Most people in the farming and machinery industries will have used, or know someone who’s used, a good old Massey Ferguson – or Fergy as they are commonly referred to. Indeed, some of the good old 28 and 35s are still in use in many parts of the country, and between these and the later 100 series, they helped shape the landscape of New Zealand farm land.
The MF 135 was the first tractor I learnt to drive on, and to this day, I still firmly believe it is the best model of any tractor ever made. The larger model tractors that followed, including the 3000 and 6100 series, had some transmission issues early on but a lot still remain in work today, having clocked up 10,000 plus hours.
Another of my favourite models was the 4200 series with its steep sloping bonnet and adjustable shuttle shift - it still remains the easiest and most visible loader tractor I have ever driven.
However, enough with the reminiscing - on to the test: the MF 5455. The 5400-series models are firmly targeted at the farming industry,while retaining all that strong Massey heritage and user-friendly features of previous models that users have become accustomed to. With a refinement on earlier 5400s, this is latest model boasts a staunch silhouette with a steep bonnet. Due to hit Kiwi shores soon, I'm sure it will be met with anticipation.
The test 112hp (125hp boosted) MF 5455 is the fourth largest in the nine-strong range that has a mix of four and six cylinder engines through 86-145hp (unboosted).
The large one-piece bonnet allows easy access for regular maintenance and servicing. It is mounted on a slight angle, a wonderful design that allows the operator to remove debris without jamming a hand between that and the intercooler, as can happen on most other brands. The common rail and trusty four-valve Perkins engine meets the latest Tier III emissions standards, and with the incorporation of the engine transport boost that allows for a larger towing capacity, improved uphill performance (important with only four splitters) and lower fuel consumption are bonuses. All four-cylinder models, including our tested 5455, also feature a 'cross-flow' cylinder head. This improves combustion, giving lower fuel consumption and better exhaust emissions.
To be fair, I never really got to stretch the legs of the engine during the test, especially given that we focused on loader performance primarily, considering this will be the main task for many of these tractors. However, the only negative feature about the engine is that although transport boost provides extra power and torque in third or fourth gear on the road, unlike most other brands, the boost is not on offer during PTO work.
The only transmission option for the 5400 series is the Dyna-4. Along with its big brothers (Dyna-6 and Dyna-VT) the Dyna-4 gives four-speed Dynashift (powershift) change in each of the four gears, providing a 16-speed transmission with the duplicate in reverse. Personally, I prefer the older 5400's that had the gearstick as it just feels better. But the new transmission is a large improvement, allowing both Dynashift and range changes without the need to use the clutch pedal thanks to the stubby little T shaped gear stick.
Simply push the T forwards or backwards to change up or down through the four-speed powershift gears. To change range, press the range selection button on the left-hand side of the T as you move the lever forward. To get from say range two powershift four, into range three, push the lever forward and the button in. The speed matching takes care of the gear selection for the appropriate speed.
If you are not familiar with the set-up, this may take some getting used to. However, after some time in the seat, I found the Dyna-4 transmission to be very easy to use overall, and the ability to transfer through all 16 gears without having to use the clutch is a huge advantage for any application.
Usually this wouldn't get a mention, as it has all but become mandatory on most tractors these days. However, the Massey has a set-up which is unique and brilliant at the same time. Massey's 'power control lever' allows the operator to shuttle forward/reverse and change the powershift up and down (both forward and reverse). This leaves the right hand free to operate the loader or implement.
The lever is both simple and extremely easy to use, thanks to its light weight and basic controls. Located on the driver's side of the T stick is a dial that Massey has dubbed 'comfort control'. Essentially, this is what I was referring to on the earlier 4200 series where you could adjust the shuttle take up. Well, this is the new and improved version and for loader work, and is the best thing since sliced bread. A more aggressive setting increases shuttle times and provides maximum productivity, while a gentler setting offers smooth yet almost immediate direction changes.
Linkage hydraulics and PTO
The machine's 5000kg lift capacity is not class-leading by any means. However, it is more than sufficient for what most operators in New Zealand need, given the machines are targeted more towards the livestock sector as opposed to the contractors'.
The rear of the tractor is pleasingly organised in an uncluttered manner, allowing you to adjust and mount implements with ease without getting covered in mud from the tyres when trying to squeeze in between them and the implement. When large oil flow rates are needed, a 100-litre 'combined'flow is standard. 'Combined' is the key word here: a bright blue switch in the cab allows the operator to achieve the 100 litres per minute oil flow by combining the tractor's two hydraulic pumps. Once the switch is activated, the three-point linkage is locked and the higher flow is available for either faster loader operation or constant flow for large rear implements.
Although specified as standard with 540/1000 this particular tractor was only equipped with 540 and 540 E PTO speeds. However, apart from larger contracting gear, I have never come across a farm implement that has been run on a 21 spline so this should be no issue, and I suspect the economy mode is a much bigger draw card.
Although the cab has a six-pillar design which is considered 'older styling', sitting in the driver's seat provides a very clear view of what's going on around you, and I particularly like that Massey has stuck with the curved rear side windows as these give a much clearer view behind, while largedoors offer easy access.
Massey has also kept a mixture of large analogue and small digital readouts, allowing the operator to gauge the tractor's performance at a glance, noting any potential trouble spots. The controls are well located, clustered together on the right-hand side of the tractor, with large SCV levers located high up. These are comfortable to use along with switches for 4WD, diff-lock and PTO operation. The ELC (electronic linkage control) has been placed quite low down compared to the seat, a positioning that isn't particularly comfortable, especially if you have to use it all day.
Linkage adjustments are located near the rear of the control panel, as opposed to under the armrest like most tractors. However, this allows for easy access and ease of use. Standard on all the 5400 series is active transport control (ATC), a shock-absorbing system that works to reduce bouncing, particularly when travelling on the road with heavy linkage mounted implements.
In regards to the layout of the cab, I only have two gripes. The first is the positioning of the rear wiper and motor. Both of these were located at eye level for taller operators, but this positioning means that the view to the rear is badly obstructed, so an in-roof wiper would solve this issue. The second problem is with the size of the wing mirrors. Larger mirrors would allow a user to keep a better eye on happenings behind, something that is particularly important when operating large feed-out wagons.
Perfectly suited to those who want a basic yet refined tractor predominantly
suited to loader work, the MF 5455 is easy to use and well laid out, and is sure to be a hit with farmers. Indeed, based on the strong heritage of the Massey Ferguson brand, it's got to be good.
Likes Curved rear windows
Adjustable shuttle take-up
Left-hand powershift changes
Low rear window gives clear view of drawbar and linkage. Uncluttered, easily adjusted linkage
Simple, well laid out cab
Angled radiator allows easy debris removal
Can move through all 16 gears without using the clutch
Can lock two hydraulic pumps together to give increased oil flow
Rear window wiper and motor obstructs rear view
Linkage controller could have been located higher
Small wing mirrors
No PTO boost, only for transport applications
Others in class
John Deere 6330
New Holland T6020