I purchased the XUV865M in October, and it arrived mid-Jan. It took quite a bit of time for it to be built. I bought this directly from John Deere.
After a few months and about 50 hours, I have some observations.
1. The 865 is significantly underpowered. From what I understand, some EPA issues somehow restricted the size of the engine. I don't pretend to know or understand any of the detail. I would imagine this had something to do with pollution control. With that said, it is my opinion that John Deere should not have offered the diesel option in its current configuration (especially with the HVAC). Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to test drive any of these machines. I did a significant amount of research, but the 865 was entirely new at the time, and there wasn't much out there in terms of reviews (there still isnt). I thought that considering JD is an agricultural company and 95% diesel powered that the diesel was the way to go. I was wrong. Does JD even make a gas anything (other than the Home Depot mowers)? How can this diesel be such a dud. The engine itself its great, its just too small.
The top end is where the problems lie. On my reasonably steep long driveway, I can hit a maximum of 8 mph (in high gear). With the AC on I can reach a mind-blowing 4 mph. I don't know how they got the top speed of 32 mph, but I can't go more than 25 on a flat level road.
Our use of the 865 is an actual farm vehicle. We don't go sporting or mudding. This is for traveling the farm, pulling trailers, carrying hay and doing farm repairs. I have no interest in going fast, but at the same time, I did have this registered as a slow speed vehicle so that I could travel to my neighbor's farms. On the road, you will be the slowest vehicle by far. It's disconcerting when you have farm tractors passing you.
Speaking of tractors, I have a full-size tractor with a 35hp diesel engine. That tractor is a beast. When I was looking at the 865, I was using that horsepower as a mental comparison for the Gator. The JD is only a few HP less than the big tractor so that's why I thought 23 HP would be more than fine. I was wrong. Honestly, once you have the AC on, it feels like you've lost 30-50% of your overall power. We are often turning off the AC to do any real work (or go up a hill). From what I understand, there is an ac demand feature that cuts off the AC when it needs additional power. That feature has never worked on my unit.
This, to me, is the single most significant detriment of this machine. I don't know why they did this. I very much regret not having purchased the gas model. Sadly, there are no do-overs or Amazon returns for a JD Gator. If I could, I'd return this tomorrow for the gas model. Then I'd be extremely pleased. I will, however, tell you the fuel mileage on this is extraordinary. It goes forever on one tank.
The low end is impressive. It will pull you out of everything and feels like a tank. Albeit a very slow tank. I want to be clear that this is an excellent machine EXCEPT for the anemic diesel engine.
2. It's loud. For those of you that own a tractor, you will know exactly what it feels like to drive this Gator. It is clunky, loud and harsh. We had two-way radios professionally installed, and they are unusable. We have to stop and turn off the Gator to use the 2-way. Same with cell phones. You won't be having a conversation with this thing running. The M version doesn't have the headliner, but I can't imagine that will make that much difference as the sound is coming from the diesel engine below and behind. Maybe it would help some; I don't know. It truly feels like you are driving a tractor vehicle. Not a car-ish vehicle but a true, strong, loud vibrating tractor. It has that classic loud metal pinging sound of a diesel.
3. The John Deere "attachments" are fantastically made, but the instructions/manuals are horrific. I have purchased many of the attachments direct from JD. I purchased several wiring harnesses, winch mount, horn, wiper tank and pump, work lights, etc. The only one of them that the instructions matched anything even remotely close were the floor mats. Everything else would tell you to remove screws that weren't there, lift non-existent latches, connect wires to nondescript connectors and on and on. Oh and if you ever think you might need the wiper tank and pump do yourself a favor and get it installed from the factory. It literally doesn't fit. We had to remove half the side to get the tank installed. My staff and I are proper mechanics, not weekend warriors. That wiper tank was a joke. I'm sure you have experienced this, but the manual will show you a super zoomed in black and white picture which says, "remove this screw." No indication of the orientation of the picture or even what part of the vehicle you are supposed to be looking at. It's immensely frustrating.
