UTV TEST: 2018 CAN-AM MAVERICK X3 X RS TURBO R
Back with more power! By the staff of Dirt Wheels, Photos by Casey Kramer and Pat Carrigan
When it comes to new models, we always hope for the unexpected. For Can-Am in 2018, the unexpected would be major changes for the Maverick X3 platform that was radically new in 2017. Considering the X3 was not even an early 2017 release, we expected—and were correct— only minor updates to the successful Maverick X3 line. The ink was barely dry on 2017 Can-Am X3 advertising when Polaris dropped the 2017 RZR XP Turbo and upstaged the X3’s horsepower rating with a claimed 168 ponies. We didn’t figure that Can-Am would let that go unanswered.
Basically, the only changes to the 2018 Maverick X3 X rs Turbo R are updates to the intercooler and fuel pump to make the engine more efficient. In this case, “efficient” adds up to 172 horsepower with no internal engine changes. After a year, the X3 chassis and suspension system is proven, and no company has even attempted to step up and match the suspension numbers of the base models with 20 inches of travel front and rear. Of course, that means that nothing is close to the X rs model with 24 inches of travel in the rear and 22 inches in the front. Throw in that 72-inch track width and stock 30-inch tires and you have a serious weapon for areas that have the fast (and wide) conditions to let it thrive.
ONE MORE CHANGE
The final 2018 update applies only to the long-travel, 72-inch X rs machines. They will come stock with retractable, four-point, harness-type seat belts. The belts give the security you want in a car this capable at speed, yet remain easy and quick to use. For the four-seat Max models, the new belts will only be in the front seats.
Even the least expensive X3, the $19,999 X3 Turbo, is 64 inches wide with 20 inches of travel. No other sport UTV looks so much like an off-road race car. Can-Am admits that the front suspension was inspired by Trophy Trucks, and in the first year of production, the X3 has proven itself to be a grand starting point for a racer. Naturally, for the wide-open west, the best starting point is the 72-inch X rs.
Now that we have more experience with the 900cc Rotax Ace three-cylinder engine, we know that the engine is tough. We have driven several examples with turbo and injector mods that push the power far above the 172 horsepower that the 2018 claims, so it should handle the power just fine. Power delivery and response in the upper half of the rpm range is snappy and impressive, with brutal acceleration that throws you back in the comfortable seats. In the lower half of the rev range the delivery is soft. It works fine in most cases, but it doesn’t have the torquey, instant snap of the Polaris RZR XP Turbo.
There are some harmonic buzzes that can be distracting as well, but the engine is definitely fast, and the power delivery suits the chassis’ character.
We have remained impressed with the 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 the fuel-miserly Eco mode, but we haven’t met anyone who has used it. There are two different ignition keys. The mellow key lets you relax a little if somebody else is driving your X3, and the other key is for you to have fun with. Both keys are digitally encoded to aid theft prevention.
Can-Am’s frame design makes for a profile that looks low, sleek and racy. Climbing in can be a little tight, but once inside, the comfortable interior spaces are very inviting with ample legroom for taller drivers. Can-Am aimed for a low seated position. The molded seats slide front to rear 6 inches without tools, and with tools, they have a height range that varies 2 inches. The seats are already low enough to make it harder than we like to see from inside the car. We wouldn’t want to drop the seats any lower.
The seat cushions are removable for easy cleaning. When the car is new, the seats adjust easily, but (like some other brands) after some time in the dirt, the seats don’t slide as easily. There is plenty of room for drivers over 6 feet tall, and we like the passenger grab bars and angled footrests for the driver and passenger.
ALL ABOUT THE WHOLE PACKAGE
We spent time with the new X3 in giant truck whoops in the desert, we rallied through washes and on desert trails, and we even had fun with some rock crawling. Finally, we hit the sand dunes to get a good feel for the new machine. Compared to machines from the big “P,” the X3 feels like it is lower in general with a lower center of gravity. As a result of that feel and the wide and amply suspended chassis, the Can-Am feels great on fast roads, washes and in the dunes. There is little body roll, and the car corners like crazy at speed.
The same is true when the terrain is rough and whooped where you push the suspension hard. When you are rolling slow over rocks or roots, the sporty suspension setting feels crisp, and you feel a fair amount of the terrain surface. For technical driving, the low seating makes cresting blind hills a thrill. The same is true in the dunes.
Jumping the Can-Am is a pleasure as well. As we said, any time you are aggressive and driving hard, it works great. Suspension experts are telling us that the X3s are delivered with the machine riding a little low, and that you could adjust the suspension to lift the car at least an inch compared to stock, and that is if you haven’t added a lot of weight in accessories.
Most people will never have a problem with the AWD capability of the X rs, but when we were rock crawling, we felt more comfortable approaching steps and ledges with enough speed to get a guaranteed bounce to help us up and over. With other brands, we’d feel comfortable simply driving up slowly and crawling over.
We like the aggressive, futuristic look of the X3, but when you do get it in the slop, it can be a little harder to get clean than we expected.
Can-Am’s changes to the intercooler and fuel pump have certainly juiced the high-rpm power up. You feel that in any drag race or when you stomp the throttle. There is little or no difference in the lower rpm range where we would have liked more snap or more meat to the power. This machine encourages you to drive it hard and fast, so our minor issues with slow-speed visibility and imperfect AWD front-wheel traction are somewhat insignificant for the use most will put this machine through. The basic package is excellent; it gained 20-ish horsepower and the price stayed the same. That makes it a winner in our book.
CAN-AM MAVERICK X3 X RS TURBO R
Engine Rotax Ace, liquid-cooled, 900cc triple with intercooled 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 4-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.
Colors Triple Black, gold and Can-Am Red