Z915B vs Ferris IS3200Z
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    Keeper of the GTT Cookies dieselshadow's Avatar
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    Z915B vs Ferris IS3200Z

    So recently I went and bought a new Ferris IS3200Z commercial zero turn mower. It's their top-of-the-line machine with full suspension on all wheels. I'll be comparing it to the John Deere Z915B mower (which was replaced/renamed the Z915E) which I've owned and used for 3 years.

    So to be fair, I must state the obvious here. This comparison is between Ferris's top-of-the-line commercial mower to John Deere's entry level commercial mower. There will be some obvious major differences and a few not so crazy. Some may be shocking to you.

    First, some stats.
    The JD Z915B is a Kohler 25hp with a 60" commercial 7 Iron II deck, optional rear weight bumper, Oregon G6 mower blades, and an aftermarket Puffer air-ride seat. Other than that, it was box stock. It was maintained as per the manuals with JD fluids. Really good machine. I'd consider this machine one of the best buys you can make at your John Deere dealer. It's a lot of machine for the money.

    The Ferris IS3200Z I purchased is powered by a Vanguard 37hp EFI engine with dry sump oiling system. It has a 61" ICD mowing deck and full suspension on all wheels. The front wheels are independent while the rear is like a live axle. The mower is suspended from the suspension so it stays level with the ground.

    Here's a few comparison photos.

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    The Ferris has a much larger footprint due to the wider stance, larger tires front and rear, and wider track front and rear. They are about the same width with the Ferris being slightly wider due to the 1" bigger deck. This stance has a noticeable difference on the edge of the deck to the tire width clearance. This coupled with the offset front caster on the Deere, it has much better trimming capabilities. The Ferris is a tad more challenging trimming with left side of the deck and just doesn't have the "reach" the Deere has.

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    The engines are complete different animals. The Deere has the 25hp Kohler. It's a pretty darn good engine. It has adequate power for the machine, it runs very reliably, and is very easy to service. This engine has proven to be pretty good. The only complaint I have is it tends to smoke only on startup once in a while. This is a known characteristic of these engines. Not a big deal as it clears out pretty quickly. It does use some oil, but in my opinion not outside of normal ranges of any air cooled engines used in this application. The Vanguard engine on the Ferris is an absolute animal. It's 37hp with fuel injection for immediate starts, insane amounts of power, and ready to work almost immediately. The dry sump oiling system is unlike any other machine out on the market right now. This has an external 5 quart oil reservoir that not only supplies the engine with de-aerated oil at any operational angle, but also holds the tool-less oil drain and filter for easy servicing. It's supposed to go 500 hours before oil changes! That's completely unheard of in the air-cooled engine world.

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    So the cut quality is different between these machines as well. I have the Deere tuned in to the yard here with Oregon Gator G6 blades. They work very well here providing a darn good cut. The deck does have a tendency to have buildup that needs to be removed if the grass is mowed damp or wet. It will also start to cut lousy is the blades get overly dull (duh) or the buildup gets excessive cutting off grass flow and proper airflow.

    The Ferris isn't quite tuned in yet. While the level of the grass being cut is much more level, it tends to leave some clumping. But there are some factors that shouldn't be overlooked yet. It's early spring here with very damp cutting conditions and I'm not using the Gator blades yet. I also don't have the deflector setup for "always up" but ready to drop for certain areas I cut. The deflector really shortens the distance the grass is discharged between both mowers. I had it up on the Deere with a bungee until I needed it down. Removing the deflector isn't an option for me as I don't want to discharge grass into mulched flower beds, driveways, sidewalks, and the neighbors pool. I also added the striping kit to the Ferris. It's affecting the quality of the mow as well. The jury is still out on whether or not it'll stay on. More on this later.

    Now for the elephant in the room, the ride. OMG, the Ferris wins hands down. Once I dialed in the shocks for my yard and my weight, this thing is very very impressive. I can mow full tilt at 12 MPH across my horse pasture of a yard with zero issues. When I'm done, I can still walk! This was the major decision factor for me. The Deere rides as good as a solid 4 wheeled machine can with lower air pressure and an air ride seat, but it's still a bucking bronco requiring you either to slow way down or get beat up. You control the beating with how far you push the sticks. That being said, I was never disappointed with the Deere or unhappy with it. It owes me nothing. Very good machine. I just wish Deere had a machine with real suspension, not the gimmicky seat bit. The factory seats on both machines are very good, nice and comfortable with no hot spots or lack of support. Neither came with suspension from the factory, but both are available with optional suspension seats.

