Testing the hottest X3

By the staff of Dirt Wheels —


When it comes to Can-Am’s Maverick X3 line, criticisms we make of the performance are truly nit-picking. In spite of the stellar performance of the X3 line, the AWD system is one area where the competition has an edge. Of course, that was before the X3 RC models arrived. Both of the RCs are specially equipped X3s designed to handle all technical trail situations including rock crawling. Can-Am’s Smart-Lok, true on-the-fly, front fully lockable differential with electronically controlled automatic modes is the star of this edition of the X3. A simple push-button selects preset settings for specific riding and trail conditions. Smart mode instantaneously engages locking when it senses it is needed. We found the Smart-Lok differential to be very natural while driving. Smart-Lok doesn’t necessarily totally lock the differential, so you don’t always face the reluctant steering that is common with a locked diff. Smart-Lok was developed in conjunction with drive-train specialists Team Industries.

We have seen lots of X3 X rc Turbo Rs in the dunes shod with paddle tires. That is about as far from rock crawling as off-road gets. Fortunately, the X rc has the same basic frame, engine and suspension performance of the Maverick X3 X rs Turbo R. When the king-of-the-line X3 X rs was introduced, nothing in the sport UTV world could touch the 72-inch-wide machine with 30-inch tires and 24 inches of rear-wheel travel. Like our X rc, the X rs features an ultralight, rigid chassis claimed to have 53 percent better torsional stiffness and a 20-percent weight advantage over the competition.

Maxxis Liberty hard-terrain tires aren’t the best for sand, but we had fun anyway. Our machine was running 28 psi for the high-speed rocks to avoid flats, and that compromised sand traction and ride comfort.


There are costs to the RC package; compared to the X rs, there is a $2100 retail price difference, and the extra accessories impose a 160-pound weight penalty as well. Even though that price is at the upper end of the UTV price range, it nevertheless is good value for the money. Remember that the X3 X rc Turbo R already has a 72-inch-wide track, 24 inches of rear-wheel travel and Fox 2.5 Podium RC2 piggyback reservoir shocks with bypass, dual-speed compression, and rebound adjustments in the front and Fox 3.0 Podium RC2 remote reservoir shocks in the rear. Very few people will feel the need for more width or travel, and with the X rc, you get high-clearance, arched, lower front A-arms standard.

A 172-horsepower, Rotax, in-line triple engine is also standard, and at the moment, that remains the most power of any serial-production sport UTV. Can-Am’s Maverick X3 X rs Turbo R already has a great level of standard equipment and features like retractable four-point seat belts and 30-inch Maxxis tires on beadlock rims. While the X rs has all-terrain Bighorns, the X rc comes with more rock- and desert-oriented Liberty tires.

Can-Am made the X3 interior extremely sporty in both looks and feel. It sits more like a sports car than a typical UTV. Legroom is ample for tall drivers.


For the additional cost, you gain that Smart-Lok differential, bumpers, a winch, a trick aluminum roof (instead of plastic on the X rs), half doors (instead of quarter doors on the RS), intrusion bars for the front cage opening and a full UHMW plastic skid plate, including rock sliders, differential protection and front A-arm guards! Buying all of those commonly added accessories adds up to much more than the X rs/rc price difference.

A lot of the features of the X3 X rc are perfectly effective for rock crawling but not necessarily limited to slick rock. One example is that 4500-pound-rated winch with synthetic rope. Sure, it could help in rocky conditions, but it would be every bit as effective in mud and woods. The same could be said for the long travel and wide stance. Sure, they are great for the cambers common in the rocks, but are equally vital in the dunes, the desert and for other open terrain.

With the blue and aluminum highlights added to the X3 X rc Turbo R, it is a very attractive machine. It is easy to pick one out in a crowd.


