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SHOOTOUT: POLARIS RZR XP TURBO VS. CAN-AM MAVERICK X3 X DS

June 18, 2017
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Can-Am started the turbo wars with the Maverick 1000R Turbo and lobs the second and third salvos with the introduction of the Maverick X3 Turbo trifecta and Maverick Max X3, X3 X ds and X3 X rs. The Maverick X3 line uses a turbocharged, three-cylinder snowmobile engine with 154-horsepower output and 113 foot-pounds of torque (at 7000 rpm). The next-generation X3 line has a ton of innovations, while Polaris upgraded its second-year RZR XP Turbo with more boost to produce 168 horsepower and 114 foot-pounds of torque at 8000 rpm. Do the extra horsepower of the RZR XP Turbo and 2017 upgrades raise performance enough to win the 2017 turbo wars, or does the Maverick X3 deliver a TKO? We hit Dumont Dunes and the Mojave Desert to find out.

WHAT’S NEW FOR 2017?

For comparison purposes, we chose the Can-Am Maverick X3 X ds because its 64-inch width and Fox 2.5 Podium RC2 shocks with dual-speed compression and rebound adjusters are closest to the RZR XP Turbo’s width and Fox Podium 2.5 front and 3.0 rear IBP shocks with dual-rate springs (but no crossover rings like the Can-Am’s). The mid-level X3 has the same MSRP as the XP Turbo and has 2–4 inches more travel. The X3’s heart is its Rotax 900cc triple with Advanced Combustion Efficiency (ACE), 154-horsepower output, integrated intercooler, advanced airflow dynamics, and shiftless Quick Response System (QRS-X) transmission. It’s a rear-engine design like the RZR, but comparisons pretty much end there. The X3 X ds Turbos sport a tubular frame with dual-phase 980 steel, 1.875-inch-diameter tubes, tubular front A-arms, stamped-steel trailing arms with three link rods to provide constant camber through 20 inches of travel, and front and rear anti-sway bars. The wheelbase is 102 inches on all two-seat X3s, and the X ds comes with 29-inch Bighorn 2.0 tires on beadlock 14-inch wheels.

All Maverick X3s have Advanced Airflow Dynamics, a pod behind the driver’s seat that pre-filters air going to the Donaldson airbox and CVT ducts. The dirt is diverted away, sort of like an SB Vortex system, which is an optional BRP accessory. The turbo is accessed via a hatch between the Ergo-Lok seats.

 

Cabin features are next level with Ergo-Lok four-way adjustable seats (fore/aft, height, tilt) and Ergo-Print covers, a tilt wheel with Tri-Mode EPS and 1.5-turn steering, a new multi-function analog/digital instrument panel, and an overall fighter-jet feel with an ultra-low seating position. Sleek quarter doors even have latches with webbed handles like “remove-before-flight” tags. Separate master cylinders for front and rear hydraulic disc brakes control twin-piston calipers squeezing 262mm front and 248mm rear rotors. They ride under a cover in front of the next-generation dash to the left of the 10.5-gallon fuel cell. We could go on and on, but we don’t have room here (see “X3 A–Z” at www.utvaction.net). The only holdovers from the 1000R are the iTC fly-by-wire throttle with Eco mode and Visco-Lok auto-locking front differential.

Polaris pumped up output from the turbocharged 925cc ProStar twin to 168 horsepower, and it gets an upgraded head gasket to deal with the extra boost. Torque jumps to 114 foot-pounds at 8000 rpm, and it makes 95 percent of peak from 5000 rpm on up. Cooling is upgraded with a 20-percent-larger radiator that actually required a frame change to accommodate the new width. Also, the intercooler radiator is shorter and wider to get more cool air to the engine radiator, and the front grill is 40 percent larger. A new variable-speed, brushless fan has more power to pull cool air through the new radiator. New, larger, dual-sided intakes in the bed rails work with a new clutch cover to draw more cooling air into the new CVT to cool the high-output, larger belt. CVT changes include new weights, springs, helix, and a stainless steel shaft to prevent galling and sticking of the clutch.

While not as exotic as the X3 cockpit, the XP Turbo’s cockpit has a new digital readout in the center of the dash and a new 1.5-turn steering rack with variable-assist EPS. We like the passenger T-bar, door-latch buttons and range selector on the RZR more than the X3’s components, but both need door inserts to keep mud out of the cab.

 

Also, the rear-axle half shafts and an upgraded, high-performance on-demand AWD front diff is stronger to transfer all that extra power to the ground. New rear radius rods are now tubular and larger in diameter for strength and lightness. Steering is upgraded with the new 1.5-turn rack and EPS tuning, so it takes 1.5 turns of the tilt wheel to go lock to lock. On the dash, the new ignition switch has a four-position key for running accessories. There are four blanks for accessory controls on the dash, and the digital instrument pod is all new.

