Not the speediest machines in the test, but these Italian-built zero-turners nevertheless prove their worth in other ways. Both, for instance, offer outstanding agility. They are compact and nimble, and capable of seriously accurate mowing, especially along boundaries, beside borders or bunkers and around trees and obstacles.
As with the vast majority of other zero-turn mowers, the Gianni Ferrari machines are stick steer. But in addition to the two steering stick levers, these machines have a third to control speed. It may sound complicated, but don't let the thought of three levers put you off.
Having speed control separate from steering helps with accuracy of steering and mowing while still maintaining the degree of nippiness that makes you opt for a zero-turner in the first place - though it has to be said, the Turbo Z is not the comfiest of rides. We reckon that this one is probably going to be better on the flat rather than bumpy terrain.
"Ouch," yells Ekin. He has banged his head on the cage-like ROPS of the Turbograss 992. Yet this machine is a favourite of the students. One of the taller ones shows how it is done, quickly jumping into the seat using the ROPS frame as leverage - as you might if stepping into a racing car.
For Ekin, the Turbograss did provide a more comfortable ride with fewer jolts on uneven ground. A better view of the operation could not be had. "You are sitting right at the front of the machine. It's almost the same as sitting in a mini-excavator," he comments.
Beeping indicates that the hopper is full so he disappears to the edge of a copse to empty it. The collector drops back into its cradle with an almighty thud. "I thought I'd been shot," says Ekin. But this machine cannot be beaten on quality of cut. This is largely down to the blades turning in the opposite direction compared with traditional mower decks.
If you need a zero-turn - one capable of collection - for sites such as intricately landscaped grounds, it could be worth taking a closer look. In addition, GF mowers can also be fitted with a scarifier, mulching deck or snow blade.
Engine: Kubota D902, three-cylinder, 22hp diesel (displacement: 898cc)
Overall dimensions: (LxWxH) 260/285x102x105cm
Maximum speed: 5mph (8kmph)
Fuel tank capacity: 25 litres
Mowing width: 43in or 51in (110cm or 130cm)
Cutting height: 0.8-3.15in (20-80mm), infinitely variable
Number of blades: Three
Deck: Collection (rear-discharge/mulching deck optional)
Collection: hopper 500 or 700 litres, lowor high-tip, with audible
warning and hydraulic dumping
List price: From £9,138 + VAT
Tel: Stuart Taylor - 01254 813175
Tested This Issue
John Deere 997
Gianni Ferrari Turbo Z230 and Turbograss 992
Toro Z Master 152
Amazone Profihopper iDrive and Profihopper 4WDi
The Review Panel
Mark Ekin, teacher, Broomfield Hall Campus, Derby College
Mike Baldwin, director of learning, Broomfield Hall Campus, Derby College
When you need to mow in a hurry but still want a smart finish, there is nothing quite like a zero-turn mower to do the job. Nippy in the extreme, these machines turn on the spot to save time at headlands.
They zing round trees and obstacles. With the deck towards the front, most can poke their noses under benches and shrubs to save time trimming up with a walk-behind model or corded trimmer. Saving time also means saving money and there are also some incredibly comfortable zero-turn mowers that provide relaxing seating for a full day's work.
But most zero-turn mowers have stick-steer levers in place of a steering wheel. This seems to be the feature that puts most people off. It is more like driving a tank than a ride-on mower. But it is not that difficult. To test how quickly stick-steer novices take to the controls, we invited 20 horticulture and countryside students to have a go.
Within minutes they had mastered the controls and were zipping around the golf course at our test site as though they had been driving zero-turns for years. "It's simple. Just like computer games," one student told me.
The test was carried out at the Broomfield Hall Campus of Derby College. A heavy dew in the morning was then followed by dry and sunny conditions.