    The Ferris feels like a bigger machine because of its stance. It does hold hills way better than the narrower Deere. In fact it got stuck a few times in places the Deere would have no hope of getting out. Both times I stuck the Ferris in the ditch, it climbed out on it's own. That's right. I was able to get the Ferris out because the wheels moved as they needed because of the suspension. Both drive tires stayed on the ground and I was able to get it out without assistance from the 2720. I went into places I wouldn't go wit the Deere because of the stability. The Ferris also feels heavier. Not sure if it is or not, but it sure feels like it.

    The hydraulics on the Deere are considerably smoother than the Ferris. Very easy to control and do minuscule adjustments and trimming. The Ferris is good, just not as smooth. Combine that with the width and the larger tires and it's more susceptible to running into objects as you trim. This could be a difference to fluids, manufacturers, setup, heck even break-in. Could be the Deere will always be smoother and therefore more superior in the controls department. Overall operation on both machines is very easy and straightforward.

    So the Z915B is much better in trimming and currently the winner in overall cut quality. The Ferris IS3200Z wins the race with speed and comfort. Maybe I'll get the cut quality the same as the Deere with some more tuning and the Gator blades. Time will tell. Overall I'm very pleased with my new mower, just as I was with the Z915B.
    Gizmo2, bob, DRobinson and 27 others like this.
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    2720 w/ 200CX FEL
    , Ken's weld-on hooks, Fit Rite Hydraulics Top and Tilt kit, Artillian forks.
    1954 60 - getting full restoration, 1964
    110 round fender in the shop for crustoration
    Ferris IS3200Zzero turn mower

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    coaltrain's Avatar
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    Thanks Jason!

    Great detailed review - you touched on all the important aspects.

    The ride sounds very promising. I hope the sticks smooth out - could very well be a breaking in issue of both the fluid and valving.

    What does the Ferris use for hydraulic fluid? Does it have active hydro cooling? When I had my Deere 757 I was surprised to see it used 30w motor oil and did not have a cooler.
    ~Stan~
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    Keeper of the GTT Cookies dieselshadow's Avatar
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    It has two cooling fans driven by the input sheaves on the transaxles, same as the 915. As for fluid, I知 not sure yet. I should check in that and make sure I have some on the shelf. The engine uses automotive full synthetic oil. The oil tank holds 5 quarts, so I doubt I値l ever have add any in between services.
    Gizmo2, rydplrs, BigJim55 and 3 others like this.
    - Jason

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    2720 w/ 200CX FEL
    , Ken's weld-on hooks, Fit Rite Hydraulics Top and Tilt kit, Artillian forks.
    1954 60 - getting full restoration, 1964
    110 round fender in the shop for crustoration
    Ferris IS3200Zzero turn mower

    Quote Originally Posted by Gizmo2 View Post
    Dieselshadow is my Hero.


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    Thanks Jason. Excellent review. I almost bought that exact machine, same engine, oil reservoir, deck size, everything. I still might. My dealer still has two left in stock with an excellent cash discount. You're not the first that I've heard from about clumping issues. However, I feel that is a problem that should be able to be solved.

    I hadn't thought about the trimming close to objects concern. On a scale of 1 to 10, how much worse is it than the JD in this category?

    I, too, am seriously considering it because of my bumpy yard. I have ranked comfort as my #1 priority, cut quality #2. Honestly, hadn't thought about trimming close, but that's given me a bit of hesitation.

    Very glad to hear positive news about the ride quality and suspension. I can tell you that when I first sat on one of those machines, it was instantly the most comfortable operator station I'd ever sat in. It does feel like you are higher up and the machine has a much bigger overall feel than even high end JD machines like the 997 or z950r.


