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We were lucky enough to test out the machines within Can-Am's 2020 Defender lineup.
When you go to the Y.O. Ranch in the Hill Country of Texas, it's only natural to expect the works. This famed exotic-species ranch has become a staple of the Lone Star State, and there's no question as to why.
Its breathtaking landscape only complements the incredible wildlife, and unequivocally begs outdoorsmen to jump in on the action.
Fortunately for us, Can-Am provided the means to make that happen by carting out a fleet of extraordinary off-road machines to the ranch.
Welcome to Y.O. Ranch
Once you've made it through the awe-inspiring scenery offered on the drive in, Y.O. continues to deliver an unimaginable experience. For example, you have to take it slow while you're pulling in due to the possibility of a zebra suddenly crossing the road, and then you walk into one of the most epic trophy rooms of all time.
Featuring more species than you could ever dream of, the main lodge makes you feel like Jim Shockey is giving you a tour of his home, while also maintaining its essential Texas roots.
Sporting a resort-style layout, Y.O. also features a one-of-a-kind lodging setup, which places a number of rooms in what looks like an old western road, complete with appropriate signage and everything.
If you're ever looking to plan a wedding or some other large event and you're looking for the most Texas-style vibe you can get, look no further.
The Main Event
While this wasn't my first Can-Am media event, I did have high expectations for the new Defender introduction because it was in my home state of Texas. Instead of flying up to the wilds of Canada like I've done in the past, this time I drove less than two hours in my own vehicle.
I saw a number of familiar faces previous events, guys who were on their home turf up north, but this time I was the one feeling acquainted.
Can-Am's machines have always gone far above and beyond in prior test rides, so I knew I wouldn't be disappointed. But since this was my first time driving one of the machines on familiar terrain, I suppose I did have elevated expectations.
Per usual, our good friends at Can-Am showed out with an impressive lineup of Defender machines, which showcased different packages, colors and accessories. There were more machines than there were drivers, too, so I was able to take my pick between the Defender Limited, the Defender Pro and the Defender 6X6, each of which offered its own unique advantages.
After a quick walk-around and a brief safety check, it was time to buckle up.
Defender Limited HD10
There are a lot of things to write home about when it comes to the Defender Limited, but perhaps nothing is more attention-grabbing than the new climate control system. Featuring an exclusive auto-climate mode, drivers are able to regulate the temperature by using the air conditioning, the heater and the airflow jointly. After you set the temperature, you can let the HVAC system do the rest of the work.
Built primarily with aluminum, the new heating system can produce 50-percent hotter air temperature when set to full capacity.
The Limited also uses a variable compressor, which produces better performance at a low RPM, mostly because it isn't linked to the engine RPMs. A variable compressor offers more capacity in low engine RPMs.
Additionally, the Limited comes with a new low-sound exhaust system, and new CVT calibration to reduce the shift line by 500 RPMs, making it even quieter.
Perfect for all you Texas outdoorsmen out there, it also features a dust-free environment with its improved CAB seating, which includes a cockpit, doors, windows and an easy-access air filter. If anyone's tore down a dirt track in the heat of a Texas summer, they know how valuable that can be.
And finally, you get a 7.6-inch digital display with a keypad to top it off. The Defender Limited HD10 is, in my opinion, a great addition to the lineup.
Defender Pro HD10
Featuring a 4.5 x 6-foot-long bed, the Defender Pro is able to stretch hauling capabilities to near-pickup-truck levels. And, not only does the Pro model feature a longer cargo box, but it also comes with easily removable sidewalls for you to convert your box to a flatbed trailer in mere seconds.
The extra length also creates around 83.6 gallons of extra storage space underneath the bed between the rear axle and the cab.
The Pro's toughness goes beyond the extended bed, however, as it also sports a new dual-phase steel frame, which offers 30 percent more rigidity while simultaneously weighing 5 pounds less.
The Rotax HD10 engine boasts 82 horsepower and an industry-leading 69 foot-pounds of torque, which makes those off-season land management runs a little more efficient.
A new suspension calibration and a new, 115.5-inch wheelbase make for a very smooth ride, regardless of your haul.
The Pro also utilizes the new low-sound exhaust system and CVT calibration.
Defender 6X6 HD10
Going off looks alone, Defender 6X6 HD10 is essentially the same machine as the Pro, except an additional axle replaces the lower storage space behind the cab.
However, even though they share the 6-foot bed and many other Defender family features, they're are more differences than meet the eye.
Can-Am based the 6X6 off the single-bench Defender HD10 and then gave it the extra chassis components, rear axle, suspension and wheels. The Pro is based off the Defender MAX platform, but customized with a single-bench design and its own unique features (storage and long cargo bed).
With six wheels, the 6X6 adds unbelievable traction, helping the unit can get through virtually any terrain and accomplish any job thrown its way.
Of the three machines I drove, it was easily the most surprising, as it was seemingly the most nimble despite looking the bulkiest. I assumed the 6X6 was basically the heavy-duty, work-specific dually option, but it was actually an off-road beast. Expect to see a 6x6 in Can-Am's defender lineup for years to come.
Secret Temple Sendoff
After our final ride, our hosts took us on a surprise trip to a secret temple out deep in the hills of Y.O.
Had I stumbled across the entrance on my own, I certainly wouldn't have guessed what was on the other side of that door, nor would I have given it much thought.
However, we were all about to be amazed.
After walking through a long, stone tunnel, we came up to what truly looked like a temple, and inside was a feast for the ages.
A wide variety of grilled meats and tortillas would complement a ceremonial hog roast overlooking a perfect sunset. If that doesn't scream "Texas," I don't know what does.
After an off-roading adventure through a some of the most beautiful wilderness Texas has to offer, laughs with new friends and a night of delicious food, cold beer and timeless stories, I have no doubt I'll be back to the Y.O. Ranch. And if I'm behind the wheel of a Can-Am Defender, well, all the better.