John Deere Gator RSX850i


John Deere’s all-new versatile side-by-side takes a bite out of the competition.

When we went to work on our dune tests of the John Deere Gator RSX850i it was all business! It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it.

The John Deere Gator RSX850i is the best new all-around side-by-side built. Aggressive sport styling, stance and suspension combined with the high performance exhaust note are evidence of an emphasis on sport characteristics. Not only seen and heard, but felt with quick acceleration and speeds exceeding 50mph – a John Deere first. Its ability to handle rough terrain, jumps and corners without breaking, bucking and rolling makes it fun to drive. But it also works and hunts with plenty of cargo and towing capacity and standard doors that are easy to get in and out – an important design for hunting and working.

We’ve had a chance to test the RSX850i on the trails and slick rock of Moab Utah, on the tall dunes of the Oregon coast and around the job site. For the best balance of work and play, the new Gator delivers.


John Deere has a long history of building utility vehicles beginning with the All Materials Transport (AMT) in 1987 and introducing their first Gator UV in 1992.

John Deere has built a reputation for durability, utility and safety. What they have not been known for is speed and handling until now.

“The Gator takes a huge evolutionary step forward with the launch of the new Gator RSX850i,” said David Gigandet, marketing manager, Gator utility vehicles. “Gators have always been known for durability, utility and safety. The RSX maintains all these qualities at its core, but the incredible power, exhilarating speed and precision handling are what set it apart in our portfolio. It’s the Gator fully evolved.”

To bring about these changes, the team at John Deere collaborated with design and engineering consultants for Formula One and NASCAR to create an all new vehicle. The Gator RSX is the direct result. There are three RSX models – the Gator RSX850i Sport, the RSX850i Trail and the Base RSX.

The Sport model was designed for harsh desert and rocky, sandy terrains and 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 was developed for hunting, fishing and back country trails. It features sport seats, alloy wheels with Maxxis tires, winch, front brush guard, 2 inches front receiver hitch with recovery loops, rear bumper and cargo box rails.

The Base RSX can be modified to meet the needs and tastes of the owner with over 70 available aftermarket attachments.

All models come equipped with an 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.

The sound of the 850 is fantastic giving you that performance sport rumble that you like to hear when you’re in a racing mood. Some outdoorsmen may wish to find a volume knob to turn down the exhaust note a bit.

In addition, the closed-loop system offers dependable performance at high altitude and hassle-free cold weather starting, which was tested to -20 degrees F. The RSX also incorporates a large 7.4 gallon fuel tank.

 In every aspect of the design they put the gator through the intense testing and refinement that produces the reliability for which John Deere is known.

John Deere engineers knew that the RSX850i would get air borne so they designed the suspension and drive train components to handle the abuse.

We have a very robust testing process at John Deere, ” says Kevin Lund, Product Marketing Manager for John Deere Utility Vehicle.  “We use the same kind of processes overall that we use for construction equipment or for our big “ag” equipment.  Starting out with understanding how the customers are going to use the vehicles, we know what kind of environments and what kind of terrain they should be tested on and how they’re going to be driven.”

The rigorous testing proved to be very important. One example was the result of aggressive test driving at speed on undulating terrain that broke some half-shafts. “If they got airborne and the driver stayed on the throttle, the rear wheels would start to spin real fast and when they hit the ground you’d snap a half-shaft,” says Lund. “So we included in the ECU, a programming that sensed if the wheels were over accelerating and would cut fuels and spark until those wheels made contact with the ground again.” Problem detected through testing like the customers use the machines and solution provided through John Deere’s outstanding engineering.

John Deere designers gave well-placed attention to the suspension system with a unique four-wheel independent setup for improved ride characteristics over tough terrain and precise handling through corners.

A dual, wide arch A-arm design delivers maximum front-wheel control, precise steering and 10.3 inches of ground clearance. The exclusive 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.

Exclusive aluminum body monotube Fox shocks are standard on the Base and Trail models. The are FOX 2.0 Performance Series shocks are standard on the RSX Sport model. These shocks feature full spring and compression adjustments, which can be made quickly and easily by the driver. The FOX 2.0 Performance Series shocks are available for aftermarket upgrade on the Base and Trail models.


The RSX850i was designed with occupant comfort and safety in mind. The door design includes a great latching mechanism, which makes it very fluid to get in and out of the machine for those who will be using it for work purposes or for hunters that need to go through a series of gates to get in and out of the hunting area.

 The bucket seats of the 850 or well bolstered and very comfortable. The seats are positioned at a natural ride height in relationship to the floor and angles are excellent.  The seats adjust forward and back but this operation is not very smooth. The seats tilt forward for ease of service and to keep dry during outdoor storage.

The three-point seat belts have built-in give and  do a great job of staying in comfortable adjustment unlike some other utility machines that keep cinching tighter and over-restrict movement in rough terrain.

The dash of the 850 offers a number of blank spaces for added accessory switches and indicator lights.

I’m not a big fan of the Gator’s park brake which takes some getting used to. I would prefer seeing a park position on the shifter lever and do away with the parking brake altogether.

The 850 is missing a gear indicator on the display panel and the shifter lever is hard to see which gear the machine is in especially when wearing a helmet.

Although I really like the position of the Gator steering wheel, I am sure that there are some who would like to see a tilt adjustment on the wheel.

The RSX features ISO certified Roll-Over Protective Structure (ROPS) and multiple passenger-side grab handles for added safety.

The RSX offers good storage options. The glove box is spacious and easy to access. A sealed space under the hood can hold tools and other gear. More storage is under the hood and in the center console.

An easy-to-read digital instrument panel displays a system diagnostic light, engine oil pressure light, park brake light, seat belt indicator light, fuel level, and a 4WD indicator, among other vehicle gauges.

A high-density, 8.9 cubic feet, polyethylene composite cargo box carries on the Gator tradition of quality hauling capability and utility. The large, one-piece design has rounded inside corners to ensure material removal when tilted and has a 400 pound payload capacity.

The dump bed works very well with an easy-to-operate release handle on both sides of the vehicle so it can be operated by the driver or the passenger.

The tailgate latch mechanism is very pickup-like and appears to be a solid design. The tailgate latches solidly on both sides and can withstand a lot of pressure without opening. The bed is a poly construction which means there is no concern for getting scratched up or needing a bedliner.

Bed rails along the top offer a good handle to assist in dumping and for bringing the bed back up into the drive position. The rails also serve as anchor points for cargo straps.

In the John Deere traditional green and yellow, the sport package has a very cool set of alloy wheels which are powder coated in the traditional John Deere yellow but  with the spokes shaved to create a nice, custom looking wheel.  Under the front hood you’ll find easy access to the coolant fill cap  as well as a nice water resistant storage bin.

Lights are important to the outdoorsman. They are also important to the aggressive look of the new Gator. Four 27 watt halogen headlights provide plenty of light. Our sport model came complete with a set of Hella driving lights mounted on the brush guard.

The gators roof offers good sun protection and can be removed quickly and easily with the four built-in latches.

Available in Realtree Hardwoods HD Camo, olive and black or traditional John Deere green and yellow, the John Deere Gator RSX850i Gator is fun to drive and it will help you get the job done.

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