Are John Deere Gators Any Good?

When most people think of John Deere, it has little to do with off-road vehicles and everything to do with American agriculture. 

There’s more than one side to a field, however. The company that began with old John Deere’s simple steel plough, pounded into shape from a broken saw blade, has turned into one of the world’s most recognizable brands, with products that touch on nearly every type of outdoor activity whether it’s work or recreation. 

Deere & Co. has always remained true to its down-on-the-farm roots, though, and one of their most successful products began as an incredibly handy utility vehicle named after a southern swamp predator.

Deere’s original utility vehicle, the single-seat AMT, was a mechanized ranch hand, with the ability to carry a load, run errands, and a thousand other jobs around the farm. Before long it evolved into the Gator -and Deere sold boatloads of them. 

Other companies took notice as well, and Polaris introduced their Ranger aimed squarely at hunters and sportspeople, and Yamaha jumped on the performance aspect with their Rhino. 

Customers were looking for the ability to both work and play, and the Gator was soon to receive another round of updates to make it more trail-friendly.

John Deere Gators™ are very popular pieces of equipment for those looking to tackle jobs on the worksite, farm, or ranch, as well as those looking for a little added thrill in their lives.

Deciding to buy a Gator might be an easy decision, but determining the best model for your needs could be slightly more difficult. In this guide, we’ve provided a shortlist of factors that should be considered when buying a Gator Utility Vehicle, including:

Terrain

John Deere Gators are designed to take on a wide variety of terrain, but certain models are optimized for specific conditions and landscapes. 

When entering the buying process, think about the property or types of terrain the machine will primarily be used on. Deciding if the Gator will be used on smooth, rough, or rolling land will help steer you in the right direction from the onset.

Deere’s Gator models come available in 2WD, 4WD and 6X4 options. The 2WD models are best-suited for jobs that will be done in mild conditions like light snow or mud. 4WD and 6X4 Gators should be purchased if harsher conditions are expected on a regular basis, like snow, heavy mud, or sand. The 4WD and 6X4 options are able to handle tough conditions without sacrificing productivity.

Hauling Capabilities

Another benefit offered by John Deere Gators is their ability to haul. Much like determining what type of terrain will be crossed, Gator buyers should think about the common shapes and sizes of their loads.

If you are handling less than 400 lbs. of material, any Gator model can be a fit. However, the options start to narrow slightly once you get up over 400 lbs. If you are handling oddly-shaped or very large objects, you will want to think about looking at Gator models that have flatbeds.

Speed 

“Utility” is an important word when talking about John Deere Gators. While they may be used primarily for work, they can also be an excellent source of entertainment or competition thanks to a variety of higher-speed options.

About half of Deere’s Gator options travel at speeds less than 25 mph. These are good selections with those looking to use their machines to get jobs done primarily. However, more than half of their options can travel more than 25 mph, with a handful that can be revved up to 40 mph. These high-speed options are great for those looking to get a little more thrill out of their investment.

Power Source

The majority of Deere’s Gators are gas-powered. However, they do also offer diesel options and one electrically-powered model, the TE 4×2. The diesel engine Gators are great options for those tasks that will require a bit more torque, while the gas and electronic versions are best for a blend of routine tasks and pleasure.

Number Of Passengers

Now that you have your selection narrowed down, it’s time to think about your friends. Specifically, how many of them you’d like to bring along on your Gator adventure. Every John 

Deere Gator model allows for one passenger, while the 550 S4, XUV 825i S4 and XUV 855D S4 all provide an extra row of seating for even more people to enjoy the ride.

2020 John Deere Gators

T-series

Known as the Gator T-Series, these are the machines that most closely resemble the original John Deere Gators from 25 or so years ago with no roll-over protective structure and modestly powered engines. The TS 4×2 is the most affordable option and features no suspension beyond the low-pressure tires, a 13.5hp 400cc engine, 500-pound cargo capacity and 900-pound towing capacity. 

Upgrade to the TX 4×2 for a 15.5hp 649cc engine, 600-pound cargo capacity, and 1000-pound towing capacity. The TH 6×4 is offered in the same 675cc gasoline engine and an 842cc diesel mill and features cargo capacity and towing capacities up to 1400 pounds. 

The TE 4×2 Electric is equipped with a 48V DC motor with 900-pound payload capacity and 500-pound towing capacity. Finally, the TX Turf is designed to work on delicate surfaces and features a 400cc engine with a 600-pound cargo box and 1000-pound towing capacity. Prices start at $7349.

