For 2013, performance Side by Side enthusiasts will have another serious contender for consideration. While Can Am entered the sport UTV market two years ago with the Commander 800 and 1000, Polaris has pretty much owned the extreme performance market with the RZR XP. This December in limited release, Can Am will be releasing the all new Maverick 1000R and 1000R X rs to select dealers, and the rest of the world will have to wait until February for their opportunity to buy one. What is the Maverick and how good is it? We recently spent an entire day behind the wheel, putting the new 101HP, high performance UTV through all kinds of cool terrain at the Logandale trail system.

The 2013 Maverick is new from the ground up and built to outperform the competition, aiming straight for the XP 900 and Wildcat 1000i. The Can Am Maverick will be released in three different hi-performance models. A 1000R base model, 1000R X rs with top of the line shocks, wheel package, etc., and a 4 seat Maverick Max that will hit showroom floors in June. All three are built around a 101 HP powerplant, new rigid chassis, and new 14″ wheel travel TTA suspension. The mid-mounted Rotax Maverick motor is similar to the Commander, yet makes 15% more HP. Additional HP was found by modifying intake and exhaust tracts using High-Flow Dynamics. Air intake location, air filter size and exhaust valve size were all increased. A new dual, tuned length exhaust system now flows through dual mufflers. With compression increased to 12:1, the Maverick is optimized for 91 octane fuel, but an engine knock sensor will allow you to run 87 octane fuel when necessary. This new found HP is routed to the ground through a new CVT belt, said to be twice as strong as the previous Commander clutch belt. This new, stronger belt can also be installed as an upgrade to previous model year Commanders.

The Maverick 1000R is not just a reworked Commander with more power and suspension. The basic Commander cage and some of the interior components were used, but the Maverick features an all new, rigid steel tube frame. Longer dual front a-arms provide more travel and a wider, more stable stance, and a completely new rear end graces the Maverick as well. Can Am engineers have developed what is called TTA (Torsional Trail A-Arms) in the rear. The TTA system is a hybrid 5 link system that incorporates the minimal wheel scrub and camber change of Can Am’s TTI system into more travel and optimum weight transfer and tire-to-ground contact. All TTA components have been designed for minimal unsprung weight, and even the new wheels are a center-less design to shed weight.

The Maverick has a mid-mount motor and seats the driver and passenger 7 inches further back than the Commander, creating a weight balance almost identical to the Polaris XP900 and Arctic Cat Wildcat. Can Am claims that the mid-mounted engine provides superior handling, due to centralization of mass and weight balance.

The look of the new Maverick is wild and sporty as well. Featuring huge raised front fenders, sitting behind the custom steering wheel and looking out, you really get that trophy truck feeling, and the deep throaty exhaust note only adds to that really cool feeling. As an “all in” sport model, Can Am has opted to ditch the dump bed in favor of pre-runner type bed sides and a rack borrowed from the Outlander ATV. The composite ATV rack allows for the use of the already available LinQ cargo system accessories. If a more traditional bed is what you’re after, there is also an option for a drop-in bed liner or even a sealed cargo box.

The Maverick 1000R base model will get fully adjustable Fox 2.0 shocks and features 14 inches of travel at both ends. The Base model 1000R will still feature 12-inch center-less cast-aluminum wheels and lighter weight, yet ultra durable Maxxis Bighorn 2.0 tires.

The Maverick 1000R X rs package will come with Fox Podium X Performance RC2.5 shocks. These 2.5 shocks are the largest, most highly advanced UTV shocks that FOX sells, and will be tough to beat when looking for the ultimate shock performance. Rebuildable and fully adjustable, the RC2.5 features dual speed compression and rebound adjusters. The X rs will also get lightweight, 12 inch aluminum beadlock wheels.

After getting a brief preview of the new Maverick at the launch party in Sept., we couldn’t wait for the opportunity to drive it. The opportunity came quicker than expected as we were invited out to Las Vegas in October to test the Maverick at the Logandale Trail System. While the machines were still pre-production units, we were assured that the production models would be very close to our test machines.

