Ride Testing the Can-Am Maverick X3 in Baja California

With Can-Am’s online announcements and all the touting of the X3’s new innovations and features, they definitely had our attention – we couldn’t wait to see the X3 in person. We got that chance early over the Labor Day holiday, when UTV Scene’s Rich Curley got to ride test the X3 at UTV Invasion at Majestic Idaho Sand Dunes in St. Anthony, Idaho. I would have to wait a few weeks before I would get a chance to get behind the wheel, but boy was the wait worth it. While Rich was busy roosting sand in Idaho, I was on the phone listening to the details of what would be one heck of a ride intro. Can-Am explained it as a long point A to B media ride in Baja California, Mexico! The event was described as a two-day off-road tour covering hundreds of miles! With my past experience driving in the vast diversity of terrain in Baja, I immediately knew this would be the perfect opportunity to test the X3’s potential.

canamx3bja_can-am_wdp_1329_maverick-x3-intro_mexico_I made the short drive from Southern California to meet up with Can-Am at the San Nicolas Hotel Casino in Ensenada BC Mexico. Upon driving into the hotel parking lot I was greeted by the sight of a fleet of Maverick X3s! After a quick personal inspection of each different X3 model and a short meet and greet to acquaint all the members of the media and Can-Am representatives, we were ushered into the conference room for an in-depth Maverick X3 overview presentation. Can-Am’s design and engineering staff adopted the code name ‘SHIFT’ for their development of a bold, defiant, precise and powerful machine! Can-Am’s staff utilized influence from off road racing trophy trucks, rock racers and extreme performance sand rail cars to develop a completely new machine. The Maverick X3 is the result of three years of development and testing and boasts some very impressive specs. From its high speed stability enhanced 102″ wheelbase, to the hefty 154 horsepower 3-cylinder engine, 24” of rear suspension travel, – to the unprecedented 72 inch width of the X rs, the Maverick X3’s design and engineering teams intention to own the ‘Top Dog’ spot in the SxS world was obvious.

canamx3bja_can-am_wdp_1311_maverick-x3-intro_mexico_The following morning it was finally time to get behind the wheel and experience the Maverick X3 in what seemed to be it’s exact environment – vast rugged Baja’s terrain. I started the day off in the X3 X rs. The X rs is Can-Am’s premiere offering in the X3 line up and boasts an astounding 72” wheel track coupled with 22” of front and 24” of rear wheel travel utilizing Fox 3.0 Podium RC2 shocks. To enter the X3 you grasp a short strap along the front inside edge of the door and pull it toward the rear to release the door latch. Although at first it seems a little unconventional and awkward, the operation of the latch quickly becomes routine. Upon taking a seat behind the wheel you immediately notice the aggressively low and laid back seating position of the X3. With a quick swipe of the automotive style seat adjustment lever the seat glides easily back and forth to your desired position. An additional key feature in the seat adjustment design is that as the seat can also move up, not only positioning the driver closer to the controls but also seated higher for better visibility. As the seat is adjusted back, it moves down vertically allowing a taller driver both more head room and leg room. After finding a good seating position and a quick and easy adjustment of the combination tilt steering column and instrument display we were ready to roll out.

canamx3bja_can-am_wdp_1224_maverick-x3-intro_mexico_With a simple push of the start/stop button the 900cc turbocharged triple cylinder engine comes to life. The Rotax ACE engine runs smooth and quiet. Can-Am went with a gated shift console on the X3 and gear selection is smooth and positive. Throughout both days of driving I never found myself between gears or fighting a notchy shift pattern. As our group of X3’s rolled out of Santo Tomas and onto the first groomed dirt road the roominess and excellent visibility of the X3 was quickly noticed. Easing into the throttle brought smooth and positive acceleration. After negotiating the first corner the quick ratio steering made it apparent that the X3 doesn’t require much effort to adjust its direction. As our route made its way west toward the coast of the Pacific Ocean it became increasingly hilly and rougher. As my familiarity with the the X3 X rs increased I began to push it a little harder and the machine’s true intended design really began to show. Steering and power delivery are precise and fluid, the harder you push the X3 the more natural it feels. Your confidence in the machine’s handling quickly grows and thanks to the power and precise handling you find yourself comfortably cutting in and out of the corners with ease.

canamx3bja_can-am_wdp_1212_maverick-x3-intro_mexico_As we wound our way closer to the coast the trail became increasingly rougher and rockier. The X3 X rs welcomed my increasingly aggressive driving and other than a little harsh rear suspension reaction to hard acceleration out of rough chuck-hole filled corners, it responded incredibly well. While the engine, which is reported to make 154hp, is only 10hp more than the 2016 RZR XP Turbo, it feels shockingly quicker and faster! Acceleration from any speed delivers a surge that propels the machine quickly towards its 84 mph top speed. After a quick stop on the beach and a few laps around a tight sandy beach front course we continued down the coast and turned inland toward San Vincente at a large sand wash. Once we turned into the wash we were on a trail riddled with deep sand whoops. The X rs welcomed the typically unfriendly circumstances and the harder I pushed the throttle the better it got as the speed increased. The X3 settled into a nice rhythm at around 50 mph, where it seemed to track through the rough whooped-out terrain straight and true without swapping or any rear end bucking. Thanks to the long travel Fox 3.0 Podium RC2 shocks and abundant Rotax horsepower it continued to pull hard, gaining speed, and if the dust from the X3 just ahead wouldn’t have been an issue I’m sure it would have taken even higher speeds without any issues.

