More power, better handling and a meaner stance – that’s what Can-Am tasked its engineers with when developing the new Maverick X3 (staring at $22,999). But did they get it right? Can-Am put its money where its mouth is, inviting UTV media south of the border into Baja California to spend two long days behind the wheel, traversing some of the world’s most difficult terrain, including sections of the infamous Baja 1000 race course.

2017 Can-Am Maverick X3

Three Flavors, One X3

Because one option is never enough, the Maverick X3 arrives at Can-Am dealerships in three Turbo R configurations: base, X ds and X rs designations. Each is powered by an Austrian-built liquid-cooled Rotax 900cc four-stroke inline three. Dual overhead camshafts spin the four-valve-per-cylinder valvetrain, and the engine is force fed via an intercooled and Rotax-designed turbocharger (as opposed to the old turbo Maverick’s Mitsubishi-soured turbine). This engine was pulled from Rotax’s current power lineup and reconfigured to meet the demands of a high-performance UTV.

Positioned at the rear of the chassis, the triple mates to an upgraded two-speed (high/low, plus reverse) CVT-type transmission that puts power to either the rear or all four wheels. Like before, it features selectable four-wheel drive with a locked rear differential and an open proprietary Visco-Lok auto-locking front diff. Hardcore rock-crawler types might bemoan that there’s no manual lockout, but Can-Am’s setup is surely more foolproof. Four-wheel drive can be engaged or disengaged at the push of a rocker switch at any speed.

Engaging Four-Wheel Drive

Cross-drilled disc brakes on each cast-aluminum wheel keep speed in check and are linked hydraulically through trail-ready stainless-steel brake lines. Compared to the Maverick of old, the diameter of the rotors is nearly 20% larger up front and 15% bigger rearward, plus all four discs are pinched with twin-piston calipers now. In application, the brakes are vastly sharper, but not overkill, making the X3 even more capable during fast-paced drives.

A pair of bucket seats and three-point seatbelts secure driver and passenger inside the cockpit. Both seats offer fore or aft position adjustment (up to six inches). Furthermore, the seat can be unbolted and lowered an additional two inches, based on driver preference.

We preferred the lower setting; however, it does compromise driver line of sight, especially when steep inclines are encountered. The reduced CG pays dividends though, with the UTV feeling more sporty in the fast stuff. All told, in this position, the seats are eight inches lower than the previous 1000R. Added adjustability comes in the form of steering wheel tilt function with 25 degrees of adjustment range. After a six-hour stint in the saddle, our back did get a little achy, but it’s a minor gripe.

Can-Am Maverick X3 Interior

Inside the cabin, creature comforts are basic, with a small latching glove box (1.6-gallon capacity) and a pair of cup holders. There is some space behind the seats that can be used to store a thin backpack with bungee cords. Custom-fit storage options from Tusk are likely a better solution. For now, all X3s are two-seat only, but you can be sure the Canadians are working on a four-seat version.

Those looking for more amenities should take a peek at Can-Am’s extensive accessories catalog. Whether you’re looking for added protection for man, machine or both, or electronic upgrades, including an MTX Bluetooth-enabled stereo, Can-Am has you covered. And the best part is the accessories are backed with a one-year warranty.

Maverick X3

Model Differences

Where the X3s differ is in terms of suspension, wheels/tires and (for the X rs) track width.
Both the base and X ds models feature 20 inches of suspension travel fore and aft, with a more trail-friendly 64-inch wheel track. The X ds replaces the simpler, three-setting adjustable Fox shocks with a set of RC2s, adding independent compression and rebound damping adjustment. It also rolls on 14-inch aluminum beadlock wheels shod with slightly larger 29-inch Maxxis Bighorn 2.0 tires.

For those that avoid narrow trails and prefer blasting around the open desert, the X rs certainly looks tasty ($26,699). Featuring two feet of fully-adjustable rear suspension travel paired with 30-inch Maxxis rubber and an M1 Abrams tank-like 72-inch wheel track, the X rs is without question the most radical production UTV made today.

