The world of UTVs and Side-by-Side Vehicles (SSV) has changed my outlook on the off-road world. When these machines were first introduced, nearly twenty years ago, as a potential off-road recreational vehicle, I was skeptical. I, and others, consider them to be useful like golf carts, and fun like Mopeds. Now in 2023, we have a new generation of the SxS and the Can-Am Maverick R has landed at the front of that. Recently, Off Road Xtreme was invited for a two-day race-inspired Maverick R test drive. After experiencing the car for over 170 off-road miles, I am excited to tell you about our first impressions.
First, if you have not become familiar with the 2024 Can-Am Maverick R, it is an all-new platform and we have an overview with everything you need to know. To summarize those specifications, this new generation UTV enjoys a hefty list of best-in-class stats. The 240-horsepower Rotax three-cylinder 999 cc engine leads the list. Next, is the seven-speed dual-clutch gear-on-gear transmission. The other big part of this vehicle is the very dynamic chassis and suspension system which sports more than 2 feet of travel and offers precision steering and handling.
Looking at this vehicle’s numbers on paper sounds impressive, but does not mean squat if the car does not perform according to industry standards. So how does the Can-Am Maverick R measure up?
Can-Am Maverick R Test Drive Impressions Hint At Super UTV
We have all heard the term Super Car, and now even Super Truck. I am now proposing the phrase Super UTV be used to describe this new generation Can-Am because it is just not practical to compare the Maverick R to the Maverick X3 or other traditional SSVs. In fact, the classification of a “Sport” SxS falls short, and here is my reasoning.
For the Can-Am Maverick R press launch, a fleet of ten vehicles in the flagship X RS with Smart-Shox trim was prepared for our group. As a former desert racer turned automotive journalist, I can confidently say this machine is pretty much the coolest thing I have ever driven. I have ridden in Trophy Trucks, raced in the Baja 1000, driven across Moab, and own four decades of off-road experience. In my opinion, the Can-Am Maverick R is a Super UTV in every sense of the word.
Our Can-Am Maverick R Test Drive Starts With A Desert Rendezvous
Select media outfits were summoned to the deserts of Nevada for an experiential hands-on test drive. We landed in Reno and headed south to Hawthorne, while most everyone else, who appeared to be eccentric traveling “Burners”, headed north to the Black Rock Desert lake bed.
Once everyone had arrived at the evening rendezvous, we were treated to a catered meal against the sprawling vistas of Walker Lake, Mt. Grant, an aging military depot, and a row of very high-tech BRP products. After dinner, an informative presentation briefed us further on the Maverick R followed by a Q&A session with engineers and vehicle designers.
This was my first time to lay eyes on the all-new machine, and it is one of those things that just looks better in person. Originally, when the spy photos were posted online, feelings of distress, discomfort, and uncertainty floated around my head. It grew on me when I learned more for sure. But when I was able to see it up close and explore the body lines, I actually found the profiles progressively appealing. I know the designers found their inspiration from the distinct King Cobra snake head and other objects such as the sleek-looking F-22 Raptor fighter jet.
Race Inspired Can-Am Maverick R Test Drive
The Can-Am Maverick R press launch was unlike any test drive event I had been a part of. The organizers charted a course with routes from Valley Off Road Racing Association’s Hawthorne 250 race course and also Best In The Desert’s famed Vegas To Reno (V2R) event. The race course routes in the area are known for being fast but technically challenging, All of which seemed very appropriate for us to test out the Maverick R.
Additionally, Phil Blurton, a Can-Am factory driver and three-time BITD Champion, would lead our group on this 170-mile high-speed off-road adventure. His No Limit Race Team was on hand with pit support. Can-Am also decked out each of the journalists with custom Alpinestars driving gear. I sported my own Simpson Devil Ray Helmet, but helmets were supplied for anybody who needed one.
The coordination of the event had a lot of logistical moving parts including chase trucks, shuttles, chase UTVs, fuel stations, lunch stops, and photo opportunities. This whole operation certainly looked and felt like we were racing our own race, on a point-to-point race course, in what felt like competitive UTV race cars, with pit stops even. Also, I should mention that Can-Am went to the length of consulting with Tread Lightly! to help secure permits from the Bureau of Land Management and other land-use authorities.
