SHOOTOUT: Can-Am Turbo Maverick 1000 vs. Polaris Desert Edition RZR XP 1000

There’s a war going on between two companies located high up in North America—Can-Am and longtime rival Polaris. Both have great products—from their entry-level ATVs all the way up to the flagship high-performance UTVs. Although this isn’t the largest segment of business for these two companies, with a small customer base primarily in the southwestern part of the United States, these machines get the most attention.

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In places like California, Arizona and Nevada, you can’t drive five miles on the highway without seeing one on a trailer on its way to a hopup shop or headed out for a weekend of fun. These high-powered, 1000cc machines need room to stretch and can reach speeds over 80 mph. In fact, both of our shootout contestants, the Polaris RZR XP 1000 Desert Edition and the Can-Am Maverick X ds Turbo, top out at 82 mph. Something in their clutch and electrical systems limit their top speed. They are capable of going even faster. Each machine goes about getting to that impressive number a little differently.

Can-Am uses a 976cc V-twin engine outfitted with a tiny turbocharger, together producing 121 horsepower at 6 pounds of boost. On the V-twin, a single overhead cam for each cylinder opens four valves that flow fuel in through a single throttle body while exiting through dual exhaust pipes. Polaris uses a parallel twin-cylinder engine with dual overhead cams and four valves per cylinder. Fuel flows in through individual throttle bodies and exits the combustion chambers through separate exhaust pipes but get directed into one large automotive-style muffler. The naturally aspirated 999cc Polaris engine produces 110 horsepower.

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HOW IS THE POWER?
Turbochargers have not been the norm for off-road machines for good reason. They have been known to produce explosive power that was not very controllable unless traction was abundant. However, the target market for these machines is the duner and in the sand dunes, especially when using paddle tires there is plenty of traction. In a head-to-head drag race on smooth sand, the Maverick Turbo cannot be beat by any other stock UTV. On flat ground or up steep hills, the Maverick will beat any stock RZR anywhere from two to five car lengths every time. It’s like that on pavement or real tacky dirt too. The Maverick has instant, explosive power that pushes the driver’s back into the seat. To say it’s a thrill ride is an understatement.

On the other hand, if you can say a 1000cc engine is mellow, then the RZR has a mellow powerplant, comparably speaking. It comes on smooth and builds very linear power. When you get to loose terrain, the smooth power is much more manageable. You can stomp the throttle, and the machine doesn’t want to step out on you and rockets straight forward. Controllable throttle modulation in and especially out of the corners is where the Polaris shines. Whatever your brain is telling your foot to do, the RZR listens and reacts perfectly. Never are you driving it and wonder why something unexpected just happened.

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When you drive mid-throttle in the Maverick, the engine thinks full throttle and spins the tires. Power is like a light switch—from half throttle to wide open, you have to hang on for the ride. For our drier, slippery conditions, we corrected this a little by installing taller, wider and heavier STI tires on all four corners in our project Maverick feature a few months ago.

Since this was the first time we have put the Turbo Maverick up against a RZR XP 1000, we wanted to keep it close to stock and used stock tires. However, those eight-ply STI Roctane tires or the eight-ply GBC tires that come on the Desert Edition RZR would both be welcome additions to this machine in our minds.

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SUSPENSION
This battle between giants is not only a horsepower war, but a battle in handling, comfort and overall performance. To achieve that, suspension travel and adjustability are key. Both machines have great wheel-travel numbers, with the XP 1000 just edging out the Maverick by 1 inch up front and 2 inches in the rear. The Maverick’s 15 inches of movement up front and 16 inches out back are controlled by a set of fully adjustable Fox shocks. The RZR is equipped with fully adjustable Walker Evans suspension. Although great products, we found weaknesses in both setups.

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On the Polaris, it feels as if they just took a set of shocks off of a standard RZR XP 1000 and slapped them on the Desert Edition and called it good. That would be fine, but the added weight and leverage of the wider beadlock-equipped wheels and taller 30-inch tires make the machine feel soft. The extra 50 pounds of the spare tire, mount and storage box contribute to this feeling as well. Just by adding stiffer upper springs or a crossover ring on the rear shocks would help immensely. This way, the stiffer lower spring would come into play sooner, reducing body roll. We would also add some compression damping to the front shocks.

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The Maverick has a similar problem with the rear suspension. Even though the shocks in the rear offer 16 inches of travel, the initial ride height is way too low. When parked, the Maverick only has about 6 inches of travel left in the shock, and under acceleration that number gets cut in half. So when you hit a bump, the rear of the Maverick bottoms out very quick and tends to kick uncomfortably. Furthermore, when you tighten the springs to bring the ride height up, the rear gets even squirrelier than before. At slower speeds with good traction, the problem isn’t so bad, and that may be why woods racers on the GNCC circuit are having so much success with the Maverick. On the downside, our test unit has completely worn out its rear A-arm bushings in under 200 miles, causing some shaking and knocking in the rear end. The Can-Am hop-up experts at Turnkey UTV have a replacement set of Delron bushings that fix this problem. Ultimately, the Maverick needs longer shocks, higher shock mounts and better bushing material for the A-arm pick-up points. When they designed this rear end, they concentrated so much on keeping the rear end aligned with the rear tie rods but must not have found the front of the A-arms loosening up in their testing. Although this rear dual-A-arm set up may be stronger (and heavier), it’s the machine’s performance weak point. We wish they would bring back their trailing-arm rear suspension system found on the Commander and Outlander lines.

