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UTV OF THE YEAR

October 30, 2017
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— AND BEST IN EACH CLASS —

Last year Robby Gordon told longtime OHV test pilot Shane Trittler that “UTVs are at the point now where NASCAR was in 1966.” He said that at a time when he was developing the test mule (Speed 77) for the 2018 Wildcat XX. We believe him and agree that UTVs are on an upward trajectory in technology, innovation and performance like never before. Between the time when Kawasaki invented the Mule (Multi-Use Light Equipment) 30 years ago and Yamaha unleashed the Rhino 660 thirteen years ago, innovation and technology were moving at a moderate pace, but now innovation, technology and performance seemingly double from year to year, or even month to month. Park a Maverick X3 X rs Turbo beside a Maverick 1000R X rs Turbo and you’ll see the difference a model year makes. Here are the stellar UTVs for 2017, ready for gold or platinum plating, across the performance, purpose and size spectrums.

UTV OF THE YEAR

CAN-AM X3 & MAX X3

What a fun year we had with the ever-deeper field of high-performance UTVs. Can-Am, Polaris and Yamaha especially impressed us with next-level technology and performance, and Textron exploded onto the scene with the promise of the 2018 Wildcat XX. Can-Am’s Maverick X3 X rs ($23,699–$23,899) and Max X3 X rs ($29,099) share UTV Action’s Best Turbo award, and the next-level comfort of the Ergo-Lok cabin and all-new platform’s suspension and overall performance earn the two X3 X rs Turbos the UTVs of 2017 award. Dune and desert fans reach greater top speeds in the harshest whoops and conditions, with the Max going faster with more stability than the two-seat X3. While the RZR XP and XP 4 Turbos are more agile in slower terrain, the X3 and Max X3 will raise any driver’s expectations when it comes to terminal velocity.

BEST CROSS-OVER UTV

The Polaris General 4 1000 EPS ($20,999) and the Polaris General Ride Command Edition 1000 EPS ($21,499) share this award. We chose the General as Best Cross-Over UTV last year, and Ride Command makes the new LE even more fun and effective with GPS mapping, ride tracking with an app to monitor others on your rides, front and rear video cameras, controls for Hero 3 and newer GoPros, and audio with Bluetooth connectivity. The new General 4 expands the fun for up to four people.

MOST INNOVATIVE UTV

Following tremendous success with the 2016 YXZ1000R (the first pure-sport UTV with a triple-cylinder powerplant coupled with a five-speed sequential-shift transmission and hydraulic clutch), Yamaha introduced the equally revolutionary 2017 YXZ1000R Sport Shift ($20,599–$20,799) and two Special Editions ($22,399–$22,699). Sport Shifts replace the clutch pedal with an automatic actuator controlled by hydraulics and a Yamaha Chip-Controlled Shift (YCC-S) technology with half-clutch mode for slow-going, full-throttle shifts with ignition cut-out, launch mode, spike-clutch mode and automatic downshift if revs are too low for vehicle speed. So, the new Sport Shift delivers the driver-connected feel of the original YXZ via paddle shifters, plus a smart clutch and YCC-S programs that facilitate every driving mode—from full race to snail’s pace—with unheard-of durability.

BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK

It’s hard to beat the Polaris Ace 500 ($6999) for an economical way to get into UTVing, and the new Ace 150 EFI lets kids get in on the fun for $3799. The Ace 500 has a peppy 32-horsepower ProStar single powerplant and independent suspension with 8.2 inches of front travel and 9.5 inches of rear travel. With a 48-inch width, the Ace 500 is perfect for U.S. Forest Service 50-inch trails, and it fits in the bed of most full-sized pickups. For another $1500, the Ace 570 bumps horsepower to 45, and the Ace 570 SP upgrades to dual A-arm front suspension with more travel for $3000 over the Ace 500.

BEST TURBOCHARGED UTV

Can-Am’s Maverick X3 X rs Turbo blows away last year’s winner, the Maverick 1000R X rs Turbo, with a triple-cylinder engine adapted from BRP’s Lynx 900 ACE (Advanced Combustion Efficiency) snowmobile engine. Not only does the all-new X3 900cc triple turbo put out 154 horsepower to the V-twin 1000R’s 131 horsepower, it’s much smoother, and the entire package is next-level with an all-new frame, Ergo-Lok cockpit and TTX suspension designed with Trophy Truck technology. Maverick X3s continue Can-Am’s tradition of offering several trim levels and performance packages, with the base X3 ($20,999) having a 64-inch width, 20 inches of suspension travel with Fox Podium 2.5 QS3 shocks and 28-inch Bighorn 2.0 tires. The X3 X ds ($22,499) upgrades to Fox Podium 2.5 RC2 shocks and 29-inch Bighorns. The top-shelf X3 X rs upgrades to 72-inch-wide boxed A-arms, Fox Podium 2.5 RC2-DSC IBP shocks with 22 inches of travel and TTX trailing arms, and Fox Podium 3.0 RC2-DSC IBP shocks with 24 inches of travel. X3s let you channel your inner Bryce Mensies or Ken Block.

BEST 60-INCH SPORT UTV

Polaris has two winners in the 60-inch UTV category—the Ace XC 900 EPS ($12,999) and RZR S 1000 ($17,999). The 55-inch-wide Ace 900 XC sports a 78-horsepower ProStar twin and 13.78 pound/horsepower ratio, while the 60-inch RZR S 1000 sports a 100-horsepower twin and a 12.35 pound/horsepower ratio; however, that 1.43 difference costs $5000. The S 1000 has a more sedate 79-inch wheelbase, more rear suspension travel (13.2 versus 12.25 inches) and carries a passenger, while the Ace 900 XC has a 67.5-inch wheelbase and weighs 160 pounds less than the RZR S. Both sport Walker Evans needle shocks and have serious yank for big fun on the trail.

