By Jon Crowley
Can-Am introduced us to the Can-Am Defender HD10 back in late 2015. The Defender is the flagship utility UTV for Can-Am, and technically, they refer to it as a utility-recreational side-by-side vehicle. What does that mean? Simply put the Defender is mostly a utility vehicle built for use around the ranch, far or jobsite that can also be used for some recreation purposes like hunting, fishing and trail riding.
In stock form, the Defender HD10 comes with a 72-hp Rotax V-Twin that is specifically tuned for serious work but also offers 61 lb-ft torque and peak torque at lower RPM for optimal delivery for recreational use. With 10-inches of ground clearance, 25-inch tires, 10-inches of suspension travel, a 4-mode traction system, 1,100 lbs payload and 2,500 lbs of towing capacity, it is a workhorse.
But to truly span from utility into the recreation side of the world, other factors come into play. I have driven my fair share of utility vehicles off the ranch and onto the trail. Ground clearance, suspension and comfort are typically not ideal for the type of riding I like to do.
Meet the Can-Am Defender XT-P HD10. The Defender XT-P has all the great work features from the Defender, but also adds some key features to make it more capable and comfortable for recreational type riding:
- FOX 2.0 PODIUM shocks
- 27-inch Maxxis Bighorn Tires
- 12-inches of Ground Clearance
- Full HMW skid plate
- Aluminum rock sliders
- Heavy-duty front steel bumper
- Central mirror
- Lockable rear differential and lockable front differential with exclusive Smart-Lok technology
- ECO / Work / Normal driving modes
- Bolstered the adjustable VERSA-PRO bench seats
I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a Defender XT-P to do some more detailed testing with, and we put it right to work around the ranch.
The Defender XT-P was smooth, quiet and I really liked the seats. Turning radius is excellent for getting work done in tight quarters as well.
But one to never leave well enough alone, I was thinking about how the Can-Am Defender X MR HD10 comes with 30-inch tires and I figured that I should see if the XT-P could handle that as well.
Boom! 30x10R14 ITP Versa Cross Tires fit under the Defender XT-P with no lift. I’ve got just a little rub on the driver’s side fender at full turn, but that is it. This is the way all utility vehicles should be made! Most people don’t need the extra ground clearance from a 30-inch tire on a utility machine, but there are many circumstances I can think of that make a utility-recreational side-by-side vehicle with bigger tires even more capable. I mounted the Versa Cross tires to 14×7 ITP Hurricane wheels with a 5+2 offset. I think a 4+3 may help with the clearance issue and will investigate further.
With the Defender XT-P all squared away with the larger tires, I figured it was time to get out on the trail with it to see how it performed in the recreational world. I joined up with Sean from Off Road Tahoe for a 20 mile trail ride in the Tahoe National Forest (see EXPLORING TAHOE NATIONAL FOREST WITH OFF ROAD TAHOE for trip details).
The area where we rode had some faster graded roads, but mostly rough forest trails with lots of rocks and some water bars. In this terrain, the FOX 2.0 Podium shocks made a big difference. More plush and also able to handle sudden g-outs that sneak up on you. The trail wasn’t technical enough for me to need the Smart-Lok front differential system, but it is nice to know I have an incredible locking system in place if I do need it in the future (maybe a trip on the Rubicon is in order?).
The additional boltering in the Versa-Pro bench seats definitely help keep you from sliding all over the cab, and the cushion firmness was comfortable.
As far as the 30-inch Versa Cross tires go, I did not rub at all on the trail. The extra ground clearance is very noticeable and I had more confidence bombing over rocks with more rubber between the ground and the wheels. The only downsides to the larger meat are higher center of gravity and decreased performance (not quite as quick off the line). Back on the ranch, I think these tires will help a bunch once winter hits. Traction and ground clearance are important in the muddy pastures while towing a rough cut mower.
There are a few items I’d like to address moving forward with the Defender XT-P. The first is the door nets. While there is nothing wrong with them and I understand the need for safety, nets are cumbersome in a work environment and also don’t provide any protection from the elements in wet weather (for work and play). I think the XT-P should come with doors from the factory because it fits with this special edition’s intended purpose. Thankfully, there is an option to add half doors for the Defender from Can-Am (see Defender Half Doors).
Next up, I think a roof is top on my list to keep everyone out of the sun. Again, I would like to see the XT-P outfitted with a roof from the factory, but at least Can-Am has an option to add one (see Can-Am Defender Roof).
Lastly, the Defender XT-P comes with this nice bumper that is just screaming to have a winch installed on it. I like to have a winch for both recreation and utility purposes. Helping get a friend out of a bind on the trail, changing a flat on another UTV or stretching fence on the ranch, a winch is always something nice to have in your back pocket.
With these doors, roof and winch, I think the Can-Am Defender XT-P would be just about the ideal utility-recreation UTV on the market. It has all the features you’d expect in a solid utility vehicle, plus the added comfort and capability to make it exceptional for hunting, camping and exploring.
I am looking forward to doing more with our Defender XT-P and hope we can keep it long term.