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Polaris Ranger Northstar vs CanAm Defender Limited (Read 34 times)
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Polaris Ranger Northstar vs CanAm Defender Limited
04/26/21 at 20:13:09
 
I would like to see more people post product reviews on this web site.  And since there haven't been any in a while, I'll post another...

    I owned a 2020 Ranger Northstar, and now own a 2021 Defender Limited. My father also owns a 2020 Ranger Northstar. I put 1000 miles on the Ranger Northstar, and have so far put 200 miles on the Defender limited, which were/are used in the Rocky Mountains. They are both good machines, and both have good and bad qualities. I decided to break this down into 10 separate categories, with 10 possible points in each category. Maximum score would be a perfect 100 points. If both machines are tied in a category they both get 5 points. If one machine is 1 point better in a given category, the other machine gets one point less in that category. For example, if a machine gets 6 points in a given category, the other machine would get 4 points, because there are only 4 points left in that category. Here goes ...

Power: The Ranger feels like it has more power and accelerates quicker. Both have good torque, but the Defender has slightly more torque. Both are good in this category, but the win goes to Polaris, with a score of 6, which gives the Can Am a score of 4.

Gearing / ease of shifting transmission / clutching: The Ranger does poorly in this category because of an extremely notchy, catchy, difficult to shift transmission lever. It is also very easy to burn the belt on the Ranger. Just backing up the ramp into our toy hauler will produce smoke and a burnt rubber smell if you aren't careful. No problems in this area with the Defender. Clutch engagement and gearing feel better, and shifting is much much easier. The win goes to Can-Am with a score of 7, which gives the Polaris a score of 3.

Suspension: The Ranger is slightly more plush over low speed rocky terrain, but the Can Am has better suspension at anything over a very slow pace. The Can Am feels more balanced, and overall has a noticeably better suspension. This was a surprise to me. My father and I went exploring today, and we traded off between driving the Can Am and the Polaris several times, because my father wanted to see what the Can Am was like. After having owned a Ranger and a Defender, and after driving each machine back to back for 10 miles at a time, twice, today, I give the win in this category to Can Am, with a score of 6/4.

Handling: The capability of the Ranger's suspension is easy to exceed if the terrain gets rough and speeds are moderate or above. This makes it start to sway and wallow, and require lots of steering correction. The Defender wins the handling category with a score of 6/4.

4x4 capability: I give them a tie in this category, with a score of 5/5. Having said that, I am not a fan of the Polaris 4-wheel drive system that requires the rear tires to slip in order for the front tires to pull, and keep slipping in order for the front tires to continue to pull.

Cab Interior: The quality and comfort of the seats is much better in the Defender Limited vs the Northstar Ultimate. The appearance of the dash, the switches, door liners, and roof liner are better on the Can Am. The cab on the Defender is also much more roomy feeling than the Ranger, mainly because the windshield is at least 6" farther forward in the Defender, which gives the whole interior a more open and roomy feel. This one was an easy win for Can Am, with a score of 7/3.

Noise/Harmonics/Vibration: Engine noise is pretty close to the same, with the Defender being just slightly quieter. But the Polaris has significantly more vibrations, squeaks, and rattles. Can Am wins with a 6/4 score.

Quality of components: I am talking about all the parts that go into making the machine. The frame, a-arm mounts, a-arms, shock mounts, bumper, quality of plastics, etc. The black plastic on the doors and roof of the Ranger is quite susceptible to being brush scratched, and looks poor after just a few rides on narrow trails. The black plastic on the roof and doors of the Defender is much tougher and so far has not been scratched, despite some pretty bad scraping by tree branches. Can Am wins this category with a score of 6/4.

Fit & finish: This category was a tough one.  Most every part on these machines is put together better on the Can Am, but the fit of the door against the cab on the Can Am is quite poor, whereas the Polaris does not  have this problem.  And if you are going to buy a UTV with a cab, the fit of the doors is important.  I'm going to give the win in this category to Polaris, with a score of 6/4, which was a surprise.

Price: They're pretty much the same, so a tie in this category 5/5.

Overall score is Can Am 56, and Polaris 44. I personally am more satisfied with my Defender Limited than I was with my Northstar. I think it is a better built and better performing machine.

Here is a picture from today's ride:

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Re: Polaris Ranger Northstar vs CanAm Defender Lim
Reply #1 - 04/26/21 at 20:23:33
 
Interesting point after looking at that picture after I put it on the computer yesterday.  I went and measured the width of the Polaris Northstar vs the Defender Limited with my tape measure.  They are both listed as having a width of 65" on their manufacturers web sites. The Can Am, at 66.5" wide, is two inches wider than the Polaris.  The Can Am has stock wheels and tires, and the Polaris has stock offset and stock width aftermarket wheels, but tires that are actually wider than stock.  If both were in stock form the Can Am would be 2 1/2" wider than the Polaris.  This likely accounts for much of the improvement noticed in suspension and handling.
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Re: Polaris Ranger Northstar vs CanAm Defender Lim
Reply #2 - 04/27/21 at 15:09:03
 
Excellent review.

In terms of the steering feedback you mentioned, ANY additional offset over the factory will cause more feedback, and the amount gets larger in a hurry.  I have 1" extra offset on my ATV (with power steering), and the steering feedback it causes is pretty intense.
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