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Product Test Team 2018: 3 Farmer-Tested Side-by-Sides

Our team of farmers put three of the newest UTVs through their paces for this Successful Farming Product Test Team report.

To see how the newest UTVs stand up to the daily demands of farming and ranching, Successful Farming magazine turned over three machines to our farmer evaluators. Each farmer had roughly six months to put the UTV to work on his operation. This report summarizes what each farmer had to say about the Caterpillar CUV82, the Mahindra Retriever 1000, and the Polaris Ranger XP 1000.

2018 Caterpillar CUV82

Farmer Rating: 4½ stars

Versatility. That’s the best thing about it,” says Paul Heineman after testing Caterpillar’s CUV82 on his corn and soybean farm in Ogden, Iowa.

Heineman, along with his brother, Craig; nephew, Brett; and sons, Andrew and Marcus, used the CUV82 for a variety of tasks, including spraying fields, hauling corn heads, and checking crops.

“It’s a lot easier than a pickup, especially in the spring when you’re driving across a field and don’t want to pack the soil. The CUV82 floats a lot better,” says Heineman. 

That was important during planting because central Iowa, where Heineman farms, had a particularly wet spring. In four-wheel drive, the CUV82 was able to haul the towrope out to a stuck tractor without getting stuck. However, Heineman did manage to get it stuck another day when he was checking the fields to see whether it was dry enough to plant. The answer: No, it was not. 

paul-heineman-2
Paul Heineman
For towing, Heineman found the machine to have “plenty of power” and that it’s “strong enough to pull a small trailer with a corn head or whatever you need to tow.” Same goes for the cargo box, where Heineman loaded a small sprayer to clean up fencerows. The machine is rated for up to 1,000 pounds in the bed and 2,000 pounds towed behind.

On uneven terrain, the engine braking was effective in slowing the CUV82 as it went down hills. While Heineman found the suspension to be somewhat soft, he said this created a smoother ride when crossing rough fields. 

With a max speed of 45 mph and quick acceleration, the CUV82 made traveling from farm to farm quick and easy, says Heineman. After mainly using four-wheelers or pickup trucks to complete chores, he was also struck by the ease in which he could hop in and out of the side-by-side. 

“It’s handy because it’s easy to get into,” says Heineman. “I thought the doors might get a little cumbersome, but they were pretty convenient.”

Inside the machine, Heineman appreciated the dashboard with the fuel level and a speedometer as well as the gear selector. “The gear selector is just like on my pickup, so that was convenient,” he says. 

If he could add any features to the CUV82, Heineman would choose a rearview mirror and an improved windshield. “We put in a rearview mirror. Otherwise, we had to crank our necks around to see. That’s one feature that would be nice to have standard,” he says. “This is not unique to this machine, but when it was dusty and we had the windshield on, it circled dust around. That’s something that would be nice for somebody to figure out.”

Engine type Three-cylinder, .8-liter gas engine
Engine displacement 50 hp.
Top speed 45 mph
Transmission Belt-driven CVT
Four-wheel-drive system 2WD/4WD/4WD lock
Suspension A-arm independent in front and rear
Ground clearance 10.5 inches
Cargo capacity 1,000 pounds
Towing capacity  2,000 pounds
Price $14,999

mahindra-retreiver

2018 Mahindra Retriever 1000

Farmer Rating: 2½ stars

Side-by-sides have become invaluable farmhands on Jay Rezac’s diversified operation in Onaga, Kansas, particularly on the ranching side of the business. 

“We use them heavily for calving, fixing fence, and spraying pastures,” says Rezac. “They are just an awfully useful item.”

Alongside his two sons, Russel and Matthew, Rezac oversees the farm’s cow-calf background and feedlot stocker operation as well as hay production. The other half of the farm – corn, soybeans, and wheat plus a farrow-to-finish operation – is managed by Rezac’s brother, Lance, and Lance’s daughter, Nicole.

jay-rezac
Jay Rezac
This spring, the Rezacs added the Mahindra Retriever 1000 to their lineup of UTVs to see how it fared on the ranch. 

“It has lots of power,” says Rezac. “If you want to tow and pull, this machine has power.” The Retriever has an 83-hp. engine with a 2,500-pound towing capacity and can haul up to 1,200 pounds of cargo, which came in handy for spraying.

“We did some spraying with a 75-gallon sprayer and it handled the weight really well,” says Rezac, adding a caveat to that. “When we were spraying, the rear-axle CV joint broke and that part tore off of the rear end.”

