When the skies open up, the hard packed red clay of northern Georgia is rendered a tomato bisque. From experience it’s a sloppy and difficult mess to navigate. But I found one vehicle which you can rely on to ferry you, two close friends, and 1,000 pounds of your favorite cinder blocks across a forest. And on this particular deluge day, I was extremely happy for the Can Am Defender 6×6 Limited’s fully enclosed cab and particularly strong heater.
(Full Disclosure: Can Am invited me to the muddy forests of Dahlonega, Georgia to experience the Defender 6×6 Limited and Maverick X3 XRS Turbo RR. The company covered my travel and accommodations for the duration of this adventure.)
Human nature is to see a set of problems and move heaven and earth to solve them. I’m not sure exactly what problems a six-wheeled side-by-side solves, but dammit I’m going to go looking for them. In the Marvel universe, Tony Stark didn’t invent the ‘Hulk buster’ armor until the Hulk became a problem. Here in the real world, there’s no Hulk to be busted, but the Defender 6×6 could probably damn well do it. Stepping onboard this machine is akin to stepping inside a massive mech suit that can crawl over, around, or through just about any obstacle in the world. The problem with that feeling is that, as a squishy vulnerable human being, you begin to feel a little bit invincible.
Obviously I’ve had a lot of experiences in cars and motorcycles, both off-road and on, but none of that could have prepared me for a day of wheeling in high-powered compact machines. Ultimately I fell in love with the way that the six-wheeler pressed on regardless of what the weather threw at it. Unflappable, in a word.
There was a point at which our lead-follow group stopped along the trail and I was asked to go back about a quarter of a mile to pick up a stranded photographer getting soaked by the rain. Naturally, I jumped into action, trying to find a way to get this big beast turned around on a fairly narrow trail to head back the way I’d come. With high dirt berms on both sides, and a lengthy machine under me, I resigned myself to hundreds of fore-and-aft inches, like the hallway scene in Austin Powers. To my surprise, the back wheels just climbed straight up the hill behind me as I reversed until I was hanging on my seatbelt looking down at the ground below me. What could have been a twenty point turn ended up being just four or five.
I never really considered myself much of a side-by-side guy. I left my farming days behind me years ago, and I don’t do much hunting or fishing, or own large tracts of land. No, my only use for a machine like this would be to put it on a trailer, haul it out to a set of trails somewhere, unload it, and mess around with it for a day, or maybe a long weekend of camping. That kind of thing is a lot more palatable west, where the land is largely publicly held and you could feasibly get away with a mile or two of driving this on a street to get to the edge of your neighborhood that butts up against a thousand empty acres of desert. Where I am in northeast Ohio, it would take a couple of hours of hauling to get to some of the better trails, and honestly that just sounds like a huge pain.
I’m not much of an advocate for $30,000 weekend toys. I only really understand the value of a boat or a machine like this or a snowmobile if it can be used regularly enough to pay for itself. The Can Am has the added benefit of being a great tool, making easy work of hauling hay bale, firewood, or your entire buck season worth of venison. This particular Defender had the dump bed and 1000 pound payload, plus it’s a lot more nimble and narrower than your F150 King Ranch, so it’ll fit in a lot of places your big truck won’t.
It’s a lot of money to spend on a thing, but if you absolutely need it, then it makes a pretty great piece of equipment. With 82 horsepower and a weight of around 2300 pounds, I’ve definitely spent worse money on slower cars. If this thing were street legal, I could probably make a case for it as a modern, reliable, compact Unimog replacement. As it stands, this thing is best reserved for ranchers who need something smaller than a truck with similar utility to a truck, but for way less than a new truck.
This isn’t the hooligan machine that a Maverick X3 would be on the trail, but if you need to haul more than ass, this is your machine. Everyone who has ever ruined their SUV by putting big noisy tires, a lift kit, and a roof tent on it, should have blown their money on a $50 two-person tent, an aluminum utility trailer, and one of these. It’ll go farther, faster, and more fun than your 4Runner. I can guarantee you that.