UTV TEST: 2021 CAN-AM MAVERICK X3 MAX X RS TURBO RR SMART-SHOX
Large, in charge and brainy By the staff of Dirt Wheels
Can-Am’s Maverick X3 Max X rs Turbo RR Smart-Shox looks down at lesser machines from the very top of the Can-Am sport UTV model line. It may not actually be the highest-performing model, but it has the sheer size, speed and sublime capability in the fast rough that make it hard to ignore. All that while carrying up to four people in complete luxury. The four-seat 72-inch-wide flagship was truly groundbreaking when it arrived in 2017. It did more than raise the standard for four-seat sport UTVs, it also pushed the very definition with its width and monster wheelbase. For example, the Max is a whopping 16 inches longer than the Polaris RZR Turbo S four-seater and has a wheelbase 18 inches longer!
Now, five years on, ever-evolving technology has kept the aptly named “Max” the big man on dirt. Twice in the model run the power output has jumped, finally arriving at the present 195 horsepower for RR models. Suspension travel has remained the same as the original Max X rs, but nothing else has significantly eclipsed it. The suspension has improved, though, and never more so than with the new-for-2021 computerized Smart-Shox models.
Having the Smart-Shox technology remarkably elevates a UTV package that was already superb. There are other brands with suspension systems employing computer-adjustable Fox Live Valve shocks starting with Polaris and the Dynamix. Each of the brands does something a little differently. Polaris has the computerized features that reduce body roll and kick in after 20 mph, while Honda does not.
Polaris also has a feature that stiffens the front suspension when you hit the brakes, or in the case of the Pro XP with Dynamix, when you hit the red button on the steering wheel. Can-Am uses a different Live Valve shock featuring the DDA (Dynamic Damping Adjustment) valve. In the rear are monster Fox 3.0 Podium shocks with bypass, and the front employs 2.5 Podium shocks with bypass. That means that the shock bodies are a full 3 inches across in the rear and 2.5 inches in the front!
They are also bypass shocks. That means that the bodies have holes that allow shock free-bleed to be quite open at extension, but close off more as the shocks get deeper into the travel. As a result, damping gets much firmer as the shock nears full down travel, and the shock damping is speed-sensitive and position-sensitive. The Can-Am version of the Live Valve shock has the wires running into the bottom of the shock, so the DDA valve can adjust both the compression and rebound. Can-Am is the sole brand that has electronically adjustable rebound.
HOW IT HAPPENS
Nine different sensors measuring wheel position, direction and speed adjust the shock damping up to 200 times a second! The DDA electronic valves that adjust the suspension are claimed to be the fastest available. They can cycle from full soft to full stiff in just under two one-hundredths of a second. Smart-Shox relies heavily on input from wheel-travel sensors on all four wheels to determine what adjustments are made. The wheel sensors measure wheel position up and down, as well as the velocity of those movements. The brain of the system makes changes to each shock based on what is happening with that wheel. Adjustments are made almost instantly and on the fly.
The results—that you can feel—are reduced body roll and squat under acceleration. Traction is improved, as is stability while cornering. Weight transfer while braking is also reduced. The driver can make three manual adjustments via a switch on the dash, selecting Comfort, Sport or Sport +.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
When you purchase the X rs Turbo RR with Smart-Shox, you get all of Can-Am’s top features. Naturally, that begins with the engine. The RR designation means you get 195 horsepower. To build that power (up from the 172-horsepower R models) requires a new turbocharger that is built in-house rather than sourced from another supplier. Trust us, the jump from 172 to 195 horsepower is a big one.
Being a top-of-the-line model, the X rs is fully decked out. A few parts found on the RC models are not standard on the X rs, but the X rs Smart-Shox is the best equipped in total. That equipment includes the Smart-Lok front differential, 14-inch aluminum beadlock wheels, 30-inch Maxxis Bighorn 2.0 tires, retractable four-point harness with shoulder pads and an HMWPE heavy-duty full skid plate. It also has a full roof, X-package graphics and seats, and a keypad-controlled 7.6-inch digital display that includes a readout for the Smart-Shox system.
Early X3 X rs packages had a “square” tire setup with equal 30×10-14 tires all the way around. Now they come staggered with 30×9-14 tires in the front and 30×11-14s in the rear. Can-Am feels that the staggered tire selection allows the car to track better. The Bighorns aren’t the toughest or most flat-resistant tire out there, but they remain the standard for all-purpose traction at a weight that allows suspension systems to shine. While the tread edges are still sharp, they even work in sand dunes.
