All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) or “quads” as they have come to be called seem as common as tractors on farms today. That’s because they are so handy and can save hundreds of footsteps every workday. But although most ATVs offer front and rear cargo racks, they are pretty limited when it comes to carrying anything bigger than a toolbox.
Manufacturers have recognized that shortcoming, and the UTV (utility vehicle) is now surging ahead into the market as the alternative vehicle for local off-road work that requires carrying capacity. It is much more manoeuvrable and fuel efficient than a pick-up truck, which means it offers a nice compromise between the ATV and a pick up. And who wants to scratch up a new $40,000 pick up driving through brush, anyway?
The UTV has also spawned an entire new sport, as many people see them as an economical way to engage in small-scale, off-road racing. While some adventurous farm boys may occasionally put the average UTV to work at something along those lines — when the risk of getting caught is low, of course — its real worth is in the “utility” part of its name.
To make these machines even more at home on the farm, several manufacturers are offering diesel-powered versions. As almost every vehicle and machine on the farm these days is running on diesel, there’s no need to carry a gerry can in and out of town to feed a UTV. It can refuel at the farm
storage tank. That’s one definite advantage over the quad.
UTVs cost considerably more money than an ATV, though, and diesel models are around $2,000 more than a gas version. But they offer the ability to do very efficient work
that seems out of proportion
to their small
size, making them worthy of a close inspection. Here’s a head-to-head look at the most common diesel models on offer in the Canadian marketplace.
JOHN DEERE 850D
John Deere has made the Gator into an all-terrain workhorse
with the 850D. This little ma c h i n e won Side X Side magazine’s Bestin-Class award last spring, when the magazine staff put a group of UTVs to the test
in the California desert. The April 2008, issue, which is available online (see gave the Gator top marks in nearly all categories. However, none of the Kubota, Kawasaki or Bobcat models we’re including in this feature were included in that test.
The Gator’s standard four-wheel drive system offers front and rear differential lock to get all four wheels spinning to develop the maximum possible traction when needed. To allow buyers to make the most of the Gator, Deere claims to offer over 100 attachment and option packages. It also offers a 12-volt DC outlet for easy hook ups for such things as GPS units or cell phone chargers. So this machine should be pretty handy on nearly any farm or acreage.
For operator comfort, the Gator has bucket seats and four-wheel independent suspension. The creature-comfort features offered by the Gator definitely caught the attention of the magazine staff during the field test, too. It was given high marks for elbow room and ease of entry and exit.
With the CVT transmission, this Deere provides smooth, uninterrupted acceleration without the need for shifting. And according to the field test, it still handled well and provided plenty of torque when put to work at constant low speeds pulling an implement.
Look for details on the Gator at Deere’s warranty is 12 months. MSRP for a base model is $13,800.
BOBCAT 2200, 2200S, 2300, 5600 AND 5610
When it comes to choices, Bobcat wins this category hands down. It has three regular diesel-powered UTVs, one of which is a four-passenger version. And one model, the 2300, has a front Rapidlink attachment point that will accommodate about 40 Bobcat attachments with a quick connection point and joystick operator control.
But the 5600 and 5610 Tool Cats are the most unique offerings from this company. The term “cross-over” used by the automotive industry comes to mind when describing these two machines. They are available with a full-blown front-end loader, three-point hitch and 540-rpm PTO shaft, depending on the model. These features make them a cross