The Logandale trail system was chosen for its unbelievably diverse terrain, varying from rocky desert sections, whoops, hill climbs and sand dunes. This amazing terrain, coupled with beautiful red rock formations, made for amazing photo opportunities in every direction. Aside from amazing trails, we also found herds of wild, big horn sheep and Native American petroglyphs along the red rock canyon walls.

While getting ready for that first highly awaited ride, we couldn’t help but notice how easy the stock door nets were to operate, as well as the exceptional elbow room they provided, compared to the Polaris stock door nets. Seating in the Maverick features comfortable seats and seat belts designed to give a little, instead of stressing our bodies with a rigid belt. While the driver has a custom steering wheel to hold, the passenger has a solid U-Bar to hold onto as well as a console mounted handhold.

Our first test choice was the near race-ready X rs.  As we were leaving the staging area, I couldn’t help but comment out loud as to how much it feels like you’re in an off-road race truck. The motor and exhaust sounds amazing. Yes it will be a little louder than the competition when trying to hold a conversation with your passenger, but in my opinion, the inconvenience is worth it. As we entered the trail system, we finally got to mash the throttle and feel what 101HP in a stock machine feels like. If there’s a word for it, that word is “FAST”. The Can Am Maverick motor absolutely rips.

Our first trail consisted of fast sand washes, curvy dirt roads, g outs and whoops. The Maverick eats these types of terrain for breakfast. The upgraded X rs suspension takes on whoops with authority and provides minimal body roll when navigating curves at a high rate of speed. In these situations, you don’t even miss having power steering as it turns predictably and securely with minimal effort. Unmatched acceleration and a super stable platform leave the Maverick as possibly the “funnest” UTV you can drive in the open desert. The Maverick is very capable of speeds over 60 mph, and it gets there quickly as well.

Halfway into our morning loop, we found ourselves in much slower terrain; rock crawling our way through a canyon that just seemed to get narrower and narrower as it went on. The Maverick four wheel drive system and Bighorn tires supplied the necessary traction, but this is when you start to really miss the option of EPS. On more than one occasion, we caught rocks with the tire at low speed, and the negative feedback to the steering wheel was enough to rip it from your hands. Also, when trying to muscle the car in and around boulders at slower speeds, the Maverick required quite a bit of extra steering input.

Once we got out of the seemingly endless tight chicane, we found ourselves in a dune area. The dune area had super soft sand, faster trails, hill climbs and jumps. Once again, we found ourselves not really missing the power steering and enjoying the connected feel of the steering wheel to the ground. The Mavericks predictable handling was only hampered slightly by a tendency to be a little drifty at top speeds. Jumping the Maverick is confidence inspiring to say the least. You point it where you want to go, and throttle up. The suspension, especially on the X rs model, can take anything you throw at it.  We found ourselves pushing the limits farther and farther every time we would hit a jump. The Maverick would require a really poor landing before even thinking about bottoming out. It jumped straight and predictable, and it will definitely be a contender in the short course racing scene.

Another great attribute was the braking. The Maverick brakes were controllable and efficient, no matter how fast we were driving; the Maverick brakes could slow or stop the machine safely and quickly every time. Downhill descents were also very confidence inspiring with Can Am’s engine braking system. The Maverick would hold to under 5 mph in low gear and under 10 mph in high gear, when descending a hill under its own power until you hit the gas, allowing it to release and freewheel.

The Can Am Maverick is definitely going to be a contender when it comes to pure performance SxS supremacy. The stronger motor, better chassis, and awesome suspension will be a much better platform for racers to build off of, when compared to the Commander. The Logandale trail system turned out to be great place to test the Maverick, or any sport side by side for that matter, and we had a great time seeing what this thing could do. The Maverick handles well, is wicked fast, and an absolute blast to be behind the wheel. We can’t wait to get our hands on a test unit, and I can’t wait to see what a fully modified one is capable of in the near future.