Etesia’s rep unloads the machine and checks it over. He tells us all about it and introduces us to the controls.
The Attila 180 is totally different to anything else on the market. We can say that it is unique in Europe and genuinely mean it. It has been designed as a bank machine and is said to be capable of mowing banks up to 27?. And while it does so, the engine, the controls and the driver remain vertical. It is also designed to cut vegetation on either side of the crown of a bank and even mow slopes from the V of a ditch.
The theory behind the working of this machine is simple and is largely down to physics. The 180 has a hydraulic automatic self-levelling system to ensure that the engine and operator remain vertical while the two cuttings units independently float to follow the contours of the terrain.
The stability device controlling the self-levelling feature is located at the back and works like a mercury-filled spirit level. If the mercury starts to move over to one side, the corresponding ram is activated and immediately brings the machine back to vertical. To make sure no foolhardy operator tries to take the 180 on slopes greater than 27?, a warning light flashes to indicate that the limit is being reached. For ease of maintenance and servicing, the mercury switch can be overridden to enable the body of the machine to be tilted and the decks to be raised for servicing.
It’s a great idea. But is it a great drive? Our tester looks like he is enjoying it now, but admits he was apprehensive at the start.
“As you get older you worry about slopes,” he confesses. “I was a little nervous when the levelling device first kicked in. It’s a strange, almost unnatural feeling. It’s like going up in a lift but after it’s done it a couple of time you don’t even notice it. I can honestly say I have never felt this safe on a slope.”
Initially, our tester was also concerned about traction on the slope. But he shouldn’t have been. A four-wheel machine can lose traction when the slope becomes steep enough to lift one wheel off the ground. The drive wheels of the 180 are in the middle of the machine and they both have the same weight on them, so there is no fear of them lifting. The wheels are fitted with low-pressure tyres for extra traction.
The kit copes with the ground wherever the driver turns. What’s more, it tackles the brambles with ease. He takes the machine right to the top of the hill and drives along the ridge with one wing mowing a swathe on the slope below.
Cutting height adjustment on the 180 is a simple “wind up, wind down” process on each side. The cutting blades have swing tips and their concentric design gives a three-centimetre overlap so there is no central band of uncut grass. Overall width of cut is 180cm.
With its 30hp Yanmar diesel engine, the Attila 180 has plenty of power. Our testers appreciate the power steering and also the hydrostatic drive – with only forward and reverse pedals to think about, they can concentrate on the slope and where they are driving.
“The last thing you want on a slope like this is a machine where you have to think about which switch or lever you need next. With this machine you just sit there and drive,” one tester says.
From the maintenance point of view it means there are no belts on it — other than the fan belt. All items for servicing are easily accessible
It doesn’t take for our last tester long to get to grips with the controls. “It’s so easy to use,” he comments. “And it’s really comfortable. You feel amazingly stable because you are always level. You never feel as though you are going to topple over and you don’t find yourself shifting your weight in the seat like you normally do on banks and slopes.”
This tester has been working in the industry for 45 years. He tells us he has seen many developments in his time and tried out many different items of machinery; but nothing like this. He is keen to try the Attila but tells us he wants to try it on the flat first and then perhaps tackle a gentle slope. So what is he doing right up there?
Within minutes of firing up the engine, the tester has taken the 180 onto the steepest parts of the slope. “But I only went on the level bits, didn’t I?” he asks.
The panel agrees that for its price, there is a lot of kit here. Yes, you could say it is for a niche market; not everyone is going to want to use it all day, every day. But we reckon it is ideal for contractors working on roadside embankments or landscapers clearing sloping sites. And who knows, owning a piece of kit like this could open up a lot of new opportunities for those willing to try it.
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