The Turbos also get upgraded Fox 2.5 front piggyback and 3.0 rear remote-reservoir IBP shocks; the Internal ByPass (IBP) shocks have five compression zones with re-tuned ports for a smooth ride on chop and bottoming resistance as the piston reaches the end of the compression stroke. There is also a top-out control at the end of the rebound stroke, and the Fox shocks have 24-position compression damping adjuster knobs but still no cross-over rings for the dual-rate springs. And last, the rear torsion bar was re-tuned, and the front brake rotors are now stainless steel.

The 900cc BRP triple has three 74mm pistons and a low 9.1:1 compression. Stroke is 67.9mm. A 46mm EFI throttle body and Advanced Combustion Efficiency (ACE) heads get forced-air induction via a Rotax turbocharger and a Donaldson airbox.

 

HOW DOES COST COMPARE?

The 2017 RZR XP Turbo EPS is $24,999, and the Maverick X3 X ds is $24,999. The standard XP1K EPS has been discounted to $19,499, while the High Lifter Edition is $23,499. Can-Am’s 2017 Maverick 1000R Turbo is $20,499, and Maverick X3 Turbo Rs are $22,999, while X3 X rs Turbos are $26,699. Arctic Cat’s Wildcat 1000X RG Pro EPS is $18,499, and the 1000X RG Pro LTD is $19,499. The Speedwerx ProCharger 150-horsepower supercharger kit is another $6000.

The ProStar 925’s stroke is almost identical to the X3’s triple at 68mm, but the two pistons are 93mm and have 9.0:1 compression. Two 48mm EFI throttle bodies get forced-air induction to feed the eight-valve head, and output is a claimed 168 horsepower—14 horses more than the Can-Am.

 

WHICH TURBO IS FASTER?

It depends. The Can-Am leaps into action quicker, but, after 20 mph is reached, the Polaris starts to eat away at the X3’s lead. The 925cc ProStar twin has a slightly longer stroke and feels meatier from a standing start, but the X3’s QRS-X transmission and 900cc triple reacts quicker. Both are crazy fast on top, but the Polaris is a little stronger on flat ground. In whoops, the X3 is able to attain higher terminal speeds and is more stable at speed.

WHAT ABOUT THE  DELIVERY?

Engine delivery is smoother on the X3, with its intelligent throttle control (iTC) and quick-reacting CVT transmission. The XP Turbo’s twin feels beastly by comparison, and it eats gasoline much quicker. It also needs a belt break-in period (at least 25 miles; 75 is better). We like the Can-Am’s CVT feel better, but the Visco-Lok front diff takes more front-tire slippage before it locks. The RZR front diff hooks up quicker. Also, we prefer the Polaris’ range selector over the Can-Am’s; it has more leverage and it’s easier to read the range markings on the console. Use the digital readout on the X3. Also, from the top, the Polaris goes P-R-N-L-H, while the Can-Am goes P-R-N-H-L. Low is very low on the Can-Am.

Which is the better extreme-sport UTV? The Can-Am X3 X ds Turbo or the Polaris RZR XP Turbo? We took them both to Dumont Dunes and the Mojave Desert to see if the ProStar 925-powered Polaris twin could run with the new BRP ACE 900 triple.

 

WHICH RULES TURBO HANDLING?

The Can-Am by a mile. First off, the low center of gravity and seating position, combined with the foot-longer wheelbase (102 inches vs. 90), give the X3 much more predictable turning, sliding and drifting manners. In 2WD or 4WD, it puts the power to the ground and rips, even over dune-chop ruts. The XP Turbo feels much tippier and wants to bicycle when crossing dune ruts, and its taller seating position erodes confidence. The X3 slides like a sprint car, but we did manage to overcook a turn and put it on its driver’s door. The Can-Am rules corners, and the extra wheelbase and suspension travel give it an edge in straight-line stability.

The Can-Am has two-piston calipers squeezing 262mm rotors and two separate braking systems, while the Polaris has three-piston calipers behind the front axles, new 248mm front rotors and one master cylinder for all four calipers. The RZR should have high-clearance A-arms like the X3 and limited-edition RZRs (High Lifter and Gold Matte).

 

WHOSE HIGH-END SUSPENSION ROCKS?

Can-Am’s. While the IBP damping map on the XP Turbo improves the 2017’s ride, the Fox Podium 2.5 front and 3.0 rear shocks simply don’t have the tuning options of the Fox Podium RC2 X3 shocks with dual-speed compression and rebound adjusters, plus adjustable cross-over rings. Our XP Turbo came with all compression adjusters set at 9 clicks out, and it kicked over dune jumps. We stiffened both ends—ending up with fronts at 6 out and rears at 8—and jumps leveled out. Travel is still 16 inches in front and 18 inches rear on the RZR, while the X3 X ds has 20 inches of travel front and rear. You have to hit jumps faster on the Can-Am, as the suspension soaks up the G-outs on jump faces. The X3 suspension also translates to much higher speeds in whoops. Both turbos have harsh ride quality in desert chop. We plan to shoot out these two turbos with Shock Therapy’s springs, valving and torsion bars soon.

