2015 Mahindra 1538 HST Review

The big brother of the 1500 Series delivers

By Geof Fowler, Photography by Mahindra, May 29, 2015
In April we tested Mahindra’s new 1533 and came away impressed. Though the replacement for the venerable 3016 was larger and weighed more, which came at some penalty of maneuverability (7.8’ vs. 9.2’ turn radius), we felt the increased power more than made up for any perceived difference. Being fans of more power, we wondered how the higher horsepower 1538 would compare. To further complicate the comparison, we chose a hydrostatic transmission 1538.

Knowing the HST pump does rob some of those additional horses but offers a degree of added operator comfort and ease is the kind of comparison someone trying to decide between the 1533 and 1538 might consider.

2015 Mahindra 1538 HST Front Left

As with the 1533, the 1538 is manufactured by Mitsubishi and shipped to Mahindra for engine installation. Displacing 166.7 cubic inches, the four-cylinder naturally aspirated powerplant is rated to deliver 38.7 gross and 27.7 power take off (PTO) horsepower at 2400 rpm. Compared to the 1533 shuttle tractor we tested in April which was rated at 34.5 gross and 25.2 PTO, how much difference would the 2.5 PTO horsepower increase make in day-to-day operation? Read on to learn more.

Mahindra mCRD technology achieves EPA Final Tier IV (FT4) emissions compliance through a combination of high pressure common rail indirect fuel injection, high rate exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) system, closed crankcase ventilation (CCV), and diesel oxidation catalyst (DOC). FT4 compliance comes without the need for diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) additions or a diesel particulate filter (DPF) – advantages that could make a big difference over the life of the tractor.

COMPARISON: Read our review of the 2015 Mahindra 1533 Shuttle

Power from the mCRD engine is sent to a three-range hydrostatic transmission (8F/8R shuttle transmission is also available) that is controlled by an r-shaped treadle-style pedal. While we tend to prefer side-by-side pedal arrangements, the setup chosen by Mahindra offers good modulation over the infinitely variable forward and reverse speed ranges.

2015 Mahindra 1538 HST Rear

Hydraulics run through an open center system flowing 7.7 gpm to implement needs and 3.4 gpm to power steering demands (11.1 gpm total). The Cat I three-point hitch (3PH) is rated to lift 2,646 lbs at the ball end. One additional rear remote is supported and is an option. Lower lift arms are stationary, though the outboard stabilizers are telescopic. Position control is standard, so an implement can be returned to an exact operator selectable position time after time. A 540 rpm rear PTO is standard with rated PTO speed coming at 2376 engine rpm. Purchasers requiring a front blower, broom or mid-mount mower will need to opt for a 2000 mid-PTO, with rated speed coming at 2525 engine rpm.

Climb up to the operator platform, which is possible from either side due to the dual steps and grab handles, and the layout is the same as on the 1533. Worthy of note is the flat floor with just a minimal transmission hump, deluxe high-back suspension seat, color digital display panel, and dashboard slot for storing a smartphone or MP3 player. As expected from a FT4 engine, there is no smoke, even when first starting. Noise readings from the operator seat at idle averaged 76-77 dBA.

COMPARISON: Read our review of the 2015 Kubota L4600 HST

As with the 1533, the 1538 is matched to the 1538L loader. Lift capacity is 1650 lbs to a max height of 99.0”. Dump clearance is 79.8”, so most pickup truck beds are accessible with this combination. An 8.6-cubic-foot, 60” bucket is matched to the 1538L, and the system is skid-steer compatible, opening a wide variety of available attachments. Dig depth is 6” and the available breakout force is rated at 2,650 lbs. Cycle times at 2600 rpm work out to 3.9 seconds full raise, 2.4 seconds full lower, 2.6 seconds dump, and 2.6 seconds curl back.

2015 Mahindra 1538 HST Interior

For those requiring a backhoe, Mahindra matches the 1538 to its 1538B backhoe which features a dig depth of 94” and a reach of 127”. Swing arc is 180 degrees and dig force is 2,900 lbs at the bucket and 1,800 lbs at the dipperstick.

COMPARISON: Read our review of the John Deere 3039R Open Station

Size wise, the 1538 (tractor-only) measures 127.8” long by 62” wide and is 91.1” from the ground to the top of the ROPS, which folds for challenged height access. Hydro tractors weigh 3,175 lbs and carry an MSRP of $24,570. Ag (R1), Industrial (R4) and Turf (R3) tires are all available as no-charge options.

Performance

In low range, the 1538 has near stump-pulling power perfectly suited to high demand loader work. Mid range ups the top end speed to where mowing would be highly productive, but still has the oomph for light loader work. High range is transport only and potentially fast enough to get an inexperienced operator into trouble. Our handy smartphone GPS wasn’t cooperating, but our seat pant feel was that top speed was somewhere around 13 or 14 mph (Mahindra literature doesn’t list the 1500 Series speed range). And yes, the extra 2.5 PTO horsepower (4.2 hp gross) was noticeable. Would it warrant the $4,180 premium over the 1533/shuttle? Perhaps a better price comparison would be the $2,830 difference shuttle to shuttle or the same amount HST to HST. But for the prospective purchaser looking for hydro power but wanting more than 24.7 PTO horsepower to run, say a 5’ rotary cutter, the difference may just be worth it.

Mahindra warrants its tractors for five years. Currently incentives include 0% up to 84 months and cash back up to $4,750 (see your dealer for specific combinations). For anyone with a specialty/hobby farm, living a rural lifestyle, having equine interests, or is a homeowner with acreage, the 1538 is worth exploring.


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