UTV TEST: 2022 CAN-AM MAVERICK X3 DS TURBO

120 horsepower never felt so fast By the staff of Dirt Wheels

On some machines going up 2 inches in tire size would compromise low range. That is not true of the Can-Am Maverick X3 DS Turbo. It has an effective low range.

With the Can-Am Maverick X3 line, the Canadian company has never shied away from high performance. Staying with the same basic 900cc, three-cylinder Rotax engine with an inter-cooled turbocharger. Horsepower output for the top-line models has gradually risen to 172, then 195 and now 200 for 2022.

At the opposite end of the scale, in 2018 Can-Am started selling a budget-priced non-inter-cooled model. It is called the X3 DS Turbo in 2022. Losing the intercooler puts the DS at 120 horsepower instead of the 200 ponies for the inter-cooled DS RR version. Can-Am rates the DS Turbo at 120 horsepower, but it feels like more ponies than that.
When the X3 Turbo was introduced in 2018, it was priced at $19,999. Four years later the 2022 X3 Turbo with all the current upgraded chassis changes is $500 more at $20,499! The 120-horsepower X3 DS Turbo Max four-seater is $23,999. Both X3 DS Turbos are impressive packages for the money. Still, Can-Am makes it difficult to resist upgading from the base model DS Turbo. Jumping to the 200-horsepower X3 DS RR is only $2500 more at $22,999. That is a large power upgrade for that much money.

NOT BUDGET SUSPENSION

Even though the X3 DS Turbo is the most basic X3 model doesn’t mean it is stripped down. It received the same significant and welcome chassis changes that all 2022 X3 models did. Some of the 2022 upgrades are improved components, but the frame and roll-cage changes are the very building blocks of the machine with 30-percent-thicker tubing for a claimed 14-percent-more torsional rigidity (resistance to twisting) in the chassis. In the rear the frame is tied together with a more significant steel plate, and the radius rods have double-shear mounts where they attach at both ends. The bottom radius rod is thicker and stronger to resist damage.

The trophy truck-inspired front suspension has double A-arms and a sway bar. Unfortunately, none of the 64-inch X3s get the stronger front A-arms that are standard for the 2022 72-inch X3s. In the rear are trailing arms located accurately by three radius rods on each side. The X3 DS Turbo features 2.5-inch Fox QS3 Podium piggyback shocks that have threaded spring preload collars for fine ride-height adjustments, as well as foolproof three-position compression damping adjustments. With three settings, each click makes a noticeable difference in suspension action. The adjusters have a molded-in lever that makes adjustment quick and easy without tools.

The suspension delivers 20 inches of travel front and rear. Compared to some other popular designs, the X3 rear shocks are mounted closer to vertical, but the action is good. We see a lot of people driving X3s that are riding low. In 2020, all X3 models came from the factory with a little higher ride height, and the ride certainly improved. When your X3 is new, pick front and rear points and measure the ride height on your car. Monitor the ride height as the suspension breaks in, or whenever you add weight with accessories. Before you add larger tires, get the ride height back to the stock setting with preload or stiffer springs, then install the new tires. Take new reference measurements.

Can-Am’s Maverick X3 has a relatively long wheelbase for the class. We found that welcome for descents and for climbs. This is a calm and composed machine.

UPGRADED COMPONENTS

The last time we tested an X3 Turbo 120-horsepower car, it came with 28×9-14 Maxxis Bighorn 2.0 tires in the front and 28×11-14s in the rear. For 2022 the X3 DS Turbo comes with matching 30×10-14 Maxxis Carnivore 8-ply tires on all four corners. This is a significant step up, and we appreciate the difference. We have no explanation, but there is no claimed difference in ground clearance or total vehicle height in the specifications. They are the same as they were in 2020.

