Until recently, most of my adventures have been human-powered. Backpacking the Grand Canyon was one of my all time favorite trips. I like to get up at 4am so I can go up the local hill and go skiing before work, and I need several hours of bike ride every weekend or I’ll go crazy.
But I also discovered the power of an engine. I currently have a 2003 Toyota Sequoia that I turned into an overland rig and it has helped me access some of the most remote and beautiful places in the western United States. More importantly, my partner and I can take our children with us.
However, my new favorite adventure mobile is side by side. My family and I have used a Can-Am Maverick X3 Max X RS Turbo RR for the past few weeks, and it’s simply the most exciting machine I’ve ever tested. I rode knee-deep in Europe, and it’s even more fun by a factor of two.
Case in point: Last weekend I loaded my family into the X3 four-seater and set out to explore the dirt roads in the back country south of Albuquerque, New Mexico, where we live. When I stepped on the pedal, the engine kicked us back into our seats. And that engine was loud – but our screams of excitement easily drowned it out. Amazed by the speed and smoothness of the journey, nobody wanted to stop.
We covered several steep, sandy, technical trails that would have pushed a converted jeep to its limits if it hadn’t stumbled at full speed. The X3, on the other hand, soared up and danced over sections outside the camber that would have scared me half to death in any other vehicle. Up on the hill, my partner looked at me with a big smile and said, “We have to take this thing on some trips!”
The feeling that you can drive safely and quickly almost anywhere is what makes the X3 such a fun vehicle. My family has traveled a lot and we used our sequoia to access some pretty secluded places. But the X3’s incredible speed and ability to stay ahead off-road has opened up entirely new parts of the world for us to explore.
Why is the X3 so bad?
The performance of the X3 is the product of several key factors. The suspension is by far the most important thing. The X3 version I’m testing has a chassis that allows a whopping 22 inches of finely tuned up and down on each wheel – that’s almost twice what my colleague Wes Siler with his improved Toyota Land Cruiser calls what he calls one of the most capable overland structures he has ever seen. (This comparison does not apply to apples with apples. It just gives you an idea of what you are working with.)
During this ride, the X3 can crawl over huge rocks and spots outside of the lintel while still feeling fully planted. The suspension can chew up hundreds of miles of ridged roads without the feeling of having just stepped out of a washing machine.
(Photo: Jakob Schiller)
The X3’s off-road chops include a wide 72-inch stance that keeps it stable when cornering. It is equipped with 30-inch off-road tires as standard, which can easily be dimensioned for even more traction. Front and rear lockers add incredible traction, and the bottom skid plates run the length of the floor to keep the X3’s drivetrain secure in case you should ever hit a rock.
It has a 195-horsepower turbo engine that can fire the 1,877-pound vehicle with rockets anywhere. Thanks to the fine tuning of the chassis, all that force doesn’t get overwhelming when you turn or go fast. An open cockpit with no windshield or window makes the speed absolutely exhilarating.
Is A Side By Side For You?
When I asked my friend Walt Wagner, who owns a nationally known overland store, why he is a fan of the X3 (he owns the two-seater version), he promptly replied, “These things are insanely capable from the start. They can also be driven hard all the time and you don’t have to worry about abusing them. “
Wagner owns a tricky overland Tacoma, which he has ridden on the toughest trails in the country. Even so, he bought an X3 because it was a different experience for him and his family (the two-seater can be modified to have a third, smaller child seat between the two main seats). Instead of taking your truck – which is also his Daily Driver – on uneven roads, it’s easier to just load the X3 onto a trailer. His truck remains his primary adventure vehicle for large multi-day camping trips, but the X3 is more comfortable and frankly more fun on its half-day or full-day trips.
Wagner’s situation is the best scenario as he has both an intercity truck and an X3. Since testing the side-by-side, friends have asked if I would recommend one instead of an overlanding build. The answer is difficult. For my family and me who Sequoia Overland Build is still the better choice right now as it’s set up for camping, which we all really enjoy. Still, I’ve already started saving for an X3 because I’d rather go on day trips or tackle rough trails with one, and my kids have fun in the open cockpit. Wagner also plans to equip the X3 and others side by side for longer camping trips. For someone who is not ready to dive headfirst into the overland but still wants to see the hinterland, tackle technical trails and feel the exhilaration of a powerful engine and fine-tuned suspension, the X3 is the easy choice.
This mindset also applies to costs. The X3 I’m reviewing costs a staggering $ 30,400, which you can easily pay for a new car. The cheapest version The X3 is priced at $ 19,000, which is a serious change too (for the lower price, you get a two-seater with less travel, smaller tires, and tighter stance). But compare those prices to what you’d have to spend to buy a Tacoma or Jeep, and then the upgrades it would take to make it as fast or as powerful as an X3, and the benefits become apparent – too After taking into account the cost of the trailer, you have to pull the X3. Wagner says that any build that comes close would cost two, three or even four times more. When you consider that an X3 is perfect for a family (you can push four children and two adults into the four-seater with a quick seat change), the price makes even more sense.
Finally, there are those who resist the noise and the gas. I hear you. Motorless adventure will continue to be important to me. But before you write off the X3, think about it: it usually averages 12 to 16 miles per gallon, depending on how much you like to hit the gas. With just a little over ten gallons in the tank, you can see 100 miles of backcountry and still enough gas to haul the vehicle on local trails. I easily burn 12 to 15 gallons of gasoline for a day of skiing to get my family to and from the ski resort (not to mention the energy used to turn the lifts that we all use). Whenever I want to take the X3 to Moab, Utah, or Colorado to ride the state’s famous 12,000- and 13,000-foot passes, I burn extra gasoline and pull the vehicle upstairs. But I’ll then save fuel by using the X3 once I’m on the trails instead of using my Sequoia.
To be clear, the X3 isn’t quiet. But I don’t want to drive the X3 where people camp because those areas are usually pretty boring to drive a vehicle like this. Thankfully, many of the land management agencies in the United States have done a great job creating trails for off-road rigs that are scenic, challenging, and well placed in the outdoor ecosystem. Here in Albuquerque we are fortunate to have hundreds of miles of hiking trails that offer incredible views, rolling terrain, and are far enough away from populated hiking and biking trails that I don’t have to worry about disturbing other people.
Support outside of online
Our mission to inspire readers to get outside has never been more critical. For the past several years, Outside Online has reported groundbreaking research linking time in nature to improved mental and physical health, and we’ve kept you updated on the unprecedented threats to America’s public lands. Our rigorous reporting helps spark important debates about wellness, travel, and adventure, and provides readers with an accessible gateway to new passions in the outdoors. Time outside is important – and we can help you get the most of it. Providing a financial contribution to Outside Online takes just minutes, and it ensures we can continue to deliver the breakthrough, informative journalism that readers like you depend on. We hope you will support us. Many thanks.
Main photo: Jakob Schiller
Thank you so much!
You are now subscribed to Gear Fix
We will not share your email with anyone for any reason.
You can find more newsletters on our newsletter registration page.