2020 Can-Am Defender 6×6 Review
Story: Casey Cordeiro // Photos: Casey Cordeiro & Wayne Davis
How could you go wrong with 6 wheels?! Well, honestly, before getting behind the wheel I had several first impressions that were making my mind skeptical – questions like, “how could this machine possibly be smooth over rough terrain?” and “do the permanently locked differentials in the back put this machine down on power, or make it hard to steer with all of that forward traction?”. Needless to say, I needed answers… Here’s our 2020 Can-Am Defender 6×6 Review.
The Defender 6×6 was the first machine I hopped aboard in Texas. Based on the spec sheet, this machine was going to have the ultimate traction with 4 driven wheels in the back – again, the two rear differentials are always locked. So, sorry if you own a golf course or a plot of land with sensitive top soil, this machine isn’t going to be for you. However, for those playing in the mud or for those of us who just like to have the ultimate traction and capability in all situations, could this be the machine for you?!
We went for a quick loop on the trails at Y.O. Ranch to get warmed up, and I came away from that short drive in the 6×6 with a couple surprise thoughts. First, it was smooth! I thought the suspension was going to be rough, right where it hurts. Turns out that my initial thoughts were completely wrong, and this 6×6 actually rides like an off-road Cadillac. Well, maybe not that good, but it is surprisingly great in the ride quality department. Credit the well tuned springs and ability for all 4 of the rear driven wheels to articulate by themselves. The other thing that surprised me was the fact that the 6×6 doesn’t push hard in corners, especially when you have 6WD engaged. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of forward bite from all 4 rear wheels constantly spinning, but the 6×6 actually handles very well in the tight and technical terrain. The driver can feel the front end scraping for traction when 6WD isn’t engaged, but when you flip that switch you can instantly feel the front wheels doing work, pulling this machine around the corners while still offering great hookup in the back.
Powered by the HD10 engine, which puts out 82 horsepower and 69 lb-ft of torque, this 6×6 doesn’t ever feel like it is lacking power in any way. Even with 4 driven wheels and a curb weight of 1944.5 lbs, the 976cc V-twin, liquid cooled engine is plenty adequate for this vehicle. Plus, the CVT transmission, especially with its extra-low Low gear, is geared very nicely for this vehicle. I didn’t need any more speed on the top end, and the low speed clutching was finely tuned to deliver smooth takeoffs, making it ideal for heavy loads and slow speed maneuvers.
If you’re going to be buying a Defender 6×6, you’re going to be buying it for its hauling and towing capabilities, too. Just look at that 6’ bed on the back! While the cargo box is only “rated” to carry 1000 lbs from the factory, we are assured that it is tested to haul much more than that. The prescribed load rating is a rule that the manufacturers have to follow based on vehicle size. We’ve seen a lot of “stuff” loaded in the back of one of these 6×6’s, and we can imagine that it can haul much more than rated in a controlled manner. In fact, the bedsides are one of the best innovations on this entire vehicle. Why, you ask?! Because they are removable! Yes, after you remove 2 bolts, the bed sides slide back out of their slots to be taken off with ease. This gives you a full 6’ flatbed in the back, just like you’d have in a flatbed truck! It’s an ingenious idea that gives you the ultimate capability to load pallets from the side of the vehicle with a tractor, haul large equipment, or big tractor tires. This functionality is awesome and worth the price of admission for this vehicle.
The same goes for towing, where the 6×6 is rated to tow up to 3000 lbs. We didn’t get a chance to hook the 6×6 up to the biggest trailer around, but the driving dynamics proved that this Defender would be very capable towing a heavy trailer.
Like other Defender models, the 6×6 has room for 3 passengers on the inside. With an adjustable steering wheel, the driver can find a comfortable position driving the 6×6. Ingress and egress is easy in this Defender model, too, just as it is in most Defender models. For a tall guy like me, an adjustable driver’s seat isn’t needed, but some people might find this to be a disadvantage since this feature is omitted from this particular Defender model. Make sure you sit in the 6×6 and get yourself comfortable in the seat.
There are tons of innovative storage options on the inside of the 6×6, including a plethora of areas on the front dashboard to store items and keep them concealed. The passenger seats also flip up to reveal a very nice storage space on the floorboards for all sorts of items if you don’t plan on carrying any passengers. The driver also gets a 4.5 inch digital display that gives you easy eye access to all of the machines vitals, and it does a great job at giving you almost everything at a quick glance. The only thing that is hidden are the different iTC modes that control your throttle. I wish Can-Am had put in an icon next to the button or something to remind the driver just how to change the different modes.
The 6×6 is essentially a hybrid work vehicle that suits a wide range of adventure enthusiasts and work activities. While the Defender Pro is more of a work-focused vehicle with features that specifically make it this way, the Defender 6×6 is ready for adventures because of its insane traction in almost any situation. Plus, if you would like to make this machine into a mud-eating monster, you can do that, mainly because it was built to clear 30” tires without any modifications! In addition to the clearance, the way that the rear 4 wheels articulate over rough terrain is very impressive, if not a bit astonishing to be honest. With 11” of travel (front and rear), plus the high clearance a-arms in the front, there is seemingly no obstacle that this machine can’t tackle. And, again, the ride is also surprisingly smooth for a 6-wheeled vehicle.
There are only a couple negatives to this vehicle, and they are items that we could overlook in the grand scheme of things. First, the back half of the frame, which provides the rear support for the cargo bed and serves as the mounting point for the back two wheels, is essentially just an add-on to the 3-seat Defender chassis. Can-Am engineers did a great job with putting in plenty of bracing and supports, but you can literally see the bolts that connect the “2” chassis pieces together. Will it all hold up in the long run with repeated large loads? That is yet to be determined. Secondly, the front differential does perform well on this machine, but you can still feel when it fails to fully lock immediately when you want ultimate traction in rocky situations. Mud drivers will also notice this. I wish it had just a bit more bite on it so that it would help propel this machine in the right direction. The Smart-Lok front differential would remedy this, too. Especially when you have to turn a tight corner, a fully locking front differential would really help since this vehicle does push a bit in tight turns and when cornering hard.
Other than those things, this 2020 Can-Am Defender 6×6 is a winner. The suspension is surprisingly smooth and controlled, it has plenty of power with a very well tuned CVT transmission, and the interior has that signature Can-Am comfort and quality. With a starting MSRP of $17,999, this Defender 6×6 is bound to be one of the ultimate hunting and adventure UTVs on the market, and we are excited to get more seat time soon!