Our Maverick X3 X rc Turbo R testing was in Southern California’s infamous Johnson Valley at the site of the famed King of the Hammers race. Contrary to popular belief, the entire place is not solid rock. We buckled into the comfortable and familiar interior with supportive seats and the unique four-point seat belts. Instead of a single retractable belt that pulls across the chest and waist, the X rc has double retractable belts. One extends down over each shoulder. Sliding the centered buckle together attaches all four belts. The feeling is comfortable, since like any retractable belt, you can move slowly, but they lock tight when you move quickly. You have the secure feeling of four-point harnesses but with much of the comfort and ease of use found with stock retractable belts.

When you buckle in, there are choices to make. Get the seat position right, establish the steering-wheel tilt you like, choose the performance key (usually) and select the steering assist level you want. We like the minimum assist when we drive. Adjust the standard rear-view mirror. The plastic plug-in key is coded for theft prevention, but it does not start the engine; instead, it energizes the start button. Like most CVT-equipped machines, the X3 requires a foot on the brake to start.

A gated shifter lets you shift the Can-Am QRS-X CVT, choosing between park, reverse, neutral, low or high. We have yet to suffer any belt problems with an X3.



Select high range and four-wheel drive, step on the throttle, and the X3 moves away easily with good throttle control. Power in the lower rpm ranges is softer and smoother than a Polaris Turbo, but it loves it as the engine rpm and turbo boost spool up. Between Johnson Valley’s rock sections are regular desert trails that are sandier than most, and they are loaded with whoops and G-outs. Some of the non-rock hills are basically sand dunes, but with the packed base, they seem steeper than most dune faces.

Can-Am’s 72-inch-wide stance and long-travel suspension are impressive in whoops and during general desert driving. Despite the travel numbers, the car has a low center of gravity that allows it to change direction quickly and with confidence. Can-Am has dialed in the suspension on all of the X3 line to minimize body roll. As a result, the suspension action feels crisp. Maxxis Liberty eight-ply tires enhance that feeling. Playing with air-pressure settings is critical to getting the best ride in abrupt chop and rocks.


You would think that a car set up for rock crawling would suffer in the fast rough, but you can push this car and its suspension hard when the terrain is rough and whooped. It stays calm and lets you worry about where you are heading. Keep things reasonable, and the car jumps easily and lands softly. We try to keep landings on downslopes to give the suspension a fighting chance.



Low range is lower than most Polaris models, and with the Smart-Lok front diff and the full UHMW skid plate and full protection, the X3 rc is happy in the rocks. We spent a good deal of our testing time trying to discover the limits in boulders, but this car is very capable. Even though the X3 looks a little low like all versions of this machine, we rarely had to utilize the plastic skid plate. When we did drag bottom, it was across truly nasty rocks. Nevertheless, the slippery plastic skid plate let us slide right across and keep on going.

We would like more low-rpm power out of the 900cc triple, but it rips when the rpm spools up. Reliability has been very good for us as well.



We fear that trail drivers might discount the X3 rc’s since they don’t concentrate on rock crawling. The truth is, the X3 X rc Turbo R is the most all-around-capable Maverick in the line-up for serious open trail use. Obviously, the width will hamper it in the woods, but for open terrain, it rocks whether there are rocks or not. It works best when driven hard in the open in terms of both engine and suspension performance. This is an excellent pure-performance machine.


Engine Rotax ACE liquid-cooled 900cc triple with intercooled turbo

Displacement 900cc

Transmission Quick Response System X (QRS-X) CVT with high airflow

Final drive Shaft

Fuel system EFI

Fuel capacity 10.5 gal

Length/width/height 133″/72″/67″

Ground clearance .15.0″

Wheelbase 102″

Estimated dry weight 1,751 lb.

Suspension/wheel travel:

  Front Double arched A-arms with sway bar/22″ travel

  Rear 4-link torsional Trailing-arm X (TTX) with sway bar and arched lower links/24″ travel


  Front 30×10-14 Maxxis Liberty

  Rear 30×10-14 Maxxis Liberty


  Front Dual 262mm vented hydraulic disc with dual-piston calipers

  Rear Dual 248mm vented hydraulic disc with dual-piston calipers

Bed capacity 200 lb.

Towing N/A

Colors Carbon Black and Octane Blue

Price $28,999


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