Braund eyes up this Workman with a little suspicion. He is used to the Cushman Turf Truckster. This utility vehicle looks somewhat different. It is Handy who says what is on his mind: "It's like an airport baggage-handling truck."
We can all see the resemblance but don't judge by appearance. This is a nippy vehicle with a tight turning circle and it is surprisingly good on steep slopes, tracks and even through a quagmire. The latter was a mistake, one of the testers deciding on a short cut between the Cannington Golf Club and the college's equestrian centre. But it proved a point.
Power comes from a Kubota 9020 three-cylinder, liquid-cooled diesel engine. We find it at the rear, under the cargo bed. A seven-guage steel-channel safety support, stored behind the seat, fits neatly over the extended lift cylinder to prevent accidental lowering of the cargo bed.
The engine is rated 23.3hp (18.5kW), governed to a maximum speed of 3,600rpm and direct coupled to the transaxle. It is also Biodiesel-ready for use up to B-20 and is EPA Tier IV compliant. The radiator is on the side, rather than behind the driver, and it has a removable screen for easy cleaning.
Driving the HDX is easy, though at first it feels a little strange. To start the engine, it's clutch in - just like the tractor - and then turn the key. For safety, the remote hydraulic lever must be in neutral and rear power take-off must be disengaged.
The transmission has two ranges - high and low - with three forward gears in each. Controls include the throttle, brake and clutch pedals; gear shifter and range shifter; and parking brake, differential lock and hydraulic lift levers. All of the instrumentation - temperature gauges, hour meter, oil pressure, glow plug and battery charge indicator lights, tachometer and speedometer - is easy to read.
"It's a bit strange sitting almost in front of the front wheels, but you soon get used to it and then you find it is an agile vehicle," says Braund. "I tried a hill start on a wet grassy slope and the wheels started to spin but I put it in 4WD, engaged the diff lock and it flew straight up."
He also "flew" down the track beside the golf course. "The top speed is useful if you have long distances to go. I got it up to 20mph no problem. The brakes are good," admits Braund. "And it's got a very good turning circle, especially for such a long vehicle."
Baker agrees: "It doesn't look like it would have a good turning circle, but it does. What you have to remember is where the wheels are underneath you - especially when you are aiming for a gateway."
"I found it very nippy," says Handy. "But it's a smooth ride. The steering is light, gear changes smooth and the seats comfortable. It's a very stable vehicle." He is also impressed with the engine tone. "It's a low tone and it doesn't sound noisy. It doesn't wear you down like some engines do."
The smoothness of ride is down to the suspension. At the front, independent dual A-frame control arms, dual coil springs and dual shock absorbers with anti-sway bar provide 14.6cm travel. At the back, dual leaf springs and dual shock absorbers provide 7.6cm travel
A useful feature is the third gear lockout. If the vehicle is to be used by a novice, a key switch can be set to limit the engine to 2,220rpm. Should the driver shift to third gear in the high range, the engine cuts out.
The size of the cargo bed impresses everyone. A new uprated I-section steel rear axle gives it a carrying capacity of 1,229kg. It will take a pallet. Also useful is the wide range of attachments. The cargo bed can be removed and a demount top dresser or sprayer fitted. A vicon spreader and Pro Force debris blower can be towed or bed-mounted.
Engine: 23.3hp (18.5kW) Kubota 9020 three-cylinder, liquid-cooled,
Transmission: Three-speed synchromesh (forwards only), H-shift pattern
with high-low range providing six forward and two reverse speeds
Cooling system: Aluminium radiator with 10 fins per inch dual pass
Fuel capacity: 17 litres
Sound level: 85db(A)
Steering: Hydraulic power steering
Four-wheel drive: Fully automatic on demand, bi-directional system
Differential lock: Manual engage rear
Brakes: Four-wheel hydraulic disc
Ground clearance: 18cm (no load)
Tyres: Front 20x9-12 six-ply, turf tread - rear 24x12-12, six-ply rating
Turning circle: Two-wheel drive: inside 81cm, outside 493cm; four-wheel
drive: inside 254cm, outside 726cm
Ground speed: Forwards in low-range gears: 2.9/4.5/7.7mph; forwards in
high-range: 7.6/11.5/19.8mph; reverse in low/high: 2.8/7.1mph
Overall length: 3.3m with bed
Overall width: 1.64m
Overall height: 1.93m (top of ROPS)
Total capacity: 1,411kg
Cargo bed capacity: 1,229kg
List price: From £24,111 + VAT
Tel: Toro UK - 01480 226800
Tested This Issue
Toro Workman MDE
Toro Workman HDX-D 4WD
Polaris Brutus HD PTO
The Review Panel
Howie Baker, apprentice, Cannington Walled Gardens, Somerset
Sam Braund, grounds worker, Bridgwater College, Cannington Campus, Somerset
Matt Handy, senior gardener, Cannington Walled Gardens, Somerset
The vast range of side-by-side utility vehicles available in the UK continues to grow. Many are perfect for racing over the parkland to attend emergencies, transport the vet and his bag to the deer or carry tools and fencing materials to furthest reaches of the estate.
Others are hill climbers, tracking up and down steep slopes with all the requirements for a day's shoot or with chainsaws and kit to attend to a remote area of woodland. Then there are those vehicles best suited to grounds maintenance and golf course tasks. Able to deliver sacks of seed and fertiliser, many also have removable cargo beds and will take top dressers or sprayers out to work.
We look at two of the latest machines from Toro. These Workman vehicles are designed for use in grounds maintenance and especially on turf but are also suitable for parks and garden tasks. One is electric, one is diesel. Which will our testers prefer?
We also look at the Brutus from Polaris. This is a heavyweight player with a front power take-off. It is less off-road than our testers expect. Is it a compromise too far?
Conditions on the day of the test were cool and largely dry, though earlier heavy showers meant the going was soft on much of the golf course and surrounding land.