By Jon Crowley, UTVGuide.net
John Deere has entered the Recreational Utility Vehicle category with the all-new, all-powerful Gator RSX850i. Its 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.
If 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 sport-utility UTVs.
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 Series shocks.
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 Prowler.
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 performed flawlessly!
More coverage: DuneFest 2012
Using our John Deere Gator RSX850i:
John Deere is a world leader in providing advanced products and services for agriculture, forestry, construction, lawn and turf care, landscaping and irrigation. John Deere also provides financial services worldwide and manufactures and markets engines used in heavy equipment. Since it was founded in 1837, the company has extended its heritage of integrity, quality, commitment and innovation around the globe.
Visit your local John Deere dealer or www.JohnDeere.com/Gator to learn more.