Pressed by dealers and customers alike for a side-by-side unit with greater utility for the farm and ranch market -- and with an eye on this fast-growing market segment -- BRP's Can-Am unit will begin delivering its brand new Defender series off-road utility vehicles in early December.
The 2016 Defender (base price is $10,999 with a three-year warranty) retains a good bit of the recreational capabilities of its side-by-side cousin, Can-Am's popular two- and four-seat Commander. But the Defender will live best on the farm and on the ranch, doing the dirty, stop-and-start work of modern day agriculture. Can-Am is taking direct aim at the Polaris Ranger line of utility vehicles.
The Defender has been designed in close consultation with farmers living in several countries, including the United States, says the company, headquartered in Valcourt, Quebec, Canada.
The cargo bed, with 1,000 pounds of capacity (Commander's dual-level bed holds 600 pounds), is full of small, but imaginative and useful features. The bed has four tie-down points in the corners. It has four shallow recesses in the floor to better secure "heavy-when-filled" 5-gallon buckets. The bed's sidewalls are molded to include slots, three per side, that receive both plywood and 1-by wood dividers. The tailgate includes four cup recesses, and a ruler. The tailgate itself supports 250 pounds.
Can-Am made its cargo bed design more capable with Bed Wall Extenders ($699.99). Fitted into the cargo bed, the extender system adds extra height to the Defender's cargo box sides. The extenders are hinged, too, allowing for full- or half-height settings (the top half of the extender can also be removed). The rear door of the extender can be locked open or removed. The extender does require the purchase of the Headache Rack ($349.99), which protects the cab space from shifting cargo in the box.
The extender does more than contain materials. It also functions as a rolling tool rack. With the purchase of LinQ adapters (4 for $24.99) and LinQ Tool Holders (2 for $49.99), operators can safely hang axes, sledgehammers, steel posts and the like from both inside and outside the grated walls of the extender (fully- and half-raised). The top edges of the cargo bed include 14 LinQ Quick Attach locations, as well.
True to its agricultural beginnings, the Defender carries more cargo than the Commander, tows more (2,000 lbs. vs. 1,500 lbs.), has a slightly bigger fuel tank (10.6 vs. 10 gallons), and is by every measure of height, width, length and wheelbase, a bigger vehicle.
But with a narrow turning radius, 11 inches of ground clearance and 10-inches of travel in the suspension, it is similarly as capable as the Commander in navigating narrow and rutted trails, and making steep climbs. In fact, at both very slow speed and high speed the Defender deftly climbed some fairly difficult ground during a test ride on trails maintained and operated by Harpole's Heartland Lodge, outside Nebo in Pike County, Ill.
The Defender mounts Can-Am's venerable Rotax V-Twin engine. Can-Am says the Defender's new engine is recalibrated for more torque at low RPMs. Its liquid-cooled and electronic fuel injected (EFI) HD8 (799.9cc) delivers 50 hp. The larger, HD10 (976cc), also liquid-cooled with EFI, produces 72 hp. Can-Am says the Defender tops out at about 50 mph. On test day, a semi-experienced driver working trails with few long, straight stretches hit 40-45 mph.
More impressive perhaps, was the capability given operators to precisely control the low-end speeds of the Defender by way of Can-Am's throttle-by-wire system. The Quick Response System enhances low-speed riding with smooth power delivery. Defender's Hill Descent Control, or downhill braking feature was another plus much appreciated.
Important to operator comfort is the ease of entering and exiting the crew compartment. The fully welded frame incorporates ample space for the passengers, with easy access. The front pillars of the crew compartment are pushed forward to increase crew space and improve vision. The outside seat corners are "profiled" or angular to give just a bit more space to the driver and passengers as they step into the Defender.
The bench seat has space for three passengers, with seating arranged in a 40/20/40 configuration. The passenger seats fold up to create additional floor space.
One great idea is a toolbox. Instead of a glove box, Can-Am has redesigned that space to hold a removable toolbox large enough to hold a handful of tools.
Some other features of note:
-- Defender has three driving modes ("normal" optimizes recreational uses, "work" is calibrated to accommodate cargo loads and power delivery and "Eco" slightly reduces speed and torque).
-- Defender has four modes of traction -- two-wheel drive, locked rear differential and open rear differential; and four-wheel drive, also locked and open differential.
-- The engine compartment and the space under the hood are designed to give easy access to components maintained by the operators -- brake fluid, air filter, coolant, for example. Inside the engine compartment these systems are mounted into a "cool" area, away from the hotter areas of the engine and exhaust.
-- The Defender needs no break-in servicing or regular service during the first year (1,865 miles or 200 hours of operation).
-- Pricing starts at $10,999 for the base-model Defender; $12,799 for the Defender DPS (power steering); $15,599 for the Defender XT; and $23,699 for the Defender XT CAB.
For more information go to: can-am.brp.com/off-road
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