their 2024 lineup, each that come in a variety of different trims for a total of twenty-one different vehicles.
Three Seater Can-Am Defenders
Can-Am’s smallest Defender models are not actually that small, all able to fit a total of three riders with a middle seat and seat belt.
There are a total of thirteen different three-seater models, that are broken down into three different sub-groups:
- Standard Three-Seaters
- Six-Wheeler Three-Seaters
- Extended Bed Three-Seaters
Standard Defender Three-Seaters
The “standard” three-seaters consist of seven different models.
You can choose from a wide variety of standard three-seaters, from the most basic base Defender up to a number of models that are completely loaded like the Defender Limited.
You have the option of choosing from one of Can-Am’s three different engine sizes (detailed in the next section) in some of them, but some are limited to only the highest-performance engines.
|Defender DPS Cab
|Defender X MR
|Defender X MR w/ Half Doors
Six-Wheeler Defender Three-Seaters
Can-Am also offers three unique six-wheeler Defenders that all offer one row of seating with room for three riders.
These make for the best working vehicles you’ll find among the industry, offering the biggest rear cargo bed you’ll find and equipped with six wheels instead of four.
Having four wheels in the rear instead of the usual two makes for increased traction and power, giving these models a whopping 3,000 lbs towing capacity – the best in the industry.
They’re only available with Can-Am’s HD10 engine option.
|Three Seater Six Wheelers
|Defender 6×6 DPS
|Defender 6×6 XT
|Defender 6×6 Limited
Extended Bed Defender Three-Seaters
There are also three extended bed three-seaters that don’t offer the added two wheels in the rear like the six-seaters do.
These models feature the same industry-leading extended cargo bed (6 x 4.5 ft) to offer more room and cargo capacity of up to 1,000 lbs.
They’re also only available with Can-Am’s HD10 engine option.
|Three Seater Extended Beds
|Defender Pro DPS
|Defender Pro XT
|Defender Pro Limited
There are a total of eight different crew cab Defender options that offer rear-row seating and can fit up to six riders.
These range from the most basic (if you can call it that) Defender Max up to fully loaded models like the Defender Max Lone Star Cab that include a variety of packages with different accessories and features.
Most of these models give you the option of either the more powerful HD9 or HD10 engines, though the first two models below can be installed with the HD7 engine.
|Defender Max DPS
|Defender Max XT
|Defender Max Lone Star
|Defender Max Lone Star Cab
|Defender Max Limited
|Defender Max X MR
|Defender Max X MR w/ Half Doors
Can Am Defender Reviews – Build Quality & Performance
Can-Am is unique in that they offer a total of three different engine options that you can select from in most of the Defender models.
These are all Rotax engines, which are made by Can Am.
- HD7 Engine: 650cc single-cylinder, 52 HP
- HD9 Engine: 976cc twin-cylinder, 65 HP
- HD10 Engine: 976cc twin-cylinder, 82 HP
There were also two older engine options that have been phased out, but that exist in many pre-2022 Defenders.
- HD5 Engine: 427cc single-cylinder, 38 HP
- HD8 Engine: 800cc twin-cylinder, 50 HP
Can-Am’s very own liquid-cooled, fuel-injected Rotax engines are some of the best in the business, both from a quality and power perspective.
Each of these engines is built with excellent low-end power, but also provides good pull throughout the upper RPM ranges to make Can Am Defenders some of the fastest utility side-by-sides available.
Though the HD9 and HD10 are the same size engine, the HD10 is tuned with more power to give it slightly better low-end grunt, towing capacity and acceleration.
The Rotax engines are known to run buttery smooth and are quieter than most in the industry.
Drivetrains & Transmissions
Each of the Defender models offer selectable 2WD/4WD and Visco-Lok auto-locking front differential for added traction.
These models also offer a rear differential that can be unlocked to put them in “turf mode” so you can make tight turns without tearing up your grass or leaving tire marks on your driveway.
All Defenders are equipped with an automatic CVT style transmission that includes electronic drive belt protection.
