Putting the sport back in utility
John Deere, long known for giant combines and robust utility vehicles, recently invited us out to Moab, Utah, to test its latest creation, the Gator RSX850i 4x4 side-by-side. From the company that invented the utility vehicle segment with its All Materials Transport in 1987, this is John Deere’s first real entry in to the sport UTV market and the company worked hard to get it right.
Living up to its aggressive body styling, the Gator RSX850i uses an all-new chassis that was designed from the ground up to tackle the harshest terrains, while providing exceptional comfort and a high level of performance to its riders. Each RSX850i is powered by a 62hp 839cc, liquid-cooled, four-cycle, V-twin engine capable of propelling the Gator from 0-30 in just three seconds on its way to a top speed of more then 53 mph. A large 7.4-gallon fuel tank provides all-day range.
Underpinning each RSX850i is an all-independent suspension with 9 inches of wheel travel and 10.3 inches of ground clearance. The exclusive Multi-Link semi trailing arm setup in the back moves the wheels rearward under compression, which lessens harsh impacts and improves the ride, as do the standard aluminum-bodied Fox monotube shocks. A driver-selectable limited-slip and full-locking front differential works in conjunction with a rear spool to provide plenty of traction in the loosest terra.
Available in three trim levels, Base, Sport, and Trail—there is a Gator for every need. Above and beyond the Base model, the Sport, geared for high-speed, desert environments, is equipped with alloy wheels, Maxxis tires, PreRunner bumper, cargo box rails, sport steering wheel, and Fox 2.0 Performance Series shocks. The Trail model, aimed at hunters and fisherman, adds sport seats, alloy wheels, Maxxis tires, factory-installed Warn winch, front brushguard, 2-inch front receiver, rear bumper, and cargo box rails. And just in case the traditional John Deere green and yellow livery isn’t your style, the RSX can be had in olive/black or Realtree Hardwoods HD Camo.
While the RSX850i was primarily designed for fun, it hasn’t lost its work ethic. Staying true to its heritage, the RSX850i has best-in-class 1.82 cubic-feet of sealed storage in the glovebox and under the hood. Out back an 8.9 cubic-foot composite cargo bed, complete with tie-downs, can hold a 400-pound payload. The truck-style drop-down tailgate makes loading cargo a breeze, and the manually operated dump bed proves this is a true dual-purpose machine.
In and around the trails of Moab, the Gator RSX850i proved to be a fantastic ride. John Deere allowed us to push the twin-seater as hard as we wanted and the machine was as solid as we expected.
While the V-twin isn’t the hairiest-chested engine we’ve ever tested, it had plenty of power to push our fun to the limit. The chassis is highly engineered and has a solid overall feel that can that can be appreciated in the way the chassis responds and in the lack of bumpsteer through the steering wheel. Stability of the RSX850i is another impressive trait, especially on the Sport model with its well-tuned Fox Performance Series shocks.
Overall, the Gator RSX850i is an exceptional choice for anyone looking to get in to the sport side-by-side market, especially for someone who requires a dose of utility with their sport.
Model: 2013 John Deere RSX850i Trail
Engine type: 839cc liquid-cooled OHV V-twin
Fuel delivery: Closed-loop EFI
Starting system: Electric
Transmission: Sealed CVT
Drivetrain: On-demand 4WD, selectable front limited slip and locked, rear spool
Suspension, front: Independent w/double A-arms, coilover shocks, and anti-sway bar, 9-in travel
Suspension, rear: Independent w/semi-trailing double A-arm, coilover shocks, and anti-sway bar, 9-in travel
Brakes: Hydraulic discs
Tires, front: Maxxis 26x8-14
Tires, rear: Maxxis 26x10-14
L x W x H (in): 119 x 56.5 x 72
Wheelbase (in): 77.8
Turning radius (ft): 19.7
Ground clearance (in): 10.3
Fuel capacity (gal): 7.4
Dry weight (lbs): 1,360
Towing capacity (lbs): 1,200
Payload (lbs): 800
Lighting: Four 27-watt halogen