All X3 RRs with the 200-horsepower engine got the new pDrive clutch for 2022, but the 120-horsepower versions did not. In spite of having an older clutch set-up, we were quite happy with how well the CVT hooked up and shifted for us. The DS Turbo will get the new clutch for 2023.

All X3s are now fitted with the Smart-Lok front differential. This sophisticated front differential was originally found only on the RC models. It has taken a few years to spread to every X3. It obviously allows switching between 2WD and 4WD, plus front differential lock. In addition, there are two computerized modes—4WD Trail Activ and 4WD Trail. Smart-Lok has greatly improved Can-Am’s 4WD and crawling capability.

HOW THE PRICE STAYS LOW

An intercooler is a precision radiator that cools and condenses the incoming fuel and air charge. It makes a huge performance difference on turbocharged engines. The engine-management system must be conservative without the intercooler. The result is the same 900cc engine as the high-powered X3s rated at 120 horsepower, but one that has less parts and plumbing, so it is not as expensive to build.

Claimed ground clearance remains the same, but in action we clearly felt an improvement. We didn’t worry about drops off ledges any longer. 

DO YOU NEED 200 HORSEPOWER?

The answer to this question was different when we were comparing the 120-horsepower X3 to the 172-horsepower version. Sure, there was a significant difference, but outside the dunes you barely notice. Now that the RR models are putting out 200 horsepower, there isn’t any risk that you could confuse the two. Any X3 with the 200-horsepower engine package is a power monster.

Pricing on the DS Turbo puts it in direct sales competition with normally aspirated 1000cc sport UTVs. Performance between the DS Turbo and normally aspirated 1000cc machines is a different story. The DS Turbo has a significant advantage compared to NA 900–1000cc engines. It feels much stronger on top. A Polaris RZR 1000 has far more snap at low rpm than the X3 DS Turbo, but it goes flat right when the Rotax ACE 900 engine starts to breathe. The difference feels greater than 10 or even 20 horsepower. We had a lot of time in our 2018 X3 Turbo, and then we spent a few more days with Utah Off-Road Rentals’ (www.utahoffroadtours.com) X3 Turbo and Turbo Max cars.

For general off-road driving, the performance is fabulous in either the two-seat or the Max version. If you are a regular in the fast desert or a dedicated dune goon, you will be pleased you dug $2500 out of the couch cushions for the RR, but for most folks and riding areas, the 120-horsepower engine is more than fine.

BUILT TOUGH

Rotax built the ACE 900 to handle a lot of power, so the 120-horsepower version should live a good, long life. Like our last few X3 Turbo test drives, we didn’t start with a new loaner but an “experienced” unit with over 1000 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. Each of the demo fleet X3 Turbo cars we have spent time in felt fresh and worked well despite many hard miles. That was true of this 2022 version we tested as well.

Can-Am’s molded plastic seat design minimizes upholstery but provides plenty of support and comfort. Both the seats are fore and aft adjustable for passenger comfort.

THE DRIVE EXPERIENCE

As we noted earlier, despite the X3 DS Turbo being the lowest-priced X3 available, it is no base model. That is truer in 2022 than ever before. Now that it comes with 30-inch Maxxis Carnivore tires on cast-aluminum wheels, the feel is much improved compared to when it came with 28-inch tires. It is a better-looking machine, but more important, the ride quality is up in all conditions despite similar suspension travel and components as past models. We feel the new frame upgrades as crisp, more accurate handling and stability, and calm direction changes at speed.

When you hit the throttle pedal the engine responds quickly and energetically, thanks to the clean and quick upshifting and despite the larger tires, the DS Turbo is geared plenty low in low range to find terrain that will test the 4WD capability. There is no contest compared to the 2018 that we lived with. Having Smart-Lok makes all the difference in technical, poor traction conditions.

INSIDE JOB

The original styling from 2017 is largely intact, yet the X3 remains a modern-looking machine with racy lines. It has a sleek, low profile like an off-road sports car. Open the quarter door, and you sort of slide in. Tall drivers may scrape helmets on the cage entering the cabin.

