Resetting the bar By the staff of Dirt Wheels
Things have been progressing steadily in the world of sport UTVs. The machines at the pointed end of the class have been stepping up in suspension, overall machine size and power. The changes have been consistent and the landscape has been ever-changing, but there have been few bombs dropped—until now. Rumors have hinted that Can-Am had something new in the works, but with the 2017 Maverick X3 X rs Turbo R, Can-Am has reenacted Hiroshima. Can-Am hasn’t inched the class standards ahead, but made a leap into new territory. When it was BC (before Can-Am’s X3), the longest sport UTV two-seater with the most suspension travel was the Arctic Cat Wildcat, sporting a wheelbase of 95 inches and 18 inches of rear wheel travel with 17 inches of front wheel travel. The X3 X rs Turbo R has a 102-inch wheelbase and 22 inches of front wheel travel and a whopping 24 inches of rear wheel travel! Plus, the ’Cat is 64 inches wide and the X3 X rs Turbo R is 72 inches wide with 30-inch tires!
Even the least expensive X3, the $22,999 X3 Turbo R, is 64 inches wide with 20 inches of travel. Never has a sport UTV looked so much like an off-road race car. And, in fact, Can-Am admits that the front suspension was inspired by Trophy Trucks. More than a few off-roaders wondered out loud if the Can-Am was just a race buggy. To answer that question, we compared the X3 with a Class 10 off-road race car. The Class 10 is usually a two-seater, but it is 86 inches wide with a 117-inch wheelbase. It also weighs 700 pounds more than the Can-Am, and prices start at $98,000. Obviously, UTVs are still affordable in the world of off-road racing, and the Maverick X3 is a UTV and not a car.
With all this talk of suspension and other chassis numbers, you might think there is no news in the engine bay, but you would be wrong. For the X3 line, Can-Am set aside the V-twin and went for an inter-cooled, turbo, 900cc three-cylinder with 156 horsepower controlled by Can-Am’s Intelligent Throttle Control (iTC) throttle-by-wire system. With iTC, if the driver’s foot is bouncing around, the system filters the input to smooth the response. Performance can be further smoothed by selecting eco mode rather than the standard sport setting. As a bonus, you gain fuel economy to stretch the 10.5-gallon capacity across more miles. There are also two different ignition keys. One allows the full wrath of the turbo motor, while the other mellows things out. The mellow key is for the kids and friends you can’t trust with all the available fun. The keys are digitally encoded for theft prevention.
MORE GOOD THINGS
The existing Maverick chassis could not easily be a home for the three-cylinder engine, and it was not in a position to stretch to a larger size with longer suspension travel, either. Can-Am opted for a new, light and strong frame. One of Can-Am’s strengths has been comfortable interior spaces, and the company aimed for a low seated position. When you climb aboard the X3 you will marvel at the interior comfort. The one-piece molded seats slide front to rear 6 inches without tools, and with tools they have a height range that varies 2 inches.
The seat cushions are removable for easy cleaning, and they boast mudproof supports. This is a very nice interior with a lot of seat comfort. Adjusting the seats is smooth and easy. You don’t drag the seats kicking and screaming to a new position. There is ample room for drivers over 6 feet tall. And, there are nice passenger grab bars and angled footrests for the driver and passenger.
PUTTING IT TOGETHER
Can-Am introduced the X3 line at its Orlando dealer convention with an atmosphere like a rock concert in a rodeo arena. There wasn’t much room to show off the X3, but they were driven in the arena by rally and drift star Ken Block and off-road truck racer BJ Baldwin. The next morning we had a very brief period to drive the machine on a track laid out on the lawn at the hotel and convention center. It was a valiant effort, with jumps, banked turns and rhythm sections built on top of the grass with dirt and sand. Five hours of rain the day before turned the test course into slippery pudding. Between the slop and the guided-tour nature of the limited drive time, it was difficult to get more than an impression; however, the Maverick X3 made a very good first impression.
The cockpit was an immediate winner, and we settled in almost instantly. The car fired quickly and ran with no hesitation at all. The engine character of the triple is vastly different than the torquey V-twin. The triple has no tendency to jump or lunge at initial throttle openings. Power is easily modulated, and it builds steadily with rpm. There is no hitch from telltale turbo lag and no jolts of power, either—just a lot of power that grows into a lot more as the rpm rise.
We had little room to stretch the engine’s legs, and when we did wind it up, we had to drop the anchors hard for the next turn. Where there wasn’t complete slop the steering felt fine, but it pushed when the black base slime was mixed in with sand. Having 30-inch Maxxis Bighorn 2.0 tires helps the X3 roll across small bumps and through the dips between jumps. There were a few spots we could get the car in the air, and it shrugged off the modest landings with no issues. The suspension feels active and a bit loose in the mud, but also very plush. At one point there were two jumps in a row, and we noticed that the UHMW skid plate dragged hard on the jump faces, but while we saw that while shooting photos, we didn’t feel it inside the car.
Some simple math would have let us know that would happen. The X3 X rs Turbo R has 24/22 inches of wheel travel and 15 inches of ground clearance. Slam it hard and something will touch earth. Our feeling is that this suspension will be extremely comfortable to ride on our western trails.
The roof helped, but the three-quarter doors and no windshield allowed a lot of mud to reach us inside the cabin. We had no problem modulating the power for the slippery conditions. We could give the other cars room at one point and stand on the throttle hard. Acceleration is most impressive, and we never approached the top speed on tap.
Despite the 72-inch width, we used cation slamming into the deep, well-rutted corners. With such long travel and active suspension, the X3 doesn’t feel as untippable as a car this wide with 18 inches of wheel travel would. All too soon our drive time was over, and eager dealers were lined up for a shot in the driver’s seat.
Even without a back-to-back comparison, it is easy to see that the X3 is a substantial upgrade on the existing Maverick Turbo. Can-Am has certainly erased any horsepower disparity it might have had compared to the Polaris RZR Turbo, but this chassis and suspension will have every manufacturer evaluating suspension and chassis parameters. It would have been extremely impressive if all three of the X3 models had 20 inches of wheel travel. The X3 eclipses any production machine in the class, and opting for 2 feet of rear suspension travel is an explosive leap. We can’t wait for the chance to get some real seat time to see the Maverick X3’s true capabilities.
CAN-AM MAVERICK X3 X RS TURBO R
Engine Rotax Ace liquid-cooled 900cc triple w/ inter-cooled turbo
Transmission Quick response system X CVT
Final drive Shaft
Fuel system EFI
Fuel capacity 10.5 gal
Ground clearance .15.0”
Estimated dry weight 1585 lb.
Front Double A-arm w/ sway bar/ 22”
Rear Four-link trailing arm w/ sway bar/24”
Front 30×10-14 Maxxis Bighorn 2.0
Rear 30×10-14 Maxxis Bighorn 2.0
Front Dual 262mm vented hydraulic disc w/ dual-piston calipers
Rear Dual 248mm vented hydraulic disc w/ dual-piston calipers
Bed capacity 200 lb.
Towing capacity N/A
Colors Triple Black, gold, Can-Am Red