With and without a load, the Retriever felt stable and secure traveling down roads. “It has nice speed, which is something that we have to have here because we have to get out and drive 5 or 6 miles between pastures,” explains Rezac. 

However, he did run into one issue at higher speeds. “The wind would come under the dash and blow the cup holders out,” says Rezac.

During calving, Rezac uses UTVs to go out in the field and put tags on calves. “We drive up and tag a lot of cows – about 850 babies a spring,” he says. “The Retriever was loud enough that the cows would want to pick up and leave. This was not a quiet machine.”

Engine type V-twin gas engine
Engine displacement 83 hp.
Top speed 60 mph
Transmission CVT
Four-wheel-drive system 2WD/4WD/4WD lock
Suspension Independent dual A-arm in front and rear
Ground clearance 12 inches
Cargo capacity 1,200 pounds
Towing capacity  2,500 pounds
Price $17,199

polaris-ranger-xp-1000

2018 Polaris Ranger XP 1000

Farmer Rating: 5 stars 

“I absolutely love this machine,” says Zach Robinson, who tested the Polaris Ranger XP 1000 on his farm in Clio, Iowa. “What I liked most about the machine was the power that it has, the turning, and the maneuverability.”

Robinson runs a corn, soybean, and cow-calf operation with his father, Marvin; wife Sheena; and their three kids (Kenzie, 11; Ashtyn, 7; and Hesston, 5). The Robinsons have used ATVs and UTVs for years to check cows, scout crops, and fix fence. 

“With our other side-by-side, we had to have a four-wheeler around to chase cows because it wasn’t maneuverable enough,” says Robinson. “This is the first one I’ve ever seen where I could actually replace everything with the one machine. If it didn’t turn sharp enough, I gave it a little gas and it came around and was sharp enough.”

zach-robinson
Zach Robinson
Compared with the 2017 model, the 2018 Ranger XP 1000 has a 15% tighter turning radius and has more responsive steering with standard power steering. “The power steering is wonderful,” says Robinson. “It’s just as easy as any vehicle I drive.”

In addition to tight turning, the noise level was also a bonus for checking cows. “The Polaris has been a very quiet machine compared with all the other ones I’ve ever been around,” he explains. “I can get through the cows that are calving without upsetting them.”

When hauling minerals, salt, or fencing supplies, Robinson said he couldn’t tell any difference in the way it drove. “The suspension handles perfectly, even when I put a load on it,” he says.

The cargo box, which is 1 inch deeper than the 2017 models, has plenty of room for gear. “The bed is quite a bit bigger than the older UTVs,” says Robinson. “The storage on the Polaris is tremendous. It has all kinds of storage underneath the dash, in the glove boxes, and under the seats.”

The passenger seat also folds up, which Robinson found particularly convenient when it was time to artificially inseminate cows. “The Polaris has a full-size battery in it and the seat folds up, so I can put the semen tank in the cab with me and plug the heater into it. It has enough battery to run the heater for several hours.”

The selectable throttle control – which allows you to select work, standard, or performance mode – was another feature Robinson enjoyed. “I can hit the work mode and it isn’t as touchy, so I can ease into things,” he says. “To get after something very fast, I can flip it over to performance and the power is there. I’ve said from day one, it’s like driving a Corvette.” 

If he had the option to change one thing on the machine, it would be the nets. “The nets make it a little harder and more time-consuming to get in and out of the machine. What’s supposed to be a safety feature turns into a safety hazard when I try getting in and out when the nets don’t latch at the bottom,” Robinson says, adding that you can upgrade to doors. 

Engine type 4-stroke twin-cylinder DOHC
Engine displacement 82 hp.
Transmission Belt-driven CVT
Four-wheel-drive system High performance on-demand true AWD/2WD/VersaTrac turf mode
Suspension Dual A-arm in front and rear
Ground clearance 13 inches
Cargo capacity 1,000 pounds
Towing capacity  2,500 pounds
Price (starting MSRP) $15,499

The Successful Farming Product Test Team

To give readers feedback straight from the farm, Successful Farming magazine works with a team of farmer evaluators to test new products. The Successful Farming Product Test Team has evaluated a variety of shop advances, including welders, heat guns, and impact wrenches, as well as tools less commonly found on farms, such as an electromagnetic drill press and a heavy-duty leaf blower. This time the evaluators took on a new category: UTVs. 

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