By Jon Crowley
I love all things about UTVs. Going fast through the desert. Blasting through the dunes. Exploring forest on trails. And of course, rock crawling. For me, Can-Am sport UTVs have been all about going fast since their front differential just didn’t cut it for extreme rock crawling. Well for 2018, Can-Am added something I have been wanting for a long time.
Can-Am-exclusive Smart-Lok* technology is a true full lockable on-the-fly front differential with additional electronically-controlled automatic modes. This flexible setup is a mix of several different manufacturers. Fully locked is similar to Yamaha, Kawasaki and Arctic Cat (now Textron Off-Road). While the ‘Smart mode” is more similar to Polaris.
Front differential locker design is something that every rock crawler has an opinion about, and a lot of that comes down to personal opinion. For my taste, I prefer a more automatic solution, but I also want something that is as fully locked as possible when things get hairy. And I don’t really like it when I am driving a vehicle that has a fully locked front diff that then makes steering super difficult. Yamaha, Kawasaki and Textron are great for straight line technical obstacles when you really want all four tires doing their part. But on obstacles that are longer and have turns, maneuverability suffers.
Can-Am’s “Smart mode” uses multiple input sources,and instantaneously engages locking with the right load at the right moment. Maximum traction while retaining low-speed maneuverability is achieved in 4×4 ROCK mode.
In 4×4 TRAIL mode, the front differential acts much more like the Visco-Lok differential setup. This is perfect for higher speed dunes and desert scenarios. I would say that Polaris differential setup is somewhere in between ROCK and TRAIL, but closer to ROCK.
I spent several days at Sand Hollow State Park in Utah driving the new Can-Am Maverick X3 X RC Turbo R during the SxS Adventure Rally. This vehicle is priced at $28,999 and comes with the new Smart-Lok front differential, 4,500lbs winch, HWM Skid plate with UHMW rock sliders, Intrusion bar, Aluminum roof, 30x10R14 Maxxis Liberty Tires, 4-point retractable harnesses and 170HP!
First thing we did was to follow FOX guidelines for setting the proper ride height on the vehicle. This is a bit of a pain, and something I think should be handled prior to delivery, but if you don’t raise the ride height the shocks don’t work nearly as well, and we would have been dragging quite a bit in the rocks. Big thanks to Lanse at SxS Adventure Rally for his help.
We took it out for a quick test on a trail called “Nasty Half” which is close to base camp, but had several obstacles that I could test the Smart-Lok system. I was very pleased with the results.
Then we swapped to a set of sand tires so we could see what 172HP and 4×4 TRAIL and 2×4 were like. All good. Love the power! We swapped back to the 30-inch Maxxis Liberty tires and went for a fast run through the sand and rocks to “Top of the World”.
The suspension soaks up the rough terrain, and the turbo power is very addictive.
In my opinion, 32-inch tires are the new sweat spot for all-around desert and rock crawling, so the next day, we swapped over to 32x10R15 GBC Terra Master tires mounted on OMF beadlocks. I wanted to see how the clutch handled a taller tire and also gain a little more ground clearance.
We rode on a new trail called “The Ledges” for several hours. I tried all combinations of 4×4 in low-range. I found that I would leave it in 4×4 TRAIL mode for general low-level crawling. Then when I came to an obstacle, either switch to 4×4 ROCK or 4×4 DIff Lock depending on the obstacle. I liked the ability to run in a less invasive mode (4×4 TRAIL) when ultimate traction wasn’t needed. In my mind, this is the least harsh on differential parts, but I am not sure that really makes much difference.
After The Ledges, we went on Double Sammy. This is one of my favorite trails at Sand Hollow. Double Sammy is not very long, but it is packed with fun obstacles. Once again the Can-Am Maverick X3 X rc Turbo R ate up the terrain.
So I am very pleased with the new Smart-Lok front differential system that Can-Am has. It certainly gives more than enough options for every taste.
From an entire vehicle package, the Can-Am Maverick X3 X rc Turbo R is very impressive. Locker is more than adequate. Suspension and power are incredible in high speed terrain. The 72-inch wide stance is awesome for the stair-step type obstacles found in Utah, but may be a little wide for some tight obstacles in Johnson Valley or the Rubicon. Can-Am does offer the RC in a 64-inch, but that is only in the 120HP version. I’d like to see the 172HP version in a 64-inch RC.
The longer wheelbase is a benefit in some circumstances and a hindrance in others. The skid plate is rather large because of the wheelbase so that is easier to high center on.
The thing I found that I didn’t like the most was visibility. There are two seating positions, and even on the higher of the two, I find it hard to see over the hood at what is right in front of the vehicle. This is really noticeable when you climb up a hill and then descend. There is really no way to see at the peak.
Overall, I am thrilled with the new 2018 Can-Am Maverick X3 X RC Turbo R and cannot wait to customize it and take on more adventures.
Can-Am Maverick X3 X RC on the Rubicon Trail
We were able to squeeze in one last run after Thanksgiving before winter hits. I brought the X3 RC up to see how it would do.
In general, rock crawling on the Rubicon is a little different that what you’d find in Moab or Sand Hollow. Much less ledges, and more random boulders. Turning radius and ground clearance make more of a difference here so I was a bit concerned that the larger platform of the X3 would be more of an issue.
With the width of the RC coming in a 72-inches, I definitely found myself looking at line choices a little different, but it never was a problem. I think the massive amount of suspension travel (20-inches front and 24-inches rear) really help keep the car planted. And I had the front and rear sway bars connected with no issues.
The single biggest issue I have with the X3 RC is visibility. The hood is long and it is difficult to see what is in front of you. I found myself looking out the window more often just t get visual on what was coming.
The shot above is a good illustration of sway bars doing work. If I has disconnected the front bar, you would see much more flex. This being said, I never found it to be an issue. Front differential locker did its job and the RC kept going. At some point I may disconnect the front, or at a minimum get a set of Walker Links (see Walker Evans Racing – Walker Link) to see if I like more flex, but for now, the RC did everything I needed it to do.