John Deere's Commercial and Consumer Equipment Division rolled out a new 6X4 diesel Gator in Cary, North Carolina Wednesday which brings much of the division's M-Gator (the one sold to the U.S. Army) to consumers – for about 7% less than previous diesel-powered 6X4 heavy hauling Gators.
The 2007 TH6X4 diesel Gator offers consumers much of what the military has been buying in the M-Gator for less money than previous diesel models. The upgraded 6X4 sports more torque, a bigger engine, a refined transmission and improved hauling capacities.
The TH6X4 carries a retail price of $10,299, and comes with a bigger engine, more horsepower, more torque, a stiffened frame and running gear, bigger drive chains, two radiators, and a "grind-free" transmission. The new Gator will run 20 miles per hour, up from the previous line's 18, and will carry 1,200 lbs. in the cargo box – an additional 200 lbs. over the earlier offering.
We drove the TH6X4 on Deere's mucky wooded trail near the firm's training facility outside Raleigh. While not the most challenging course, the trail offered a chance to try the 6X4's 854 cc Yanmar diesel and upgraded transmission – empty and loaded with 400 lbs. of sand bags. One of the first things you notice is a very civil ride, for a vehicle with no suspension under the cargo box, and driven by four chain-driven wheels. Improved seats and a redesigned independent front suspension makes for a pleasant ride even over logs and across deeply rutted puddles.
Other improvements include the ability to shift into a locking differential mode at low speeds with no grinding and no hassle. Push the lever forward and you're in a locked 4WD mode. The more powerful proven three-cylinder Yanmar is also a pleasant addition climbing hills and powering through mud. Overall, the power is seamless and "linear" from idle to full-bore and the diesel does its job without punishing the ears. There's very little valve clatter on this engine.
There's still a way to go on engineered "engine braking" as the TH6X4 seems to hold back a little on long downhill "coasts" but then let's go. Ample brakes keep the machine in control, but we'd call engine-braking moderate at best.
There is some "heaviness" to the steering of the 6X4, but considering the layout of the power train and and double rear-wheel drive, along with the intended use of this vehicle as a heavy-hauling work vehicle and that gripe seems moot.
The units we drove had a wimpy-looking one-inch receiver hitch bolted to the back, but Deere officials noted most of the attachments for the Gator sport one-inch hitches. The vehicle's ability to pull heavier loads is unquestioned and we'd expect end users of production models to be mounting two-inch receiver hitches with no problem.
Deere's proven accomplishments with the three-cylinder diesel engine are legendary. This version has been bored out to 854 cc for a 20% bump in torque to please folks who want performance with their heavy hauling.
The upgrade to the 6X4 (which will be the only diesel offered in 6X4 layout for 2007) marks part of Deere's effort at making a bigger splash in the utility vehicle market with innovative products and competitive pricing for machines that will work and play. Deere officials say they have more offerings in the wings to accomplish their goals early in 2007.
For more information on the new TH6X4, contact your Deere dealer.