New XUV Gator Ventures Off-road

Trail-capable Gator marks Deere's renewed efforts in the Utility Vehicle business.

While all of John Deere's Gator utility vehicles have been tough and capable of more than their original intent, the new Gator XUV 4X4 officially extends Deere's utility vehicle line into off-road trails with their "hard work ethic" heritage.

The new machine is available with diesel or electronically fuel-injected gasoline power and marks the second round in Deere's robust effort at regaining market share in the utility vehicle market. December's introduction of the diesel-powered TH6X6 Gator was the initial shot in a marketing effort that began quietly with Deere's abandonment of its Bombardier-built "Buck" ATV in 2005.

New power

The heart of the XUV is in either its 617 cc fuel-injected twin cylinder gasoline Kawasaki engine (Gator 620i XUV), or the 854 cc three-cylinder Yanmar diesel (Gator 850D XUV). Both options apply power through a two-range continuously-variable transmission (belt) to an on-demand four-wheel-drive system. The rear differential can be locked to eliminate slippage between wheels, and the front differential can be shifted to provide locking power to both wheels whenever either of the rear wheels slips more than a quarter turn.

Lund says when the XUV is pulling in 4WD, it does so with all four wheels, unlike some competitors' machines. Also, the on-demand locking front differential keeps the XUV from tearing up turf because it only pulls when necessary, and then drops out when traction returns, he explains.

HOME ON THE TRAIL: The new XUV from John Deere fits right in on trails and rough terrain, giving Deere a

solid place in the fast growing market for "work/play" utility vehicles. The XUV comes in diesel or gasoline options and can be had in yellow and green, or this olive and black scheme.

The XUV will run up to 30 miles per hour (and has a key-lock speed limiter which will govern the vehicle at 20 mph for those who wish to do so.) It sports 11 inches of ground clearance and has an all-new independent rear suspension system design to work from no load to the cargo box's 900 lb. capacity. In both configurations, the XUV is rated at a 1,300 lb. payload and towing capacity.

All XUVs come with SAE ROPS certified tubular steel structure and three-point seat belts.

How does it drive?

If you've driven some of the larger utility vehicles competing with the XUV, you'll be pleased with the light effort required to steer the new Deere. With or without a load in the back, the XUV steering requires 30% less effort than previous models, (and significantly less effort than some competitors, we might add.) The silky smooth steering comes from a redesigned front-end and taller, narrower tires than previous Gators.

"Creepability," is good for the XUV. Put another way, you can drive either engine very slowly on rough terrain without your foot bouncing on a hair-trigger accelerator. Deere engineers have done away with "tip in" problems found on many competing large utility vehicles. Power is seamless and sure from idle to the red line with more than adequate torque to haul rated loads or climb hills.

The XUV has hydraulic disk brakes and a manual disk parking brake mounted on the driveline.

In our drive of the second-generation pre-production XUV on Deere's mucky, wooded course near Raleigh in December, we found the vehicle's engine-braking ability somewhat limited. As you crest a hill and let off the accelerator, you'll feel the power train begin to hold the vehicle back. But from there, it's on to the very ample brake system to slow the descent. Competitors will jump on this until Deere makes some changes.

VERY AUTOMOTIVE: Driving the XUV is much like driving a car or pickup. The dash includes optional cargo

box lift controls, winch controls, lights and a power port. The parking brake, differential lock and two-range transmission control are located between the bucket seats. Note locking speed control unit below the dash.

The other stuff

The XUV comes in Deere's traditional green and yellow ($9,499 620i) and Trail Olive and Black ($9,599 620i), and it's made for a full line (136) of options ranging from adjustable seats to a glassed-in comfort cab. For the performance enthusiast, there's a custom exhaust system in the works along with cast aluminum wheels. The diesel (850D) is priced at ($10,599.)

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