2016 Can Am Defender Overview

I was one of the lucky few to get to test out the new 2016 Can AM Defenders on the release day. I knew Can AM was going to release a bench style seat side by side before the release, but I did not expect the defender.

yellow defender xt hd8 hd10

To be honest I didn’t know what to expect. Can AM is the company that has always been the “Power” company and never really the work horse company. The Defender really has hit the work horse side of things with a big bang.

2016 can am defender xt dps


Release Video…

The Test Drive

I wanted to start this review off with the test drive. I could on for days about how nice and pretty it is but in-fact no one really cares. Its about the DRIVE!

Here is the view from the seat of the prototype Defender XT HD10 in red that I drove below.

defender wheel guage cockpit drivers seat

As you can tell it was a very dirty and dusty area where we rode, but none the less the Defender ran great for a prototype.

defender passenger seat

Right off the bat compared to the Commander and Maverick is that the Defender is a lot easier to get in and out. I usually have to move the steering wheel out of the way of the Commander and Maverick but the Defender I never really had to move it.


I also noticed the gear selector was the easiest selector I have ever used. I’ll admit that the Commander and Maverick will have the sticky points when going from Park to Drive, but the Defender was fluid like my Truck.

I’ve also noticed when I turn the key on, which is just a standard cut key and not DESS, is that there was no start button. Every Can AM side by side always had a “Sporty” Start button. The defender is not pretending to be sporty and has a standard key switch that is like a car where you turn all the way to the right to start the engine. This makes more sense when in a work vehicle since you have less to do.

defender magnesium

The defender that I drove was the XT model which had the Power Steering. This was for me the most noticeable take away from the test drive. The power steering was so easy and smooth. I could easily turn the wheel with just my pinky if I wanted to.

defender side rear

The turning radius was very tight as they really made the trails to point that out.

bench seats

I was worried about having bench seats since they’re known to be uncomfortable. The seats in the Mavericks and Commanders are far superior in comfort than any other side by side I’ve been in. Though the seats in the Defender are not the seats in the Commander and Maverick it was still very comfortable.

The perks of this style seat is that easy to get in and out of the machine and it opens for you to get to storage under them. This also allows you to have a 3 seats standard and not the 2 seats on the other models. The driver seat is adjustable along with the steering.

defender Front

The Power

Since it was made by Can AM it was no wonder that this workhorse still has some play in it. Stepping on the throttle gave me the same smile I got from the Commander. Even though its not a Turbo Maverick its still got some power to it.

xt hd10

On the test track they did have some very steep hills that we had to go up and down on. I would say the hills were about 3 stories high – or at least felt like it – and very vertical. The Defender handle the hills like it was some kind of joke when in 4 wheel drive.

Going down the hills had me worried since I was expecting to be rattle to death because of past experience from other bench style side by sides, but the defender took it great and smooth.

defender top speed

I wasn’t able to get the Defender up to its top speed, but I did get the HD10 up to 54MPH as shown above. It felt like it could have gone faster but I ran out of road. The amount of torque the engine has off the line is quite breathtaking.

Update: Top Speed of an HD10 is 62MPH.


Can Am have taken their tried and tested 800cc and 1000cc engines and gave them more brute. The engines and transmissions have been tuned for pulling and hauling loads. Now called the HD8 and the HD10 these new engines are designed for raw pulling power over top speed.

hd8 engine

Don’t let the thought concern you, even though they’ve been tune for the bottom end they will still put a grin on your face when you hit that throttle. They still have the Can AM racing feel to the engine.

dirty defender engine

Also, the Transmission is still a CVT but has been heavily modified to count for the extra torque and pulling power it will need.

The engine is located in the back under the bed, this gives it the best center of gravity and placed where it would be needed to be for pulling power.

defender engine

Looking at the Defender Engine you see a lot of Can AM’s DNA. The coolant reservoir they use for there Seadoos. The air box they use for their Maverick Turbos.

One big plus I see is with the engine right there is that it’s easy to do service like spark plugs and oil changes. No need to really remove anything, the average Joe could do all this work himself in his garage.

This was what Can AM was going after. The Defender was design with the customer first. Can AM actually had Farmers and such testing and improving the Defender to make sure it really was ready.

defender engine air intake

From the picture above the air intake looks to be about seat height. This doesn’t look too hard to make a simple modification to the air intake to make it higher since it just simply a tube. Sometimes you got to through some deep creeks when you’re working.

defender air intake

You can see in the picture above the hose for the air intake and the height it is at.