It’s essentially a 5/8-scale TT-Spec trophy truck in terms of performance, with one-fifth the price tag. And the best part? You can buy it today, off the dealership floor, and get your heart racing later that afternoon. It also comes in two special colorways (Triple Black and Gold & Can-Am Red) in case its meaner stance doesn’t get you enough attention.

Value-conscious drivers should opt for the 25-grand mid-grade X ds. If you enjoy driving in soft terrain, and prefer running low tire pressures, the beadlock wheels will certainly come in handy – as will the RC-spec shocks, especially if you like to tinker and desire the ability to tweak the machine’s handling.

For us though, cash is king, and having a couple thousand bucks to spend on things like a Tusk LED Light Bar or spare tire carrier are more important. Wisely, Can-Am lets you decide with a wide array of accessories, including the aluminum roof that our base model was outfitted with.

2017 Can-Am Maverick X3 Turbo R

Enough Already, What’s It Like to Drive?

On paper, it was obvious that the Turbo R was going to be an open-desert killer. But where it really impresses is in its versatility. From slow(er) speed and tight trails to moderate rock crawling and (of course) the aforementioned wide-open terrain, the Can-Am tackles it all with ease.

Much of the credit goes to the X3’s well-tuned three-cylinder powertrain. Simply put, the turbocharged engine is perfectly suited to the demands of sport UTV driving. It produces instantaneous boost off idle, equating to an absurdly wide powerband that American, and now Japanese, brands dream of.

Maverick X3 at the Dunes

With the gas pedal mashed to the floor, the Maverick leaps off the line, rushing toward its 87-mph-governed top speed like no other UTV we’ve driven. Can-Am says that the engine’s good for 154 horsepower (7500 rpm) and 113 lb-ft of torque (7000 rpm) at the crankshaft, netting a sub-five-second zero-to-60-mph time (on pavement) – and based on our seat of the pants, we don’t doubt its claim.

The X3 pulls hard at any speed, with no lag or flat spots through its rpm range – the engine is always spooled up and ready to rip. A push-button-activated Sport map sharpens throttle response slightly and was preferred to the standard ECO setting. We didn’t get a chance to measure if there’s any savings in terms of fuel consumption. Another plus: the engine and intercooler emit much less heat around the cab than the previous V-twin-powered version.

Maverick X3 Speed

About the Transmission

CVT-type transmissions are the weak link in some sport applications, but the upgraded QRS-X design (Quick Response System) will make you think twice about the setup. To enhance durability, engineers fitted a fatter drive belt on the wider three-roller pulley system. Airflow was also increased via two dedicated air intakes behind the cabin to further withstand wear. In the event of a belt failure, the transmission cover is readily accessible behind the driver side rear wheel.

(Can-Am recommends extending belt life by avoiding excessive full-throttle start/stops as well as proper belt break-in – see owner’s manual for details.)

Maverick X3 in Water

Simplicity and manufacturing cost are the real benefit of a CVT, and in application, it performs well on the Maverick X3. Slide the gated shifter into “H,” hit the gas and let the transmission do the work.

Considering how hard the X3 accelerates, plus the sheer focus it demands to drive at speed, it’s nice not having to work a manual gearbox. For the occasion you’re maneuvering across super steep terrain, or perhaps pulling a heavy load, the low-range “L” shift position helps tackle the tough stuff at lower speeds.

Can-Am Maverick X3 Shifting

There’s no mistaking the sweet sound of an inline three – especially when it’s turbocharged. Problem is, at times, excessive drone noise from the CVT detracts from the blissful melody of that triple. And while Can-Am says the CVT is tougher than ever, the fact of the matter is you’re going to have to replace the belt every so often. True, more aftermarket heavy-duty belts exist, but what we’d really like to see is the fitment of an automotive-style dual-clutch automatic transmission, which surely some company has to be working on…

What’s the Same from the Turbo 1000R

The same mixed analog/digital dash display from the original Maverick Turbo 1000R carries over to the X3. Swept needle-style tach and speedometer are sandwiched outside of a large digital readout (also displaying both vehicle and engine speed, only digitally). A fuel gauge keeps tabs on the 10.5-gallon fuel tank, and there’s a coolant temperature readout also. There are hour, odometer and trip meter functions. Overall, it functions well, so it’s no wonder engineers left it alone.

