REVIEW: Ventrac 4500p tractor

By: Tom Dickson, Photography by: Andrew Britten, Video by: Andrew Britten

Presented by

The Ventrac 4500P compact utility tractor has a reputation of being the safest vehicle of its kind on the market. Tom Dickson checks it out.


TEM-Buy Now Button
TEM-Compare Specs Button


The compact utility tractor sector is one of the fastest growing machinery markets in Australia.

For a particular machine to achieve more than its fair share of the market, it has to stand out from the crowd, have a point of difference, and offer more than the opposition.

The Ventrac 4500P does all three. With its dual wheels and low, squat stance, it certainly looks different, it can go where most of its competitors can’t, and it has more attachments than you can poke a stick at.

It is a 31hp articulated all-wheel drive tractor with dual floatation tyres all-round. Its wide footprint and low centre of gravity reduces the risk of rollovers on steep slopes.

An adjustable weight transfer system allows the operator to shift some of the weight of the front attachment back onto the tractor to help increase traction on the front wheels. For added safety it has a digital slope meter, which gives instant updates on the degree of slope.

Its attachments include a finishing mower, contour mower, a heavy-duty 1.7m slasher, trencher, stump grinder, aerator, tiller and, most importantly, a front-end loader with 1.2m-wide bucket. All are front mounted, so you get better visibility of your work  and don’t have to look over your shoulder all day to check what’s going on behind.

With loads more attachments available, usage is only limited by your imagination.

Its value as an all in one utility machine is exceptional.

The 4500P first came to my attention at the Sungold field days held earlier this year.

It was very different to anything else on display in the collection of machinery and equipment on show at the dairy farming and cattle breeder’s industry field days, held at Warrnambool in South West Victoria.

According to Steve Williams, regional sales and marketing manager of Ventrac Australia, it’s gaining a reputation for being  one of the most stable little tractors on the market, rated safe  for operation on slopes of up to 30 degrees.

He said that in order to gain a full appreciation of its capabilities I needed to get behind the wheel.

He teed me up with Steve Jacobsen, director of sales at Ventrac Australia, to do a test at the Kangaroo Valley Golf & Country Resort.

The resort boasts a scenic 18-hole championship golf course, cabins, and luxurious deluxe villas for overnight and extended stays.

They  bought a Ventrac 4500 about 18 months ago and have already done  about 400 hours with it, completing a variety of different tasks.

Golf course superintendent Russell Paddick and greenkeeper Nathan Jones say they have been mowing slopes on the undulating fairways and steep approaches to the greens that they would never have dreamt of attempting with any other mower.

Paddick says the machinery required for golf course maintenance is very similar to that of farm maintenance.

"We have nicely manicured areas, we use the trencher a lot for laying underground water pipes and the heavy duty slasher takes care of all the scrubby areas," he says.

 

The dual floatation tyres give incredible grip for climbing up the steep slopes at the Kangaroo Valley Golf & Country Resort.

 

ENGINE

Under the bonnet is a Digital Fuel Injected (DFI) Kawasaki (FD851D) twin-cylinder petrol engine. It produces 31hp and is liquid-cooled with a big tropical-size radiator. These machines are designed to work in conditions from minus 50 degrees in the snow, through to 50+ degrees in the desert.

A feature that sets it apart from many other engines is its rating for continuous operation on a 30-degree slope without compromising proper engine oil lubrication, so you can practically tip it on its side and work all day without blowing it up. For normal use, Kawasaki offers a three-year warranty on the V-twin engine.

 

POWER TRANSFER

The engine runs one large hydraulic pump, which in turn drives two hydraulic systems at different pressures.

The system for the hydrostatic transmission runs at a higher pressure, and it’s actually hydraulics over gears; it is geared down into the transaxles.

The direction you are travelling determines the direction of the oil flow.

The transmission has high and low range. Low range is designed for working on slopes and has a maximum speed of 8.0km/h.

High range, or transport speed, is up to 16km/h. The implement lift arms at the front, the steering, and one set of auxiliary hydraulic remotes run off the second system at a lower or more standard pressure.

The drive for the attachments is an electrically engaged PTO off the front of the engine straight to the attachment, so it’s not running off the hydraulic system.

Any attachment that runs hydraulics, such as the front end loader, uses the PTO to run its own independent hydraulic system to avoid dragging on the hydraulics of the tractor unit.

 

The digital slope meter provides a warning to the operator that they are approaching dangerously steep operating angles.

 

SMART DESIGN

A hydraulic oil cooler is mounted on the rear right corner beside the seat. It has a thermatic fan that comes on automatically to keep the hydraulic oil at an acceptable temperature.

Also fitted is a manual switch that, when activated, starts the fan in a reverse direction to blow off any dry grass that may have built up around the air intake area.

The 4500P doesn’t have a separate hydraulic tank. The transaxles act as the hydraulic oil reservoirs, which helps lower the centre of gravity. The  dual wheel package, together with low centre of gravity, is what allows it  to work safely on extremely steep slopes without the risk of roll overs.

Despite the dual wheel setup pushing its total width out to 185.5cm, it  still has a turning radius of 173cm.

 

PRACTICALITY

Ventrac’s machine is not the best looking compared to others on the market, but looks aren’t everything and, in fact, should never be rated ahead of durability and quality.

It lacks the modern smooth, sleek lines and rounded edges that plastic moulded panelling has allowed, but instead of a negative

I give it a huge tick for rating strength and build quality ahead of fashion.Metal panels with square corners create a much stronger structure.

Nothing appears as though it’s about to fall off in my hand, unlike some of the other ones I’ve seen, where the panels look like they could wobble off at any time.