I will admit that we were told this was not a race, but I was stoked by the theme that was planted.
On the first ride day, we went to our start location on the outskirts of Hawthorne, Nevada, where we had a hot breakfast. A safety briefing was hosted before we dispersed to the line of Maverick R cars. Apparently, I was the last of the group to claim a car, but luckily for me, it was the all-blacked-out one that I had been eyeballing the whole time. The Maverick R X RS comes in two color packages only; Carbon Black and Neo Yellow or Triple Black. All the cars in the fleet were decked out in the eye-popping Neo Yellow, except for a pair in Triple Black. One of which would be my ride for the entire adventure.
Once I found my car, I jumped in my Alpinestars driving suit, and shoes then stashed my helmet and gloves on the dash. I then promptly set up my new DJI Osmo Action 4 camera and configured various mounts around the vehicle. It was almost time for us to head out, so I slid into the driver’s seat for the first time.
Can-Am Maverick R First Impressions
The feeling of climbing into the Maverick R brought up dozens of old memories from my desert racing days. But there was one big difference; I could actually fit in this UTV more comfortably than I ever had in any race truck. With my 6-foot, 5-inch tall frame positioned behind the wheel, I found the lever to release the telescopic steering column and adjusted it to my liking. I wrapped my hands around the X RS race-inspired steering wheel and started soaking up the rest of the interior.
The Maverick R is laid out with an impressive arrangement of interior comforts I didn’t expect to find in a UTV. I gripped the rubberized shift knob and danced my fingers around other switches. I found a total of two cup holders on the car, both located between the seats. There was a small glovebox and also a larger center storage locker. I liked the grip handles on the interior door panels.
Despite having a lot of plastic, It really left me feeling like I was in a high-performance vehicle cockpit. Overall, I really liked what I saw and felt. First, the full coverage half doors offer huge containment. Sitting in the seat, my shoulders were almost below or equal to the door line. I noted a few minor imperfections, but I understand that the fleet was made up of pre-production units, and these same cars had just survived a wild multi-day adventure with dozens of Can-Am high-profile racers and ambassadors.
The last thing to do was to push the ignition button to fire up the car, slide into the padded four-point harness, and put my helmet on. To say I was brimming with excitement would be an understatement. I engaged the Maverick R’s DCT gearbox into drive mode and rolled up to the staging lane. As the last car in line, I did have ample time to explore the intuitive touchscreen display and the BRP Connect app.
That was the first temporary letdown I encountered. Each car was already equipped with an iPhone which was connected to the screen interface via a lighting wire. I discovered the phone was dead and was not responding to the charging cable. This was an issue since the BRP Connect app utilizes a phone connection to display mapping and navigation.
No worries though. I quickly uninstalled the old phone and RAM Mounts X-Grip phone holder which left an exposed Tough-Claw Ball Adapter. I had my iPhone prepped with the BRP Connect app installed and decked out with Peak Design Everyday Case. In less than 10 seconds I had my new setup mounted via the Peak Design Ball Mount Adapter.
Boom! And just like that I was connected with navigation. Just in time too since, I was next in line about to get a countdown to blast off.
Only a little flustered with butterflies of anticipation (it felt like I was about to roll off the race starting line), I was able to hit the one-button power/record function on the Osmo Action 4. I pulled the Alpinestars driving gloves on, and used the steering wheel button functions to put the Maverick R into Sport + engine mode and 4×4 with open differentials.
I noted the display screen engine RPM gauge roll from 1,500 to 1,900 at idle. Yes, I was going full-tilt right off the bat. The only thing I was left wanting, was a legitimate launch mode function, which is not currently offered on the Maverick R. Alas, I got the go-nod and rolled on the throttle.
The 32-inch ITP Tenacity tires clawed through the loose gravel and I was speeding off down a long and straight graded road. Using the automatic mode, the transmission promptly reacted to the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Rapid acceleration had me flying in Seventh gear up against the rev-limiter and only one digit away from peaking 100 mph. I noted the navigation indicating a direction change to a trail coming up on the right. I clicked down on the paddle several times to slow it down and got the car sliding in that direction as well. The route was also marked with planted stakes and arrow cards pointing us in the right direction, just like it would be during an actual desert race.
