An X3 that rocks! By the staff of Dirt Wheels
When Can-Am introduced the Maverick X3 X rc Turbo R in 2018, it was an immediate sales success. Not only did it have that great 72-inch track width and long-travel suspension like the premium performance X3 X rs Turbo R, but it came stock with highly desirable features. For 2020, the model designation includes an “RR” that replaces the “R” of that 2018. The single R designates 172 horsepower and the double RR reveals that the 2020 has a whopping 195 horsepower! At the moment it is the most powerful serial-production sport UTV.
The “rc” in the model name stands for “rock crawler,” and some of those added features were specifically related to rock crawling and extreme trail work. Others are a bonus for any type of driving. In 2018 one of the biggest bonus features was having Can-Am’s then-new Smart-Lok—true, on-the-fly, front, full-lockable differential with electronically controlled automatic modes. A simple push-button selects preset settings for specific riding and trail conditions. Smart mode instantaneously engages locking when it senses it is needed. Can-Am has since equipped all performance models with the Smart-Lok front diff, but there are more than enough other reasons to look at the X rc whether or not you ever see a rock on your trails.
PRICE VS. VALUE
There are monetary and weight costs to the X rc package. Compared to the X rs, there is a $2,100 retail price difference, and the extra accessories impose a 184-pound weight penalty as well. Even though that price is near the top of current UTV prices, it is a good value. In addition to the 72-inch-wide track, the X3 X rc Turbo RR has that monster 195 horsepower, 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. That should be enough track width and suspension travel for just about anyone, and with the X rc, you get standard high-clearance arched lower front A-arms.
We have driven the X3 X rc Turbo RR in dunes (where the rock-oriented Maxxis Liberty tires are not happy), across open desert trails and, of course, experienced the rock crawling it is marketed for. Fortunately, it shares the same frame, engine and suspension performance of the Maverick X3 X rs Turbo RR. When the high-performance X3 X rs was new, nothing in the sport UTV world could touch it or top its standard 30-inch tires on 14-inch beadlock wheels. For 2020 the X3 X rc Turbo RR comes with even larger 32-inch tires on 15-inch beadlock wheels.
While most Can-Am X3s come with all-terrain Maxxis Bighorn tires, the X rc comes with specialized rock- and desert-oriented Maxxis Liberty tires. In addition to those 32-inch tires, the X3 X rs Turbo RR has bumpers, a winch, a trick raw-aluminum roof (instead of plastic on the RS), half doors (instead of quarter doors on the RS), cage front intrusion bars and UHMW plastic additions to the standard skid plate, including rock sliders, differential protection and front A-arm guards! Buying all of those commonly added accessories separately would add up to much more than the rs/rc price difference.
TRUE HERO POWER
The Rotax Ace 900 in-line triple engine was rated at 154 horsepower in 2017, but it jumped to 172 ponies in 2018, and now, for 2020, it is rated at 195 horsepower. To gain that power, Rotax manufactured its own turbo pistons for added reliability. Outside of the engine is a larger, Rotax-manufactured turbo, bigger intercooler and a better-breathing airbox to allow the new engine to build those crazy horsepower numbers. CVT calibration deals with the added performance and improves belt longevity. We piloted the car in warm temps, slow rocks and deep sand without any sounds of protest from the CVT or belt.
Our Maverick X3 X RC Turbo RR testing was in Southern California’s infamous Johnson Valley at the site of the famed King of the Hammers race, as well as at Utah’s Sand Hollow State Park. Contrary to popular belief, Johnson Valley is not solid rock, and Sand Hollow is not all sand, but has massive areas of technical red slick rock. Both areas had normal trails of dirt mixed with rock and sand dunes sections. We buckled into the familiar interior with firm but supportive seats and the unique four-point seat belts we like so much. Instead of a single retractable belt that pulls across the chest and waist, the RC has double retractable belts. One extends down over each shoulder. Sliding the center 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 much of the secure feeling of four-point harnesses but with much of the comfort and ease of use found with stock, retractable three-point belts.
