Profile: Can-Am showcase

If a capable off-road machine is what you need to get the job done, then Can-Am has a model to suit

An impressive line-up of Can-Am Defender models

Can-Am, long established as a powerhouse brand of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and side-by-side vehicles (SSVs). A leading brand here in New Zealand, Can-Am has earned the number-one spot when it comes to sales of side-by-side machines.

Ticking all of these boxes and more is Can-Am, long established as a powerhouse brand of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and side-by-side vehicles (SSVs). A leading brand here in New Zealand, Can-Am has earned the number-one spot when it comes to sales of side-by-side machines.  

The brand is impressively diverse, with machines such as the Maverick X3 and R targeted for serious sport and play through to the two-seater Commander machines, which deliver a useable back deck/tray for added work versatility.

When it comes to popularity on farms, the Defender range leads the pack with farmers and anyone demanding a reliable machine with the ability to get hard work done efficiently.

The Can-Am Defender DPS 6×6 offers the ultimate in traction and carrying capacity

On the back of recent demo days in both the North and South Islands, we managed to score a look at a rare and full Can-Am line-up. With Defender and Outlander machines provided by Rouse Motorcycles and Northland Motorsports, as well as local farm owners’ personal machines on-site, a wide variety of the range was available to demo and put through their paces.

For me, one of my favourites (admittedly hard to choose) is the Defender HD9 XU. Clearly, others agree with me, as this is the top-selling SSV machine in the New Zealand market.

A bit like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, the Can-Am Defender range delivers a machine to suit most situations and requirements, be it an entry-level machine like the HD7 (the only
single-cylinder engine in the range) or a heavier-duty machine like the HD9 and 10 (both are fitted with Rotax engines, like all BRP powersports products).

Comfortable seating for three is part of the base spec from all Can-Am Defender HD7 models upwards

On the HD9, the twin-cylinder, V-twin petrol engine has a capacity of 976cc producing 65hp. With a full fuel tank of 40 litres, you should have no issue with getting through a day’s work.

The Can-Am Defender runs a Donaldson filter unit air box, much like you would find on your tractor, allowing the cleanest air to be used. Some of the higher-spec machines, like the Defender HD10 XMR, have the engine and belt air intakes mounted up behind the cab, well suited to the American pastime of mud runs (well worth a watch on YouTube if you want to waste some time).

Changes to the exhaust have decreased the noise within the cabin. On the demo day we attended, the difference between those with either windows and roof, or full cabin, notably changed the noise level while operating.

The extended tray of the Can-Am Defender 6×6 makes for an ideal fencer’s machine for carrying posts and other gear

Within the cabin, an adjustable steering column provides a comfortable driving position. Unlike some other brands, the smallest offering in the Defender work models, the HD7, is still a three-adult seat machine, using a bench seat with fold-up capability for extra storage underneath.

I also like the incorporated removable toolbox storage in the front. Making use of this space allows Can-Am to achieve a greater overall payload capacity.

Using the same running gear, the HD7 and HD9 models both have the same suspension set-up with 25.4cm of travel front and rear. Running on 14-inch alloy rims, standard with eight-ply tyres, different tread patterns can easily be fitted to suit individual requirements.

Options include a fully enclosed cab for all-weather convenience

Stopping power is provided by 220mm disc brakes front and rear, with dual-piston callipers on the front and single callipers on the rear.

A clever feature is the locking park brake found to the left of the steering column. This is simple but effective. The electronic Dynamic Power Steering (DPS) system takes the harshness out of the ride. Clever technology allows it to increase/decrease the amount of assistance given in relation to speed automatically — even better, it’s standard across the Defender range.

The PRO-TORQ-CVT of the Defender HD9 and HD10 incorporates a second air intake to provide cooling to the belt. This helps prolong belt life and minimises the chance of failure.

The transmission has a Park position, Reverse, Neutral, and High down to Super Low all on a single lever, which makes them incredibly easy to use.

Another feature of Can-Am Defenders is the Electronic Hill Descent Control. This works by keeping drive on the belt without the need for the driver input on throttle and brake function. In Low range, I found we needed to use the accelerator to increase speed over the 3km/hour it slowed us down to.

Heating and cooling options make for comfort year-round

The four-wheel variants have three drive modes: Turf (unlocked rear diff), 2WD (locked rear diff), and 4WD (auto-locking Visco front diff), ensuring you can get through pretty much any terrain situation, and if between those, that’s not enough, then you may want to consider fitting an optional winch.