Can-Am Maverick R Test Drive: Dual Clutch Transmission
The BRP’s Rotax dual-clutch transmission was precise, seamless, and crisp shifting through all the gears, both up and down. I also appreciated the gauge displaying a large gear indicator that informed me if I was not paying attention. I am super impressed with this entire system and have zero complaints.
The DCT was actually the longest component to develop on this entire vehicle platform. While the Maverick R was a five-year project, the gearbox was an eight-year undertaking.
With the ten vehicles in the group and over 170 hard off-road miles logged, there was not one single issue with the DCT. Even with the high-temperature summer heat, there was not one light beeping or anything like that I was aware of. These cars have ample cooling systems with one dedicated to the DCT. I will also note that there are zero belts, resulting in zero belt changes.
Speeding Through The Desert
Hauling the mail at speed through the open desert is something I am very experienced at. It is a driving style that most people cannot understand. Things happen quickly and driving over one’s ability or vehicle’s capability can be an issue. In a high-performance Super UTV, a car like the Maverick R has tremendous power and 2-feet of dynamic suspension. You can quickly eclipse driver ability long before reaching the car’s limitations.
In the first few seconds of driving the Maverick R, many things were running through my head. The one that sticks out the most is that this thing is incredibly fast. In my opinion, it is a legit turn-key off-road race car. Without the proper driver training, an inexperienced driver could get out of shape very quickly and wreck themselves, no fault of the car.
I appreciate this car’s high-performance capabilities and understand the risk involved with operating a machine like this. I am always committed to responsible and safe off-road recreation and I know that Can-Am holds these same values.
In fact, BRP has put its money where it counts by supporting organizations like the RideSafe Foundation. In an effort to reduce powersport injuries, RideSafe and BRP educate and inspire riders. The mission is to get folks wearing the appropriate gear, acquire safety certification, and pursue proper training before operating Powersports equipment.
Can-Am Maverick R Test Drive: Off-Road Performance
So, there I was, flying through the desert. Zipping the car down various twists and turns, and then boom, I am rapidly approaching a gotcha ditch or a road crossing. The triple-piston brake calipers in the front would slow me down appropriately if I stepped on the brake pedal in time. If I did not, the large-diameter Fox Live Valve shocks with bypass and Smart-Shox Technology would eat it up.
Most of the time, I kept the vehicle shocks in Sport mode, but if it got really rocky and rough, I could program it into Comfort mode. Likewise, if it was wide open and relatively flat, I could tighten it up and put the shocks into Sport +. Over and over again, I was thoroughly impressed at the car’s driveability, corner handling, and ability to handle the rugged terrain.
I truly feel like the Maverick R is a rigid beast of a car. It felt very planted and just handled it all very well.
Radical Jumps, Rolling Hills, Descents, And Rippin Twistys!
Our route implemented several photo opportunities that would allow proper documentation of this adventure. And each one offered a different kind of excitement. Perhaps the highlight for me was hitting steep rolling hills at speed. It was like a roller coaster and you really could not see what was on the other side. Even though I was hauling ass and chasing a car in front of me, I would let off the throttle cresting the hill, and then punch it down wide open coming down and up to the next one. The rollers were epic!
Another favorite was a wide-open high-speed launcher we could safely hit flat out. This was scouted and spotted for us to take a run at, so I did. I know I was probably going 90 mph and was a little disappointed I did not hit it on the chip. But there is always the concern that this is a press event, you want to leave the car with zero damage, and you only want to make positive impressions. Well, I sent it anyway and the jump was rad!
We did some other challenges that consisted of gnarly steep descents with flooded-out ruts. And then there were some very fun, sandy switchbacks and deep sandy dry riverbeds. There were literally miles on miles of varied terrain for us to test the Maverick R and push it to the limit, or my limit rather.
Hot And Dusty
On Day One, I started in the back of the pack and quickly caught up to the cars in front of me. Eating dust is part of the game in the desert. But there are a few things you can do to mitigate the choking clouds of dirt. I was prepared with my full-face helmet. I even prepped it with a new 3M adhesive Velcro strip to attach a dust skirt.
