Editor’s note: John Deere recently unveiled a side-by-side vehicle family that could put it in a sporty UTV category with the likes of Polaris, Yamaha, Kawasaki and Arctic Cat, not to mention new segment player Can-Am. “The expectation of the Gator is going to change,” said David Gigandet, marketing manager for John Deere’s vehicles group. Gigandet said John Deere has missed valuable sales in the sporty UTV segment, and plans to change that going forward. One of the new Gators, in fact, far surpasses the 25-or-under mph category that so many utility-oriented UTVs maintain. To see how the new, sportier Gator compares to the current powersports competition, we asked a writer from our sister publication, UTV Magazine, to give us some thoughts after a recent Gator XUV demo ride.
In the flesh, the newest XUV is an evolutionary update, not revolutionary, with a tweaked version of the previous chassis. The most visible changes are a freshened front clip with swept-back headlight housings and a contemporary tailgate design with reverse/taillights and an easier, automotive-style handle in place of the old latch hooks, but much was hidden below the surface.
The XUVs comprised of three models featuring differing powerplants: the gas-burning 625i V-twin; three-cylinder diesel 855D; and the three-cylinder, gas-powered 825i, which was the most sporting and the primary focus of the introduction.
Is the new 825i more athletic than the previous XUV? Without a doubt. Suspension is a big upgrade, the engine is definitely more powerful and it’s still very capable (1,500-pound towing capacity, 1,400 pounds of payload) with a big, deep cargo bed that’s dumped with the assistance of gas shocks or an available hydraulic lift.
While we would’ve liked a lighter chassis and sportier moves, there’s no question this is a solid platform in either configuration. And, with Deere’s interest in playing in the recreational side of the UTV market, it was hinted there’s another shoe yet to drop, in the form of a true sport side-by-side in the near- to medium-term. We can’t wait, and know the company has the right idea.
Is it a true sport utility vehicle? That depends on your definition of sport. Hunters and fisherman will love its new look and higher top speed. Aggressive trail riders will want to stick with the established sport UTVs. But keep your eyes on this Deere — it’s moving fast, and getting aggressive. psb