2017 Can-Am Maverick X3 First Drive

Sep. 16, 2016 By Rick Sosebee, PhotosCourtesy of Can-Am
Can-Am invited us to Baja California, Mexico, to test drive the three trims of the new Maverick X3.

The Big wolf has torn out of the bag, as Can-Am is now rolling in the newest untouched section of our industry with the highest horsepower and longest reach for any UTV in the market. The hype behind the new Maverick X3 – born in the company’s Valcourt, Canada, facility – has officially hit the market and we headed to the wild terrain of Baja California, Mexico, to get an up-close-and-personal view of it. This two-day adventure would give us a chance to ride in these individual, yet similar, machines over terrain that could wreck the mind of many hard-core enthusiasts. We were excited to finally slip into the seat of the 2017 Can-Am Maverick X3 “tres hermanos” and its brethren.

Baja is a mystical place where the wild inner man can be unleashed provided the correct machine and safety are kept close at hand. This land takes you back to a simpler time and makes most yearn for that kind of peace in a world that is constantly on the gas. This landscape has recorded many notable heroes and race wins, but it has also made legends of those who found the terrain as well as its inhabitants unpredictable, making this fierce terrain their final resting place. Some consider the Baja 1000 to be the toughest race on the North American continent, and with my experience in the area I would say they are not far from correct.

Our base camp was at the San Nicholas in Ensenada.

As the sun rose over the San Nicholas hotel in Ensenada, we were briefed on the ins and outs of the Maverick X3s we would be riding. Our goal was to not only pay close attention to the instructions of Bruce and his GoBajaRiding.com crew, but we knew there was some preparation for our mind to get every detail of our experience in order. We watched as the Can-Am Mavericks pulled out of the “San Nicholas paddock,” as the ride would actually start for us just a bit down Highway 1 in the sleepy little town of Santo Tomas. My goal was to sprint from the bus to the first Maverick X3 X rs Turbo R that I found available.

The flagship Maverick X3 X rs just commands attention. Our first ride was the triple black X rs, which was stealthy and looked good but the appearance of the version with gold and Can-Am Red just got stuck in my head, yet unfortunately we were not introduced on this ride. The X3 X rs is very menacing from front or rear. It has a reach in its suspension unlike any other, with 22 inches out front and 24 in the back. An overall width of 72 inches means the stability of this beast is also increased for cornering. It is also a very long vehicle at 102 inches for its wheelbase that places it well over the length of any competition. What really complements this rig is the hefty shock package that cushions the blows for the driver and passenger. The Fox bypass shocks are enormous, as the 3.0 Podium RC2 shocks in the rear command in extreme terrain, and from the very first real gap in the trail it was apparent that the fun had just began. Up front Can-Am equipped the X rs with FOX 2.5 Podium RC2s with piggyback and bypass along with plenty of adjustment as well.

The Maverick X3 X rs is just as awesome as we hoped. This machine will set a new bar for side-by-side performance.

We know you have read the stats so on to the ride. Sitting in the Maverick X3 X rs and pressing the gas the car loves to set the back end down, point the nose into the clouds and ramp up into a sudden power surge as if it is gently asking if you are really ready for this. The triple cylinder comes on steadily at first, but the big 154 hp Rotax engine begins to rage not long after its introduction. From that point on it is anyone’s guess as to just how far the power can be found in this mill. Can-Am has developed their QRS-X CVT transmission to take on delivery of power-to-wheel duties, and without hesitation the linear engagement is smooth and worked well throughout our ride of over 250 combined miles. Whether cruising at 55 to 60 mph and pressing the pedal down further, or even at what would seem to be the limit of the pedal, there is always a vivid response from the power plant. After getting a little more familiar with the power output and its attitude we were able to trust it to be able to lift the nose of the car for the sudden and frequent harsh terrain we encountered. A few really intense moments with sudden, high-speed deep whoops or massive g-outs and the suspension was more than sufficient for us as well.

We covered hundreds of miles during our time with the Maverick X3 models in Baja.

