For a long time, Polaris ruled the powerhouse sport UTV roost with the RZR lineup. Can-am stepped up with the Maverick line and the two companies jockeyed for position as the premier powerhouse producer. One would make a bold statement and the other would answer. As enthusiasts, it was fun to see how one would try to out-do the other. And then, everything changed. We heard rumblings and rumors of something new coming that would mark a major shift coming from Can-Am. Of course, that was the Maverick X3. While the RZR and Maverick were always similar, the Maverick X3 was a major departure.
The X3 machines have impressive horsepower numbers, suspension setups and overall performance aspects unlike anything from Can-Am had produced before it. Heck, it just looks fast. When you actually get behind the wheel and get on the gas, it really gets impressive. So, obviously when Can-Am asked us if we’d like to take one home to play with for a while, who were we to refuse? To say we were stoked when the X3 X DS Turbo with the optional stereo sound system showed up on our doorsteps is the understatement of all understatements. We couldn’t wait to get out and ride. Sitting right in the middle of the X3 lineup, the X3 X DS Turbo is a better option for tighter trails. Read on; we’ll explain.
When the X3s came out, the teasers were all desert shots and clips, and even when the initial press rides happened, it was down in Baja, Mexico. All well and good, but last time we checked, we don’t have any desert-type terrain around us. No worries, friends. There is an X3 for everyone and every condition. While the X3s are amazing in open terrain, the X DS Turbo is quite a bit of fun everywhere you go with one. That is but one of the messages we want you to take from this. The X3 is three times the fun anywhere you go.
What are those three “X” factors that make up the X3’s winning package? There’s a lot of things that contribute, but we’re going to say that the big three are power, handling and comfort. We definitely like all three of those elements in one machine and the Can-Am has them in great amount. Let’s click in the seatbelts, strap on the helmet and take it for a spin, shall we?
There’s a lot of bragging rights to having the most powerful engine in a class. If you don’t believe us, have a look at the advertisements. “Most horsepower in its class.” Even the utility machines like the Ranger and Defender get into the horsepower wars. Even if it’s just one click on the dyno, which can be all a company needs to maybe swing a buyer their way. The Can-Am Maverick X3 X DS Turbo is powered by a 172 hp, Rotax ACE (Advanced Combustion Efficiency) 900 cc Turbocharged Triple-cylinder engine, liquid cooled with integrated intercooler and Donaldson high-performance air filter for maximum airflow. It’s a very sophisticated powerplant and it sounds amazing. The engine flat screams on the upper end of the power curve, but has really impressive low and mid ranges too. It actually caught us off guard how well the engine performed when not being hammered wide open. The sound of the turbo, however, can wear on you after a while.
One question we’ve gotten a lot over the past few years is, how come when it comes to companies wanting to have the biggest and the baddest engines with the most horsepower, why do they use 900s for their turbos. Both companies do it, as Polaris’ RZR Turbo also has a 900-class engine at its core. We’ve asked and the standard answer we get is, “in testing, it proved to be the best platform for getting the type of power we wanted for this machine.” We can buy that. After all, just because something has a ton of horsepower behind it, that doesn’t mean that power will work the way you want. Of course, the other answer could be that each company is holding something back in reserve for just that moment when they need to get one over on the competition. We dare say that day is coming, too, when one of the manufacturers is going to pull the covers off a new machine and simply say, “200 horsepower.” And the 154HP engine is NOT the most powerful option! For that, step up to the 172HP X3 X DS Turbo R option!
Getting back to our X3, it gets all that power to the ground through a quick-response QRS-X CVT transmission. The power delivery is both smooth and brutal at the same time. It’s like really strong coffee in the morning that was run through a French press. How can you not love that? The beast of an engine is fed through an electronic drive-by-wire intelligent throttle control system feeding electronic fuel injection. It moves and rattles the world when it does.
Our X3 Turbo is comparable to most RZRs at 64-inches (162.5cm) wide and 131-inches (332.7cm) long. If you’re on a 60-inch trail, this can be an issue, but there’s still a lot of open trails out there for you to blast down. There is a whopping 20-inches (50.8cm) of travel coming from Fox shocks. Up front, there are Fox Podium 2.5 remote reservoir shocks riding on dual A-arms. We found that the front system is very capable when traversing extremely nasty stuff. We hit some big rocks, ruts and more and when gets felt at the wheel is greatly reduced.
Out back are Fox Podium 2.5 remote reservoir shocks riding on Can-Am’s TTX four-link torsional trailing arm setup. All the shocks feature dual-speed compression and rebound adjustments. Sway bars keep everything stable and the system provides a smooth ride even on the roughest terrain. The harder it’s pushed, the better it feels. Seriously, what this system will absorb is simply amazing. And with the sway bars, you can still corner at high speed without the dreaded body roll.
Going fast and having great suspension won’t mean much if you’re uncomfortable behind the wheel. Each machine out there has its own feel and they’re all a little similar. The X3, as you might expect, is a bit different. The cockpit is arranged using Can-Am’s own Ergo-Lok design, an idea they borrowed from NASCAR interiors. What this design does is keep the overall seat height low and arrange the dash, steering and other controls to keep the driver and passengers in tune with the ride and feeling more confident in the machine’s ability to traverse various terrain. The seats themselves are all adjustable for height and position, making this a very customizable ride. It takes a little getting used to the first time you get in, because it feels low. If you’ve every had the experience of sitting in an exotic sports car, it is pretty similar. You’re a little lower, and a little more laid back than you expect to be, but again, once you get rolling, it’s all good.
And to add to our comfort, Can-Am added an accessory to our test unit that really rocked – the audio system. This system is designed to fit flawlessly into the machine and it does. The system connects to your device with Bluetooth 5, letting you run your tunes through the 400 (RMS)/800W audio system built by MTX. Being built specifically for this machine, the system is tough enough for even the most demanding riding conditions. It includes both front-dashboard and rear-roll-cage mounted stereo speakers and the head unit has an integrated 6.5-inch (16.5 com) subwoofer. We’re not going to lie, this machine could turn some heads even before they saw it, and we really enjoyed doing just that.
But wait, there’s more
There are a few things that aid all three elements of power, handling and comfort. The biggest is the frame design. You can’t not see that the X3 sits low and sleek. It kind of reminds us of a UTV version of the Batmobile. That look comes from the frame, which is specifically designed to reduce weight while being stronger and more protective than any frame design before it. Overall, the X3 is very solid feeling and that inspires confidence in the driver and passenger.
Another factor is the Tri-Mode dynamic power steering. With this much power and ability, you want to be able to hammer it and have the wheels still going in the direction you planed for. Power steering is the answer and Can-Am’s setup works very well. You have three levels of steering assistance to choose from, which is great because different terrains call for different amounts. At speed, you really want less power steering, as you can feel the terrain more. Crawling slow through rocks makes you want more to keep from feeling bump steer. This is a great setup for this machine and it works very well.
So does this mean…
That Can-Am takes the title from Polaris? Not necessarily, as we still love driving Polaris machines. What it does, though, is serve notice that Polaris has to up its game. We’re all waiting to see how they will answer Can-Am and the mighty X3 lineup. For now, we’re really happy with our X3 X DS Turbo and the MTX stereo system. It is extremely fast, handles amazing and looks like the fastest thing on four wheels.