Sometimes you just have a need for speed.
Honestly, in this hobby, you’re not alone. Speed is one of the things people love about riding in a side-by-side vehicle, but the off-roading vehicle itself can be one of the most important parts of your experience.
Of course, not all vehicles are built for speed, and engine power isn’t the only consideration here. You also need a suspension system that can handle the bumps and curves of most trails and off-roading areas at speed. Not to mention the added challenge of varied terrain areas, pulling tricks, and avoiding other drivers depending on where you’re doing your driving.
With vehicles going 80 mph or faster, there are more options for speed, but at the same time, you want to have the best vehicle to handle that speed.
Here are the side-by-sides you should consider if you’re looking for speed and the other features you should keep in mind when you’re looking for speed.
The Fastest Side-by-Sides
Before getting into the top models you can get for speed, let’s talk for a minute about what else to consider.
For one thing, speed vehicles are nothing without a built-in quality suspension system. Suspension is critical for handling speed, especially through turns, bumps, and rough terrain. Torque helps your vehicle perform in different conditions and different kinds of terrain, while also managing acceleration under load. That’s critical if you’re going to have multiple people in your vehicle because, without enough torque, you’ll struggle to accelerate.
Safety is another huge consideration. Seats, harnesses, windshields, lights, and other features all contribute to vehicle safety at high speed.
That’s especially important if you’re looking to make additional customizations that can improve speed and performance.
That said, we’ll focus on vehicles that are fast straight out of the factory, rather than looking at vehicles with potential after customization.
Yamaha YXZ 1000R
First on the list with a top speed of an impressive 105 mph, the Yamaha YXZ1000R is powered by a 3-cylinder engine that was originally used in Yamaha’s snowmobile line. It’s important to note that this engine came from a snowmobile line since it’s a little different from the standard UTV design.
That said, it’s also got a manual transmission, so you should be prepared for a different kind of driving experience.
The 3-way locking differential lets you choose between 2- and 4-wheel drive. You can get 103 horsepower from this UTV, and you’ll also get an impressive 113 lb-ft of torque. Why does that matter? Because those stats translate to an impressive zero to 60 mph in just 4.1 seconds.
You can get to top speed on this UTV in less than 30 seconds, perfect for busting out speed on a straightaway, even if you have to come back to a more controlled speed when maneuvering curves and rough terrain.
Can-Am Maverick X3
If you know high-performance sporty UTVs, it will be no surprise to see the Can-Am Maverick X3 on this list. It’s one of the few UTVs you can get with a turbo straight from the factory and has even more impressive horsepower than the YXZ 1000R, up to 200 horsepower.
That said, the max speed is still slightly lower than the Yamaha, topping out at approximately 100 mph. However, there are a few different reasons to consider this vehicle over the YXZ. For one, the wheelbase is larger, which helps this vehicle feel smoother and easier to control at high speed.
It also has a much wider frame than average at 72 inches wide. Why does that matter? Because a wider base means more control at high speed and faster turn capacity without risking rollover. The impressive suspension is also a big part of why this vehicle tends to feel better to drivers at high speed.
Feeling more comfortable and more in control of the vehicle is critical for actually achieving top speeds. So, despite not having the absolute highest top speed, the Can-Am is still one of the top speeds side-by-side.
Arctic Wildcat XX
More comfortable for people who are trying high-speed UTVs for the first time, the Arctic Wildcat XX is a good though slower option, clocking in at 75 mph with a 130 horsepower engine, and 18 inches of front and rear travel in the suspension. That’s plenty for both high speed and comfort while riding. Also with an impressive 15 inches of ground clearance, the Arctic is great since it provides more options when off-roading.
This UTV is designed more for trail riding than true off-roading, it is also decent for off-roading and gives drivers many more options.
Polaris RZR Turbo S
The Polaris RZR Turbo S is another model that shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone familiar with high-speed UTVs.
This vehicle does have a governor that keeps the speed of the RZR a bit lower than it could be without the. That said, the governor is there for good reason, and tampering with it can significantly reduce the vehicle’s safety.
Its max speed, as set by the governor, is 85mph.
Don’t be disappointed, though, because the RZR outperforms most of its competition in other incredibly important features. For example, the suspension offers a full 25 inches of travel to absorb every bump and curve.
A wide 72-inch track provides plenty of stability as well. Between the track and the suspension travel, you’re going to do well with even challenging tracks and off-roading areas.
Despite having a slower top speed than some of the other vehicles on this list, the RZR is easily one of the top high-speed UTV vehicles you can choose.
Honda Talon 1000R
The Honda Talon 1000R is another UTV that has a limiter to prevent it from going too fast while still offering incredible speed and trail-riding power. This one is limited to 75 mph, and we do not recommend messing with the governor to change that maximum speed. That said, plenty of people have messed with the governor and have experienced how fast the Honda Talon 1000R can go.
The Talon 1000R has a peak horsepower of 104 and also offers plenty of torque and a good suspension system to ensure you get good acceleration and speed performance no matter the driving conditions.
Plus, the vehicle design is fantastic for helping you feel the speed. So despite the speed limitation, you’ll feel like you’re going plenty fast when on this vehicle.
How To Stay Safe in Your Side-by-Side
Anytime you’re looking at high-speed vehicles, especially for trail riding and off-roading, it’s critical to think about how to stay safe while having a good time.
There are a few things to consider before heading out to make sure you’re safe while out on the trails.
Make Sure Your Vehicle Is in Good Working Condition
One of the first things to do is make sure your vehicle is ready to go before hitting the trails or off-roading. That means you need to make sure the brakes, steering system, tires, and other critical components are working as intended.
You should also check the vehicle’s fluid levels to make sure there aren’t any problems, including oil, transmission fluid, and coolant.
Wear All of Your Safety Equipment
Once you know your vehicle is safe, you need to make sure you’re wearing everything you need to keep yourself safe. Helmets, protective gloves and boots, and goggles or eye protection (for any helmets that don’t include eye protection) are critical.
You should also make sure your seatbelt or harness is in good working condition with no fraying or other signs of material failure.
You can also wear additional protective gear on your joints, though that type of gear is considered optional.
Don’t Forget That Riding Can Be Dangerous
Another critical point is to remember that this is a dangerous hobby and you need to stay alert and aware of your surroundings at all times on the trail. For one thing, you never know when something unexpected is waiting around the next curve. Also, anytime you are off-roading or on trails, there might be another person or group on the same trail even if you don’t know they’re there.
Staying cautious and aware while on the trail or off-roading is critical to keeping yourself and everyone else on the trail safe. Considering these side-by-sides can hold more than one person, it’s not just your safety at stake; it's also anyone who comes trail riding with you.
Trail etiquette is more than just politeness, it’s safety.
Keep Your Skill Level in Mind
Another thing to consider is your experience with riding UTVs at high speed. If you’re just getting a high-speed UTV, it’s a good idea to take it slow at first until you’re comfortable and familiar with the vehicle before pushing it to higher speeds.
It’s also a good idea to incrementally increase speed while keeping driving conditions in mind. If you’re used to pushing the max speed of your UTV in sunny dry weather, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re ready to push the max speed on a rainy muddy day.
Avoiding risky behaviors is always important, including when trying to increase your skills or learning to handle higher-speed driving in your UTV.
Looking To Customize and Improve Your High-Speed UTV?
Once you have a high-speed UTV, you probably want to maximize the fun with additional accessories and customization options.