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    Keeper of the GTT Cookies dieselshadow's Avatar
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    Trimming with the left side still can be done, it痴 just not as convenient as the Deere was. It hard to say how much worse since these are really the only two machines I致e used. The Deere is better than the Ferris at trimming, but not enough to influence the overall usability. I had thought the rear tube bumper would have caught stuff as I turn, fences, siding, etc just like the Deere can swing out and get, but it turns out that痴 a non-issue as well. The tires being so wide kinda prevent the rear from swinging into anything.

    I have some Gator G6 blades I知 going to install. They took the Deere from cutting very well to excellent. Maybe they値l eliminate the clumping that was somewhat prevalent on the Deere as well. Those blades have worked very well on my property so my bet is it値l all but disappear.

    I will say this, the ride is absolutely phenomenal. Even if the clumping issue isn稚 resolved 100%, I知 still smiling because I can walk after I知 done mowing.
    - Jason

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    2720 w/ 200CX FEL
    , Ken's weld-on hooks, Fit Rite Hydraulics Top and Tilt kit, Artillian forks.
    1954 60 - getting full restoration, 1964
    110 round fender in the shop for crustoration
    Ferris IS3200Zzero turn mower

    Quote Originally Posted by Gizmo2 View Post
    Dieselshadow is my Hero.


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    Congrsts Jason!!! I been running a 3100 and 5100 for couple years now.

    Hydro fluid on the Ferris machines is 10w30 motor oil... What burns me is they started using black tanks for the oil.. You have a spot on the tank that is your full mark.. Now how in the hell are you supposed to see the stinkin level with a BLACK tank??? They used to be white which you could see the level.

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    Keeper of the GTT Cookies dieselshadow's Avatar
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    Looks like they went back to opaque white.

    - Jason

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    2720 w/ 200CX FEL
    , Ken's weld-on hooks, Fit Rite Hydraulics Top and Tilt kit, Artillian forks.
    1954 60 - getting full restoration, 1964
    110 round fender in the shop for crustoration
    Ferris IS3200Zzero turn mower

    Quote Originally Posted by Gizmo2 View Post
    Dieselshadow is my Hero.


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    Ha!! Yea, after doing some service on mine today I forgot my 3100 is still white. My 5100 is black.

    You made a comment about control and having all four tires on the ground. Thats one of the first things I fell in love with on the Ferris. You can drive down in a ditch and usually always have full control, vs having three. On a conventional z turn you will carry one front then when the weight balance takes over you have the upper rear get light, the tire that you need to control speed and steering. Now your along for the ride till you get to the bottom and you can retake control of the machine.

    I have my front shocks set full light and rears one from light on my 3100. I would like a suspension seat on it but cant justify it on that machine for what I use it for. Your 3200 has the 26x12 rear tires which would be better for ride vs the 3100's 23 x 10.5.

    On my 5100 I have the shocks set higher due to the machine weight. Never put a suspension seat on it cause it rode so smooth.. Last year I had to replace both front tires due to wore out and replace them with solid run flat tires. BIG mistake. Talk about a rough ride. Im going back to a air filled fronts but ones with the gel in them so they are still run flats but with air in them. They feel like they will ride good.

    Jason, I wiil take a couple pics of the rope I have for the deflector shields to tie them up. I mow lawns all summer, and I have NEVER removed a deflector shield on any of my machines. Also, you said yours dont throw out far with it down, on both of mine they throw the grass just as far as with shield up. Sometimes further.

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    Before buying my Z950R I was on a different forum that focuses on commercial lawn care just to learn about Zero Turns and options out there.

    I have to say your review is pretty much right in line with what I expected. It mirrors pretty much everything I read before hand. The Ferris is a comfortable machine. If you are the guy making the decisions on what to buy and spending all the time in the saddle, go Ferris. The other common comment was the John Deere 7 Iron Deck is a beast and a tough deck to beat. The only complaint being that it uses smaller spindles than most in the same class. I want to say 7/8" were others are 1" or larger. I guess the bigger ones offer better life. Though there are a lot of clumping complaints if you went with the John Deere MOD (Mulch on Demand) Deck.

