Machinery Chatter
Jim Patrico Progressive Farmer Senior Editor

Monday 04/07/14

Workhorse, Not Racehorse

Seems like it is "all side-by-sides, all the time" right now. For reasons I don't understand, makers of utility vehicles are introducing them in a rush this spring. My colleague Dan Miller has been writing a blue streak about them in this space. Now it's my turn and Kubota's new RTV X-Series is my topic.

The X-Series has a look reminiscent of pickup trucks' front ends. It includes a brush guard and halogen headlights. (DTN/Progressive Farmer photo by Jim Patrico)

Kubota has always had a lot of swagger about its utility vehicle line. "We are Clydesdales in a sea of ponies," says product manager Dan Muramoto. Speed is not their thing; strength and durability are. "We don't compare ourselves to thoroughbreds," Muramoto says. Instead, he leans toward the term "workhorse" in describing the RTV X-Series vehicles, which are now available at dealerships.

Kubota launched the RTV line in 2003, during an explosion of ATV and utility vehicle offerings from numerous manufacturers, some of whom set their sights on a recreational and enthusiast customer base. Kubota chose to position the RTV as a work vehicle, complete with four-wheel drive, diesel engine and a sturdy ROPS system. That emphasis has not changed. If anything, the three models of the X-Series vehicles are tougher and stronger than their predecessors. "They are not toys," Muramoto says.

To make that point, Kubota demanded its new X-Series look unmistakably like work vehicles. So it sent its engineers pictures of the front ends of pickup trucks sold in North America and told them to give the new vehicles an aggressive and brawny look similar to work trucks.

That's not to say that Kubota doesn't covet hunters and outdoorsmen as customers. The company chose a southeast Kansas hunt club, Flint Oak, as the site for a recent media test-drive. It is rough country with enough rocks, hills and water crossings to test the vehicle's toughness. A few observations follow.

1. The power steering, two-speed hydrostatic transmission and comfortable ride package -- including independent rear wheel suspension -- tamed the trails. With an 8-inch suspension travel both front and rear, the vehicle walked over most rocks. At the bottom of one 45-degree hill, a rock submerged in a creek provided a test for the vehicle's steel skid plate, which it passed with a solid clank. A less-fortunate driver high-centered on the same rock and needed assistance getting back on his wheels, even with a 10.4-inch ground clearance.

2. You can choose to run in two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive with limited slip differential. For really sticky situations, you can lock the rear differential.

3. The hydraulic lift system for the cargo bed is a useful feature that you operate from the cab. It works faster than electric systems and easily can handle the 1,102-pound cargo bed capacity. Four tie-downs built into the bed are helpful touches.

4. The RTV-X1100C's cab is a sparse environment compared to, say, a pickup's interior. But it has standard heating and air conditioning and windows that roll up and down. Storage spaces under both seats and in a lockable glove box are convenience features, as is a digital instrument monitor.

5. The selection of diesel engines instead of gasoline shows Kubota understands the mindset of customers like farmers and ranchers who keep diesel on hand to fuel other machines such as tractors.

6. A top speed of 25 mph will get you there and back. But your teenage son probably wishes the X-Series vehicles went faster. Of course, this isn't a racecar -- or a racehorse.

Suggested retail prices for the three models in the X-Series range from $13,345 to $15,981 for ROPs models, $20,883 for a model with a cab.

Posted at 10:42AM CDT 04/07/14 by Jim Patrico
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