In terms of maintenance and servicing, Can-Am keeps things simple. Thanks to the tilt deck, there’s easy access to service points, oil dipsticks, the air filter, and coolant. Checks should be carried out pre-start-up, but just in case, Can-Am has designed the Defender to have any hot bits on the left, with the right side cool to avoid the chance of touching anything hot.

Even better is the confidence Can-Am has in its Defender machines, offering 200-hour service intervals, which helps keep the overall cost of ownership and running down (twice the service interval of some other brands) and a three-year warranty on the transmission and Rotax engine, as well as a 12-month warranty on the rest of the machine. Both these warranties are for unlimited kilometres. 

Standard engine layout makes daily pre-ride checks and servicing straightforward

Options and personalisation

The list of options for customising your Can-Am Defender (or any Can-Am model) is impressively vast. A popular package to add is front window with wiper, roof, and rear window. In-cab and tray storage options are worth considering, allowing you to set your machine up with toolboxes for different tasks: calving, water, fencing, etc. Depending on what options you’re after, it sometimes works out better to go for a higher-spec machine with most of what you’re looking for included, rather than building up a base machine out of the parts book. However, the choice is entirely yours and having the flexibility to pick and choose is a bonus.    

The full range

If a standard side-by-side is not quite what you’re looking for, the Defender does feature a number of other models that fit more niche purposes. The Defender Pro (4X4) and 6X6 both offer an industry-leading six-foot tray. The 6X6 offers almost unlimited traction, making it ideal as a fencing contractor’s machine, for example.

Excellent load carrying and tow rating are just two reasons the Can-Am Defender range is such a popular working machine

The extended MAX versions offer seating for up to six adults, with a standard Defender-size cargo deck. The cargo box is rated to take a load of 454kg and tow up to 1134kg. The extended deck versions are rated the same due to regulations.

Suspension in the 6×6 has a greater 1360kg tow capacity, well-suited for the likes of forestry planting crews.

Some models also come with high lift, curved lower A-Arms on the suspension, and full underbody bash plates, superbly suited for bush bashing. Depending upon your wants, rather than needs, you can have all the comforts of a modern ute: radio, heating and cooling, doors with electric windows, and comfortable seats in the Defender Limited models. Admittedly, some of the pricing is getting close to that of a new 4WD ute but with a lot more
off-road ability. 


The Can-Am range offers a full selection of size and capacity

Equipped with rollover protection structures, this provides safety for both the machine and the operator. Getting back to basics, even the seat belt offers a safety feature of limiting speed if it isn’t used correctly — a strong reminder to wear it at all times.

Whether doors are standard net, clip-in, or the half or full door, these serve to help keep limbs inside the machine in the event of a rollover. The other safety feature worth noting is a speed-limiting key for less experienced operators. This is useful during training to upskill users.


If a capable off-road machine is what you need to get the job done, then Can-Am has a model to suit. With another demo day planned following National Fieldays in June, mark this in your diary to attend or chat with your local dealer for an on-farm demo.


Top features

  • Reliable Rotax engines
  • Easy-to-operate CVT transmission with engine braking
  • Dynamic Power Steering (DPS)
  • High carrying and tow capacity
  • Excellent use of space within the cabin for storage
  • A range of model and options to suit different requirements
  • Three-year warranty on engine/transmission

Can-Am Defender HD9 XU Specifications


Rotax 976cc, V-Twin,


65hp/59 lb-ft


Extra L/H/N/R/P

Drive train

Turf Mode/2WD/4WD/
Visco lock auto
locking front diff

Driving assistance Electronic Hill Descent
off/Work modes
Power steering

Dynamic Power
Steering (DPS)

Front suspension Double A-Arm,
25.4cm of travel
Rear suspension

Trailing Torsional Arm
with external sway bar
25.4cm of travel 

Front brakes

Dual 220mm discs
with hydraulic-twin
piston callipers

Rear brakes

Dual 220mm discs
with hydraulic-single
piston callipers

L x W x H
307.1L x 157.5W x 193H cm
Wheelbase 211.5cm

Ground clearance

Dry weight 706kg
Cargo box
96.5L x 138.4W x
30.5H cm 
Cargo box capacity 454kg
Towing capacity 1134kg
Payload capacity 680kg
Seating  3 adults
Fuel capacity  40L    

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