It’s not often that we find ourselves backing off the throttle driving a side-by-side down a smooth, straight, wide-open desert road. But when the floating sensation started creeping into the steering wheel, our brain told our right foot to ease back a bit. That’s when we glanced at the speedometer of the ’17 Can-Am Maverick X3 Turbo R and saw 86 reading on the digital readout. Wow!
A few miles later, the speedo was hovering near 50 mph as Bruce Anderson, the head of Go Desert Off-Road Riding Tours and our guide for the group of Can-Am representatives and ATV scribes whom we were driving with, lead us through narrow sand-covered roads with plenty of whoops and tight turns. The very same roads desert racers run during the Baja 500 and 1000. Driving the ’17 Can-Am Maverick X3 Turbo R, which cranks out 154 hp from its turbocharged 900cc Rotax triple, is like driving a competition 4x4. When you roll into the throttle of the entry-level model, the mid-level DS, or the wide-track RS, the power surge is akin to that of nailing the throttle on a V-8–powered desert race buggy. It is incredibly fast for a side-by-side, accelerating from 0-60 mph in less than five seconds.
A Complete Package
The X3 also instills great driver confidence with a suspension that literally soaks up the biggest whoops, dips, and ruts, allowing the driver the ability to stay in complete control over terrain where earlier Mavericks and other competitor’s current side-by-sides would be at a distinct disadvantage.
Can-Am pairs the power with a suspension centered around Fox Podium shocks, which allow the driver to fine-tune the ride and handling where both ends have nearly 2 feet of travel. The travel and suspension tuning depends on the model. For example, the base X3 ($22,999) rides on 28-inch Maxxis Bighorn tires and Fox 2.5 Podium QS3 Piggyback shocks. The mid-level X3 DS ($24,999) gets shod with 29-inch Bighorns on beadlock wheels and come with 2.5 Podium RC2 piggybacks for even greater suspension control. Both models are 64 inches wide and tout 20 inches of suspension travel front and rear with 14 inches of clearance between skidplates and terra firma. The bad boy of the three is the top-level RS ($26,999), which runs 30-inch Bighorns, beadlock rims, and a beefier, 72-inch-wide suspension topped off with Fox 3.0 RC2s with the remote reservoirs mounted on the back bars of the X3’s rollcage. The wider track and longer shocks give the X3 RS 22 inches of front travel, 24 inches of travel in the rear, and 15 inches of ground clearance to really soak up high-speed desert runs or tackle the biggest, baddest dunes.
After spending two days and driving more than 300 miles across a wide range of Baja’s desert and mountain roads, the ’17 Maverick X3 Turbo Rs left us with a big grin. Although the interior of the new sport machine is more spartan than one finds in the high-end models offered by Polaris and Yamaha, Can-Am did their homework in the redesign. The rollcage of the X3 is fully welded to the chassis; it offers a ton of useable accessories; there’s zero turbo lag in the engine; the seats are one-piece, yet comfortable; the steering is quick; handling precise; the overall height is low; and ground clearance is abundant.
Put all that together with more power than the average side-by-side driver will ever be able to use to its fullest and you have a four-wheel-drive off-road machine that will never disappoint in bringing an immediate smile to the driver.
Make/Model: ’17 Can-Am Maverick X3
MSRP price range: $22,999-$26,999
Engine: 154hp turbocharged 900cc Rotax three-cyl
Wheelbase (in): 102
Track (in): 64 or 72
Height (in): 67
Ground clearance (in): 14-15
Shocks: Fox Podium Series
Drivetrain: QRS-X CVT, belt-driven, 2WD/4WD
Dry weight (lb): 1,585 (est)
Fuel capacity (gal): 10.5
Tires (in): 28-30 Maxxis Bighorn
Wheels (in): 14