Ferris SRS Z2 Machine Design / Build Quality
First, the good:
First, the good:
- The adjustable 3-position ground speed / cruise control was a feature that intrigued me about the Ferris from the beginning, and proved its weight in gold. While it made overall control as well as striping slightly easier, it also relieved any and all hand and finger fatigue, which had proved an issue for my somewhat small hands when mowing at slower speeds using the fixed handle bars on the Gravely and Scag.
- The controls were smooth and responsive, and I had no issues with keeping straight lines with them. A far improvement from the Scag's controls, although not quite as buttery-smooth as the Gravely's.
- The adjustable suspension in the platform was a noticeable step up from both the rubber dampeners on the Pro-Stance platform as well as the two small springs on the V-Ride II. It enabled me to mow at 1-2 MPH faster than I was able to with either of the previous two machines, while feeling it less. My feet were not sore at all after spending 3-4 hours on the mower in one session.
- The platform-mounted operator presence safety switch was a welcome change from the Gravely's handle-mounted switch, and made ducking under trees and mowing ditches no problem.
- The operator cushion worked as intended, and was more comfortable for my build (5'9") than was that on the Pro-Stance. However, I found the cushion on the Scag to be the most comfortable of the three, as its angle and height proved the perfect combo to eliminate any potential for placing weight on the genitals.
- Deck trim side overhang measured at 4", matching the the trim side overhang on the Gravely and doubling up that on the Scag.
- Deck spindle covers are open on both sides, enabling the clearing of debris without the need to remove them.
- There's grease zerks everywhere on this thing, putting longevity and ease of operation firmly in the hand of the operator.
- Tie-down locations built in to the chassis on all four corners.
- The Z2's have been widely panned for the fuel gauge location, which requires peering down through the dash. I found this to be a non-issue. I was always easily able to check available fuel at a glance without issue, and actually consider this to be a pro.
- The deck is mounted offset from the machine chassis to the trim side of the deck. I assume this is to provide the 4" of trim side deck clearance beyond the rear wheels, which I can appreciate. HOWEVER, this creates an issue which I found to be somewhat major — namely, that the overhang on each side of the deck as measured from the outside of each front caster wheel differs significantly. I had such an issue with this when trying to match up my stripes that I ended up busting out a tape measure to check the difference. Long story short, the discharge side blade tip will cut a maximum of about 4" beyond the outside edge of the front caster wheel when tracking straight. But the distance from the outside edge of the trim side front caster wheel to the trim side blade tip is double that, at 8".
In practical terms, this means that striping is made far more difficult than it should be. For example, when discharging grass onto a previous stripe, you can simply line up your discharge side caster wheel with your previous pass and allow 1-2" of uncut grass between it and your previous stripe. This gives you 2-3" of overhang and all is well with the world. But when making your next pass in the opposite direction, you will need to position your trim side front caster approximately SIX inches away from the uncut grass line to obtain the same 2-3" of deck overhang. This is difficult to judge and I found it easier to align the uncut grass line with the outside edge of the trim side anti-scalp wheel. This makes mowing less of a fun-in-the-sun experience in which you can zone out to some music and much more of a chore overall.
It also makes for some odd-looking stripes based on wheel patterns — stripes with mating discharge side passes will have tight wheel-to-wheel stripes. But stripes with mating trim side passes will have an odd-looking 6" dead space between wheel patterns. The alternative is to run your trim side front caster the same distance from your previous stripe as you do you discharge side front caster. This gives you more consistent stripes, but you're losing a ton of efficiency to overlap. My stripe width actually looked more like what I would expect from my 42" Craftsman than they did a 52" deck for the first hour until I figured out the deck offset issue.
This is actually my #1 issue with the Ferris SRS Z2 and the most disappointing aspect of its performance / build overall. If I stick with my decision to obtain a 52" stander, this design decision may well eliminate the Ferris from the running. I believe the 61" iCD deck wouldn't suffer from this issue. Below are some photos for sake of illustration:
- The front no-flat caster wheels scuff / divot the turf something FIERCE. I didn't have a single issue with this on the no-flats installed on the Scag or the oversized casters on the Gravely, but the Ferris casters were tearing and divoting turf on my slow 3-point turns like nobody's business. I was able to minimize this by bumping a stick slightly forward to "roll" them into a 180-degree turn, but they would still move dirt. I don't have the front casters on the Scag or Gravely in front of me to compare them, but I'm left to wonder whether the Carlisle Reliance 13x5.00-6/3.25's on the Ferris are far more square-shouldered or something. Maybe the front casters are carrying more weight... hard to say. But the difference was nothing short of astounding.
- The anti-scalp wheels on the deck leave much to be desired. First and foremost, they aren't adjustable. Second, there is NO anti-scalp wheel on the discharge side of the leading edge of the deck (see first photo above). It appears it was left out due to interference with the discharge side caster wheel. Third, the anti-scalp wheels on the deck rear sit in the very center, and IMO allow far too much side-to-side tipping of the deck rear:
- Many others have already touched on the poorly-labeled deck height adjustment mechanism, so this is nothing new. But it's really shocking how unintuitive it truly is. Both of my local dealers that I asked to point out a specific cut height gave me conflicting (and incorrect) answers, and had to stare at it for a minute or two before even answering. Checking or adjusting your cut height shouldn't be hard — but Ferris managed to make it so. Yikes.
- Traction was great going up hill, but nothing special on side hills. Up hill, the Ferris exceeded all expectations and was better than both the Scag and Gravely. But the Gravely held side-hills better than did the Ferris, which caught me off-guard. Overall traction was slightly worse than expected.
- The muffler heat shield / deck belt guard is not removable, making belt changes and top-of-deck access more difficult than need be. The Scag had a tool-less plate and the Gravely a flip-up platform, both of which would be an improvement over the Ferris.
- The hour meter is in an absurd location on the engine side of the dash, making it difficult / impossible to check from the operator platform. Fine for tracking general maintenance intervals, not so good for monitoring specific yard cut times or calculating fuel economy.
- The oil filter is more difficult to access than most.
- I wish the deck height adjustment mechanism was on the right, as pulling it left-handed requires more effort than did the right-handed mounts on the Scag and Gravely.
- The location of the fender-mounted battery and deck-height mechanism, coupled with the lack of a flat deck shield plate in front of the engine seem to preclude any easy propane bottle mounting options. This is a major con for me, as I am strongly considering a propane-powered primary mower for operational cost and marketing reasons.