Drivetrain & Transmission Pros:
- Selectable 2WD/4WD
- Turf mode
- Three drive modes
There are both High and Low ranges, along with Reverse, Neutral and Park settings.
Each model also comes with the built-in engine braking, also known as Electronic Hill Descent Control.
And you can select between three different drive modes:
- Eco Mode: smoothest throttle response, best fuel economy, still full power.
- Normal Mode: snappier throttle response, widest range of performance.
- Work Mode: added focus on low-end power.
Suspension & Steering
Defender models are all equipped with Double A-Arms up front and Can Am’s Torsional Trailing Arms (TTA) suspension in the rear.
This suspension style offers up to 10 or 11 inches of travel in the front and rear depending on the model.
The twin-tube gas shocks are pretty basic but do offer some preload adjustability.
Suspension & Steering Pros:
- Offers a comfortable ride in most terrains
- Plenty of ground clearance to avoid bottoming out
- Power steering in most models
The ride offered by this suspension set-up is really smooth without much bouncing around, unless you get into some rough terrain while near the Can Am Defenders’ top speeds where things may get a little bumpy.
The A-Arms on both ends are arched to give the Defender a bit more ground clearance, with the standard three and six seaters getting around 11 inches.
All of the extended bed options get a boost up to 13 or 14 inches of ground clearance.
Power steering is included in just about every model except for the two base models.
Suspension & Steering Cons:
- Unbranded coil springs and shocks are basic
- Limited adjustability on the shocks
- No power steering on base models
Design & Durability
From the more basic Defenders to those loaded with accessories, the design of these vehicles makes all comfortable while also having that modern, rugged build style.
The cabs are all quite spacious, offering good legroom for riders up front and in back, and the adjustable driver’s seat that slides forward and back enables legs of all lengths to drive comfortably.
Design & Durability Pros:
- Made of heavy duty, high quality parts and components
- Plastics hold up well to scratching
- 21 different models/trims to choose from
And there are up to 16 gallons of storage among the various compartments and cubbies within these vehicles.
From a durability standpoint, the Defenders are about as good as it gets in the industry.
The parts and components are all heavy duty and high quality, and these vehicles as a whole tend to hold up well to abuse over the years so long as you perform maintenance regularly.
Design & Durability Cons:
- Many models have side nets instead of doors
- The base models don’t include many accessories
- More accessories equals more money
What Owners Love
- The power and torque provided by any of the engines is excellent
- Suspensions are basic but offer a smooth ride with plenty of clearance
- The steering is easy and smooth without any sloppiness, and provides good feedback while driving so you can actually feel what is happening under you.
- The fenders seal off the machine’s components very well to protect the underside and components from mud and debris.
- There’s a passenger grab bar up front and a full-length grab bar in the second row seating of crew models for good stability.
- The tilt-up steering wheel is adjustable.
- Driver’s seat slides forward and backward for all leg lengths.
- Up to 16 gallons of storage space throughout these models.
- Glove box and underseat storage box are both removable so you can carry your gear with you.
- These vehicles are very quiet overall, with a lack of rattling and squeaking you may hear when riding on some competitive models.
- They offer some of the best towing and hauling capacities in the industry.
What Owners Don’t Love
- The base models have barely any accessories and aren’t quite as driveable as some competitive models like the CFMoto UForce 1000 out of the box.
- Many of the models only have side nets for doors, which are tedious and not as functional as the plastic side doors.
- The headlights are halogen in some models, and not quite bright enough for night riding.
- The Defender 1000’s are known to have some issues with their power steering and steering racks going out over time.
- The gear shifter in these models is known to become hard to shift over time due to the shift linkage transferring out of place.
- Models that come standard with roofs, windshields, and doors are prone to leaking water and dust in some areas.
- The more advanced models are very expensive when compared to smaller-name models that are sometimes half the price.
You can find more detail on these drawbacks and how to prevent/fix them in this guide to common problems with Can Am Defenders.
You can also see how they stack up with the UForce referenced above in this UForce 1000 vs Can Am Defender comparison.
When it comes to the best blend of utility and recreational ability, it’s hard to match the Can Am Defender.