Review: Ferrari Sky Jump V95 tractor

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

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The small but perfectly formed Ferrari Sky Jump V95 tractor is safe, light on the ground, turns on a dime, fits easily between rows, and looks pretty damned good. Tom Dickson presents his full video review and test drive.

 


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Numero uno. That’s Italian for number one. And why does this have any relevance to a tractor?

The Sky Jump V95 is produced by Italian manufacturer Ferrari and imported into Australia by Mirco Brothers.

Currently, only one of these new tractors is in Australia and, to be more precise, only one anywhere in the Southern Hemisphere. 

It’s a 95hp articulated, 4x4, compact tractor with pneumatic tyres on the front and tracks on the rear.

A design feature is its extremely low centre of gravity, creating stability and thus safety for operation on hills and slopes.

An extra low roof line and overall width of only 1.35m gives it exceptional access to the narrowest of rows and under foliage canopies  

Designed specifically for the orchard and vineyard industry, it could be mistaken as a concept design of what tractors may look like in the future, or a transportation vehicle for the Stormtroopers in a scene from Star Trek.

It’s sure to catch the attention of farmers looking for that item of machinery that symbolises foresight and individuality.

The new look Ferrari Sky Jump V95 is certain to turn heads in the orchard industry.

FIRST LOOK

It was being seen for the first time in Australia at Agfest 2016 in Tasmania.

Being my first visit to Tasmania’s premier field day event, my aim was to try and find something to review that was a bit different to the ‘normal’ machinery on display.

The moment I saw the Sky Jump parked front and centre on the site of Marshall Machinery and Sales, I decided that I had to do whatever it took to get my hands on it for a review.

Besides, this could be my one and only chance to get behind the wheel of a Ferrari.

Marshall Machinery Sales & Auto Repairs principal Rod Marshall says the Sky Jump attracted unprecedented attention at this year’s field days.

"From the opening morning of the field days right up until the closing of the gates on day three, we had a constant stream of inquisitive onlookers queuing to get a glimpse of the completely new looking compact tractor," he says.

 

WALK AROUND

My private viewing took the Sky Jump through its paces at the Velo winery, which just happens to be right next door to the Marshall Machinery dealership.

Located just out of Launceston at Lugana, the winery, with cellar door tasting and restaurant, is a great place to take a break while touring beautiful Tasmania.

While I am looking forward to sampling their coffee, the well-established rows of vines will give a good indication of how the Sky Jump performs in the environment it’s designed for.

An articulating, or bending, chassis is just one indication that Ferrari has slightly bent the rules of traditional tractor design.

Dual steering, oscillating chassis, low centre of gravity, narrow width, tracks and wheels —there’s nothing new about those features, but it’s not every day you see a tractor with all of them jammed into the one package.

 

Engine

Under the bonnet sits an Italian built VM Motori engine.

VM Motori is an Italian company established in1947 when two entrepreneurs, Vancini and Martelli, entered the business of designing and manufacture of diesel engines.

The company is situated in Cento, Italy.

Over the years, it has experienced a few changes to its ownership structure, but is now wholly owned by Fiat.

The VM D754 IE3 is a 3.0-litre, in-line, four-cylinder turbo diesel, producing 91hp at 2300 rpm thanks to the intercooler.

Maximum torque sits at 420Nm at 1000rpm.

For these models, VM has developed the new EGR System placed inside the engine.

The system recycles the exhaust gases, which return to the combustion chamber, drastically reducing the emissions of nitrogen oxide (NOx) and fuel consumption.

When I lifted the bonnet I couldn’t help but notice how low the engine sits, with the top of it only coming up to about waist height.

This low positioning is what helps lower the overall centre of gravity of the Sky Jump, and therefore add to its stability on slopes.

Inside the cabin, with the doors shut, the engine noise seemed to be comparable with other tractors I’ve been in.

Out on the road it responds well to a bit of throttle, and quickly accelerates to 40km/h.

I half expected it to be a bit twitchy to handle at fast speed due to its dual steer combination of front wheel steering and articulation, but it is surprisingly smooth and predictable.

While it’s a snug fit inside the cab, the 1.35m-wide Sky Jump fits easily into 1.80m-wide grapevine rows, with plenty of room to spare on either side.

Transmission

The transmission consists of four ranges, with four synchro gears in each range for a total of 16 forward and 16 reverse gears.

Included in the package is a synchronised forward/reverse shuttle.

The range selector, gear stick and forward/reverse shuttle lever are floor-mounted between the drivers legs.

With every gear change, both up and down, the gear stick slotted in to its correct location without any stress or force required.

The clutch, however, I found to be a bit sensitive.

Promoted as adjustment or maintenance-free, it is a multiple disc hydraulic clutch running in an oil bath.

Changing gears on the go is fine, but from a standing start it is sometimes hard to avoid lurching aggressively into motion.

In hindsight, I realise that this tractor has only got a couple of hours on the clock, so I reckon it will probably loosen up a bit on its own over time.

And, to be honest, the longer I drove it throughout the day, it became less of an issue.

The improvement also coincided with the system warming up.

So I guess it’s more about the driver spending a bit of time to get accustomed to the behaviour of the machine, rather than the machine itself.

 

MORE THAN EXPECTED

I am surprised to find four sets of remotes out the back.

According to Marshall, two sets cater for most jobs that this style of tractors encounter.

The third and fourth set are there so that a hydraulic top link and hydraulic linkage arm can be installed.

Placing the hydraulic top link in the float position will allow implements like slashers to follow the terrain more evenly, and adjustments can be made from within the confines of the cabin.

Having the luxury of a hydraulic linkage arm allows implements to be adjusted quickly to maintain a level working position when operating on slopes.