Can-Am Maverick X3 Dash

Push-button electric start carries over, and just like most new autos, the X3 employs a keyless ignition fob that must be inside the vehicle for it to start. For most, the electronic fob can be handy – that is, until you lose it or it’s flung out the vehicle in an accident. Call us old school, but we’d rather have the simplicity of a conventional lock and turn metal ignition key.

Maverick X3 Handling

No doubt the engine gets our blood pumping; however, it’s the X3’s handling that really triggers elevated levels of euphoria. Behind the wheel, the UTV feels a tad looser compared to its pure sport competition. Yet, we wouldn’t deem that a bad thing. In fact, even in base trim, it’s astounding how adept the chassis is across rough terrain, feeling balanced and giving the driver a positive sense of control.

Can-Am Maverick X3

Even though steering can’t be termed “pinpoint,” the UTV goes where told and is easy to place where you need it on the trail. Obviously, the copious amount of wheel-spinning engine torque paired with the always-locked rear end adds control – allowing the driver to oversteer almost on command. Conversely, understeer is manageable, equating to a chassis that’s categorized very much as a “driver’s machine.” The three-way adjustable power assist steering is another nice touch. We preferred the minimum setting in the fast stuff and the maximum setting during slow-speed driving across deep sand.

In two-wheel drive, over SoCal/desert-style hard pack dirt, the X3 can certainly be a handful. Thankfully, added control is quite literally a flip of a switch away with it considerably more manageable when power goes to all the wheels. At speed, bump steer through the sway bar-equipped double A-arms is almost nonexistent, and the chassis’ stability through whoops gives stretched, four-seat UTVs a run for their money. As usual, the Maxxis Bighorns perform well, even with dull knobs. Equally as impressive is how much abuse they can handle through most every type of terrain you’re likely to encounter on the trail.

Maxxis Bighorn 2.0 Tires

Still, the X3’s chassis has a fair degree of pitch on the throttle and on the brakes. Once you get acclimated to its see-saw character, it actually makes it more thrilling to drive – as if you’re in control of a $100,000-plus TT-spec trophy truck. The super-long-travel X rs exaggerates this feeling.

Despite limited shock adjustment on the base Turbo R (three-way compression damping), we never felt like it limited handling. In fact, the stock suspenders are so overbuilt, we didn’t hit any obstacles hard enough to G-out the chassis or cause any hint of discomfort in our spine. It truly feels like you’re floating over terrain (in a good way). Obviously, racers, or those seeking an X3 for more than recreational use, will appreciate the extra tunability of the up-spec X ds and X rs, but we didn’t miss it.

If you’ve never driven a side-by-side that’s truly “wowed” you, then test drive Can-Am’s latest Maverick. Buckle your seat belt, smash the gas pedal and have fun – it’s that easy. It’s a rig that can rip gigantic sand dunes like Glamis, blitz forest trails and handle its own across rocks. For 23 grand, you get a lot of machine for your money and a more versatile offering than others in its class, and it’s owners of these other UTVs who are the type of customers Can-Am’s going to win over with the X3.

Can-Am Maverick X3 on the Trail

Overview

High:

  • The fastest production UTV on the trail
  • Balanced suspension with monstrous travel
  • A blast to drive

Lows:

  • Transmission belt requires routine replacement
  • Fit and finish could be better
  • CVT is noisy inside the cabin

