Review: John Deere Gator RSX850i

September 6, 2012

John Deere has moved way beyond lawn mowers and tractors — in fact, the company invented the utility vehicle category in 1987, and have been innovators in the genre ever since.

The Gator RSX850i is the latest innovation in UTVs from Deere, and it’s a sportsman’s dream. Hunters willing to drop $15,000 on a utility vehicle aren’t just going to use it to haul out a deer and to pack into the woods in turkey season. They expect year-round use and functionality, and that’s what the Gator RSX850i was built for.

On a recent trip to Moab, UT, I tooled around the desert for a couple days in a new GatorRSX850i and pushed it to its limits. Or rather, my limits, as this machine drives a lot better than I do.

John Deere designed this UTV with three priorities in mind: recreation (power, speed, handling); functionality (terrain capability, utility); and safety.

We hunters are a function-first bunch, for the most part, so we’ll start there. Our first day in Moab was spent on sandy, rocky trails, about as steep and rocky as the central-Pennsylvania mountains I do a lot of my deer hunting on (although PA is considerably less sandy). I was in a Trail model that comes with alloy wheels with Maxxis Big Horn tires, a Warn winch, front brushguard, full underbody skid protection (don’t ask me how often that came in handy), 2-inch front receiver hitch, and cargo box rails. Add a gun rack and you’ll be set to take it dang near anywhere.

Need storage? You have 1.82 cubic feet in the glove box and under the hood, plus overhead storage, plus an 8.9-cubic-feet cargo box with a whopping 400-lb. capacity. The tailgate is removable and the cargo box tilts. Need to hitch up a disc or a spreader? The Gator RSX850i has a 1,200-lb. towing capacity.

In the summer when there’s nothing to hunt and you want to take the Gator on a joyride at an off-road park or in the desert (tip: pack a really big cooler if you hit Moab in July, and strap it down really well), you won’t be needing that towing power. What you’ll need is speed and comfort and great handling. Speed? Top speed on the RSX850i is 53 mph, though I only had the nerve to press mine to about 48. Power? You’ve got a 839cc, V-twin, liquid-cooled, four-cycle motorcycle engine that produces 62 hp and 0-30 acceleration in three seconds. Comfort? The Trail model features sport seats that tilt and multiple passenger-side grab handles.

Handling? It’s smooth, with a unique four-wheel independent suspension for precision handling through corners. A dual wide-arch A-arm design delivers maximum front-wheel control, precise steering and 10.3 inches of ground clearance. Aluminum body monotube FOX shocks are standard on the Trail model and can be upgraded to FOX 2.0 Performance Shocks with full spring and compression adjustability.

But at the end of the day, safety does come first. The RSX850i features an ISO certified Roll-Over Protective Structure (ROPS) with three-point steal belts. It’s also got an industry-leading dynamic and static stability factor and exceeds ROHVA standards for safety.

Bottom line: The John Deere Gator RSX850i stood up to all we could dish out in two days of hard punishment. Sand, slickrock, rocks, and bigger rocks — it handled it all. With its excellent towing capacity and the cargo capacity to haul the biggest deer you’ll ever shoot, the RSX850i can tackle any farm chore, hunting trip or day of fun you throw at it. And with more than 75 available attachments, it’s infinitely customizable to your needs in-season and out.










Moab and Sorrel River Ranch

Think of any classic movie that takes place in the American desert, and chances are excellent it was filmed in and around Moab, among the red rock cathedrals and expansive skies of southwestern Utah. It’s a stunningly beautiful place for a family vacation or an off-roading trip, with miles of trails and some seriously challenging terrain for those who are up for it. Nearby Arches National Park offers spectacular views and unique geological landmarks.

On this trip we stayed at Sorrel River Ranch, a real working ranch on the banks of the Colorado River. It’s not cheap, but for a once-in-a-lifetime vacation, it’s got it all. Horseback riding, hiking, mountain biking, off-road ATV tours, canyoneering, scenic flights, river rafting, Jeep tours and more, topped off with gourmet dining, breathtaking scenery and even a spa.