Telehandlers on test: Massey Ferguson TH 7038

In an extension of our telehandler test in the 4t lift and 7m reach category, we have taken a look at the best-selling rigid-frame machines from Kramer, Claas, Cat and Bobcat.  

Kramer has been hard at work relaunching the old Claas Scorpion models in its own livery. With no agricultural dealerships on its books, the firm has managed to strike a deal to sell through John Deere’s network, which has led to some impressive early sales success

Meanwhile, following its split from manufacturing partner Kramer, Claas has put the finishing touches to its new range of Scorpion handlers, this time built by Liebherr.

See also: Telehandler test: 5 mid-sized loaders battle it out

Although not a key player in the agricultural market yet, Caterpillar is also looking to grow its presence with the recently released D-series handler. Massey Ferguson is in the game too, and continues to offer its flagship TH.7038, based on the same platform as the Bobcat we tested last year.

The test was carried out on a dairy farm near Besancon, close to the French/Swiss border, with our colleagues from French magazine La France Agricole and the German publication Top Agrar.

The two-week trial included typical on-farm tasks such as bale handling, trailer loading and muckheap work. But to accurately compare their hydraulic performance and lifting prowess, the Germans also hooked them to their comprehensive range of testing equipment.

Massey Ferguson TH7038

Massey Ferguson telehandler

The verdict

Other than its colour scheme, the TH.7038 is identical to the Bobcat TH38.70 tested last year.

We duly repeated the tests to see if there was any significant difference between the two, but unsurprisingly, most of the results were within spitting distance of one another. The turning circle was the only anomaly, which could be down to the setup of this particular machine.

In line with our findings last year, the Massey turned out to be a simple but decent machine that delivers impressive hydraulic performance. However, you do need to give it a few revs to get any decent return from the 190-litres/min pump.

We liked the solid construction-spec feel and spacious cab, but like the Cat, it was a fairly noisy place to sit.

The handler’s shallow tipping angle also made it slow and tedious to fully empty a bucket.

List price: £70,832  

Massey Ferguson telehandler cab

Likes

  • Simple to use
  • Fast hydraulics
  • Nippy around the yard
  • Underbelly protection
  • Spacious cab
  • Auto-electric handbrake

Gripes

  • Cryptic functions in screen
  • Crowd isn’t steep enough to tip a bucket
  • Can’t pin door bottom back
  • Joystick heavier than some others
  • Poor visibility over engine cover
  • Expensive for how basic it is

Cab

The Massey has one of the most basic cabs in the test, which for most people is no bad thing. 

There is also a reasonable amount of space behind the seat for stashing ropes and ratchet straps and most of the switchgear is reassuringly solid.

However, because you sit fairly low in the machine and there’s a bulge at the top of the engine bay, visibility out of the right-hand side isn’t as good as some of the other handlers on test.

You do get a decent view of all four mudguards though, so there are no excuses for knocking it about.

Unfortunately the base of the door can’t be pinned back and the catch is a bit of a stretch to reach, but the wide opening and relatively low cab floor mean it’s a breeze to hop in and out.

Controls

Generally, the MF’s controls were simple, with a straightforward joystick, shuttle lever and pedal arrangement.

Some of the testers found the joystick a little basic and heavy to use, but it does make it easy for anyone to operate.

If we’re being ultra picky, the armrest is a little high and can’t be adjusted like it can on the Cat.

There are also a few functions hidden away in the screen that you can only properly fathom by delving into the manual. These include the creeper speed setting, intermittent reversing fan setup and oil flow to the third service.

Once we worked out the obscure lettering of the functions, we got on well enough with them.

One feature we did really like was the auto-electric handbrake that flicks on and off without you having to think about it. This means the handbrake should always be on when you disengage drive and hop off the seat.

