Back in 2002, Merlo was first out of the blocks with a telescopic handler that could double up as a “tractor.” That its fel low Italian firm, the ARGO group, should come up with something along similar lines with its Landini PowerLift suggests there must be something in the concept. Unlike Merlo, however, Landini has no history of telehandler experience to draw upon, so developing the all-new Power Lift must have swallowed a fair amount of research cash.
The trouble is that it is hard to see who these dual-role machines are aimed at. The Merlo Multifarmer, after all, has not set a big sales trend and has only enjoyed rel atively modest sales success in the UK. The total market for these machines is, at best, small.
But rather than become too bogged down with the potential market for this type of machine, let’s focus upon what the newcomer does well. As a telehandler, the PowerLift would certainly seem to stack up — and for three main reasons:
Power. The four-pot 150-hp Sisu diesel is not short on muscle. During our brief drive, the power unit delivered enough low down “grunt” to enable the PowerLift to greedily nose into a heap of muck at moderate engine speeds to easily win a substantial load.
Transmission. Hydrostatic drive does not suit everyone but, in this application, electronic controls ensure it hooks up neatly with a Sisu engine. In the middle of the three powershift ranges offered — more on this later — the machine can have the engine speed set high enough to deliver a speedy response from the hydraulics, the hydrostatic drive allowing the machine’s travel speed to be easily matched to the job.
Front axle. This beam is fitted with self levelling as standard, a feature that can really help when placing big loads from uneven ground.
And it doesn’t end there. Landini’s cab, by telescopic standards, is quite roomy at 980mm (3.3 feet) across, and the visibility it affords is none too shabby either. There is also an overall feeling of more general cab space, perhaps because of the PowerLift’s other party trick, its reverse drive. The cab has to be large and tidy enough to allow the seat, steering wheel and the pedals to be spun through 180 degrees, so the area behind the seat is clutter-free, again adding to that spacious ambience. The thinking behind the reversible drive is that potential buyers can exploit the matched forward and reverse speeds to power front-mounted kit. So why not use the 110-hp rated PTO to operate something like a 3.0m (10-foot) plus wide mower unit on what now becomes the “front” of a reverse drive PowerLift?
Control-wise, the PowerLift has travel and inching pedals suspended from the steering column, with a shuttle lever below the wheel and a single joystick on the cab side to work the boom and attachments. A pair of push buttons under the shuttle lever takes care of the three transmission ranges. The term “powershift” deserves some qualification here as Landini suggests that the machine is stopped before shifting down into low from range two. Otherwise, a range upshift on the move is OK, as is dropping down from range three to two. Behind the boom stick is a second, stubbier joystick. When in the tractor mode — three modes can be selected by a rotary switch— engine rpm are set in the forward and reverse plane, with the travel speed adjusted by moving it to the left or right. The latter particularly comes into play when using the PowerLift as a tractor. When operating the pto, a button next to the travel joystick engages the cruise control. In tractor mode this enables the PowerLift transmission to be set to a relatively fixed forward speed.
Next back is the PowerLift’s rear linkage control panel. Made by Bosch, its operation and layout instantly feel familiar from Landini’s tractors although, with the seat reversed, working it left-handed initially feels rather strange. The single linkage lift control is particularly tricky to get used to. The system is fully electronic, with lower link sensing and transport linkage suspension coming as a part of the spec. Move back again, and the operator finds the four-as opposed to more normal three-mode telehandler steering selector. This control gives the driver the option to choose between familiar front-, crab-and all-wheel steering modes, but also adds independent rear steering as well. This can be operated as front steering when working in reverse-drive. The boom’s hydraulics are powered by a load-sensing piston pump, this unit delivering 100 litres per minute of flow at a max of 280 bar. Control of the three-stage boom is fully proportional. Indeed, the joystick may prove a little too sensitive for some operator tastes. As a telescopic handler, the nominal 8.60 m (28-foot) lift, 2,850 kg capacity PowerLift gains a creditable number of plus points and fully deserves a place on the demo list of any business looking for a machine of this capacity.
A downside may be fuel use, as 150 hp could possibly be seen as overkill for those with just an average, rather than heavy, handling requirement. Landini disputes this point, suggesting the electronically controlled hydrostatic and Sisu engine package is extremely efficient. It will be interesting to see just how the unit fares in this respect with ag customers.
So How Does Powerlift rate as a Tractor?
Difficult this one. The demo machine was hitched to a 3.0m (10-foot) Pottinger Synkro 3003 three bank cultivator. Said to require around 110 hp, the cultivator was set up to work at a fairly shallow depth across a wet stubble. Although the ground was on the light side, conditions were poor and the undulating terrain added steep inclines to the mix.
Weighing in at 8,000 kg, and fitted with full-time 4WD plus a limited slip front and fully locking rear diff, the PowerLift should never be too short on traction. And in our brief test it wasn’t. In work, the engine note remained constant, and