If you ever wanted a machine to perform a variety of tasks, and do them all well, the PowerPlatform from Custom Chassis is the vehicle for you. Unveiled at the World Ag Expo in Tulare, CA, last year, the machine blends the power and lugging ability of a tractor with the speed of a truck without sacrificing the comforts of a car.

After seeing the PowerPlatform at the show in Tulare, I knew I wanted to test it. A machine like this is hard to fully appreciate until you have spent some time behind the wheel.

When I first got into the cab, I was struck by the excellent view from the operator station. The cab-forward design provides outstanding visibility for the task at hand.

On a large 10.4-in. digital display terminal to the upper right of the joystick are all the gauges and displays for engine performance, temperature, ground speed, gear position and other data.

Power, speed

Power is provided by a Tier 3, 260-hp, 6.7-liter, Cummins QSB diesel engine. The engine is married to a six-speed, automated powershift transmission. Push-button shifting is done from the joystick controller on the command center arm. The joystick also doubles as the control lever for two of the remote hydraulic cylinders, an excellent feature when trying to multitask during some field operations.

The transmission provides six forward gears and three in reverse. Top speed is 32 mph standard, and 45 mph with an optional transmission package. Top speed in reverse is 22 mph.

The PowerPlatform has three different steering modes. With regular steering, the front wheels turn and the real wheels remain in a standard position. In coordinated steering mode, the rear wheels turn opposite the front wheels, enabling a tight, 16.5-ft. turning radius in close quarters. Crab steer allows you to minimize wheel track compaction by running front and rear wheels in different tracks, or it can let you compensate for side slopes in hilly terrain.

The machine has both a front and rear 3-pt. hitch. A small video camera is mounted above the rear drawbar.

Suspension system

The PowerPlatform comes with front and rear electrohydraulic suspension. Going down the road at 45 mph and bouncing across tilled wheat ground are both a smooth ride from the air suspension seat.

An added feature is the ability of the suspension system to determine how much weight is on each axle and make transmission adjustments accordingly. With loads of 26,000 lbs. or less per axle, the transmission is able to go at rated speed. With loads above 35,000 lbs. per axle, the transmission automatically locks out and limits the driver to a maximum speed of 5 mph. This prevents the operator from overloading the transmission with a heavy load.

An added safety feature for overloading the machine involves alarms at three different thresholds. An audible alarm sounds, the weight display on the monitor changes to red, and a written warning appears in the fault display portion of the screen.

The axles of the PowerPlatform have a pressure transducer to measure hydraulic cylinder pressure. That pressure reading is then mathematically used to calculate the load on each axle in 1-lb. increments with an accuracy of roughly ±1%. The digital display in the cab lets the operator know what the vehicle's total weight is, as well as cargo weight.

With hydraulic outlets on both the front and the rear of the machine, it is possible to hook onto almost anything and make it work.

Test time

To test the PowerPlatform, we hooked it onto a heavy, 26-ft. Sunflower tandem disk. Lowering the disk into wheat stubble, I had to look back to see if the implement's hydraulic hoses actually engaged. For all the dirt that was turning behind us, the engine did not lug down at all. The torque response from the Cummins engine was incredible. All that steel at work behind me wasn't even noticeable from the cab. I tried shifting up and still wasn't able to strain the engine.

Perhaps one of the handiest features on the PowerPlatform is the on-board air compressor and 50-ft. hose on a reel. You can drive up to a job site in the field and pump up a low tire, blow out some screens on sprayer nozzles, perform some repairs with a pneumatic air wrench, or change a flat tire with both the air wrench and a pneumatic jack. The air compressor's functionality and convenience are unrivaled.

The PowerPlatform has a suggested retail price of $205,000 to $260,000, depending on options. Contact Custom Chassis, Dept. FIN, 21950 Gore Orphanage Rd., Wellington, OH 44090, 440/647-6401, visit www.customchassisinc.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin, or circle 106.