Hpx Series

Consisting of just two models, the HPX John Deere Gators look like more modern UTVs and are all about work with little thought to comfort. The base HPX615E features a 617cc engine that produces 20 horsepower, seating for two, 1000-pound cargo box, and 1300-pound towing capacity. The HPX615E is the same vehicle, but with an 854cc diesel engine that produces 18.2 horsepower. Prices start at $11,159.

Mid-size Gator Xuv

The mid-size Gator XUV family consists of work vehicles that are capable of a little fun now and again. 

The base two-seat Gator XUV560E features a 570cc engine that produces 16hp, four-wheel independent suspension, 500-pound cargo box, and 680-pound towing capacity. The XUV590E sees power increase thanks to a 586cc engine that doles out 32hp. 

Move up to the XUV590M for power steering and an increased towing capacity of 1500 pounds, while the XUV590M Special Edition features Maxxis Bighorn tires, aluminium wheels, Fox monotube shocks, half-doors, brush guard, roof, and more. Four seat versions of all but the Special Edition model are also available. Prices start at $8399.

Full-size Gator Xuv

When it comes to John Deere Gators that can work hard, the full-size XUV family answers the bell. Each machine can carry 1000 pounds in the cargo bed. The base two-seat XUV825E features an 812cc engine that produces 52hp, fully independent front and rear suspension, and 1500-pound towing capacity. 

The XUV825M is the same machine with the addition of power steering, the XUV855E is a diesel-powered version with an 854cc engine that produces 22.8hp and 36.9 lb-ft of torque, and the XUV855M is the diesel version with power steering. There are also four-seat versions of the XUV825M and XUV855M.

Gator XUV835 models have seating for three and are powered by an 812cc engine that pumps out 54 horsepower. 

The XUV835E can tow up to 2000 pounds and features four-wheel independent suspension, while the XUV835M adds power steering. The XUV835M Cab comes equipped with a full cab, and the XUV835M Cab HVAC adds heating and air conditioning, the XUV835R Deluxe Cab adds LED lights and a Deere green roof.

Gator Rsx

Sport performance UTVs is not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of John Deere Gators, but the Gator RSX series offers just that. 

The RSX860E comes to life thanks to an 839cc V-Twin that produces a claimed 62hp and a top speed of 60 mph. Other features include four-wheel independent suspension, wide-arc front A-arms, and adjustable Fox high-pressure piggyback shocks. 

When you aren’t whipping around the trails, this machine can also carry 500 pounds of cargo in the back and tow another 1500 pounds. If you want power steering, the Gator RSX860M has it.

Power When It Counts

The Gator is powered by an 812-cc., automotive-style, three-cylinder engine that produces around 50 hp. This engine will power the Gator up to speeds of 44 mph, but it’s where the engine makes its power that is important.

This is a low-end engine, meaning the power comes on in the lower end of the RPMs. This was very evident during the evaluation when we tested the Gator with a full load in the cargo bed (1,000 pounds) and with a 1,500-pound trailer. 

The Gator scored an impressive 20.6 points out of 25 for testing with the cargo box load maxed out, enough for third place in this test (see full results below).

The chassis design also played a huge roll in how the Gator performed during the testing. Steering responsiveness was very high on the evaluations for two loaded tests and with the trailer. 

The Gator scored as high as 4.7 out of five points during the trailer test, indicating that the chassis was not adversely affected by the heavy load.

The suspension also worked well during the simulated work tests. There are fully-independent 

A-arms at each corner, with eight inches of travel at the front shocks and nine inches on the rear shocks. While the suspension is a bit stiff on the trail, it works well with a load in the bed.

Built To Work

If you look at the Gator next to other brands, it is all John Deere. Deere does things it’s way, and that contributes to the feel and the ergonomics of the machine. 

The location and angle of the steering wheel feel very different from other offerings, as it fits your hand more like a small tractor than a UTV. The shift controls and differential lock are all below the seat, as opposed to on the dash, which users may or may not prefer.

The Gator 825i is built to work. Yes, you can trail ride with it, and it will do that all day long, but there are better machines for that. 

If you’re going to work it hard, the Gator is up to the task. It will hold 1,000 pounds in the bed, and while the bed may squeak a little, you’ll hardly notice the load back there. The floor of the cargo bed is metal so that things can shift some, especially on an incline.

The Gator will tow a 1,500-pound trailer with relative ease and has a two-inch receiver as standard equipment. 

If you go over uneven terrain, you’ll start to notice the weight as it will affect the handling. However, it’ll still get the job done. 

The engine has the low-end grunt to tow and haul all day long. Going back to how well the machine scored on the fully loaded tests, it was made to work hard and does very well in these areas.