It is hard to explain in any other way, but this Maverick X rs makes you feel like a bad ass almost instantly when you drop into the cab. The comfortable high-back seating for the driver can be adjusted not only forward and back but also down into the bellows for larger, taller drivers. I found that I actually liked the upper seat mount position more for my height, as I felt it allowed me to see over the hood better. The tilt steering with gauges that move up and down with the wheel makes seeing the information on the screen pretty easy. These seats are also equipped with cutouts for four- or five-point harnesses should you decide to get really serious about racing this vehicle. The harness seat hole for installation is in the molding of the front of the seat but is covered by material until you are ready to install the extra links.
If there was anything that got my attention about this machine in a less satisfying way it would have to be the initial egress education into the driver’s seat, as I found my shin connecting with the angled edge where the door latches several times. It was just a matter of adjusting my entrance but a memorable lesson at that. Once inside the cab it was roomy and felt very comfortable. The big air box for the intake and CVT is also located right behind the driver’s head, and that too makes hearing any conversation (whether in your own mind or with a passenger) a bit difficult.

The Maverick X3 X ds might be the sleeper of the bunch. We really liked the performance of the slightly smaller machine.

As the day ran on I was able to get seat time in the X ds version of this Maverick X3 as well, and I would have to say this could be the real sleeping beauty of the bunch for the guy who loves to trail ride in tighter woods or terrain. It is not priced much lower than the big car (around $2,000 less, give or take, at $24,999 vs. $26,699) but on the East Coast it would obviously be much more trail friendly. Using the very same powerful Rotax ACE turbocharged engine with the 64-inch wide stance, the available power seemed to intensify and you could feel it even more in the foot feed. This X ds also looses a little weight as well, with 29-inch Maxxis Bighorn 2.0 tires verses the 30-inch meats on the X rs so that also helps magnify the available power. 

Our time in the Maverick X ds was split between two versions, with the only real difference being accessories, color and a spare tire on the rear of the car during the second half of our seat time. Taking into consideration the extra weight on the Maverick X ds with the spare tire, this is one item that was immediately apparent with the change in the shock package, as this machine uses the FOX 2.5 Podium RC2 piggyback shocks on all four corners. Combined with the width reduction, these shocks are still very impressive and took most of the beating we dished out without talking back over the harsh terrain. At first ride we noticed the rear of the (spare-tire equipped) X ds would bump the trail in big humps but after just a slight adjustment, and I do mean slight, the entire attitude of the machine changed. There was a bit more positive feel in the steering, especially when in 4WD, and if memory serves me correctly there were no more late transition hits in the back end for the remainder of the ride.

The cabin of the Maverick X3 just feels bad ass. This is a shot of the X rs model, but all of the models feel great from the driver's seat for the most part.

Steering in this machine is literally handled by Can-Am’s DPS or Dynamic Power Steering, and feeling the trail is easy without that feeling of a loose steering wheel. This was even more apparent as we crawled our way up into the Goat Trail outside of Valle La Trinidad. This rocky section was slow going and technical, but the confidence you get while driving this Maverick X ds is inspiring with the front and rear sway bars adding to the suspension control. I do wish I had been given the chance to run that small section of narrow, rut-filled rocks again in the Mav X rs, as I imagine it was easier when crossing the deep ruts and transitioning through the rocks.

Once the trail widened and we were able to open the throttle body a bit more the Maverick X ds was a real trooper. It put a smile on our face many times when cornering under power or simply running the needle up into the 75 mph+ mark, and it still had a little pedal in reserve. This Maverick is a lot more nimble and responds to steering input seemingly more quickly, which can make it a blast to drive in the twisty stuff.

We didn't get a ton of seat time on the base Maverick X3, but the time we did get we do like the performance of the machine.

The base model Maverick X3 was available yet we had little mileage in this machine. However, this unit is also 64 inches wide and the main differences is the use of a more simplified FOX QS3 shock with a highly visible clicker that is easy to tune and adjust for the novice tuner. It also features slightly smaller Maxxis Big Horn 2.0 tires that are 28 inches tall. The suspension travel is set just like its Xd s brethren at 20-inches both front and rear. This car weighs 1470 lbs. dry, and you can just imagine how that extra 20 lbs. off of the XDS to the X3 Maverick base just pumps up the fun in the throttle.

The base model Maverick X3 has smaller diameter Fox shocks than the other models but it does have easy-to-tune dial.

Overall, we had what could be considered the most amazing off-road experience yet for a press introduction. The Maverick X3s surely added the fun factor and with the beautiful mystic Baja terrain adding the excitement for not only our eyes but for the true testing of three incredible machines. It was an honor and a privilege to be apart of what seems to be the beginning of the next floor in our industry. If you are brave and have a choice, do yourself a favor and get into the Maverick X3 X rs TurboR, as it is well worth the hype.

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