Traditional truck buyers are tired of spending a fortune on pickups, only for them to be scuffed and scratched when being put to work. If you could find a rig that was simple—with a short bed and no fancy-schmancy heated seats—it wouldn’t hurt for the dog to jump up on it or, gasp, get it dirty. I think if that’s what you want in a truck, then you really don’t need a new pickup at all; you need a side-by-side, like the 2021 John Deere Gator.
The Gator is new for this year with upgrades that retain its usability while becoming ever so slightly more like an automobile. It bridges the gap from bare-bones utility to a tool you can use every day and enjoy your time behind the wheel—think of a do-it-all kei truck, but for off-road use.
Easier gear shifting means the Gator is less like an appliance and more user-friendly. Now that there’s an actual, informative gauge cluster on the dash, you can also monitor the vitals of the UTV without having to swipe past options for dimming mood lights or satellite radio preferences. Just like the good old days.
There’s a whole lineup of Gators to choose from, including Mid-Size, Work Series and Full-Size models, starting with the XUV560E at $8,999. It’s technically classified as a mid-size UTV that’s good for getting around the farm while carrying about 900 pounds in the bed. Then, in the Work Series, there’s the HPX615E that’s gas-powered with an available power lift—talk about handy. You can even opt for a 6×4 diesel model with 1,600 pounds of payload capacity.
If you’re looking for a ride that can tow too, then the full-size Gator range is best. They can pull up to 2,000 pounds behind ’em with features like instant four-wheel-drive, power steering and seating for four.
Say you’d rather not give up heating and air conditioning, well, you can get that at a premium—the XUV835R tops out over $25,000. Those are more for highfalutin ranchers, though.
If you need more work capability, then a used-and-abused half-ton from the ’90s might be your best bet. However, if you want something that operates, looks and smells like new while also being small enough to fit between trees and get out of tight situations, then the Gator seems like a good fit.
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