Tremendous value, super performance By the staff of Dirt Wheels
From the earliest introduction of the Can-Am Maverick X3 line, the byword has been” performance.” One year there was a normally aspirated model, but we never saw one. We have only experienced X3 versions with factory-installed turbos, and the lion’s share of those are intercooled turbos. In 2018 Can-Am started selling a lower-priced non-intercooled model simply called the X3 Turbo. That put it at 120 horsepower instead of the 172 ponies for the intercooled version. Now, Can-Am has the RR versions with a whopping 195 horsepower. When the X3 Turbo was introduced in 2018 it was priced at $19,999. And now, two years later, the 2020 X3 Turbo is $1,000 cheaper!
NOT BUDGET SUSPENSION
Just because the X3 Turbo is a base model doesn’t mean it is basic. By any standard, the base chassis and suspension are fully sport-capable. The front suspension was inspired by trophy trucks with large double A-arms. In the rear are massive trailing arms helped by three radius rods on each side. In addition to being 64 inches wide, the X3 has 2.5-inch Fox QS3 Podium shocks that have threaded preload collars for fine spring-preload adjustments, as well as three-position compression-damping adjustments. The three settings are easy to feel since each click makes a substantial change. The adjusters have knobs with a molded-in lever that makes adjustments by hand a breeze.
Together, the suspension arms and shocks deliver 20 inches of suspension travel, front and rear. Compared to some other popular designs, the X3 rear shocks are mounted closer to vertical, but the action is quite good. We see a lot of people driving X3s that are riding low. We felt that the machines were delivered with lower ride height than what was optimum. For 2020, all X3 models come from the factory with a little higher ride height, and the ride certainly feels improved. Even so, measure the ride height on your car when it is new, then monitor it as the suspension breaks in, or whenever you add weight with accessories. If you add larger tires, get the ride height back to the stock setting with preload or stiffer springs in some cases, then swap on the larger tires and take new reference measurements.
SO WHY IS THE PRICE SO GOOD?
An intercooler is basically a radiator system to cool and condense the incoming fuel and air charge. It makes a huge difference on turbocharged engines. The engine-management system has to be more conservative to deal with the hotter, less dense intake charge without the intercooler. The result is a turbo motor rated at 120 horsepower, but one that has less parts and plumbing, so it is easier—and thus less expensive—to build. Why build the same car as other X3s but with 50 (or 75) horsepower less? Well, Can-Am sells a model with the same specs but with 72 ponies, and it is $2,000 more.
WILL YOU MISS THE POWER?
As we toss numbers around, the differences sound like vast differences. For those with a significant dune addiction, one of the higher-horsepower models are certainly desirable. Most of the normally aspirated sport 1000cc UTVs out have around 110 horsepower. We must say that the difference between the 100-horsepower Can-Am Sport we tested recently, or a Honda Talon or Polaris RZR 1000 and the X3 Turbo, feels much greater than 10 or even 20 horsepower. We have a lot of time in our 2018 X3 Turbo, and then we spent a lot of time with Utah Off-Road Rentals & Guided Tours (www.utah
offroadtours.com). Their tour cars are 2-seat and 4-seat X3 Turbos. They have a lot of miles on them but still felt great, and with the general off-road driving we did, the power is fabulous. Tour owner Bill had no desire to allow renters more power than what’s on the X3 Turbo. Many of the rentals have four people in the X3 Turbo Max, and it has plenty of power for the task.
We have driven some really powerful Can-Am X3s, and they have survived the power just fine. The X3 Turbo is the same engine. Imagine how long it will last making less power! For this test we didn’t start with a new loaner but an “experienced” unit with 1,200 hard miles on the Can-Am demo tour. A car that has spent its life with a different driver every 30 minutes for eight hours a day when it is in use.