4. Cost. This Gator is expensive. Extremely so. Now I did spend the money to buy the best. I didn't want to take any chances and buy some inferior vehicle. That's why we paid $25,000 cash to buy this. Moreover, this is where I get a bit upset. For 25k, they should have figured out the diesel situation. That's it. Everything else I would have been okay with, but this anemic engine is not what you expect in a 25k vehicle. Also, if I'm not mistaken, the diesel has an upcharge. Yes, it does, I just checked, $1,000 more for the diesel.
A few other small comments:
An instrument light dimmer would have been welcome. Yes, the cluster has that feature, but it's a series of button pushes. More of a one-time thing. Not something you would quickly adjust in the evening. That dimmer does not dim any of the switches or other controls.
Some kind of internal vent for releasing air pressure when closing the door. Because of the fantastic build and fitment of the Gator, the cab is tight. Like airtight. So if you have the windows closed you will have to slam the door to get it closed (often more than once). Just be careful if you have a slightly open window you will slam it and think you just ripped the door off the hinges. The is the kind of oversight that bothers me. This is JD not doing real-world testing. That is a fifty cent fix. A large vent grommet anywhere in the cab would have solved this. There are numerous reports of people having this issue.
The parking brake is poorly designed. The spring tension is so tight that when you pull the release lever, the pedal shoots forward at tremendous velocity. Any snow or mud on that pedal will fly right off and into your face. Also, the bang it makes is deafening. We now release the brake with our foot on the pedal to ease it up. It's another real-world testing oversight. Was this never tested? I don't get it.
Rear bumper/hitch. The rear hitch is buried under the truck. It's part of the axle, not the frame. None of our trailers have a tongue long enough to reach the ball without the trailer winch hitting the back of the bed or bumper. We opted for a long receiver extension. The problem with this is now you are adding significant torsion leverage to the axle by having the ball so far behind the axle (reducing your wight capacity). Now the latest problem is that when you tilt the bed, the bumper hits the ball, so we have to remove the hitch to use the dump bed. The bumper is part of the bed, not the frame, so the bumper moves with the tilt bed. Did anyone at JD connect a trailer to this when testing? What happened here? How do you build such a fantastic vehicle and not think that people will tow things with it? You have to get on your hands and knees to attach a trailer with the stock hitch location. No joke.
The odd "slip required" nature of the 4x4 switch. I'm sure there is a good mechanical reason for this, but I don't like it. The 4x4 switch doesn't merely turn on the 4x4. Your wheels have to start slipping before the 4x4 engages (even with the 4x4 switch on). If you are in a position where you need 4x4, the last thing you want is to start slipping. I don't get it. My cheapo Chinese (Kymco) side-by-side just goes into 4x4. You push the button, and you're in 4x4... the end.
The clunkiness of the transmission. This might be a diesel thing. The transmission is very herky-jerky. Loud clunks when the belt engages. Harsh starts and stops. The gear change lever is not smooth at all. It takes much force to get it into gear and its easy to not be in reverse then you hear that awful grind when you check its position. Not sure what happened with the whole transmission setup but it's not a pleasant experience at all.
I also have some compliments.
The forethought with the attachments/accessories is extremely good. They did make it reasonably easy to add things. I love the pre-installed wiring harnesses. They are very well made and laid out. It almost feels like JD wanted you to be able to enjoy upgrading your Gator. I very much appreciate that. It's been fun adding things.
The fitment of the machine is fantastic. Because I'm a wrench, I can appreciate how well built this machine is. I purchased the service manual. It goes into great detail and has been quite helpful with the wiring and attachments.
The controls and layout are excellent. PLENTY of blank rocker switches which again makes it a pleasure to add lights and other equipment.
The heat and AC are a godsend. It's wonderful to have that luxury.
I very much appreciate the non-gouging prices of the attachments. They make the prices reasonable enough that you might end up buying everything possible for your Gator. Turn signals, mirrors, horn, etc. (I have no rocker switch space left from all the add-ons)
Thank you for the olive/black combination. It's beautiful.
The seats are great. The power lift bed is sturdy and easy to use.
I cannot say enough good things about this Gator. It's terrific EXCEPT for the diesel engine. If I were rating the 835, it would be 4.5 stars. The 865 is getting two stars at best.
For those of you with the 835, congratulations, you got a great machine. For those with the 865, we got screwed. For me, It's a 25k regret for sure.