Once you buckle in there are choices. The seat is fore and aft adjustable, and if you get out the tools, you have the option of dropping the front of the seat slider 2 inches. The steering wheel has a tilt to set, and there is a standard rear-view mirror to adjust. There are two encoded-for-theft-prevention “keys” molded from plastic that pop over a molded ball on the dash. One is full performance and the other limits top speed, horsepower and fun, but it is a hit with rental companies and parents. You can also select from three levels of assist you want from the electric power steering.
The key does not start the engine, but energizes the start button. A gated shifter lets you shift the Can-Am QRS-X CVT choosing between park, reverse, neutral, low or high.
We started our testing at Sand Hollow, where the sand is as about as fine and light as any we have driven in. With any tires, you have to use care on sand slopes. If you must start on a slope, you almost certainly sink and get stuck. That is even more likely with the small tread blocks on the X rc’s Maxxis Liberty tires. Fortunately, when you hit the classic red Utah slick rock, the tires get a lot happier. Despite the extreme wheel-travel numbers and the rock-crawling pedigree, the X rc RR’s center of gravity lets it change direction quickly and with confidence in the sand or other fast-running. Can-Am has dialed in the suspension on all of the X3 line to minimize body roll, but for 2020 the company has raised the ride height, and the suspension is more reactive and less crisp than in the past. Playing with tire air-pressure settings is important if you want the best ride in rocks and abrupt chop.
We have driven other rock-oriented UTVs that suffered in the fast rough, but you can push the X rc Turbo RR and its suspension hard when the terrain is rough and whooped. It stays calm and lets you worry about where you are heading. The caveat is that you need to be judicious with the gas pedal. Even in the dunes you need room to unleash all 195 horses. Even more restraint is required in the rough or on tight trails. You need to be able to see a long way before it is safe to mash the throttle and hold it down.
This model has great handling, good wheelbase numbers, a wide track and serious suspension travel. It isn’t that there are handling flaws, but at high rpm, the car gobbles terrain in a big hurry.
Low range is lower than most Polaris models, and perhaps, more importantly, the RC comes alive when it goes into low range. The control in rocks and slow technical trails is great. With the Smart-Loc front diff and the full UHMW skid plate and full protection, the X3 X rc is happy in the rocks. Between the new 32-inch tires and the 2020 suspension setting, the ground clearance is up from 15 to 16 inches, and it does have good clearance in the rough. We maneuvered some amazing boulders during the testing with no issues at all. We rarely abused that plastic undercarriage armor. When we did drag bottom, it was on ridiculous rocks. In every case, the slippery plastic skid plate let us slide right across.
Compared to the 2018 we tested, the 2020 costs roughly $500 more. For the money you get larger wheels and tires and, of course, 23 more horsepower. That is our kind of inflation. Don’t judge or ignore the X rc for having “rock crawler” in the name. After all, this is a mildly revised version of a do-it-all, wide-stance, long-travel off-road machine. It is simply fitted with better protection, a winch, and some very classy doors and nice roof. It is most suited for open trails, but Can-Am has a 64-inch X rc model with 120 horses if you crave tighter driving. Buy an extra set of wheels with paddle and mud tires and it will truly do it all.
SPECS: CAN-AM MAVERICK X3 X RC TURBO RR
Engine type Rotax ACE liquid-cooled 900cc triple with intercooled turbo
Transmission Quick Response System X (QRS-X) CVT with high airflow
Final drive Shaft
Fuel system EFI
Fuel capacity 10.5 gal
Ground clearance .16.0”
Estimated dry weight 1,811 lb.
Front Double arched A-arms with sway bar/22” travel w/ Fox 2.5 Podium RC2 piggyback with bypass, dual-speed compression and rebound adjustments
Rear 4-link torsional trailing arm X (TTX) with sway bar and arched lower links/24-in travel w/ Fox 3.0 Podium RC2 remote reservoir with bypass, dual-speed compression and rebound adjustments
Front 32×10-14 Maxxis Liberty
Rear 32×10-14 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.
Colors Carbon black and orange