MOST INNOVATIVE UTILITY UTV

Last year Can-Am’s Defender HD10 ($13,799 to $19,699) had the most innovative features, such as a glovebox that’s actually a removable toolbox and a bed with formed bucket holders to make work easier, but we’ve come to appreciate the new Honda Pioneer 1000 Limited Edition ($19,999) and 1000-5 LE ($16,399). The new Pioneer LEs sport an innovative dual-clutch six-speed transmission, Unicam four-valve head, paddle-shift or full-auto mode, hill-start assist, electronic brake-force distribution, turf tamer to fully locked 1–4WD system, Fox QS3 shocks and under-dash storage.

BEST 50-INCH UTV

Continuing the tradition of the original RZR 800 but with more power and comfort, Polaris upgraded to the 50-inch RZR 900 EPS ($14,799), but the RZR 570 EPS ($12,999) and Ace 570 SP ($9999) give better bang for your buck. The RZR 900 is available without EPS for $12,999, but we prefer the variable-assist EPS version with Versa-Trac unlocking rear diff. The 75-horseower ProStar twin delivers a thrill ride on tight trails. ZF Sachs shocks and all-around dual-A-arm suspension deliver taut handling and 10 inches of travel. For those on a tighter budget, the RZR 570 EPS delivers a sporty ride with a 45-horsepower ProStar single, the same engine that powers the thrill-ride Ace 570 SP.

BEST NEW PLAYER IN UTV-TOWN

Seldom does a UTV award go to a company two consecutive years, but the UTV world made national news when Bad Boy Off-Road became Textron Off-Road, which then bought Arctic Cat. When Textron—a military industrial giant that owns Bell Helicopters, Cessna, Beechcraft and EZ-GO golf carts—acquired Bad Boy Buggies last year, it was big news. The result was the Bad-Boy Off-Road Stampede 900, the first extra-cab UTV, and then the Stampede XTR, a crew-cab version of the original. This year Bad Boy Off-Road became Textron Off-Road, which promptly bought out Arctic Cat. Wildcats, Prowlers and ATVs are now Textron Off-Road Vehicles, with only snowmobiles keeping the Arctic Cat name. Textron is developing the 2018 Wildcat XX around Yamaha’s turbo triple, so more awards may be in their future.

BEST 1000cc SPORT UTV

While Polaris dominates the extreme-performance UTV market with the most machines on the trail, Yamaha’s YXZ1000R ($19,999) replaces the Polaris RZR XP 1000 ($20,299, now discounted to $19,499) for 2017 as the weapon of choice for hard-core UTV racers based on its domination of short-course races in TORC, LOORRS, WORCS and more. The driver-connected manual clutch and sequential-shift transmission put more power to the ground and are more durable than CVTs under extreme racing conditions, so much so that Lucas Oil added weight to Yamahas to level the playing field, and YXZs still win in the hands of CJ Greaves, Corry Weller, Dustin Nelson, Nic Granlund and others.

BEST 1000cc MUD MACHINE

The Polaris RZR XP 1000 High Lifter Edition ($22,699) got a new gear-driven reverse, $800 price reduction and Velocity Blue beauty package for 2017, but the Can-Am Maverick 1000R X mr ($21,199) has similar mud-specific features with a $1500-lower MSRP, and it is 206 pounds lighter. Or, go with the four-seat version, as the Can-Am Maverick Max 1000R X mr is only $1300 more than the two-seat Polaris High Lifter at $23,999. The Max X mr has new Fox Podium 2.5 QS3 shocks, a 4500-pound winch, 30-inch Gorilla Silverback tires, a lower low and snorkels. The Polaris RZR XP 4 High Lifter SE ($25,699) has height-adjustable rear seats, 9 more horsepower, 29.5-inch Outlaw 2 tires, lower doors, snorkels, a full front bumper and 4500-pound winch.

BEST FOUR-SEAT SPORT UTV VALUE

While the all-new Can-Am Maverick Max X3 line delivers the most four-seat performance, the three models have MSRPs of $24,999 (base), $27,399 (X ds) and $29,099 (X rs). We got to try out Shock Therapy’s Max X rs with its Ride Improvement System, Dual-Rate Spring kit and Series Six shock-sleeve modifications (see “Top 10 Maverick X3 Upgrades” in this issue). The ride quality and trail speeds over huge whoops were simply insane. With ST’s mods, the X3 Max X rs costs $31,244, plus tax and title. By comparison, the Polaris RZR 4 900 ($18,499) delivers 75 horsepower and more than a foot of travel for some serious four-seat trail speeds in open terrain at $9000 less than the 168-horsepower RZR XP 4 Turbo ($27,499). Tight-woods trail riders will also appreciate the low-cost performance of the $16,999 Kawasaki Teryx4 800 LE and $16,199 Honda Pioneer 1000-5.

WHAT WILL 2018 BRING?

Check out the preview of the all-new Polaris RZR XP DYNAMIX Turbo on page 26. Normally aspirated YXZ1000Rs and Sport Shifts may also see forced induction. Honda is also another innovator that has yet to announce a sport UTV.

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