Once inside you rest on 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 reclined compared to other popular sport UTVs. Both seats have ample adjustment forwards and backwards, and legroom is generous. There are two mounting options for the front of the seat rails—the stock location and another 2 inches lower, but that requires tools.

an-Am Maverick X3 DS
When you find some sand to rearrange, the X3 DS Turbo has ample power for the job. The new 30-inch Maxxis Carnivores are a big help as well. They have an aggressive tread design.

GETTING MOVING

Can-Am’s three-cylinder, 900cc engine is smooth and revs easily with an engine sound that is much different than other engine types in the class. It pulls cleanly but smoothly from low in the rpm range. As the rpm go up, the fun happens quickly.

That transition to high rpm is not startling with the 120 horse X3 DS Turbo. It still accelerates hard when the revs climb. Rough, slow trails and climbs required low range, but mostly to save the belt. It has enough torque in high, but there is no reason to torture the belt. Low range is geared very low compared to most machines, and it works great for the tech areas.

On relatively slow mountain trails and over rocks and chop in the open, the suspension feel is crisp, and you feel the terrain surface. With the Fox QS3 shock adjusters set on one, the action was the smoothest. We selected setting two for the rear shocks on normal trails, and we let comfort decide whether we stayed with setting one or two in the front. The stiffest number-three setting is for hammering through whoops at speed or for control in sand dunes. It is easy to feel the difference between the settings.

an-Am Maverick X3 DS
Tilt wheel, gauges that move with the wheel for visibility and a dash layout that makes sense all help the interior work for and with you while driving.

MORE RIDE

We had a Can-Am X3 DS Turbo RR with 200 horsepower along, and we didn’t feel left behind during our testing. In big dunes where the RR could stretch its legs it might have been a different story. If we faced giant dune climbs or had paddle tires, the power gap would have been amplified. We had rough country that prevented winding up the RR.

The DS Turbo 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 early as feasible.

As we dropped off ledges and stair-step rocks, we gave thanks for the taller 30-inch tires. They help, and we rarely dragged the slippery plastic skid plate.

The Fox Podium QS3 shocks have a large adjustment lever to make selecting one of the three damping settings a snap. You must exit the car and adjust each shock.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Can-Am built this X3 aiming at normally aspirated sport UTVs but offering turbocharged performance. It worked, and the X3 DS Turbo offers monster performance for the price. It outdoes normally aspirated sport machines, and that includes those that cost significantly more. No car in this price range has suspension performance that is appreciably better, and nothing has better overall engine performance. Did we want more power? You know better than to ask. Did we find a point where we were getting left or couldn’t handle a route for lack of power? Not ever. All X3 models are happiest when pushing an aggressive pace, and the DS Turbo engine and chassis are best when the driver is a little aggressive. This car is one that we have seriously considered spending our own money on.

an-Am Maverick X3 DS

CAN-AM MAVERICK X3 DS TURBO

Engine type 120 horsepower Rotax ACE liquid-cooled 900cc triple with turbo

Displacement 900cc

Transmission Quick response system X CVT

Final drive Shaft

Fuel system EFI

Fuel capacity 10.5 gal

Length/width/height 132”/64”/65.4”

Ground clearance 14.0”

Wheelbase 102”

Estimated dry weight 1546 lb.

Suspension/wheel travel:

Front Double A-arm w/ sway bar & Fox 2.5 Podium piggyback QS3 shocks/20”

Rear 4-link trailing arm w/ sway bar and Fox 2.5 Podium piggyback with QS3 compression adjustment and bottom-out control/20”

Tires:

Front 30×10-14 Maxxis Carnivore

Rear 30×10-14 Maxxis Carnivore

Brakes:

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 Octane Blue, Can-Am Red, Desert Tan And Carbon Black

Price $20,499

Contact www.can-amoffroad.com

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