Can-Am defines a side-by-side as an off-road vehicle with four or six wheels and bucket seats for passengers to sit, you guessed it, side-by-side. Enthusiasts know them as adventure machines or work tools, equally capable of exhilarating speeds and nimble efficiency.
The brand’s newest offering is the Maverick R, designed for ripping through the dirt. While the original Maverick side-by-side debuted in 2013, the Maverick R sends it with 240 horsepower. That’s more than any other side-by-side in its segment.
The power is just part of the story, though. Can-Am went deep with its engineering research, finding ways to make the side-by-side more stable, handle better, and feel better from the seat. Part technology and part straight mechanics, the innovations that make the Maverick R worthy of its performance trim nomenclature result in faster and more comfortable jaunts across the toughest terrain.
Faster, stronger, and more rugged: this is how the company made the Maverick R capable enough to live up to its billing.
Adding power to a vehicle like this is relatively easy. The challenge is to ensure that the other aspects of any vehicle like the chassis and suspension can handle the power boost. The suspension tells the story most plainly, with noticeable improvements in the ride–especially when traveling at a fast pace.
Can-Am engineer Gabriel Dessureault has been working on the Maverick R since 2018, and he explained the secret sauce behind the suspension system: a combination of a new heavy-duty tall-knuckle suspension design, specialized shocks, and computers. Equipped with Smart Shox, which is a self-adjusting suspension technology that actively makes 200 real time adjustments per second to the high-end Fox shocks’ settings.
The star of the whole setup is the tall-knuckle suspension, which enables 25 inches of travel in the front, 26 inches in the rear, and 17 inches of ground clearance. Built with strong, lightweight aluminum, the suspension configuration provides enough rigidity to stay grounded and enough squish to rumble over corduroy-rippled routes without giving the driver whiplash.
This tall-knuckle system results in 85 percent less load on the suspension arms than the previous system, Dessureault says, and the effect is drastic. Every component acts as a spring, improving resilience.
Dessureault notes that the 15-year-old side-by-side industry is quite new. While the first side-by-sides were made with ATV components, slowly companies like Can-Am are fitting them with equipment suited more specifically for their design.
“A lot of volume is moving from ATV to side-by-side,” Dessureault says. “At first, we used wheels, tires, hub bearings, ball joints, and more from ATVs. Now, side-by-sides are more capable than ATVs.”
Even the gnarliest desert races like the Baja 1000 are seeing more vehicles like the Maverick R, and they’re competing against million-dollar custom “trophy trucks” and for a lot cheaper. Starting at $35,000 or so, the Maverick R is considerably less expensive than a trick truck designed for a punishing pace on an extremely rough road (hold onto your teeth, because even the smoothest vehicles are jarring during a race).
“Trophy trucks are built with huge suspension travel, a V8 with 800 horsepower, and a solid axle; plus, they weigh 5,000-6,000 pounds. Everything is strong and purpose made,” Dessureault explains. “Side-by-sides are built similarly but in a way we can mass produce them. We have to be smart with our design in order to assemble them affordably.”
Typically, racing trucks are built on super-strong steel frames tweaked for flying through the air or on the ground at speeds up to 120 miles per hour in high heat for extended periods of time. Can-Am also uses high-strength dual-phase tube steel and improved upon previous Maverick versions by adding a double shear joint, which effectively doubles the shear strength of the fastener compared with a single-shear joint. That’s important for any passenger vehicle, as shear defines the force that slides adjoining parts of a body relative to each other, preventing failure.
The last thing a rider wants is for anything coming apart in the middle of an aerial stunt or quick turn.
Rounding out the package is a set of 32-inch Tenacity XNR ITP tires mounted to beadlock wheels. Connected via the industry’s first six-lug bolt pattern (as a truck would use), the Maverick R rolls on square-profile rubber instead of the traditional round profile. That gives the vehicle a larger contact patch with the ground, distributing the weight effectively for a better ride. It’s all done in service of going fast over rough terrain without shaking the inhabitants’ guts out.