The Can-Am Defender and the Polaris Ranger are two of the biggest names in the side-by-side utility category. For years, countless businesses, construction workers, farmers, and homeowners have depended on them to get work done. And more than a few count on them for all their recreation too.
Here at SuperATV, we’re no strangers to the Polaris versus Can-Am rivalry. But, unlike most internet discussions, we keep it classy and take a fair look at each machine. Contrary to what you might read on message boards, both machines have their strengths.
With their sizable beds and versatility, it’s no wonder why they’re the UTV of choice for so many people. But which one is better? We decided to settle the Defender versus Ranger debate once and for all.
We’re going to compare a Ranger 570 Full-Size against a base model Defender HD7. We chose these two because they compete directly with each other as similarly performing entry-level models that cost about the same.
|Engine Type||650cc Rotax® ACE (Advanced Combustion Efficiency) 650cc single cylinder, liquid-cooled|
|Transmission||PDrive primary CVT with engine braking and electronic drive belt protection L/H/N/R/P|
|Suspension||Front and rear: Double A-arms, 10” (25.4 cm) travel|
|Tires:||Front: XPS Trail Force 27 x 9 x 14 in.|
Rear: XPS Trail Force 27 x 11 x 14 in.
|Dry Weight||1,475 lb.|
|Bed Capacity||1,000 lb.|
|Towing Capacity||2,500 lb.|
|Engine Type||567cc 4-stroke single cylinder DOHC|
|Transmission||Automatic PVT H/L/N/R/P; shaft|
|Suspension||Front: MacPherson strut 9 in. (22.9 cm) of travel|
Rear: Dual A-arm, IRS 10 in. (25.4 cm) of travel
|Tires||Front: 25 x 8-12; Carlisle 489|
Rear: 25 x 10-12; Carlisle 489
|Dry Weight||1,070 lb.|
|Bed Capacity||800 lb.|
|Towing Capacity||1,500 lb.|
Despite retailing for only 200 dollars more, the Can-Am Defender leads the way in several key areas.
The Can-Am Defender has six more horsepower, 1,000 pounds more towing capacity, and 200 pounds more cargo capacity (excluding the California model). It edges out the Ranger 570 on suspension travel with ten inches in the front and rear and a four-inch longer wheelbase. There are, however, several areas where both side-by-sides are neck and neck. For example, both machines have almost identical box dimensions and ground clearance.
The Can-Am Defender’s specs lead by a hair.
The ultimate test of a work-focused side-by-side is how well it performs in the field. Numbers on a spec sheet alone don’t get a job done. So what happens when you compare the Can-Am Defender versus Polaris Ranger 570 Full-Size in the real world?
While utility might be the main thing on your mind, comfort is still important (especially when jobs call for a lot of driving). The Defender comes out on top in ride quality and comfort. The cab feels roomier, the seats are little nicer, and the dash and components have a nice fit and finish. But that’s only half the story when it comes to ride comfort.
The Defender makes the most of its ten inches of suspension travel to make bumps and bounces less jarring than the Ranger. That leads to more predictable handling as well and a better overall cushy feel when you’re behind the wheel. The Ranger 570 is good—just not quite as good as the Defender HD7.
UTVs get driven off-road, but just how off-road depends on the owner. A golf course is a lot different than a remote jobsite deep in the forest. Off-road, the Ranger has the edge thanks to its 4WD system. While this might seem like a minor difference, we can’t overstate how impressive Polaris’ front differential is compared to Can-Am’s Visco-Lok front diff. Can-Am does offer their impressive Smart-Lok differential on HD10 X MR models, but all other Defenders are stuck with Visco-Lok. When you’re off-roading somewhere with challenging or slick terrain, the Ranger 570s instant-locking front diff makes a world of difference.
It also has the advantage of being 60” wide—2” narrower than the Defender. Depending on how you ride, you could consider that a disadvantage, but it’s usually a good thing for trail riding. That’s primarily because many trails are restricted to 60” or narrower machines.
A 60” width is also easier to fit in the back of a pickup truck for hauling. It’s really tight at 60” and we’re not sure the 62” wide Defender would fit in any normal truck bed without some serious elbow grease and scratched paint.
The extra two inches the Defender gives you is just more inconvenient than it’s worth for some.
|More horsepower||Visco-Lok is inferior to Polaris’ front diff|
|More bed storage||Too wide for some|
|Better towing capacity|
|More comfortable ride|
|More affordable||Less horsepower than the Defender|
|Superior differential locking for off-road capability||Less bed storage|
|60” width is better for hauling and trail riding||Smaller towing capacity|
While the Defender ultimately beats out the Ranger on specs, it should be noted that they both have their advantages. And there are a seemingly endless variety of Defender and Ranger models available. If you’re interested in either machine but want a little more specs-wise, there are plenty of options.
Also, this article shouldn’t be seen as a be-all-end-all for choosing a machine. Everyone (and their needs) are different. So if you can, try to test drive and see for yourself what works for you. Nothing can beat first-hand experience. If you can’t, ask a friend who’s got one. Either way, you can’t go wrong.
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The hd7 defender has an actual locking front diff. Check the parts diagram.