canamx3bja_can-am_wdp_1300_maverick-x3-intro_mexico_Following a lunch stop in San Vincente, I switched to the Maverick X3 X ds. The X ds is the middle X3 model offered by Can Am and sits at 64 inches wide like the base X3. The two main differences between the standard X3 and the X3 X ds are the X ds’ 29 inch tires and Fox RC2 shocks, versus the base X3’s 28 inch tires and Fox QS3 shocks. The X ds that I drove was equipped with the complete line of Lonestar Racing bolt on accessories to be sold through Can-Am dealers. The first thing that I noticed sitting in this particular X ds was that the seats were relocated to the lower setting of the two factory seating positions. At 6’4” tall I immediately noticed the extra head room and like the lower feel. my viability wasn’t affected and after the hours of hard driving that followed, I definitely favor the lower setting. Upon leaving San Vincente the day progressed into the late afternoon and our Baja route turned inland where the weather turned hot! With temperatures hovering around 100 degrees, and our fast paced hard driving, I started to pay close attention to the engine temperature gauge. I was also concerned about possible drive belt failure. I continued to push the Lone Star equipped X3 X ds hard up the steep winding roads and rough side trails, but the engine temperature held steady in its optimum range and there was no sign of drive belt fade. I was interested to see if any of the units would snap a belt, – none did. As our ride passed near Valle La Trinidad on the way to Mike’s Sky Rancho the trail became smooth and very twisty. With the X3 X ds locked in four wheel drive blasting the hard lefts and rights while listening to the turbocharged three cylinder engine instantly gave me the feeling of a WRC driver in an exotic all wheel drive race vehicle! The balance and stability of the X3 coupled with the incredible horsepower, great brakes and precise steering and handling give the driver unparalleled confidence in the machine. Thanks to the X3, I was loving every minute of this epic ride. The Can-Am X3 isn’t just fast, or just doesn’t just have great suspension, or great handling, its the complete package of everything in the precise amounts to make it the most exciting and exhilarating off road vehicle that I’ve ever driven! The final hour or so of hard fast driving up to Mike’s Sky Rancho really capped off a perfect day of testing out Can-Am’s new X3 line.

canamx3bja_can-am_wdp_1900_maverick-x3-intro_mexico_The following morning after another great stay at Mike’s, I opted to start the day off in the base model X3. The base X3 like the X3 X ds is 64 inches wide and the only real differences in the two models is the base model has Fox QS3 shocks, and smaller 28 inch Big Horn tires. The first leg of trial for the day was the same as the previous evenings, just in the opposite direction back to Valle La Trinidad. This was the perfect opportunity for me to compare the X3 and the X3 X ds. After the first twenty miles or so of driving my previous day’s estimation that there really isn’t a lot of difference in the three X3 models was confirmed. The base model X3 ate up the fast twisting trails with every bit as much aggressive confidence as the other two X3 models. This fact is sensible in that all three models are the same frame and same engine, transmissione and clutch combination with only some suspension and tire size variations. After a quick gas stop at Valle La Trinidad the last afternoon was spent running some miles on the famous SCORE Baja race course including “The Goat Trail” and plenty of miles of the rough and whooped out desert courses on the way up to the “Pine Forest” leading to the wide open fast roads down to Osos Negros and the final stop of our ride.

canamx3bja_can-am_wdp_1413_maverick-x3-intro_mexico_Throughout the two days of driving the three X3 models, the most impressive impact that the X3 made on me was its capability to instill confidence and control in the mind of the driver. When you become experienced and comfortable with any machine you begin to enjoy driving it just within the edge of its capability. Because I have the most personal experience behind the wheel of a RZR XP, I really enjoy driving it at its potential, and while doing so have become pretty good at estimating my speed while going through fast rough and gnarly terrain. To give reference to how good the X3 is and how comfortably it handles high speed off road driving, I was repeatedly surprised throughout the two days of driving to quickly glance at the speedometer to confirm when I estimated my speed to be at 40 or 50mph and actually be going between 10 and 15 miles per hour faster every time! The RZR XP is a high performance and extremely capable SXS platform, so this is no light-hearted statement, but rather a confirmation of the incredible leap forward that Can-Am has made with the X3 in the sport SXS market! For me, this is most evident in the X3 X rs! With the X rs’ 72 inch width, low seating position, 22 inches front, and 24 inches of rear suspension travel, its 102 inch wheelbase, and the engine’s incredibly impressive delivery of 154HP it is the new undisputed SXS king of the desert!

canamx3bja_can-am_wdp_1350_maverick-x3-intro_mexico_In any form the Can-Am X3 is an incredible performing and comfortable sport UTV, gladly it is as impressive in quality and reliability as well. I was very pleased that after both days of driving from slow to fast and even in very high ambient desert temperatures, I actually saw very little variation in engine temperature. More important, overheating was never an issue with any of the X3s that I or anyone else drove. As far as the drive belt was concerned, not only did I not have any belt issues myself throughout both days, but I never saw any of the other fifteen Maverick X3s included on our trip have any belt failures! As if this isn’t impressive enough, none of the X3s along on the Baja ride were new, in fact they were the same units used a few weeks earlier at UTV Invasion in Idaho. When we were done with the trip the X3s that we dove had around one thousand hard demo miles on them! Can-Am definitely put lots of design and testing time into the reliability of the X3. Other than a few simple tire punctures, I’m not aware of any mechanical issues with any of the X3s throughout both days and hundreds of miles of hard driving! Well done Can-Am, well done indeed.

Learn more at can-am.brp.com

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