2017 Can-Am Maverick X3 Turbo R Specifications

2017 Can-Am Maverick X3
Model Maverick X3
Maverick X3 White
Maverick X3 X ds
Maverick X3 X ds
Maverick X3 X rs
Maverick X3 X rs
Engine
Type 154 hp, Rotax ACE (Advanced Combustion Efficiency) 900 cc Turbocharged inline three, 12-valve, DOHC, liquid cooled with integrated intercooler and Donaldson high-performance air filter
Bore x Stroke 74 x 67.9 mm
Compression Ratio 9.1:1
Fuel Delivery System Intelligent Throttle Control (iTC™) with Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI)
Transmission Quick Response System X (QRS-X) CVT with high airflow,
L / H / N / R / P
Drive Train Selectable 2WD / 4WD with Visco-Lok X auto-locking front differential
Power Steering Tri-Mode Dynamic Power Steering (DPS™)
Suspension
Front Suspension Double A-arm with sway bar 20 in. (50.8 cm) travel Trophy truck inspired Double A-arm with sway bar 22 in. (55.9 cm) travel
Front Shocks FOX 2.5 PODIUM Piggyback with QS3 three-way compression adjustment FOX 2.5 PODIUM RC2 Piggyback with dual speed compression and rebound adjustments FOX 2.5 PODIUM RC2 Piggyback with bypass, dual speed compression and rebound adjustments
Rear Suspension 4-link Torsional Trailing-arm X (TTX) with sway bar 20 in. (50.8 cm) travel 4-link Torsional Trailing-arm X (TTX) with sway bar 24 in. (61 cm) travel
Rear Shocks FOX 2.5 PODIUM Piggyback with QS3 three-way compression adjustment and bottom-out control FOX 2.5 PODIUM RC2 Piggyback with dual speed compression, rebound adjustments and bottom-out control FOX 3.0 PODIUM RC2 remote reservoir with bypass, dual speed compression and rebound adjustments
Brakes
Front Dual 262 mm ventilated disc brakes with hydraulic Nissin twin-piston calipers w/ABS
Rear Dual 248 mm ventilated disc brakes with hydraulic twin-piston calipers
Tires / Wheels
Front Tires 28 x 9 x 14 in.
(71.1 x 22.9 x 35.6 cm)
29 x 9 x 14 in.
(73.7 x 22.9 x 35.6 cm)
30 x 10 x 14 in.
(76.2 x 25.4 x 35.6 cm)
Rear Tires 28 x 11 x 14 in.
(71.1 x 27.9 x 35.6 cm)
29 x 11 x 14 in.
(73.7 x 27.9 x 35.6 cm)
30 x 10 x 14 in.
(76.2 x 25.4 x 35.6 cm)
Tire Brand Maxxis Bighorn 2.0
Wheels 14-in. (35.6 cm)
Wheel Type Cast Aluminum Aluminum Beadlock
Dimensions / Capacities
L x W x H 131 x 64 x 66 in. (332.7 x 162.5 x 167.6 cm) 132 x 72 x 67 in. (335.3 x 182.9 x 170.2 cm)
Wheelbase 102 in. (259.1 cm)
Ground Clearance 14 in. (35.6 cm) 15 in. (38.1 cm)
Estimated Dry Weight 1,470 lbs. (666.9 kg) 1,490 lbs. (675.9 kg) 1,585 lbs. (718.9 kg)
Cage / Chassis Dual-phase 980 steel, fully welded
Rack Capacity 200 lbs. (91 kg) with LinQ™ quick-attach
Total Storage Capacity 2.5 gal (9.4 L)
Glove Box Storage 1.6 gal (6.2 L)
Center Console Storage 0.8 gal (2.8 L)
Cup Holders Storage 0.1 gal (0.4 L)
Fuel Capacity 10.5 gal (40 L)
Features
Gauge Multifunction Analog / Digital: Speedometer, tachometer, odometer, trip and hour meters, fuel, gear position, sport / ECO™ mode, seat belt and 4 x 4 indicator, diagnostics, clock, auto shut off
Winch N/A
Bumper Integrated front bumper
Skid Plate Full High Molecular Weight (HMW) skid plate Heavy-duty full High Molecular Weight (HMW) skid plate
Doors Quarter-doors
Roof N/A Full roof
Instrumentation Lighter type DC outlet in central console
Lighting LED headlights and tail lights with unique Can-Am LED signature
Anti-theft System RF Digitally Encoded Security System (D.E.S.S.™) with Start/Stop button
Other
Color White Triple Black
Circuit Yellow
Triple Black
Gold & Can-Am Red
Factory Warranty Six months, unlimited miles
Extended Warranty Up to 30 months B.E.S.T. coverage
Starting US MSRP $22,999 $24,999 $26,699

By Adam Waheed, Contributing Editor
Photos by Wayne Davis

Maverick X3 on the Beach