Sometimes, the most fun you can have is the practical kind. Such was the case on my recent trip to Georgia, where Can-Am offered two vehicles for testing — the 2022 Maverick X3 and the Defender.
If you’ve read part one of this trip report reviewing the X3 (a race car in offroad clothes), you’ll know that the weather turned bad in a hurry, with wind and thunder scouring the hills of the Iron Mountain Resort. But, as our hosts said, this ride was going to happen, rain or shine.
And it’s that all-weather attitude that made the Defender every bit as fun as its performance counterpart. The Defender is a utilitarian design aimed at farmers, ranchers, and hunters.
Full disclosure: Can-Am paid all expenses on this trip. This, if anything, heightened my skepticism when approaching the test. Read on to see how the Defender won me over.
In short: The 2022 Can-Am Defender is a versatile thoroughbred of a workhorse. Its chassis and powertrain are rugged enough to tackle a variety of conditions. And with a starting price of less than $12,000 ($13,200 for the HD7), it’s a great alternative to tearing up your work truck.
2022 Can-Am Defender DPS HD7
After the wild ride in the 200-horsepower X3, I opted for something a bit more utilitarian — a 2022 Defender DPS HD7, with a 650cc Rotax ACE engine drawing 52 horsepower and 41 pound-feet of torque from one plucky cylinder. And though all Defenders come with a roof, I decided to see if the mesh-strap doors would offer any additional protection against the rain.
Can-Am’s engineers included some thoughtful details, both in and out of the cab. These include a removable toolbox/glove compartment on the passenger side, which includes a ruler etched onto its lid.
Also, the 38 x 54.5 x 12-inch cargo box has a few recessed spaces cut into the bed, sized to hold work buckets. Add in some cupholders and a fold-down center console, and I was sitting pretty.
Still, a question nagged: Why pay $13,000 for an open-cab UTV when you could spend the same money on a second- or third-hand truck? I put this question to Dale Brisby, a real-life rancher and rodeo star who uses Can-Am products on his farm.
The gist of it is this — Defenders are more maneuverable, versatile, and easier to maintain than your average pickup. Their nimble 62-inch width and 83-inch wheelbase allow them to get into areas where a truck simply won’t go — and the cost of keeping them running is far less.
He specifically mentioned hauling feed and other farming materials, along with the ease of repeated ingress and egress. And he’s not wrong. When it came time to hop into my particular Defender, the process was incredibly easy.
Getting out — well, that’s where things got a little hairy.
One quick note before we hit the trail. This particular Defender can tow 2,500 pounds and can carry half a ton in its cargo box, but our ride was essentially unladen. With just my own weight to add to the HD7’s 1,460-pound mass, I fired up the engine and headed out into the rain.
While our ride in the X3 was primarily offroad, the Defender’s route mixed in a fair amount of pavement. The vehicle behaved well here, steering flatly through some pretty wet corners.
And once we got to the dirt, the Can-Am DNA found its chance to shine. Deep ruts and puddles abounded, and the 11 inches of ground clearance and 27-inch XPS Trail Force tires powered through without incident.
Well, except for one. At some point, we came to a very long, very deep stretch of mud. After watching the drivers in front of me navigate the obstacle, I decided to have some fun. I counted to 20, waited for them to pull ahead, and put the spurs to the single-cylinder.
The wave of mud that washed over me is, sadly, not pictured here. But when I tell you it cleared the windscreen, I’m not exaggerating. Still, this wasn’t so much as a hiccup for the Defender.
As I stuck my head out the side of the cab (which is dangerous; don’t do that), the vehicle plowed its way through the swamp as if it simply wasn’t there.
I thought the roof would help me stay dry. And I was right, mostly. But the damage to my pants had already been done. The red sands of Iron Mountain lived up to their name, destroying the jeans I’d worn for the occasion.
And it was absolutely worth it.
Speaking of worth, let’s talk trims. While my tester starts around $13,000, the very base models can be had for less. Winches, full doors, windshield wipers, and other such options are also available, along with a stable of engines. Buyers can choose from three seats, six seats, four wheels — or even six.
At the top of the range sits the Lone Star Cab, at a whopping $33,199. But with an enclosed cockpit, JL roof sound system, and climate control, these are full-on luxury trucks scaled down into a UTV frame.
If you have the cash to spend, they’re definitely worth a look.
Personally, I enjoy the lower cost, high-utility feel of the HD7. Even if my muddy joyride didn’t allow for the chance to test it under load, this UTV felt incredibly capable. If I had a farm or large tract of land, it’s the kind of vehicle I’d want to have stored away in my shed.
So, if you’re looking to get so dirty that you have to throw away some clothes, check out the various models of the 2022 Can-Am Defender. Spec one out for yourself, and you may be surprised at the utility you get for your money.