If you’ve ever visited New Mexico, you’re familiar with just how varying the terrain is. The state’s top agricultural commodity is beef and the second is rocks. While we also raise a lot of dairy, hay, pecans, and some grain commodities, much of the state’s terrain isn’t good for much else beyond cattle. The steep mountains, brushy canyons, and other open spaces aren’t always exactly friendly for pickups, but that’s where UTV and ATVs can come in handy. So, when the Can-Am Defender DPS HD7 side-by-size arrived, I was interested to see how useful this utility vehicle was.
It started in the desert hill country.
Not only is it time to wean, but it’s also hunting season. So, what better way to test the Can-Am out than looking for cattle and scouting? I was skeptical of some of the accessories they sent this loaner vehicle with, but I was soon a fan of the half doors, half windshield, and roof — a huge bonus in the dusty country.
First off, when I fired the Defender DPS HD7 up, I was impressed with just how quiet this thing runs despite having a relatively robust motor. This particular model has a 52-horsepower Rotax ACE under it, which was plenty of power for the jobs I was going to put it through. Someone who was going to do more towing could size up to the HD9’s 65-horsepower or the HD10’s 82-horsepower motor.
Some of the other things that immediately jumped out at me were the grippy, 27-inch XPS Trail Force tires, Double A-arm suspension, and the twin tube gas-charged shocks. I’ve been known to bounce heads off of the roof of the old ranch pickup, so I was interested to see how this machine handled the pavement versus the hill country.
I can tell you, the Defender provides an incredibly comfortable ride.
After pulling the Defender DPS HD7 into gear, I did find that there was a dead spot in the shifter between the park and reverse. Other operators found the same issue without prompting. Additionally, I found the LinQ Loadout Rack to be a little superfluous for the jobs I would normally use a UTV for, and it blocked my vision in reverse. With a price tag of nearly $1,500, it’s an accessory that I would opt to skip.
Once I hit the pavement that leads to Bureau of Land Management land, I found that the Defender handled it a little too well. With dynamic power steering and a super responsive transmission, I hit 55 mph before realizing it and even at 4,000 RPMs, I could still easily talk to my passenger.
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The 11-inch ground clearance is in line with most standard UTVs, and this clearance was perfectly adequate for almost any job around the farm, ranch, or rural property. But, after hitting hill country with a load in the bed, I would probably look at the stouter HD10 option with 13 inches of clearance. Thankfully, the Defender is well-protected by the HMWPE central skid plate.
I only used the 4WD when I needed it — surprisingly not as much as you’d think thanks to the grippy tires — but, when I did, I was able to traverse some pretty rough, steep terrain with ease, especially a few times. My favorite feature to test out in UTV’s, though, is the descent control. And this one is not only smart, but the Electronic Hill Descent Control kicks in at just the right time, every time.
Since life isn’t all fun and games (or scouting), we took the Defender DPS up to feed cows and to work on fencing. We got excellent use out of the 1,000-pound box capacity, maxing it out with mineral tubs and hay. The dump bed was handy to remove hay chaff, and the Defender handled well even when loaded. The tailgate does leave a bit to be desired, as at a 250-pound load capacity, it barely handled a 225-pound mineral tub.
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When it comes down to the nitty gritty on this machine, it’s one of the best handling, most comfortable, and versatile that I’ve had the opportunity to operate. The 2022 model’s price point is going to range dependent on your location, from just over $13,000 to $14,000 — I wouldn’t skip the half doors at an additional price of $1,000.
When you look at the raw specs, you’ll find more highlights on the Defender DPS HD7 including:
- 62-inch wide, 83-inch long wheelbase
- 2,500 pound towing capacity
- Rear differential with turf mode for those more concerned with grass and lawns
- 4.5-inch digital display
- Visco-Lok QE front differential
- 14-inch cast-aluminum wheels
- 650 cc single cylinder liquid-cooled motor
- Intelligent Throttle Control with Electronic Fuel Injection
- Profiled, ROPS approved cage
- Fuel capacity: 10.6 gallons
- Person capacity: three
Some of the “extras” (even on this base model) made it fun and handy to drive:
- Lighter type DC outlet in console
- Adjustable tilt steering
- Waterproof and removable toolbox
- Armrests and cupholders
The model I tried out came with a few accessories. I’d recommend looking at price points to ensure you’re getting exactly what you want when you purchase. Some of these were really handy, and others, I might have passed up on for practically and price point. Here’s what this one came with:
- Sport roof
- Draw bar
- Hanging storage box
- Kolpin gear grips
- Bed winch
- Gun bag
- LinQ Loadout Rack
- Cargo Net
- Half Doors
Heidi Crnkovic, is the Associate Editor for AGDAILY. She is a New Mexico native with deep-seated roots in the Southwest and a passion for all things agriculture