The comfortable high-back seat is standard and better than most in this class. The hydraulic power steering is very responsive and light as a feather, making turning a breeze. It only takes minutes to adjust to the different feel of turning an articulated vehicle.

Not only is it articulated, it oscillates in the middle as well, which keeps all wheels in complete contact with the ground and allows it to follow the contours of the terrain perfectly.

The park brake is well-positioned just to the right of the steering wheel. It holds well on steep slopes, and its positioning means I comfortably operate it from my normal seating position.

All the driving, lifting and hydraulic controls are mounted right beside the seat on the right hand side. The SDLA (speed, direction, lift, auxiliary function) hand controls, a combination of two levers, can be operated easily with one hand.

Pushing forwards or backwards sends the tractor in a forward or reverse direction. The further forward or backward you push, the faster you go in that direction.

Pushing the front lever sideways lifts and lowers the front-mounted attachment, and the rear lever controls the auxiliary hydraulic remotes that are required for some of the attachments.

For a little vehicle, it is exceptionally well-endowed with electronic instruments and gauges. The main instrument panel includes a tachometer, speedo (mph and km/h), fuel gauge, hour meter and temperature gauge.

A second six-function gauge with visual and audible alarms gives warning when the engine, hydraulic oil or electrical systems are operating outside their normal range.

 

The front-end loader makes wheelbarrows and shovels a thing of the past.

 

ROLLERCOASTER RIDE

I strapped myself in and soon found out that what the Ventrac 4500P lacked in appearance, it more than made up for it in performance.

I thought putting on the seatbelt was just to comply with safety regulations, but at times it was the only thing keeping me in the seat.

A 30-degree slope doesn’t sound much, but when you are actually standing at the bottom of one, like I was at the golf course, it’s a hell of a lot steeper than I had imagined.

I struggled to walk up the slope, but the Ventrac 4500 handled it with ease.

With the 1.125m finishing mower in operation, it went straight up that slope without showing any sign of wheel slippage.

When I got to the top I wheeled it around and, like a rollercoaster on rails, raced back down again.  

On the second pass I stopped halfway up the hill to find out how it would handle a standing start.

I pushed gently on the hand controls, and without any wheel slippage or rearing of the front wheels it resumed up the hill.

I tried the same manoeuvre on the way back down and quickly discovered the value of putting on my seatbelt.

As the tractor came to a complete stop I was left hanging helplessly with only the safety belt stopping me from shooting straight out over the bonnet.

Mowing up and down the slope is a fairly risk-free task, but travelling across the 30-degree slope is a whole different experience I would never attempt in any other conventional machine.

For the Ventrac 4500P, it was not a problem. As sure footed as a mountain goat, it conquered that slope without the slightest sign of sliding off course or tipping.

To be honest, the nervousness that I was feeling as I approached 30-degree tilt disappeared within seconds, such is the stability of this sure-footed little tractor.

If the grass is wet or a bit slippery, traction control can be engaged to apportion some of the weight of the implement back onto the front axle to increase the grip of the front wheels.

A couple of hand grips on either side of the seat would be a good improvement to help hold you upright in the seat while navigating around steep hillsides.

It feels so secure that I reckon I could go even steeper, but it’s only rated to 30 degrees so I’m not legally allowed to.

A digital slope gauge indicates the degree of slope that the tractor is operating on. It has a warning light that illuminates and an alarm as it approaches 30 degrees.

With dual wheels and low centre of gravity, it is by far the most stable little tractor I have ever been on. I probably wouldn’t have believed how secure it feels had I not driven it myself.

Not only is it incredibly safe, but it’s fun and exhilarating at the same time.

 

The trencher carves a 14cm-wide channel through hard ground with relative ease.

 

MULTI TASKING

Taking off the finishing mower and hitching up the Tough Cut mower took me a couple of minutes, but I hadn’t done it before. I reckon with a bit of practice I could easily get it done in under a minute.

Driving in and aligning the mounting bars, then connecting the drive belt and re-tensioning the pulley is all it takes to change implements. We followed the same three-step process for the trencher and frontend loader.

The Tough Cut mower, or slasher, ploughed straight into 2m-high roadside scrub.

The mixture of woody shrubs, ferns and long grass were reduced to 5cm stubble with ease. Each tyre only runs about eight to 10 psi of pressure, which helps give it incredible traction for pushing hard into long scrub. Front-mounted slashers have a couple of benefits.

While maintaining forward travel I can reach right in under trees, and the wheels of the tractor don’t lay the grass down in front of the slasher.

The trencher is a real winner, and I could see it getting heaps of use on farms installing and relaying watering systems and cables.

The frontend loader itself was just as quick to attach, but we had to remove the outer wheels of each dual wheel assembly, which took another 20 minutes or so. Running dual wheels on uneven ground with the front-end loader on can put excessive strain on the axles.

As an articulated mini loader, it is extremely manoeuvrable, and although it only holds 0.14m³ in the bucket, it would be great for landscaping and little jobs around the farm. Not just for farm use though, I reckon tradies, landscape gardeners, sporting clubs, city councils would be well-advised to take a look.

 

THREE THINGS I LEARNT

First, it’s well worth making the scenic drive to spend a day at the historic township of Kangaroo Valley.

Second, the Kangaroo Valley Golf and Country Resort, with its picturesque 18-hole course, would make a great place for a golfing holiday.

Third, the Vantrac 4500 is the safest, most stable and versatile little tractor I have driven to date.

HITS

  • Safety and stability on hillsides
  • Front end loader
  • Tough cut mower
  • Low centre of gravity
  • Front mount attachments
  • Digital slope indicator
  • Delux high back seat
  • SDLA hand controls


MISSES

  • Handgrips

 

You can also follow our updates by liking us on Facebook