THE DRIVE EXPERIENCE
Even though the X3 Turbo is the lowest-priced X3 available, it is no base model. It has premium Maxxis tires, cast-aluminum wheels and doors. This is a good-looking machine with sleek, low profile like an off-road sports car. Open the quarter door and you sort of slide in and settle into comfortable, supportive seats. The cushions are on the firm side, but they feel good, and the bottom cushions are removable for cleaning. The seats are fairly reclined compared to other machines. In addition to fore and aft adjustments there are two mounting options for the front of the seat rails—the stock location and another 2 inches lower.
There are some handy in-cab storage options and cup holders. A comfortable steering wheel has a tilt function, and for the passenger side there are double “fear sticks.” When your passenger is scared, there is a vertical hold on the door and another on the console for the left hand. Can-Am delivers the machine with two smart keys. They pop over a nub on the dash, and then you push a start button to fire up the engine. One key is full performance, and the other has reduced power and top speed.
Can-Am equips the X3s with a three-cylinder, 900cc engine. It is smooth and revs easily with an engine sound that it significantly different from a twin. It pulls cleanly
but smoothly from low in the rpm range. All of the X3s from 120 to 195 horsepower have the smooth and easy low-rpm power delivery. As the rpm goes up, the power builds in a hurry. The difference is that the 195-horse RR models feel like switching to light speed when floored.
Things are not nearly so startling with the 120-horse X3 Turbo. It still makes serious acceleration when the rpm climbs. In our time with the X3 Turbo we had rocky, technical trails, steep climbs, open desert with whoops, and even sand dunes. It made plenty of power in all of those situations. For the technical trails and climbs we needed low range. The X3 low range is geared very low compared to most machines, and it works great for the tech areas.
On the mountain trails and in rocks in the desert, the suspension feel is crisp, and you feel the terrain surface. We spent time playing with the compression adjusters. Set on one, the action was clearly smoother over rocks and chop. We selected setting two for general trails, and we reserved the stiffest number-three setting for hammering through whoops at speed. You can find a setting for about any situation, and it is easy to feel the difference between the settings.
We had a Can-Am X3 X rc Turbo RR with 195 horsepower along, and our X3 Turbo never had much trouble hanging with the rc RR. If we had giant dune climbs and paddle tires, the difference would have been huge. We had whoops, rocks and ledges that prevented truly stretching the legs on the RR. The X3 Turbo may not run like the RR on top, but it easily grinds its way up hills and through rocks. The combination of the low gearing in low range and the smooth build of power as the rpm rise make the X3 Turbo a pleasure in technical driving. The difference in gearing between low range and high range is significant. We always shifted back to high as soon as we could. We dropped off ledges and stair-step rocks. The X3 looks a little low, but we rarely dragged the slippery plastic skid plate.
Can-Am built the X3 aiming at a good price with ample performance. At basically $19,000 the X3 Turbo offers monster performance for the price. It crushes any normally aspirated sport machine, and that includes those that cost significantly more. We have been driving cars with superb suspension, and for $10,000 to $14,000 more, you can get suspension that is smoother and more comfortable. For any car that comes with the Fox QS3 shocks, the X3 Turbo has suspension that is right in the ballpark. At no point did we find ourselves needing more power. Wanting more power? Sure. But not needing. All of the X3 models are happiest when pushed, and even the chassis is happier at a good pace. The X3 Turbo also works best when pushed, and that goes for both engine and suspension performance. Our X3 Turbo is a machine we would be more than happy to have in our own garage.
SPECS: CAN-AM MAVERICK X3 TURBO
Engine type 120-horsepower Rotax ACE liquid-cooled 900cc triple with turbo
Transmission Quick response system with CVT
Final drive Shaft
Fuel system EFI
Fuel capacity 10.5 gal.
Ground clearance .14.0”
Estimated dry weight 1481 lb.
Front Double A-arm w/ sway bar/20”
Rear 4-link trailing arm w/sway bar/20”
Front 28×9-14 Maxxis Bighorn 2.0
Rear 28×11-14 Maxxis Bighorn 2.0
Front Dual 262mm vented hydraulic disc with dual-piston calipers
Rear Dual 248mm vented hydraulic disc with dual-piston calipers
Bed capacity 200 lb.
Colors White, Can-Am Red, Hyper Silver & Can-Am Yellow