Tuned for torque, the
eight-valve, 799.9cc V-twin
produces 50 horsepower and
50 foot-pounds of torque.
WHAT’S A DEFENDER?
Defenders are Can-Am’s most utility-focused UTVs, but they have engine
performance and suspension more
like sport-utility machines. They are
available with 800cc or 1000cc gas
engines, seat three, have dump beds
that can carry 1000 pounds, and they
can tow 2000 pounds. Defenders
come in three trim levels—base, DPS
(Dynamic Power Steering) and XT,
which comes with power steering,
painted bodywork, a roof, 4500-
pound winch, deluxe instrumentation
and 14-inch aluminum wheels with
27-inch tires. XT cab models have all
the XT features, plus full cabs with tilt-up windshields, wiper kits, doors with
electric windows, sliding rear windows
and heater kits. Can-Am recently added
six passenger Defender Max models to
HOW DOES COST COMPARE?
Our test machine, the Defender XT
HD8, is $15,599. The Polaris Ranger
XP 900 EPS goes for $15,299.
Kawasaki’s Mule Pro-FX EPS LE is
$14,199. The Honda Pioneer 1000 EPS
WHAT POWERS IT?
A 799.9cc, single-overhead-cam,
eight-valve V-twin with 50 horsepower.
It’s tuned for torque, so it reaches its
impressive 50-foot-pound torque peak
at what would be midrange revs for a
IS THE TRANSMISSION DIFFERENT?
It’s a fully automatic, belt-type
continuously variable transmission,
like most UTVs use, but it’s different in
several important ways. The Defender’s
transmission and final drive are housed
in a single case, so there’s no drive
shaft from the transmission to the rear
gear case. Extra-low-range gearing,
high-flow cooling and a belt protection
system ready the transmission for hard
use. Engine braking slows the Defender
WHAT KIND OF 4WD SYSTEM DOES IT
Like most UTVs, the Defender
has selectable 2WD/4WD. The front
differential locks automatically as
needed in 4WD. There’s also a lockable
rear differential. Unlocking the rear
differential allows tighter turns and
prevents damage to turf.
HOW FAST IS IT?
Fast enough that you’ll have to
HOW IS THE POWER ON THE TRAIL?
remind yourself you’re driving a
utility-focused UTV. UTVs built for
serious work were never known for
performance, but Can-Am’s Defenders
are out to change that. The HD8 is
satisfyingly quick, and it can reach 55
mph if you have the room.
The HD8 has the kind of grunt that
always makes it feel like it has steep,
challenging trails well in hand, even
when you’re carrying considerable
loads. Smooth, controllable power
delivery makes difficult terrain easy to
negotiate. Hunters and ranch operators
who have nothing but rugged trails and
roads between them and where they
need to be will find that the Defender
can get them where they have to go
and back with confidence.
HOW IS THE SUSPENSION?
It takes the work out of being in a
work vehicle. Comfort and the ability
to cover ground quickly weren’t high
priorities with traditional utility-focused
UTVs. The Defender is different, and the
suspension plays a big part.
The double-A-arm front suspension
and trailing-arm rear suspension, each
with 10 inches of travel, offer serious
bump-absorbing ability. Spring preload-adjustable high-pressure gas shocks
add control and provide a plush, refined
The Defender’s suspension lets
you use its healthy engine to make
good time, even on rugged terrain.
The vehicle stays predictable when it
is pushed hard, and ride comfort is
impressive at low and high speeds.
HOW DOES IT HANDLE?
It’s pretty sporty for a utility UTV, and
that’s a good thing. The Defender’s
sure cornering and stability at speed
help it feel composed and in control
when it’s well loaded or in tricky terrain.
Normally, a fair amount
of body roll comes
but the HD8’s
and rear sway
bar keep it
keeps steering effort
light at low speeds
and reduces assist
at higher speeds to
retain steering feel.
The system also
damps the jolts that
bumps try to send
through the steering,
which improves comfort