I also configured a Speedway Motors Tru-Air Mini Pumper to my helmet. To power this 12-volt fresh air pumper, I hooked up with Blurton’s No Limit crew to make a bush-craft solution. Using one USB 2.0 cable and some wiring connectors, I was able to power the mini air pumper with my BioLite Charge 40 PD powerbank. I was literally pumped to have this because Day One on the trail was hot and dusty.
So, anyway, I was driving at a good pace and pushing the car within my comfort level. But I would catch dust, and even though I was comfortable driving in the thick of it, eventually, visibility became a liability. I caught myself running off track once, so I pulled the reigns back and held off for a bit. After all, I did not want to wreck a car or come up with any flats.
I Hit My Limit
I suppose we did about 90 miles off-road the first day and ended in Fallon, Nevada. On Day Two, we started where we ended on Day One. It felt about as hot, but we seemed to be catching a better breeze which I hoped meant clean air and no dust. After the morning safety briefing, we rallied to our same cars and prepared for the day.
Again, we were staged into a single file formation for a staggered take-off of about a five-minute gap. Well, I ended up near the back of the pack again and once we got up to speed, I soon found myself chasing dust, and a lot of it. So, five minutes into it, I was jamming and caught two cars with the front one just going much slower than I wanted to.
The road we were on was not wide enough to safely pass another car. But once the terrain opened up, I saw a grassy lane open up and took the liberty to make a pass. I pressed the go-pedal and the Maverick R took me where I wanted to go. Flying by the first car seemed pretty righteous, so I kept it pinned at 80 mph and went to complete the maneuver on the first car.
It was at that moment when I knew I $@#%! up. As I was merging the car into the lane, I hit a bush with the left rear tire, and the rear went airborne.
Clean Air For Miles
The car ate it up of course, and I was back on the road giggling a little bit. That tire went down about a minute later. Based on the terrain of very soft silty farm roads, I decided to limp the car in about two miles to a scheduled stop at Hooten Wells Pony Express Station which I knew was not far away. I definitely earned that one but will also admit it was not too risky of a maneuver and something I had done many times before in other desert running scenarios.
The group collected at the scheduled stop and it was determined I would hold back and wait for the chase UTV and a spare tire. Everyone else took off to continue the journey. One-half hour later, I was back in the driver’s seat and clicking off miles.
From this point on, I had nothing but clean air and it was a whole different experience. I had uninterrupted views and wild landscapes. More importantly, I had mad room to safely stretch the legs of this wild beast. The Can-Am Maverick R, when unleashed to its full potential is simply hard to describe. What I can say is that I was wearing an ear-to-ear grin.
Still running solo and about 20 miles behind, I came into our scheduled fuel stop and was topped off. I had enough time to pop the DJI Osmo Action 4 from one mount to another before being released from the fuel station.
I started grabbing gears again and began navigating a set of rollers, one of which veered off to the right. A quick reaction on my part allowed me to follow the trail, but I noted another car had not been so lucky. Apparently, they had hit a sizeable boulder, destroyed a wheel, and bent a lower arm.
I was waved on, so I kept charging hard. The hilly rollers flew by until I came alongside Highway 95. At this point, I was a little uncertain, but continued following the BRP Connect pre-determined route which had me staged to cross the road. Also, I was well aware that the V2R course had multiple road crossings. I waited for any passing traffic, looked twice both ways and safely scooted across.
In the far distance, I witnessed half a dozen separate dust trails evenly spaced out probably 15 miles away. Catching up and on the right track, I dropped down into some sandy wash trails heading towards Churchill Canyon Springs and started sawing the wheel. I toggled the steering input to its maximum level and pushed the shocks into comfort mode.
I was clicking off miles and loving every minute behind the wheel of the Maverick R.
Back On Top
Staying on the designated BRP Connect trail, the route cut back to the left and took me up out of the wash. This section was super high-speed with pretty open and straight roads. I entered into Sport + mode for all settings and ramped up the speed to full tilt. Down the road, I spotted a cow trotting down the middle of the trail and slowed down to match her pace. She caught on and stepped out of the road to let me resume my solo high-speed adventure.
