The email invite: “Do you want to test drive a turbocharged Can-Am Maverick X3 in the mountains of Utah? We will pay your way and put you up in a lodge. Oh, and bring a friend.” What red-blooded male says no? I invited a female editor friend along; she was more excited than I was.
The plan was to use a 2020 Can-Am Maverick X3 Max Turbo to explore the Bear River Range in Cache National Forest and the surrounding areas, using the Beaver Creek Lodge in Garden City, Utah, as a base camp. My editorial objectives were to assess the vehicle, and my personal goal was to have as much fun as possible during my first UTV experience. I’m a seasoned tester of off-road and adventure motorcycles, so I had muted expectations; I didn’t see how driving would hold a candle to riding. But, having recently entered my 50’s and still recovering from heinous injuries that I’d sustained on two wheels, part of me was ready for the compromise; “with age comes a cage.”
Can-Am Maverick X3 Max Turbo
The street-legal 2020 Can-Am Maverick X3 Max DS Turbo looked impressive at first sighting. The initial thing that caught my eye was the amount of apparent suspension travel provided by the stout double A-arms, long trailing arms, and Fox QS3 Podium shocks. Indeed, this combination delivered 20 inches of front and rear travel and promised enough wheel control to squeeze the most out of the 900-cc, three-cylinder, turbocharged Rotax Advanced Combustion Efficiency motor, rated at 172 horsepower. The aggressive-looking 64-inch wide stance, with 13 inches of ground clearance, further implied that a capable driver could pilot the machine through ominous obstacles – and do so at speed. And this is just the four-seater base model within Can-Am’s Maverick X3 lineup.
Most of my off-road motorsport experience has been on dirt bikes, a solitary affair that you can do with others. You may be riding in a group, but you are in your lone experiential bubble. This side by side allowed sharing the experience in a way that doesn’t exist on motorcycles, even two-up. And the Maverick’s four seats could accommodate a family, something I never previously considered when planning my off-roading adventures.
Our Utah UTV experience was an offering by Uncharted Society, a guide service designed by BRP (parent company of Can-Am) that curates powersports-oriented adventures, ranging from half a day to a week. The venues cover deserts, mountain ranges, lakes, with accommodations to match regardless of the season. Uncharted Society takes extreme care in outfitting these trips so clients can engage each adventure in a safe and worry-free environment no matter how experienced or inexperienced they are at powersports.
Our chosen adventure comprised two full days of exploring trails from 7,200 to 9,600 feet in elevation around Logan Canyon and Bear Lake and included a stay at the Beaver Creek Lodge. Both the vehicle and accommodations delivered beyond expectations.
The Trails and Can-Am Maverick X3 Performance
The kind staff at the Beaver Creek Lodge provided trail maps, a phone with mapping software, and a thorough explanation of the crucial turns, landmarks, and potentially dangerous obstacles. They also gave us a satellite messenger for emergencies. We received a full tutorial on operating the Maverick and warnings against potentially hazardous driving techniques. A guide was available, but we opted for the self-guided option to garner the most adventure and flexibility.
The trails chosen for the Uncharted Society “Explore the Mountains and Valleys of Bear Lake, UT” adventure were some of the best I’ve seen, and I’ve seen a lot. Mostly two-track, with some ascents and descents just wide enough for the Can-Am. Fast and dusty hardpack with wide-radius sweeping turns to carry speed, rock-strewn sections to force good line and throttle control, steep climbs requiring low gear, and water crossing and puddles just for fun. The only thing missing was sand.
The most noticeable trait of the Maverick X3 Max DS Turbo was the incredible acceleration in the mid to upper rev range. The pull from low RPM was predictable and tractable, but the Can-Am wanted to charge once the RPMs rose. I have a good feeling for torque versus power on a dirt bike; the Maverick X3 Max DS Turbo claims 172 horsepower, and my mind struggled to comprehend the sense of power felt at higher revs. My seat-of-the-pants dyno registered much more.
The suspension had a lot of preload dialed-in. This setting, combined with the tires (the outfitter swapped the original Maxxis UTV tires with BFG All-Terrains), severely limited traction on the first day, presumably to lessen the chances of rolling the vehicle by inexperienced drivers. The staff lowered the tire pressures for us the second day, and although we were on the same treads, I did get a much better feel of what the suspension and chassis could do. The way the outfitter set the clickers and spring preload, the Maverick was capable of bombing hardpacked trails embedded with rocks and rollers. Yet, I could still feel the things necessary to modulate power and braking to maintain traction. The high preload did hurt performance on boulder-ridden climbs and descents, but overall, its settings were appropriate for the expected clientele in a fully-loaded vehicle.
One notable section featured a super steep climb, just wide enough for the Maverick, that consisted of nothing but large boulders. I switched into low (which is very low) at the bottom and was genuinely concerned, not only by what I saw but also from the Lodge staffers’ warnings. Even with the BFG tires, the Can-Am crawled its way up with aplomb; the CVT transmission modulated output incredibly well without any of the drive belt heating issues I’ve had with other UTV’s. Yes, the ride was harsh from the high preload, but the climb was well within the Maverick’s ability. Undoubtedly a day of tinkering with clickers and preload would greatly improve the Can-Am’s display of handling and poise.
My editorial companion, who had never engaged in any powersport, took the helm on occasion. Although the speed, acceleration, and deceleration rate may have been lower, she adapted quickly and, within a few miles, was commanding the Maverick X3 Max DS Turbo at a level where I was yipping from the passenger seat.
One notable ding, the seats were too laid back for my preferred driving position.
Can-Am Maverick X3 Max Turbo Review
I didn’t look up the MSRP for the Can-Am Maverick X3 line until I got home. With a starting MSRP of $18,999 for the two-seater and $20,999 for the four-seater, it’s an excellent deal for a high-performance UTV. There are non-turbo versions that cost more, and one can easily spend an additional $10K +. Sure, those vehicles may have more power, trickier suspension, and other niceties, but I never longed for more of anything during my two days in the Maverick. For those who demand more, the Can-Am Maverick X3 lineup can deliver more – for a price.
And my attitude mentioned above about toning down the excitement in exchange for a cage? No need. I had as much fun in the Maverick as I do on a dirt bike because I shared the experience with a friend. And that alone vaulted the UTV experience to equal any other motorsports activity I do. I can’t wait to take my daughter!
A special thank you to the Beaver Creek Lodge; the hospitality was beyond reproach, and having never ridden horseback, I appreciated the bonus trail ride!