Each coloured set of remotes has a matching coloured mechanical lever inside the cabin for easy identification.

The hydraulic system is serviced by two circuits with independent pumps and a heat exchanger.

A total of 31 litres per minute is allocated to the steering mechanism, and the remotes get 49 litres per minute.

The three-point linkage has a maximum lift capacity of 2300kg at the end of the arms, which in this case have Cat II ball ends.

Given the choice, I would always recommended taking up the option of quick-attaching hook ends for obvious reasons.

An electro hydraulically engaging PTO has two speeds of 540rpm and 1000rpm.

Operating the PTO at 540rpm requires the engine to be revving at 2100rpm, but in easy going there is no reason why you can’t use the 1000rpm PTO speed as an economy speed and drop your engine revs to 1100rpm to operate in a much quieter and fuel efficient manner.

To change between PTO speeds you have to get out of the cabin and adjust the position of a manual lever at the rear of the tractor.

The forward-mounted cabin filter is easily accessed for regular cleaning.

STRENGTHS

The strengths of the Ferrari Sky Jump actually relate to its differences.

I discovered while manoeuvring my way up and down the 1.8m-wide rows of grapevines at Velo winery that the dual steer feature is outstanding. It is a patented double steering system that combines the central articulation of the frame with the steering of the front wheels. The dual steer technology allows the Sky Jump to have an effective steering angle equal to approximately 70 degrees.

The single action of moving the steering wheel activates the hydraulic circuit, which simultaneously acts both on the steering cylinders of the central articulation and on the steering cylinders of the front wheels.

The dual steering system allows me to exit one row and easily turn back into the adjacent row in one smooth motion. Each turn can be completed within a fourmetre headland, even tighter if using the turning break. Actually, as a bit of a test, I threw it into full lock with the turning brake engaged, achieving an inside turning circle with a one-metre radius. Not bad for a 91hp tractor.

By their nature, articulated tractors can be somewhat jerky and unpredictable when turning, but the Sky Jump maintains a smooth ride during high and low speed turning.

The tracks are a real winner, with the obvious advantage of better traction and less compaction. An additional bonus of the track system over pneumatic tyres on the rear is it increases the stability of the tractor.

Tyres tend to roll and compress on the rims, whereas tracks provide a reliable, rigid base. To my surprise, the tracks cause very little soil disturbance as a result of tight turning at the end of each row.

Lugs on the inside surface of the track provide positive drive. Recommended maintenance involves checking the tension of the track and manually adjusting the tensioning bolt when required, and a regular squirt of grease on the idler wheel bearings.

A tiny little sports car might look great, but let’s face it, looks alone serve no real purpose in machinery world.

The comfy little compact Sky Jump has the looks and delivers the goods.

A high proportion of the work that this style of tractors perform is related to chemical application, so the cabin has to seal really well.

When the air-conditioner is turned on, the pressure inside the cab should keep harmful fumes out.

The air-conditioner filter is mounted forward of the cabin to maximise clean air intake. For added safety, I always recommend installing carbon filters to maximise the effectiveness of the cabin filtration system.

Exclusive to the Sky Jump is the independent Brake-off parking brake. This feature automatically engages the park brake when the engine is off.

During normal operation, with the engine running, it is controlled by a button on the dashboard.

All the transmission levers are placed on the centre console between the operator’s legs.

PURPOSE BUILT

It’s only when I get up close that I realise just how tiny it is.

Despite its 91hp output, it’s only a miserly 1.35m wide and under 1.8m high.

I say under 180cm because it is shorter than me.

The purpose of its super compact nature is that it can access most orchards and vineyards without disturbing the vines or bruising the fruit.

The visibility out of the cabin is fantastic, and the front curving windscreen that wraps over the top allows the driver to see up into the canopy with ease.

I would love to say that it’s small on the outside and large regarding space inside the cabin, but honesty prevents me from such a claim.

I liken getting into the cabin to be a bit like squeezing into a flashy little sports car.

There is not a lot of elbow room, nor space between my head and the roof, but the compact design means that all the controls are accessible with minimal movement.

Having said that, if you’re six-foot-six and 120kg, this is probably not the tractor for you.

The cabin is on the small side, but the rear-hinged doors are of adequate size to get in and out of.

The problem is that the doors hit the front wheel and cannot be opened when the tractor is articulated.

This creates a bit of a design issue, because if in the event you attempted to open the door during a turn, the front wheel would hit the door and smash it.

The dash is just as modern looking as the exterior.

SURE FOOTED

The traction and stability on slopes is outstanding, and quite possibly the best in its class.

I had it going straight up a greasy 40-degree slope and on the sides of hills, and not once did I lose traction or feel unsafe.

Would I buy one? If I had a property with steep slopes and wanted to maximise safety, yes I would.

If reducing the amount of soil compaction between the rows is a concern, yes I would.

If I’m after a compact tractor that will fit easily between the rows without bruising the fruit, with a superior turning ability and a cabin that provides fresh air when spraying, yes I would.

Even if it’s just because I want to have the flashiest looking little tractor around, then again, yes I would.

On the other hand, if you need a bit of space to get your bigger-than-average size frame into, it might be worth having a look at the high rise cabin option.

At $119,790 including GST, it’s probably a bit dearer than its competition.

Only you can put a value on safety, stability, agility and traction, but there is one thing I can guarantee, and that is you will certainly turn some heads driving it around.

 

HITS

  • Dual steer
  • Tracks
  • Stability
  • 1.35m wide
  • Four sets of remotes
  • Low centre of gravity
  • 40 km/h

MISSES                

  • Door touches front wheel

 

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