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EXTRAS
Some of you might be disgusted at the $27,999 sticker price of the RZR Desert Edition. However, the extra price does make sense if you are interested in mods like a GPS, upgraded seats, full-coverage doors, and wheels and tires. If you break it down, a dash-mounted GPS is at least $700 from Lowrance; full-coverage doors are $600; five 8-ply, 30-inch tires mounted on beadlock wheels will set you back more than $1600; and good seats are a minimum of $300 each, and with five-point harnesses they will fetch another $200 a pair. Just those add-ons alone will cost a minimum of $3500 on the street. Add on the spare tire carrier ($150), a storage box ($300), roof ($200), a thick skid plate ($400), front bumper ($200) and light bar ($500) and this machine should retail for $30,000.

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Since we like the way the RZR Desert Edition is accessorized, we did similar upgrades to our Maverick Turbo, which retails for $22,999. On top, we installed a $300 Assault Industries roof and $700 Vision X light bar. To close in the cabin, we went with a pair of $650 Turnkey UTV doors, as well as a $180 seatbelt harness bar. Out back we installed a $680 spare tire carrier and bumper combo. For this article we put the $250 STI Roctane tires mounted on HD5 beadlock wheels. There was no need to replace the stock seats in the Maverick, as they are ultra comfortable and even accept four- or fivepoint harnesses very well. For more creature comforts, we installed one convex rear-view mirror and two side mirrors ($280) from Assault Industries. Not to be outdone by the Polaris Desert Edition model, we installed BRP’s $650 accessory GPS unit in the Maverick’s dash. The cool thing about this unit versus the one in the Polaris is that you can actually remove it from the vehicle and use it for items like geocaching, trail mapping or take it with you in another machine. When not docked in the Maverick, the GPS unit gets its power via three AA batteries and is totally self-sufficient. What we don’t like about the Polaris GPS unit is that you can’t even use it with the key turned on. And when you start the machine, the GPS has to be restarted, which is a pain. Another issue is seeing out of the back of the RZR; the spare tire blocks your view when turning around. A set of those Assault Industries mirrors would be a welcome addition to this machine for sure. The list of Can-Am upgrades increases the price tag an extra $4000.

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When comparing the Vision X light bar to the standard light bar on the RZR, which is also made by Vision X, we like them both equally. The lights on the Can-Am have a more focused beam toward the center of the trail, and the lights on the Desert Edition have a shorter but more broader field of illumination. We were very happy with both.

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CONCLUSION
The $30,000 question is, who wins this battle? For pure excitement, you have to give the award to the turbo-powered Maverick X ds. Stab the throttle and it gives both the driver and passenger an exhilarating ride. Do not take your eyes off the trail in this baby, because things go by at warp speed. The driver has to be on his toes to drive this machine to its limit. The steering is tight, and the back end follows very quickly. Suspension action is great in almost every situation, but the rear shock setup needs improvement.

While the Desert Edition might not be the first RZR customers would choose, as this group of buyers likes to customize their machines themselves, Polaris did a fantastic job coming up with a machine that we would build ourselves. For casual trail exploring, the Desert Edition is perfect. It has awesome traction, a very comfortable seat, a cool digital display (GPS), and a spare tire we wish every machine had. A slight upgrade to all four shocks would make it perfect.

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2015
POLARIS RZR XP 2015 CAN-AM MAVERICK
DESERT EDITION X DS TURBO
Engine………………………..DOHC, 8-valve,…………….SOHC, 8-valve, turbocharged,
parallel twin V-twin
Displacement……………..999cc……………………………..976cc
Bore x stroke……………….93mm x 73.5mm……………91mm x 75mm
Fuel system…………………Dual 48mm EFI……………..54mm EFI throttle body
throttle body
Fuel capacity……………..9.5 gal……………………………10 gal.
Starting system…………..Electric………………………….Electric
Final drive………………….Shaft……………………………..Shaft
Suspension/wheel travel:
Front………………………….Double A-arms w/ 16″…..Double A-arm w/ 15″
Rear………………………….Trailing arms w/ 18″……..Trailing A-arms w/ 16″
Tires:
Front………………………….GBC Mongrel 30×10-15…Maxxis Bighorn 2.0, 28x9x14
Rear………………………….GBC Mongrel 30×10-15…Maxxis Bighorn 2.0, 28x11x14
Brakes:
Front………………………….Dual hydraulic discs…….Dual hydraulic discs
Rear………………………….Dual hydraulic discs…….Dual hydraulic discs
Wheelbase………………….90″………………………………….88″
Length/width/height…..123.5″/64″/76″………………….117.3″/64″/74.2″
Ground clearance………13″………………………………….13″
Total bed capacity……..300 lb…………………………….200 lb.
Claimed dry weight……1,651 lb………………………….1,399 lb.
Colors………………………….Blue……………………………….Black, white
MSRP………………………….$27,999…………………………..$22,999
Contact……………………….www.polaris.com…………www.canamoffroad.com

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