The Canadian off-road vehicle maker Can-Am, which claims the top spot in the side-by-side sector with its Defender range, went on tour recently to show its machines NZ-wide.
So its launch of a sport/utility side-by-side called Defender had the opposition hoping it wouldn't be very good; alas it set a new benchmark.
Designed with input from users of such vehicles in New Zealand and Australia, the Defender is built around three tenets: tough, dependable and clever.
Designers and engineers spent a lot of time developing, testing and understanding farm users' must-haves – things as simple as somewhere to put staples during a fencing job, or somewhere for the dog to sit when the cargo tray is loaded.
'Tough' sees the use of proven V-Twin Rotax engines pushing out 50 or 72hp and said to have 20% more torque than its main competitors' engines. It has a tough chassis with 10 inches of suspension movement at each corner and 11 inches of ground clearance. The Pro-Torq transmission uses larger CVT ratios for a quick response, has a work-specific low gear for arduous jobs, electronic belt protection for overload, and an integral engine braking system for safety.
'Capable' sees the Defender achieving best-in-class towing, hauling and carrying statistics: towing capacity is 907kgs, the cargo bed is rated at 454kg and the payload is 680kg – scope for a load plus a couple of passengers.
The 4WD comes in 2x4, 4x4 and with the combination of an open or locked rear differential, allowing the driver to configure the vehicle for the ground conditions at hand. A claim to best turning circle in class (13 feet) is said to beat the sector's top selling competitor by a full 2 feet. An option of dynamic power steering eases tight turning.
'Clever' means a versatile cargo box with the lin-Q quick-attach system, tie downs and anchor points, plus a simple design detail in the structure of the body with pre-moulded rebates that accept dividers to create dedicated storage areas.
Storage in the cab includes a dashboard with cubbyholes on the upper surface, shelves and ledges below and the option of a removable carry box under the passenger seats. Without the carry box in position the seats flip up to allow a flat area for the farm dog.
The cab area is roomy, helped by a front roll frame designed to be 'pushed' forward to aid entry and exit and remove the risk of tall operators bumping heads on frames – often seen on more conventional layouts.
The maker thought hard about cost of ownership, resulting in a rear mounted engine accessed by simply tipping the cargo bed. Service interval is 200 hours or 3000km and warranty is three years and unlimited kilometres.
The NZ manager for BRP NZ, Richard Shaw, speaking on a dairy farm near Karaka, said the company had held competitive training days that had highlighted the daily uses and demands of side-by-sides on farms.
The Defender showed the best performance towing a loaded meal trailer, the best slow speed following of a herd coming to milking, the tightest turning circle and the lowest noise levels.
It also scored highly in offering space for man's best friend, and in having a master key to limit the machine's performance for inexperienced users or to achieve the best economy onfarm.