From Italy, Merlo’s Panoramic P25.6 compact telehandler has been on the market in the UK and Ireland for over four years now.
Our test machine features the firm’s old style cab but the manufacturers says it is soon to be refreshed and a new version of the Panoramic P25.6 will land ‘in time’ - the larger models in the Merlo range are being treated to a facelift first.
As the firm’s smallest telehandler, the P25.6 is available in two build variants; standard and L (Lower). With already compact dimensions, the standard P25.6 has a width of 1.8 metres and a height of 1.92 metres.
With its rugged build and compact dimensions, the P25.6 has found favour among many poultry units for cleaning out sheds. So how will it do in a livestock environment?
Without even having to get the tape measure out, it is clear the P25.6 has the widest cab out of the four machines. However, while it is a wide cab, head room is not the greatest and the driving position is not as natural as the other three machines.
Visibility-wise, the P25.6 scores very highly, certainly living up to its ‘Panoramic’ name. Particularly over the right, rear quarter of the machine, the boom is kept very low really helping to see clearly what is going on around you.
Cab layout is clear and simple. Many technophobes out there will be glad to hear the P25.6 features little electrics other than the power shuttle lever control. While ours was fitted with simple on/off type buttons on the joystick to control boom and third service, you can upgrade to proportional rollers.
That said, unless you regularly need proportional control, the on/off buttons do the job just fine, particularly if it is just silage and muck handling duties.
The transmission features the same pump and motor Merlo have used as far back as the mid-nineties, claiming it is robust and works without the worry of electrics. Recent upgrades to the motor now afford faster transport speeds and more grunt.
It comprises a single stage hydrostatic pump with the driving motor fitted on the rear axle. There are no ranges to select like the JCB and Manitou, just rev and go. It could not be simpler. However, it does require a few revs to get going – about 1,200rpm – but the payoff is accurate control of speed and it gives some good engine braking.
A propshaft connects the rear and front axles, both of which Merlo manufactures. Top speed is 40kph making it the fastest of the four machines tested.
Oil for the transmission’s hydraulic system and the boom/steering hydraulic systems are separate, with separate tanks for both systems. Merlo says it reduces the risk of contaminating the sensitive hydro-drive with dirt from third service connection and implement. Both systems do use the same specification hydraulic oil, HV46.
Hand brake is a negative type, spring on and hydraulic off for safety. Both axles are braked with two external discs on each axle operating on all four half-shafts. These are protected with covers but the brake pads are easy to inspect.
There is no limited slip diff, instead Merlo has opted for locking differentials on both axles. These are foot operated by a floor mounted button. Both diffs lock simultaneously and will only lock below 10kph. Above 10kmph they will auto-disengage.
Hydraulic oil for boom and steering function is supplied by an 80 litre/min gear pump. Implements can be driven off the telehandlers third service but there is no option to vary the oil flow rate. A fourth hydraulic service can be added up front with an electro-hydraulic diverter.
In keeping with the machine’s simple design philosophy, the joystick is connected directly to the loader’s valve chest. As a result you get a cracking feel of hydraulics and the ability to give attachments a proper shake.
While it does not have the highest hydraulic flow rate in the group, hydraulic performance is certainly no slouch.
For safety, and to comply with the EN15000 technical standard, the P25.6 does have a boom overload system. The boom control system is key operated with a safe position, boom isolation position (no function) and a spring-loaded over ride position.
If overloaded to the point of losing function, then Merlo’s ‘control’ system allows the boom only to be retracted in safe mode. Once within safe operating parameters all boom functions return.
A dig function allows the telehandler to flex its muscles with the boom fully retracted, without cutting out boom function. Unfortunately, boom suspension is not currently an option on the P25.6.
There is also a consent switch incorporated into the P25.6’s joystick. This is required as part of the current safety legislation in relation to telehandler use; ‘to protect against involuntary movement’.
The headstock frame is Merlo’s own, and Merlo’s only, with a spring-loaded central locking pin to lock the attachment safely in place.
To operate a third hydraulic service, the pipe for the headstock quick-attach system has to be disconnected to allow a double acting service to be connected to the loader. Merlo says, from a safety perspective, it prefers customers to remove this pipe and put it in the storage position.
Equipped with the smallest wheels in the group (16.5in), the P25.6 has the agility and get up and go of a cheetah. No wonder it is the poultry man’s favourite.
There are three usual steering modes; front axle, all-wheel steer and crab steer. Again, no electronics or sensors used. To equalise wheels in four wheel steering mode, a poppet valve on the steering ram allows wheels to equalise by steering from lock to lock.
The folks at Merlo say this can be useful to off-set its wheels on purpose to clean beside walls while keeping the body of the telehandler away from the wall.