Test: Massey Ferguson Challenger 700

Farm Trader heads to Hornby to check out the Massey Ferguson Challenger 700

So etched in my mind is the Massey Ferguson brand that when I received a call from the Ed telling me that she wanted me to go out to Hornby and do a test on a Massey Ferguson Challenger 700, my first impression was that I’d be looking at a tractor.

I guess the name Massey Ferguson has been a part of the vocabulary of people who are interested in tractors and machinery for so long that it was a natural assumption to make – my excuse anyway.

My instructions were to go out to JJ Limited’s Hornby branch where I’d have a paddock in which to give the machine a workout.

A little bit of online research prior to my visit told me that the Challenger was actually a side-by-side UTV that came with two engine options – the 471cc Challenger 500 and the 686cc Challenger 700.

Both the 500 and 700 series are exactly the same size in overall dimension, with the only difference being the engine capacity.

The picture on the website showed a machine complete with alloy wheels and side spats, doors, and a plastic windshield. The photo even showed it with a winch attached to the front of the machine, and I remember thinking to myself, “Those’ll be added extras for sure.”

I was greeted at JJ Limited by branch manager Terry Gordon, who told me that his sales consultant, Michael Bone, would demonstrate the larger 700 model and let me have a run around the paddock as well.

Running my eye over the Challenger 700 JJ’s had presented for the test, I was surprised to learn that the features I mentioned earlier actually come as standard features on both the 500 and 700 series.

I have to admit that the paddock adjacent to JJ Limited’s premises was a little too flat for my liking. However, I did notice a small pile of rubble right in the middle that we could possibly drive over. There were also the remains of a building that looked as if it might provide us with a bit of a workout for the Challenger’s winch.

Challenger -4

Looking at that apparently flat paddock, my mind went back a couple of years when I did a test for this magazine on another brand of UTV in the middle of winter.

The test track on this occasion took us to the top of a 500 metre-high hill, under boggy conditions, and I wondered how I could ever give the Challenger 700 a good run for its money under these seemingly placid conditions.

However, I had to remind myself that this test was been carried out in the middle of a hot Christchurch summer with no chance of rain on the day.

At first, I thought it would’ve been better if the rubble pile was a load of dirt, but as it turned out, it consisted of blocks, tree stumps, and all manner of waste, all of which proved to be every bit of an obstacle course as was the muddy track I’d encountered on the other test I mentioned.

I asked Michael if he could give the Challenger 700 a few circuits of the paddock, and looking on from the sideline, I could see that the machine could get along at a decent pace and the driver wasn’t getting bounced around even though the surface wasn’t smooth. It was my turn next to give the machine a whirl. As I closed the solid plastic driver’s door (there is one fitted to the passenger’s side, too), I realised that although the doors wouldn’t be needed to keep the mud off my boots, they sure would come in handy for protecting my legs from any branches that might be protruding from that scruffy-looking pile of rubble I was talking about.

As I drove through the long grass towards the pile, the Challenger lurched up over something that was hidden in the grass, but the UTV didn’t lose traction or ground speed. The hidden obstacle turned out to be a block of wood about 400mmx200x200, quite an obstacle to hit at around 20km/h.

I was impressed that the object I’d encountered didn’t tear the steering wheel out of my hand and didn’t cause me any undue discomfort. So there was the first test passed with flying colours.

While the rubble pile was certainly no Mt Cook or Mt Egmont, it definitely was a gnarly piece of work, and I would’ve pushed the machine further to the top if it wasn’t for the fact that I didn’t want to put any scratches on the shiny paintwork.

Nonetheless, I was satisfied that if I had been game enough to push it further, I wouldn’t have been disappointed at the result. While I always enjoy the driving part of any test, the thing I was looking forward to on this occasion was seeing what that winch was capable of, and I’d been eying up the remains of the old building that was sitting in the middle of the paddock.

I had an incident fresh in my mind where I’d recently put a small skid steer machine in an impossible position, and I thought of how handy the Challenger’s winch would’ve been on that occasion.

So, we hooked a strop around a piece of old decking that was about three-metre long – and I would imagine weighed in at around 400kg – and attached the winch’s hook.

Given there was a possibility of there being nails around the demolition site, we extended the cable to its full length of 10m, only applying the handbrake at this stage to see how long it took for the winch to draw the UTV rather than the piece of decking.

I would have been waiting a long time for this to happen, though, as the winch and the Challenger were unstoppable, with the decking continuing to be moved. Having unhooked the winch and wound the cable back on the spool, it was just a short way back to JJ Limited’s office via a trip just once more around the paddock and a final drive down a metalled road and a concrete driveway.

The maximum speed I pushed the Challenger 700 to during the test was about 35km/h, but it could’ve gone faster with ease.

Challenger -5

The fuel-injected four-stroke single cylinder engine was acceptably quiet at this speed and the ride was comfortable, courtesy of the independent dual A-arm suspension front and rear.

The Massey Ferguson brand has long been associated with innovation (the world-renowned Fergie TEA Series came with a list of attachments as long as your arm as far back as the early 1950s), and the Challenger 700 with its 160kg carrying capacity and a towing rating of 545kg is well worthy of wearing the Massey Ferguson badge.

The Challenger, aside from having the host of extras I previously mentioned, is also fitted with a centre-mounted car-like handbrake and boasts the same turn signal and headlight stork-operated controls as you’d find on the family sedan.

The automatic CVT transmission has high and low ranges and 2WD/4WD and locking diffs via shaft drive to both front and rear axles.

Oh, and did I mention the winch? Of course, I did. It’s just that I forgot to mention that it has 1590kg rating. No wonder it made mincemeat of that length of decking.

Overall, I found the Challenger 700 to be a compact, well-thought-out piece of machinery, which comes with every accessory necessary to hit the ground running on the day it’s purchased.

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