John Deere rock crawling in Moab? Strafing sand dunes on the coast? This isn’t the green and yellow brand that comes to mind when talking about one of America’s most ingrained agricultural icons. John Deere is branching out from its strong roots in the farming and utility industry and joining the ranks of sport UTV manufacturers. The 2013 John Deere Gator RSX850i Recreational Utility Vehicle comes in three different trims: Base, Trail and Sport. This two-seat side-by-side can be seen as an indicator of how popular SxS machines have become in recent years. John Deere could even be credited with pioneering the utility genre with the early Gators, but only recently has it offered any models that could be compared with other powersport companies. The XUV 825i and XUV 550 still remain in the lineup but step aside for the new, sporty Gator.
“The Gator takes a huge evolutionary step forward with the launch of the new Gator RSX850i,” said David Gigandet, marketing manager, Gator utility vehicles. “Gators have always been known for durability, utility and safety. The RSX maintains all these qualities at its core, but the incredible power, exhilarating speed and precision handling are what set it apart in our portfolio. It’s the Gator fully evolved.”
Differences between the three models lie in the details, but each is centered on the same engine, drivetrain and chassis. A V-Twin engine made by Piaggio cranks out a claimed 62 horsepower and 59.5 lb-ft. of torque from its 839cc displacement. JD states that the top speed is 53 mph and the Deere sprints away to a 0-30 mph acceleration time of three seconds. Closed-loop electronic fuel injection draws from a 7.4-gallon fuel tank to feed the Twin cylinders which use four valves apiece. The ECU is designed to cut out when wheel speed “far exceeds the vehicle speed” – sounds like traction control to us. A 450-Watt charging system handles all the electrical needs. A USFS-approved spark arrestor serves to muffle the stainless-steel exhaust system.
The new Gator is available in Base, Trail and Sport models. Each features a fuel-injected V-Twin build by Piaggio.
The liquid-cooled machine transfers power through a CVT transmission with the usual High, Low, Neutral, Reverse drive options. It has a locked rear differential with selectable 2WD/4WD. The front diff can be locked as well for maximum traction. The Gator can haul 400-pounds or of cargo in its 8.9-cubic foot, manual-dump bed and is rated at 1200 pounds towing capacity via a two-inch hitch receiver.
Deere was able to source some parts from the existing XUV 550, including the main chassis, A-arms and some body panels. What the smaller workhorse doesn’t have are FOX shocks. The RSX Base/Trail model suspension is preload adjustable and uses an internal floating piston. It offers 9 inches of travel front and rear with 10.3 inches ground clearance. The Sport model gets the premium FOX Podium 2.0 shocks. Claimed curb weight is 1430 pounds with an overall width of 56.5 inches. The track width is 48 inches in front and 46 inches in the rear. Wheelbase is 72.8 inches and JD claims a 15.25-foot turning radius. Four-wheel disc brakes slow it down.
This John Deere is designed to get off the farm and head into the OHV trails. It still has cargo capacity with a utility box as well as a storage compartment underneath the stylish front hood.
The Base ($12,999) comes with standard bucket seats and 12-inch steel wheels, both in yellow. It rolls on 25-inch Ancla M-T tires and is available in green/yellow, olive/black and Realtree Hardwoods camo. The Trail version is the mid-level trim and comes with alloy wheels shod in 26-inch Maxxis Bighorn 2.0 tires, a Warn winch, brushguard front bumper, 35.5-inch sport seats, rails on the cargo box and a rear bumper. The Sport machine has the wheels/tires, seats, box rails as well as a pre-runner bumper, sport steering wheel and the big-daddy FOX suspension.
Styling on the new Gator is angular and aggressive. Four headlights grace the front end and the engine hood has an air scoop. The UTVs have hinged doors as standard equipment with upswept lines that transfer into the rear dump bed. Passengers are protected by a ROPS cage and three-point seatbelts.
Power claims, weight and price are in the ballpark with other recreational side-by-sides. The RSX850i lineup brings John Deere into a new arena, one which the utility specialist is quickly adapting to. The company already has a four-seat model in the XUV 550 S4, so there’s obvious potential for a larger sport model in the future.