The Details

Before the ride they gave us more details about the Defender. Some of the details that really stood out was that the tailgate was rated at 250 pounds. To help prove that the guy giving the details was about 6 foot 4 inches and weigh 225 according to him (he did look the part). So he just drop the tailgate and then sat down on it while bouncing. To drive the point home he stood on the tailgate. I wouldn’t recommend it, but that really drives the point home.

defender back receiver ball

Also, little details like the tailgate also has ruler marks in inches.

defender tailgate inches measurement

This is super helpful when cutting wood or other purposes that people can come up with. Also, the bed had cut outs for 5-gallon buckets to sit in perfectly. Also, slots for you to place wood slats in to make your bed however you want it. Along with the LinQ holes too for adding Can AM accessories to your defender.

defender bed big

The Dunk Bed on the Defender is more noticeably bigger and wider than the Commander Bed. The Whole Defender seems wider than the Commander too and more stout. The Commander is about 58 inches wide and the defender is about 62 inches wide.

Its like Can AM put in more level of detail into the Bed of the Defender than Most Manufactures put into their whole side by side.

defender bed cage

The Defender Bed can have a cage added for more height and greater storage.

Under the Hood

In the front of the Defender is a place that I would have never noticed if it wasn’t already open. Under the hood is a place for the winch remote controls, fuses, and DESS Keys.

defender hood keys winch

These keys which are pretty much the keys that the Seadoo watercraft use and is what allows the Defender to do different modes. For example, you’ll have a key for Work which gives you nothing but torque but limits you top end speed. Also a type of learning key to control power.

defender head light

The Cabin

The amount of storage in the Defender is plain crazy. Everywhere you look there is storage. This amount of storage is very well thought out for things like clipboards to fit into. Common tools to fit in perfectly. Even places for Cell Phones that are within reach of the 12 volt plug.

defender cabin

I would like to mention to Can Am if they’re reading this is to have a USB plug adaptor already standard on the Defender. I know some contractors who would love this feature on the job site.

defender under seat

You have storage over the gauge, under the center and on top. Also storage in the passenger area dash with a tool box/glove box.

You have a tool box on the passenger side that is your glove box. There is a handle on the rear that you can pull up to remove. What a clever idea for a tool box.

passenger seat lift up

The passenger and middle seat of the defender can be lifted up with ease. This space is for cargo that needs to ride up front but not in the seat. Can Am says a place for the dog to rest in since it gives them a wider area to lay down, but knowing my dogs they’ll still ride in the seat.

defender dps for sale

Under the seat would be a great place for things like Tool Boxes that you have or Cargo objects like this. Or Let’s not forget the oversized coolers too!

On the XT models you get a box that clips in on the bottom under the passenger seat. This is just more storage for you and comes standard on the XT models.

defender 3 seats

The Defender is built to carry 3 people. The middle seat does come down to reveal cup holders and more smaller storage.

diff lock

The defender does have Rear Diff Lock with its Visco-Lok 4 wheel drive.

Role Cage

The roll cage on the Defender is quite a bit different. Its more angular and has a ton more mounting points for accessories. The roll cage seems to have a built in sun visor in the front.

defender roll cage top view

Plenty of leg room and textured floors in the Defender.

textured floors

The Full Cabin or “Cab”

defender Cab version

You can get a full enclosure cabin version also known as Defender CAB. This Cab version above has the full enclosure with the doors that have power windows. You can also get a heater unit for the cab. Combine with a Plow and Tracks this makes for the perfect snow machine.

defender tracks system

Pictures of the Prototype


defender headlight

defender wheels rims

defender side

defender back view

2 thoughts on “2016 Can Am Defender Overview”

  1. My defender 2017 xt 1000 will only go 43 mph !!! I’ve been told it should have two different keys by one dealer and by another dealer that it should Not !! Not impressed with performance of the 1000 at all !!

    • The Defender does come with two keys but they’re two cut “normal” keys. You could get an add-on that would give you work or performance modes which limits the power. Not many people bought that but you would know you have it if you lift the front open and you see another key plugged in, looks like a Sea-Doo key. But it sounds like you have something else going on, maybe the tires are too big or the belt is messed up?


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