John Deere has entered the Recreational Utility
Vehicle category with the all-new, all-powerful
Gator RSX850i. It’s been engineered to be faster, more powerful, and
more agile than any Gator ever built. RSX850i is a new breed of UTV for John
Deere. It leans much more towards the sport-utility side of the spectrum than
all previous Gators that found their roots as work machines. I had the
opportunity to join up with John Deere in Moab Utah to test the new Gator on a
few of Moab's famous off-road trails.
After flying into Grand Junction Colorado, myself and several
other editors jumped on a chartered bus and headed for Moab. After a little over
an hour we reached our destination at the Sorrel River Ranch Hotel & Spa. The
ranch is set on a bend in the Colorado River amid spectacular red rocks and
beautiful pastures complete with the ranches own horses. The Sorrel River Ranch
isn't quite to Moab, so it took us a half an hour to get to the trails of Moab
each day to ride, but the setting was incredible.
you have never been to Moab, it is an adventure-seeker's dream. I first visited
in a UTV about five years ago during the first UTV Rally and fell in love with
the area. Moab is a Mecca for off-roading, hiking, mountain biking, river
rafting and more. Definitely a "bucket list" destination!
After cocktails and hors d'oeuvres, the new RSX850i was unveiled
and we were given a brief overview of this new machine. The new Gator fits into
the sport-utility sector along with the Yamaha Rhino, Can-Am Commander, Kawasaki
Teryx and Arctic Cat Prowler. The RSX850i has the longest wheelbase (77.8") in
this segment and is also the heaviest at 1360 lbs. The overall width of 56.5" is
middle of the pack. Ground clearance of 10.3" is on the lower end of the group.
Wheel travel front and rear is 9" which more than the Rhino and Teryx, but less
than the Commander and Prowler. Overall, it fits right into this group of
There are three RSX models – the Gator RSX850i Sport, the RSX850i Trail and
the Base RSX.
The Sport model includes sport seats, alloy wheels with Maxxis tires, PreRunner
bumper, cargo box rails, sport steering wheel and FOX® 2.0 Performance
The Trail Model features sport seats, alloy wheels with Maxxis tires,
winch, front brushguard, 2 inch front receiver hitch with recovery loops,
rear bumper and cargo box rails.
The Piaggio engine is a 839 cc, V-twin, liquid cooled,
four-cycle, gasoline motorcycle engine that produces 62 hp and a top speed of 53
mph. The engine also delivers 0-30 mph acceleration in three seconds. Advanced
electronic controls and a fuel-injection system supply excellent starting,
idling, and throttle response during operation. In addition, the
closed-loop system offers dependable performance at high altitude and
hassle-free cold weather starting. As far as I can tell, the Gator RSX's
closed-loop EFI system is an industry-first. Time will tell if this setup is
smart enough to deal with changes to intake/exhaust without reprogramming.
One other notable difference to the Gator RSX is the rear
suspension. The Multi-Link semi trailing arm independent rear suspension
features 9 inches of wheel travel and moves wheels rearward in compression,
lowering the impact of terrain and improving ride. It is a combination of a-arm
and trailing arm components that is unlike all others. The FOX shocks are also
positioned so they are almost straight up and down instead of angled inwards at
the top like other a-arm suspensions. This creates a more linear and broad
ranging shock setup.
After hearing all the details and crawling around the new Gator
RSX850i, I couldn't wait to get behind the wheel in the morning.
On tap for the first day of riding was the Seven Mile Rim trail.
While not an extreme rock crawling trail, it does have a few areas where we
could test out the crawling abilities, and also rip through some whooped out
sand washes at high speed. I got behind the wheel of a Sport model that comes
with the FOX® 2.0 Performance Series shocks. I immediately got down to
familiarizing myself with the controls of the RSX. Seating position and seats
were comfortable and controls were easy to understand and use.
John Deere Gator RSX850i on Seven Mile Rim Trail
The second day of driving the new Gator RSX was on the Hell's
Revenge Trail. This trail is a six
and one half mile roller coaster ride across the slickrock with steep
slopes sprinkled with a few sand dunes in between. The scenery is incredible and
the trail is not for the faint of heart. The new Gator made quick work of the
trail and handled the very steep climbs and descents with ease. One thing I did
notice is the engagement of the CVT brake. As with some other UTVs, you
sometimes need to give it a little throttle to get the engine brake to engage.
John Deere Gator RSX850i on Hell's Revenge Trail
For a stock sport-utility UTV, the RSX850i is a solid performer and a great
move for John Deere's first venture into the less utilitarian world. This isn't
a pure-sport UTV, it isn't fair to compare it straight up against models in that
class, but it does very well when compared to the Commander, Rhino, Teryx and
The power from the Piaggio v-twin felt good. Not as powerful as a Commander
1000, but definitely more grunt than a Teryx. I believe there is a lot of
potential left untapped with intake (single 36mm throttle body has got to be
restrictive) and exhaust work. The suspension is unique, and for a 56.5" wide,
non-long travel UTV I was real impressed. I am sure the FOX 2.0 shocks on
the Sport model had something to do with that.
The Gator RSX comes with front and rear anti-sway bars that really held the
vehicle flat in corners. In my testing, I could not get the RSX to drift in the
corners. It will be interesting to play around with disconnecting the front or
rear bar to see how it handles.
Ergonomics in the RSX850i were pretty good. I felt comfortable in the
Sport seat as a driver and passenger. Good legroom with a nice seat-position.
Doors worked really well and are nicely styled. I am not a big fan of the drink
holders up on the dash though. They worked well enough, but I thought they
should have been placed on the floor in front of the shifter.
Overall, I think that the new RSX850i is a strong player in the sport-utility
arena. I can't wait to get some more seat time and also see what the
future holds for aftermarket parts and accessories!
We picked up a new RSX850i on the way to DuneFest and put it
to the test in Winchester Bay. The Sport model features sport seats, alloy
wheels with Maxxis tires, PreRunner
bumper, cargo box rails, sport steering wheel and FOX 2.0 Performance
Series shocks. This was the first trip with our new demo unit and it
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