Massey Ferguson telehandler controls

Vital stats

  • Engine 3.4-litre Doosan four-cylinder
  • Rated power 130hp
  • Transmission Two-speed hydrostatic
  • *Hydraulics 190 litres/min
  • *Max lift capacity 3.8t
  • *Max lift height 6.97m
  • *Max forward reach 4m
  • Weight 7.62t
  • Turning circle 8.08m
  • Complete cycle time 26.2secs
  • List price £70,832

*Manufacturer’s stats

Engine

Like the Bobcat on which it’s based, the TH7038 sports a new four-cylinder engine from South-Korean construction giant Doosan.

This generates 130hp, putting it at the lower end of our test group, but we didn’t find it too wanting in the power department.

It gets round Tier 4 final emissions regs by using exhaust gas recirculation, a diesel oxidation catalyst and an SCR system.

As for fancy functions, these are limited to a creeper setting that allows drivers to adjust revs independently of forward speed and a system for setting intervals for the hydraulic reversing fan to kick in.

Once we got to grips with the lettering of the functions, we found the creeper speed easy to use and the speed adjustment on the joystick is a nice touch.

Transmission

Continuing with the simple set-up, Massey uses a twin-range hydro-mechanical gearbox.

The two ranges are changed using a rocker switch on the dash and the handler has to be at a standstill before you can do this.

However, it does also have a two-speed hydrostatic motor that can be changed on the move. This is engaged by pressing a button on the end of the left-hand forward/reverse shuttle lever and when activated, it feels as if you have another gear to play with.

Rather than an old-school dump pedal, standing on the sizable brake pedal disengages drive so you can rev up to shift a heavy load.

The transmission is also set to creep when lifting off the brake pedal, so you don’t have to use the accelerator when inching up to loads.

Massey Ferguson telehandler engine

Boom and hydraulics

A 190-litre/min pump make the TH.7038’s hydraulics seem sprightly, but it does need to be given some revs to unleash its best performance.

This meant the handler struggled in the low-rev cycle time test, but when we gave it full power, it was able to dominate. It’s a shame, as operating at high revs should be unnecessary for most tasks.

As for boom suspension, there is a two-stage accumulator system, which means it can adapt to different sized loads. This can also be switched on and off using a button on the joystick, which we thought was a handy feature.

The EN 15000 safety lockout could be overridden using a key on the dash, but thankfully we didn’t need to resort to using it that often.

For some, the positioning of the hydraulic couplings on the boom will be a little awkward, but there’s a handy system for releasing the pressure in the lines before uncoupling. 

Massey Ferguson telehandler dials

The scores

  • Build quality: 3.5
  • Cab/ergonomics: 3.5
  • Joystick and controls: 3
  • Engine: 3.5
  • Transmission: 3
  • Hydraulics: 4
  • Handling: 3.5
  • Driving comfort: 3
  • Total 27

The range

The Massey Ferguson and Bobcat partnership goes back many years, and until recently there was a clear deal where Bobcat covered the construction market and Massey handled the agricultural side.

However, Bobcat now offers ag-spec models too, so the two are effectively in competition. That said, the machines are virtually identical in spec and price, so the decision on which to buy comes down to the dealer or colour you prefer.

Bobcat offers more choice, but Massey Ferguson has chosen to concentrate on five key models, with the TH.7038 being the biggest.

At the compact end of the scale there’s the TH.6030, which has a 3t lift capacity and a 5.89m reach. Power comes from a 100hp Doosan engine, it has a simpler hydrostatic transmission and there’s a 100-litre/min hydraulic pump on board.

Next up, there’s the 6534, which has the same engine and transmission as the top-spec TH.7038, but with a slightly lower lift capacity of 3.4t and 6.41m reach.

The rest of the 70-series is fairly similar in size with different engine, hydraulic and transmission options.

The TH.7030 offers a 3t lift capacity and 6.7m height, while the TH.7035 has a slightly longer 6.97m reach and 3.5t lift capacity. Both use the smaller 100-litre/min pump and 100hp engine, but the TH.7030 has a simpler transmission.

That just leaves the TH.7038 with its 3.8t lift, 6.97m reach, 130hp engine and 190-litre/min hydraulic pump.

Read all of our Telehandlers on test reviews

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