Since its introduction, we have spent relatively little time in the X3 Max X rs or any of the Can-Am X3 Max variations. And most of the time we did spend in it was in the sand dunes. The first thing you notice is that the interior of the Can-Am has a sports-car, laid-back feel to the seated and driving position. The same is true of the rear seats, and the front and rear legroom is most impressive. Buckle in and you will be using our favorite production seat belts. The retractable four-point units keep you secure without feeling trussed up.
With much of our Max time at the dunes, we did notice the room and comfort of the cab. With the long wheelbase, stability is obviously a prized handling trait. Still, in no way is the Max as playful as the two-seat X3. In the two-seat car, the X3’s remarkable turning overpowers any other sensation of the handling. Stretching the wheelbase to the limits mutes that feeling. You simply don’t toss the car into bends without thinking like you do the two-seater.
Push the car hard, and the Max is more prone to push the front wheels, and you certainly drag the undercarriage more often. It isn’t chronic or even a bother, but you feel the skid plate bump and bottom at times in deep whoops or when breaking over the edge of a sharp dune crest.
This time we tested the Max in Johnson Valley—the site of the famed King of the Hammers extreme race. The area has sand, silt, dirt and famous rocks gardens. Areas of whoops are large and deep but fairly round. Other routes have been used for racecourses, and the ruts can be deep and rough.
WHERE IT SHINES
We had a two-seat X rs Turbo RR Smart-Shox along, and it is an impressive car as well, but the suspension compliance cannot match the Max. When it comes to chop, loose rock washes or even whoops, the Max is in a league of its own. The difference is stunning. You look at the X3 Max and it looks long, and you might wonder how a UTV the length of a Ford Raptor pickup could be fun? Easy, find the right jobs for the tool. Stick with fast sections that are fast and flowy to see the best it has to offer.
We don’t want to say that the only place the Max is fun is in the fast rough. That is where it shines brightest. When you get to tight, technical or rocky trails, the long wheelbase allows the Max to span gaps and drops that flustered the two-seat cars we had along. One hill descent ended in a 5-foot ledge. The Max drove right over it with ease, while our two-seat cars teetered. When it came time to pick our way up or down tricky, tight and rough trails, we felt the length less than we did in the medium-fast twisties. The steering is nimble and quick. Low range is very low, and, in combination with the smooth power, it crawls well in the tight rough.
Remember, the main point of a four-seat Max is to take four people out for fun in comfort, and the Max Smart-Shox fulfills that destiny. We didn’t have four people for our test, but we had a passenger who is close to 6 feet tall. We had him spend time in the back: “The Max was like riding in a limo! It is so smooth. I couldn’t believe it when the driver told me how fast we were going in the whoops.”
Obviously, the long and wide platform is a huge part of the calm and easy feeling going fast in the rough. Can-Am’s tri-mode, high-torque Dynamic Power Steering (DPS) is another part of the puzzle. You can choose three levels of steering assist. We did not routinely change the settings while driving (as we did the Smart-Shox settings), but different drivers preferred different settings.
The powerful engine is another big part. Power builds smoothly with good control, and it never seems to end. That bottomless well of power means that mortals don’t run out of steam in the rough, and that forward drive keeps things calm. The first real impression you get driving the X3 Max X rs Turbo RR is that the gearing feels higher than some UTVs leaving a stop, but that goes away as soon as you are moving. Acceleration is brisk at first and breathtaking as the speeds and rpm climb.
If you crave speed and like to drive hard and fast, you cannot go wrong with the Maverick X3 Max X rs Turbo RR Smart-Shox. It devours the rough with ease and confidence. It actually likes pounding through fast rough. We feel safe in this machine, and it has our favorite four-point seat belts. You get a six-month warranty extendable to 30 months. Like all the cars with computerized suspension, the price is steep, but you can’t beat the comfort. The performance envelope for the suspension is huge with the ability to perform well across a wide range of conditions. The name of the Can-Am works; it is a “smart shock” how good this car is.
2021 CAN-AM X3 TURBO RR
Engine type 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 .16.0”
Estimated dry weight 1877 lb.
Front Double A-arm with sway bar and Fox 2.5 Podium piggyback shocks with bypass and Smart-Shox technology featuring DDA valve/22”
Rear 4-link trailing arm with sway bar and Fox 3.0 Podium remote reservoir shocks with bypass and Smart-Shox technology featuring
Front 30×9-14 Maxxis Bighorn 2.0
Rear 30×11-14 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 Triple Black, Desert Tan/Carbon Black/Can-Am Red
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