The stock X3 X ds front settings are HSC and LSC 2.0 turns out, rebound 12c out, cross-over at 4.72 inches, while the rear settings are LSC 2.0 turns, HSC 3.0 turns, rebound 12c out and cross-over at 4.77 inches. Loosening low-speed compression softens the ride in whoops, and loosening high-speed compression helps absorb desert chop.

The X3 cockpit is like a fighter jet, but the front fender flares hinder vision. We like the D-shaped wheel, 1.5-turn steering, tri-level EPS assist and easy-to-read analog/digital instruments, but we’re not fond of banging our knees on the door jams or trying to get the range selector in low.

 

WHICH HAS STRONGER BRAKES?

The Maverick. While the Polaris has 248mm rotors, triple-piston front calipers and dual-piston rear calipers, it doesn’t have the braking power of the Can-Am. All X3s have 262mm front rotors, 248mm rear discs and two-piston calipers all around, but they have two master cylinders. That’s separate front and rear brake systems, and they haul the Can-Am down quicker. Some testers complained about a mushy feel at the pedal, though.

WHICH TURBO IS THE BETTER DUNER?

The Maverick. Although the X3 has a lower seating position and front shocks protruding through the hood like a YXZ1000R, the hood doesn’t slope for better vision like the Yamaha’s. Combine that with the longer wheelbase and it’s easier to high-center the X3 on dune peaks. That said, the X3 Turbo does everything better in the dunes, especially jumping and eating whoops at the base of China Wall, Oldsmobile and Comp Hill. It rips in bowls too.

Both Turbos have 29-inch Bighorn 2.0 tires on 14-inch aluminum wheels, but the X3 has bead-lock rims. The Can-Am has 4 inches more travel, cross-over rings for the dual-rate springs, and dual-speed compression and rebound adjusters on the Fox Podium RC2 shocks, while the Polaris has Fox Podium Internal ByPass (IBP) shocks with single compression adjusters and no cross-over rings.

 

WHICH ROCKS ON ROCKY TRAILS?

While the Can-Am has more suspension travel and adjustability, it has a few drawbacks on rocky trails. The low seating position and bulging front bodywork make it harder to see over the hood to pick lines. It also takes longer for the front diff to lock than on the Polaris. A very-low low range is helpful, but we felt more comfortable in the Polaris on steep climbs. On steep descents, the X3 has four-wheel engine braking, while the Polaris only slows the rear wheels when trailing throttle engages the CVT clutch. The XP Turbo’s shorter wheelbase, taller seating position and better view over the hood make it a more agile mount on tight trails and rocks. Add mud to the mix, and the Can-Am’s front fenders let more muddy roost into the cabin. Both turbos have quarter doors that let mud fling into the cabin, but more mud gets into the Maverick’s many nooks and crannies.

WHAT ABOUT TRAIL COMFORT?

This one is close, but Can-Am takes the overall. Those who ride with “man spread” will bang their knees on the X3’s protrusions on the dash for the door latches, which are harder to find than the Polaris’ larger latch buttons. The seating position is more adjustable and much lower on the Can-Am, but mud fouled both seat sliders, and we had to disassemble them to fix it. The D-shaped X3 steering wheel is awesome, and so is the Tri-Mode EPS and 1.5-turn steering rack. We like max assist for dunes and medium for desert. We don’t much like the passenger hold-points, as the door handles and skins can pinch the hand if tipped over. The RZR T-bar is better, but the removable RZR seats have a lot of play, and we mistakingly plugged the driver’s seat belt into the passenger latch, which caused the ignition cut-off to activate. The X3 has a wider console, so this mistake isn’t possible on the Can-Am, but the latches are harder to find. Both turbos have built-in mounts behind the seats for harnesses, and the Can-Am has a rear-view mirror.

Rear travel is 20 inches on the X3 and 18 inches on the XP Turbo. The X3 has Fox 2.5 RC2 piggyback rear shocks with Bottom-Out Control (BOC) and the same advantages as the front, while the Polaris has Fox 3.0 Podium X IBP remote-reservoir shocks. A 9.5-gallon tank rides under the RZR passenger seat, and the X3’s 10.5-gallon tank rides in front of the glovebox.

 

WHAT’S OUR FINAL ANSWER?

In dunes and wide-open desert, the Maverick X3 X ds has a clear advantage due to more suspension and a longer wheelbase. It’s way faster and feels more planted at speed than the Polaris, and the shocks are more tunable to conditions. It inspires confidence at speed and flies straight in the whoops. The RZR XP Turbo produces more power but can’t overcome the X3’s suspension advantage, and it doesn’t feel as planted as the Can-Am, especially the rear end. When the trails get tighter and more twisty, as they do in the east, the agility of the XP Turbo becomes a strength. Both are great rock crawlers and general trail machines, although the Can-Am’s low seating position and high front bodywork make it harder to read terrain. The more wide open the conditions, the more we wanted to be in the Maverick X3 X ds Turbo, despite the RZR XP Turbo’s power advantage.

We’ll revisit these two turbos in part two, after we’ve modified the stock shocks and installed Shock Therapy torsion bars to level the playing field. Will a more sure-footed and faster XP Turbo be able to hang with the X3 X ds? Stay tuned.

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