Farm Workhorse

Field-Tested - Farm Workhorse

Dan Miller
By  Dan Miller , Progressive Farmer Senior Editor
Stuart Sanderson says this Gator offers improved speed and handling. (Progressive Farmer image by Charles Seifried)

Henderson Farms LLC has been running John Deere Gators since 2006, when its first green side-by-side rolled out across the red dirt of this north Alabama operation. Two more Gators have joined the farm's Deere lineup since then.

"A good John Deere Gator is probably one of the most important support pieces of equipment you can have on the farm," says Stuart Sanderson, who operates the farm in partnership with his uncle, Mike Henderson. "When we purchase something with green and yellow paint on it, we have a certain expectation for performance. These are our workhorse machines."

Sanderson has been test-driving one of Deere's new 2021 XUV 835M crossover utility vehicles for several months as part of DTN/Progressive Farmer's "Farm Tested" program. Farm Tested puts equipment into the hands of farmers and ranchers -- vehicles like this Gator -- for a real-world workout.

Deere's new XUV835M sports automotive-like features such as power steering and a digital display with information on fuel level, differential lock, gear position and on some models, a service interval indicator. The Gator's new shift pattern incorporates a parking brake position with high, low, neutral and reverse. No more engaging or releasing a separate parking brake. The shift lever is mounted on the dash. The 835M provides instant engagement
of 4WD with the flick of a switch, and it offers improved differential lock engagement.


During the fall and winter months, Sanderson used the XUV835M to move parts and supplies from the farm's inventory shed to the maintenance shop. He used the Gator to perform winter maintenance on the farm's irrigation units in wet fields, where his service trucks would have a tough time going. He even did a bit of duck hunting with it. Deere offers TrueTimber camo for such endeavors.

The 835M Gator has a good range with 11.2 gallons of fuel. The bed carries 1,000 pounds of cargo held in place with a choice of 20 tie-downs. To assist dumping, gas assist shocks are standard with the bed. A Power Lift option allows the operator to raise and dump the bed with a dashboard switch. Sanderson says the Power Lift switch is a nice feature to have and well worth the money.

The 835M has 16 gallons of enclosed storage under the seat and in the glove box. The dash has two cupholders. Deere offers optional under-the-hood storage (except with units that have heating and air). The 835M tows 2,000 pounds with a standard 2-inch hitch.

"A working machine needs to run, it needs to perform. We need to know we can load it and that we will get production out of it," Sanderson says. "The reliability is there [with the 835M]." More than 100 attachments support the work of Deere Gators, including sprayers, snow blades and must-have 3,500-pound or 4,500-pound WARN winches.


The game-changer, Sanderson says, is the Gator's 54-hp gasoline-powered EFI engine (812 cc, 3-cylinder, dual overhead cams, liquid-cooled, four-cycle gasoline engine with 47 foot-pounds of torque at 3200 rpm). His test Gator tops out a bit above 50 mph on solid surfaces. Speed was lacking in his older Gators, he says.

"This Gator runs really well," Sanderson says. "We're able to jump on it and go from farm to farm in a very timely manner."

There is not a diesel version of the 835M. However, Deere does offer diesel versions in their full-size utility vehicle line. Those include the 865E, 865M and 865R Gators.

The Gator hugs rough ground well. It has 11 inches of clearance. Dual A-arm suspension has 8 inches of travel up front and 9 inches of travel in the rear. Dynamic engine braking gives the XUV835M controlled downhill speed and maneuverability. "The handling has improved. It's a very comfortable ride. The turning radius is unbelievable," Sanderson says.


The 835M has space for comfortable, three-across seating. The 835M's controls are mounted on the dash, making for easy entry and exit -- and easy cleanout. "There is nothing in there to hit, to get in the way," Sanderson says.

He noticed the new scratch-resistant glass windshield. It can be pushed all the way up during travel to let air into the cab area and better control dust in the cab by changing the airflow pattern inside the crew compartment. An optional set of wide mud flaps controls mud that might otherwise enter the cab.

"We are very happy with this Gator," Sanderson says. "The fact that we are operating the first one that we ever purchased is the reason we keep coming back to these models. I would buy this one."

The Inside Story -- XUV835M Specs:

Engine power: 54 hp

Engine Displacement: 812 cc

Cooling: Liquid

Transmission: Continuously variable transmission

Cargo Box Capacity: 1,000 pounds

Towing Capacity: 2,000 pounds

Hitch: Standard receiver, 2-inch ball

Drive: Park, High, Low, Neutral, Reverse

4WD: Switch actuated, limited-slip front differential, locking rear differential

Power Steering: On "M" models

Ground Clearance: 11.2 inches

Instrumentation: Gear position, system diagnostic light, speed, rpm, 4WD indicator, rear differential indicator, fuel level, coolant temperature, hour meter, miles and service interval warning light

Colors: Green and yellow, camouflage, olive and black


> For more information on Deere's full Gator line, visit

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