TEST RIDE: 2019 Kubota RTV-XG850
Kubota has never been known for building sporty off-road vehicles.
For years, the company has stuck mainly to rugged, anvil-reliable workhorses that exceed expectations for durability and toughness.
We've always been impressed with the innovation and comfort of Kubota's diesel offerings, however, and were curious how the new "850 SideKick" would measure up.
The new Sidekick is powered by a gasoline-fired, 851cc, DOHC, 48.5-hp parallel twin - certainly a departure from Kubota diesels that offer power in the sub-30-hp range. The XG850 also uses a CVT tranny instead of the mainstay Kubota hydrostatics used in diesels this size.
Using a CVT instead of hydrostatic delivers a substantial weight decrease and makes a huge difference in the way the Sidekick handles and responds on trails and in wide-open spaces.
Lets clear something up right away: Kubota does not classify the 850 specifically as a Sport-Utility vehicle. Rather, it’s called a Work-Utility Vehicle and is targeted at ranchers, farmers and cattlemen who want a lighter, more responsive vehicle to assist with work chores and herding.
Kubota dealers had asked the company to deliver something to help ranchers keep up with their horse and cattle herds when they're on the run. This meant more power, better suspension and quicker handling on the range.
Our test rider, Jeff Martin, a big guy who doesn't endorse cramped vehicles, told us this Kubota is noticeably comfortable with lots of leg and foot space in the cab and plenty of headroom.
Two broad, contoured buckets with belts grace the wide-body interior and there's a nice flange at the front of the steel bed so gravel and dirt don't get overflowed and stuck between the cab and box. Driver controls are easy to reach and work smoothly – power steering is speed sensitive and extremely responsive.
Jeff also noticed the flat cornering demeanor of the Sidekick – something he didn't expect from a work-targeted vehicle, and credits use of swaybars front and rear working with dual A-arms and coilover shocks. There's 9-inches of adjustable travel up front and 8.5 in the rear.
Although the 850 is governed to 40 mph, throttle response is quick and substantial and the Sidekick wastes no time getting up to its maximum. Sound levels are very good and there's almost no detectable vibration.
Owners will be able to equip the 850 with up to fifty different option packages including fully enclosed cab systems (we've tested these on other Kubotas and they are incredibly, tight, dust-free and comfortable), custom aluminum wheels, tires and a list of convenience and hauling add-ons.
The Sidekick is a departure for Kubota and opens the door to a host of new customers. It has all the "bones" to be a fun trail-rider with about a thousand workplace uses besides. Hey, nobody said a workhorse can't be a blast to ride!
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