John Deere recently unleashed its most performance-driven Gator™ utility vehicles yet. Targeted toward the true outdoor adventurist, the 2011 lineup of Crossover Utility Vehicles (XUV) is packed with advanced features that deliver an unparalleled balance between work and recreation. 

The 2011 Gator XUV 825i is the fastest Gator ever produced. Boasting 50 HP, it is the highest-powered engine in its class with superior low-end torque for taking on even the toughest tasks, trails, and terrain. 

Horsepower is delivered by an 815cc, liquid-cooled, inline 3-cylinder engine featuring four valves per cylinder, dual overhead cams and electronic fuel injection.

All the new Gator XUV models have a completely re-designed front and rear independent suspension system that delivers a superior ride through rough terrain. The new models are designed for less body roll and superior side-hill stability with either no-load or maximum cargo. Also, all the models sport an entirely new braking system that improves stopping performance over previous models.

The Gator XUV also features 1500 lbs. of towing and 1400 lbs. of payload capacity. The all-new hybrid metal and composite cargo box offer 16.4 cu. 

Ft. of capacity, the most in its class, and an available factory-installed spray-in bed liner with 20 integrated tie-downs to help keep cargo in place. The sides of this cargo box are removable as well, giving the user a flatbed that’s easy to load and unload from any side.

Best-in-class Advanced Engine Systems

  • 50HP – Highest power output in its class with superior low-end torque
  • 812cc liquid-cooled inline 3-cylinder with dual overhead cams, electronic fuel injection, four valves per cylinder, aluminium heads and cast block with painted interior walls.
  • Largest displacement engine in this class
  • Only the three-cylinder model in this class
  • Only DOHC in this class
  • Lowest noise/vibration

Best-in-class Ride, Safety & Stability

  • Advanced Double A-Arm Suspension
  • Fully independent and adjustable suspension
  • 8in front and 9in rear suspension travel
  • Load ready ride: Light- to no-load smooth with max load ride balance
  • Greatest stability in its class
  • A wide stance, long wheelbase and predictable handling
  • Operator Protection System (OPS)
  • SAE, ANSI, OSHA ROPS certified overhead structure
  • 3 pt. automotive seat belts
  • Multiple handholds

Best-in-class Utility

  • Deluxe Cargo Box with 16.4 cu. ft. cargo, (Best-in-class) with 1,000 lbs capacity, 1,500 lbs towing and 1,400 payload
  • Auto style tailgate
  • Integrated attachment system
  • 20+ tie-down points
  • Convertible to the flatbed mode
  • Integrated brake and tail lights
  • Quik clamp attachment system
  • Factory-installed spray-on liner
  • Advanced suspension to provide a level & stable ride through the entire load range

Gator Evolution – The 825i

The new Gator 825i can handle any tough job during the week, but there is no reason to leave it in the barn on the weekend; it’s ready for adventure as well. 

The beefy chassis is designed for years of abuse, but it also offers more suspension travel and ground clearance than any other Gator. Dual A-arms are used at both ends with the front wheels featuring 8 inches of travel, and 9 inches at the rear. 

Lightweight and super tough, cast aluminium wheels are shod with Maxxis Bighorn 2.0 tires, and we’ve found them to be extremely durable and excellent in every terrain from rocks to snow. Five-way, preload-adjustable shocks do a good job of smoothing out the trail and can be adjusted for recreation or heavy hauling.

Farm work is never done. Deere gave the Gator a 2-inch receiver hitch at BOTH ends because a front hitch comes in very handy when maneuvering wagons or trailers. A recessed winch location makes mounting a plough easier, and integrated rear bumper lights come in handy for any work after dark. 

At the front, the 825i has enough lights for an aeroplane, and there is room for more on the cool-looking, heavy-duty bumper. 

Perhaps the best thing about the Gator chassis, however, is that it is triple certified as a Roll Over Protection structure or ROPS for short. 

Underneath, the chassis is well protected and rather than plastic skid plates, and the Gator gets real protection with a steel plate. This does add weight and cost a little power, but where the Gator is likely going, the extra protection is well worth having.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere

The saying is, “Nothing Runs Like a Deere,” and the Gators have always run, and run and run seemingly forever with no more care than the proverbial government mule. We’ve seen them patched up with everything from duct tape to JB weld, and they’re still in the field toiling away. 

The new Gator 825i is an entirely different animal, though. The 825i is well built with excellent attention to detail, and it certainly lives up to the hard-working heritage. 

However, it must also now meet a much higher standard for off-road performance, and it’s off to a very good start. Then again, isn’t that what evolution is all about? 

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