    One thing I was shocked by was as I started to read the review, I saw you went from a 25HP running the 60" to a 37HP running a 61" deck. I was expecting to see a much larger deck with that much engine. Is there a reason for that? Maybe a case of a good deal or something. The Z970R which is a 35HP is the closest machine, while you can get it with a 60" I would imagine the 72" is more common on that machine. I have a Z950R which mine has the standard 60 deck but I could have ordered it with the larger 72". It will run it. In my case I wanted the 60" with the larger 27.5HP engine over say a Z930R because I am running the MCS. Have you run it enough to do a fuel consumption test? I am pretty sure the machines hold about the same amount of fuel so it will be interesting to see if the new one with 12 more HP is a lot more thirsty. EFI should help but I don't think it can save that much fuel.

    I know you were talking about your deflector. Have you ever considered a door? These are a couple options out there that they talk about a lot on that other forum.

    Grass Flap, manual foot operated.
    https://grassflap.myshopify.com/

    Power Chute, electrically controlled.
    Power Chute Design

    I don't have either, but they are pretty popular with a lot of the commercial mowers for keeping grass out of mulch beds and off sidewalks, driveways and pools. For my mulch beds I just control how I cut them. I work my way up to them then the last two passes are the one next to the bed then the next deck width past that both going the same way, discharging away. This way my closest pass discharging toward them is 10-15' away discharging into tall uncut grass which catches the clippings, then it is two passes the other way discharging away from the beds.
    Last edited by sennister; 05-14-2018 at 08:41 AM.


    JD Z950R 60" Deck with DFS Collection System

    JD X585, 54C deck,
    CTC Model X4750 F.E.L - Modified Imp Pressure Relief from 900 to 1175PSI, Power Flow and MC519 cart, 54-inch Quick-Hitch Front Blade, 47-inch Quick-Hitch Snow Blower, 3-pt hitch, HF Quick Hitch, Heavy Hitch, 48" box blade/rear blade, Dethacher, 3pt Sprayer

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    Quote Originally Posted by coaltrain View Post
    Thanks Jason!

    Great detailed review - you touched on all the important aspects.

    The ride sounds very promising. I hope the sticks smooth out - could very well be a breaking in issue of both the fluid and valving.

    What does the Ferris use for hydraulic fluid? Does it have active hydro cooling? When I had my Deere 757 I was surprised to see it used 30w motor oil and did not have a cooler.
    Quote Originally Posted by dieselshadow View Post
    It has two cooling fans driven by the input sheaves on the transaxles, same as the 915. As for fluid, I知 not sure yet. I should check in that and make sure I have some on the shelf. The engine uses automotive full synthetic oil. The oil tank holds 5 quarts, so I doubt I値l ever have add any in between services.
    My Z950R is the same way. Each trans-axle has a cooling fan. As for fluid. I forget what it takes. Hy-Gard for sure but the X and Z take a different type. One is the low viscosity and the other normal or whatever they call the other type that they sell. I know I bought a gallon jug to keep on hand. Haven't needed it but I wrote on each jug with a Sharpie so I know which fluid goes with which machine.

    With the Z9xx there is a difference in transaxles. The B/E/M all have the same one. Then there is the type used on the R machines. The main difference is that the R has cross porting. So the fluid can move between the two transaxles. This is to help with cooling I guess. If running in the hills you can heat up one transaxle more than the other. I guess maybe if you are crabbing a bit down some really long ditch lines. With this you will get better life on the transaxles. I was wondering if the cross porting could be retrofitted to a B/E/M if it is just fluid lines. I don't know enough about the differences to say it is or isn't an option. I will say that the R also has a higher ground speed. The B/E/M is 10MPH and the R 12MPH. So I would imagine there is a little more to the differences than just some hoses or hard lines.
    BigJim55, Herminator and PJR832 like this.


    JD Z950R 60" Deck with DFS Collection System

    JD X585, 54C deck,
    CTC Model X4750 F.E.L - Modified Imp Pressure Relief from 900 to 1175PSI, Power Flow and MC519 cart, 54-inch Quick-Hitch Front Blade, 47-inch Quick-Hitch Snow Blower, 3-pt hitch, HF Quick Hitch, Heavy Hitch, 48" box blade/rear blade, Dethacher, 3pt Sprayer

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