2013 John Deere Gator RSX850i Sport Review

Aug. 09, 2012 By Rick Sosebee, Photos by Lane Lindstron and Courtesy of the Manufcaturer

Living in the country it’s easy to find many John Deere products working but there are not many built for play. The Gator line has a lineage that dates back many years, but the sole purpose of these vehicles has been work with a slight hint of off-road, after-hours fun. It wasn’t until the craze of the side-by-side nation began growing that we would see John Deere step into the world of recreational/utility UTVs and come to market with a real competitor in the industry. This is not the first year of UTV production for John Deere, but in 2013 it will be the most notable for sure.

The RSX850i Sport model is available in Camo, Olive or Green and Yellow (shown)For 2013, the RSX850i will stand out as a true recreational and work vehicle with the emphasis leaning toward the play side. Out in the wild lands of Moab, Utah, we had our chance to get a closer look from the driver’s seat.

Our headquarters would be the Sorrell River Ranch, and before dinner we had a meeting planned to get the scoop on this machine. First impressions are everything, and with a little help from Mother Nature the reveal of this machine was fast-forwarded just a bit. The winds picked up as the presentation was taking place, and without warning the cover was blown quite literally right off of the display unit. Revealed to us was the classy styling of the forward-thinking engineers at John Deere. Needless to say, it grabbed everyone’s attention.

Once exposed, the sporty, high-back seats grinned across the dash of the machine, and with the very colorful combination of John Deere green and yellow, the styling was an instant hit. The sleek lines and cowl-induction-style hood scoop gave the machine an aggressive look that was a hit with this “old school” hot-rodder.  A huge Baja-style bumper also gives the racing enthusiast something to convince the competition to move aside while protecting the front of the machine. The wide over-fenders covered the wheels well, and drifting down the driver’s side of the Gator RSX850i the factory-installed doors flowed really well with the design. The bed of the RSX850i seemed a bit small, but looking at the specifications we found it holds 8.9 cubic feet of space that will carry a massive 400 lbs. Also, if towing is a must, the limit for this machine is set high at the 1200-pound block. This machine is bound to get some work done no matter what it is.

Peering over into the cab of the RSX850i Sport you will notice the cockpit of this machine has a really good setup. Everything is well positioned, from the dash-mounted 2WD/4WD/4WD front lock switch to the automotive-style digital dash layout to the sporty steering wheel. The driver has control of the gear selection simply by reaching down between the seats and pulling up or pushing down on the shift handle. This model has a parking brake mounted to the lower dash in the forward floor area to hold the Gator steady no matter the terrain. Other items to note were the dual drink holders on the center top of the dash and a huge glove box for all the things you wouldn’t want to be bouncing around the cab as you gas on down the trails.

Speaking of gassing the beast, we found a unique new engine in the UTV world to be hiding in the bellows of this new machine. Built by a company called Piaggio, this V-twin model 839cc fuel-injected powerhouse puts out a claimed 62 horsepower. With an available torque rating of 57.5 ft.-lbs., the low-end grunt of this new Gator should make it excellent for any towing duties. Liquid cooling is the norm these days, and after all, keeping a workingman’s machine at the correct temperature is very important. Coupled to the engine of the Gator RSX850i is a belt-driven CVT clutch system that incorporates Low, High, Reverse and Park as its choices, and Low is at the bottom with Park being the top position.

The Trail version of the RSX850i is available in three colors as well, but it comes equipped with a Warn Winch, whereas the Sport model features 2.0 Fox shocks.

Keeping the wheels in constant contact with the ground is the Gator RSX850i’s independent dual-arm suspension was well thought out just like the rest of the machine. The front dual-wide-arch-arm design gives the rider 9 inches of travel and the rear yields 9 inches as well while utilizing an exclusive multi-link semi-trailing-arm setup. The sport model utilizes Fox 2.0 Piggyback shocks to soften the blows in the wild outdoors, and with preload and compression adjustability tuning the machine to your riding style is every bit possible. With hired guns such as fabricators and suspension designers from the world of NASCAR and Formula One consulting on the complete system, it should perform like a champ.

Getting this machine out into the Moab area to ride let us work the machine over for the first time in a real setting. Moab, Utah, is a rough and rocky area and if this Deere was going to run it would have to have nimble feet to get over the many obstacles in our path. We had no worries about our safety as we climbed into the sturdy chassis, and with our three-point belts latched it was time to test the Gator’s bite on this industry.

Our high-back seats in the RSX850i Sport seemed to welcome us into the cab, and with just a bump of the starter the fuel-injected machine was ready to roll. Our tall doors closed beside us and inspired a little more confidence as we set out for Moab’s Seven Mile Rim. The three-point seat belts will surely keep you planted in the seat, and with the high doors you are tucked into the belly of the machine.

Laying the gas pedal to the floor you instantly notice the power and torque of the machine as it takes off. I’m not sure how much wheel spin we had but it made for an exciting launch. From mid pedal on out it seems the machine loses a lot of its gusto, and this motor just seems to have so much more inside it wanting to come out. Far from being a slouch, we worked the machine hard over the long, rough and rocky terrain at nearly 53-55 mph, which is fine for the general public’s use. The suspension was really good out of the box, as it safely negotiated off camber ledges and rolling rutted trails without giving us once notion of the machine being out of control. The Fox 2.0 shocks were set really well from the start, and with so much fun waiting for us on the trail the settings were good enough to leave alone and enjoy the ride. Our guide would take us across Seven Mile Rim the first day and then into slick rock the next. These two areas gave us a chance to see what the RSX850i Sport was all about, and it’s defiantly turning heads.

Maybe you’re looking for a machine that can work like a dog but run like a deer? This 2013 Gator RSX850i is surely something to consider. It is classy, sporty and plays well during as well as after the workday ends.

For more information, visit Deere.com.

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