Not long after I caught up to my dude Cain Smead, who was holding down the rear and playing with his GoPro cameras. We turned towards the foothills of Lyon Peak and the terrain went from fast and fun to rocks and rocky. I slowed the pace way down, not wanting to pop another tire, and put the car back into Comfort mode. This section skirted some creeks and gullies and was just bumpy to no end. This terrain went on from corner to corner, hill to hill, and eventually straightened out on top of some grass prairies.
A wild herd of Mustangs was frolicking with two of the beasts going at it in a vicious battle. With just one of many new experiences to behold, I admired the brutal scene and then pressed on.
In The Mud
Mile by mile, the terrain transitioned from the low desert to elevated foothills. The colors and vegetation went from withering shrubs to green grass and a variety of thriving trees. And now there was a lot of water. Spring fed creeks and the water flowed right down the middle of my path. Some of it collected to create pools and puddles. As I came around a blind corner I found myself heading towards a manageable mud hole and some of the crew waving me off to the left of it.
It was too late and I could not bother with the brakes. I stabbed the throttle and steered the car through the mud pit. It was much deeper than expected, but the Maverick R dove in and drove out. At that moment, the same left rear tire completely deflated. I rolled out to a flat area and my trail ride leaders waved me down to stop. I knew it was the end of my ride.
We were not far from the end of our mission and needed to press on to finish the ride. There was a whole magical end of our trip planned which required us to stay on track. I was instructed to hop in another car, so I grabbed my gear, gave my Maverick R an affectionate farewell, and made peace with my trusty stead.
Trail Ride Summary
The whole ride was a real blast for me. I thoroughly enjoyed putting some serious off-road miles on the Maverick R. I thought the race-inspired trail run was spot on and added some real excitement to the whole adventure. Starting out in Hawthorne, we made our way across the desert, north to Fallon. That was a good 90-mile stretch. The next day, we started in Fallon and pushed west through some gorgeous wilderness to end in Dayton for another 80 miles. This was my favorite part of the experience–besides having a bit of tire trouble.
I was able to track my path and stay connected with my SPOT X 2-way Satellite Messenger. Despite being in these very remote areas with limited cell signal, I was able to check in, send and receive messages, and also drop a cookie trail of GPS coordinates throughout my entire journey. Even though there were no emergencies, it was nice to have the piece of mind knowing I could call for emergency services no matter where we were. I also noted that Can-Am had each car equipped with its own dedicated Rugged Radio GMRS hand-held radio and SPOT Personal Tracker devices for individual tracking. I appreciate these extra measures of safety and consideration.
Off Road Xtreme Thoughts On The Can-Am Maverick R
I am a big fan of this vehicle. Can-Am went far outside the box and I believe has set the bar. There is no exaggeration from me when I describe the Can-Am Maverick R as a Super UTV. The power and speed is incredible. Having an improved reliable drivetrain is a huge upgrade. The driveability is impressive. I appreciate how the Fox Live Valve and Smart Shox technology adjust the driving dynamics. Performance across the board receives top-of-class scores from Off Road Xtreme.
We believe there may be room for improvement with the BRP Connect technology and navigation since we heard of several folks having issues with that. I also noted more than a few flat tires during the event. I for sure earned one of them, and I know my fellow journalists were not able to dodge all the rocks. There were a few flat tire anomalies that might be sorted out with wheel options.
I want to mention the rear tube in the Roll Over Protection System (ROPS). The very rear tube is not connected to anything at the very bottom. I asked the engineers and was informed that it was not structurally important. They pointed out a second tube at the B-Pillar with the more forward tube providing all of the structural integrity and fully tied to the chassis. After pushing the car as hard as did, I felt satisfied with the car design and noted a very rigid chassis throughout my testing.
Overall, this machine offers exceptional dollar-for-dollar performance for value. This car is not for everyone and caters to a very specific group of off-road enthusiasts. If you are into high-speed desert running, take a good look at the Maverick R. If you want to do wooded trails and mud bogging, Can-Am has a dozen other machines more appropriate to choose from.
I want to express my sincere gratitude for having been included on this event and thank everyone involved for putting in the effort.