was first exposed to the Mahindra eMax 20 at the Indianapolis National Dealer Meeting last October. The dealer buzz then was at high levels with the attendees chomping at the bit to have these tractors get to their dealerships. At the event ride-n-drive, the lines were long, so drive times were limited. So, when we got a call from Ellington Agway Power Equipment in Ellington, Conn. saying that it had just received an eMax 20 and asking if we wanted to spend some time behind the wheel, we jumped at the invitation.

Mahindra eMax 20 Profile

The Mahindra eMax series is in some ways a departure from the Max recipe that shook the industry at its introduction in 2012. Then the competition cried foul, claiming that Max tractors were really compact utility tractors and not subcompacts. Foul might have been the cry from the competition, but the marketplace ignored the controversy and Mahindra’s market share ever since has chugged right ahead. When eMax tractors were unveiled two years later, the dialed back heavy-duty-ness brought these machines a little closer to the traditional subcompact recipe. And now, with the introduction of the eMax 20, an ultra-competitive offering perfect for that first-time homeowner and almost deserving of a new classification, don’t be surprised if that market share continues to grow.

COMPARISON: Read our review of the 2017 Simplicity Legacy XL

Powering the Mahindra eMax 20 is a 60.6 cubic inch Yanmar 3TNV74F three-cylinder diesel engine. At 3000 rpm, the rated gross horsepower is 19 with 14.3 available at the power take-off (PTO). The engine is EPA Final Tier 4 (FT4) compliant and utilizes reverse flow cooling, with the radiator between the operator cockpit and engine, drawing hot air away from the operator and minimizing grass/debris buildup on the screens. A 4” two-stage cannister air cleaner is also utilized to help protect internal components and further extend engine life. Onboard fuel is 6.6 gallons with the fill cap conveniently located on the right fender console.

Mahindra eMax 20 Engine

Output from the engine is sent to a two-range hydrostatic transmission (HST) controlled by a treadle pedal with the rocker arm joining the forward/reverse ends positioned below the floorboard. This setup maximizes floorspace and is great for those who use the treadle in the traditional manner – pushing down the toe to go forward and heeling to reverse – but doesn’t leave much room for those who prefer to reverse by slipping their toe under the pedal front and lifting up. That small nit aside, the arrangement offers fine, infinite modulation over the forward and reverse speed range, with the top forward speed 7.8 mph. 4WD is standard.

COMPARISON: Read our review of the 2017 Kubota B2601 HST

Hydraulics are by an open center system flowing 2.11 gpm to the power steering pump and 4.86 gpm (6.97 total) to implement demand. Correspondingly, the Cat I three-point hitch (3PH) lift capacity is rated at 680 lbs measured 24” behind (1100 lbs. at ball ends). Hitch control is by an up/down lever located on the right fender console. It’s not the more expensive position control of the big brother Max tractors, but the “guess where you’re at” positioning works fine and isn’t difficult to get proficient at returning an implement to fairly repeatable height. Standard fare is an independent 540 rpm rear and a 2500 rpm mid-PTO with a left fender control lever to select mid only, mid and rear, and rear only. PTO engagement is by a nicely-done right fender switch that the operator pushes and twists to engage and taps to disengage. 540 PTO rpm comes at 2893 engine rpm while 2500 PTO rpm comes at 2875 engine rpm.

Mahindra eMax 20 Seat

Climb into the deluxe mComfort tractor seat that Mahindra now has themed across its product lines (extra padding, foldable armrests, retractable seatbelt) and the operator is treated to a cockpit that is neatly laid out with color-coded levers and controls and a highly visible backlit instrument panel. The rubber-isolated floorboard is mostly flat with just a small hump in the center. Pedals are the left side brake, abovementioned treadle on the right with a small pedal just inboard to lock the park brake. There is a heel pedal for differential lock on the left, next to a rotary knob marked 1-2-3-4 with steps between for adjusting the mower deck height. A cup holder on the left fender console and 12V outlet round out the package niceties.

Our test tractors (yes there were two) were outfitted with turf (R3) tires, size 18×8.5-10 front and 26×12-12 rear. Also available on the eMax 20 are same sized Ag (R1) and industrial (R4) tires. Both the Kubota BX2380 and the John Deere 1023E come with the larger size tires, which makes the eMax 20 at its price point all the nicer.

Mahindra eMax 20 Rear

Order a mid-mount mower (MMM) and the drive-over M54 is the choice. It’s a three-blade 54” side-discharge stamped deck with a cut range of 1” to 4” and a transport clearance height of 5.12”. Though it wasn’t yet mowing season, with a blade speed of 18,000 ft/min, we expect the cut quality from the deck to be quite good. And to protect the turf, there are four anti-scalp wheels that can be swiveled.

COMPARISON: Read our review of the 2017 Kubota BX23S

Mahindra mates the eMax 20 to the 23L loader which features another nicety: standard skid-steer couplers, allowing the tractor access to a wide range of available attachments such as pallet forks and different bucket sizes. A cost-cutting sacrifice no doubt, the loader joystick is mounted on the loader stanchion – but we found the location comfortable to use with our right elbow resting on the armrest. The 23L is rated to lift 617 lbs. to a max height of 71.3”. Dump clearance is 53.9” with a dig depth of 5.3”. Breakout force at the bucket is 1235 lbs. No backhoe is available for the eMax 20.

Mahindra eMax 20 Cockpit

So how does the Mahindra eMax 20 ride and drive? Quite well. Sound levels from the Yanmar (measured from the operator seat) were 91/92 dBA idle and 98/99 dBA at PTO rpm. We found the turn radius tight, power steering effort low, and loader response slow at idle but satisfying at higher rpms. We also noted at higher rpms we could find joystick positions where two motions could be accomplished at the same time (raise/curl or lower/dump). One comment is that the rear of the tractor felt a little light over bumpy terrain. There is no specific ballast box for the eMax 20, so for light loader work, loading the rear tires would seem to be a minimum recommendation. For anything heavier though, some kind of correspondingly heavy rear implement would definitely be required. A good motto to keep in mind is “shiny side up.” 
The assembled in Pennsylvania eMax 20 measures 94.2” long by 44.5” wide and rides on a compact 53.1” wheelbase. Ground clearance for the 1499-pound. tractor is 8.3”. Outfitted with the 23L, Mahindra prices the package at $14,300. With a seven-year/3000-hour powertrain warranty, available cab with standard heater, front/rear lights, mirrors, front wiper, list of expected attachments, the eMax is perfectly positioned for a wide range of homeowners, small hobby farmers, garden centers, and anyone who is cost-conscious and in need of a capable tractor in a compact footprint. Inventory should be quickly filling dealer stocks, so for anyone in the market for a small subcompact tractor, the Mahindra eMax 20 would be well worth checking out. And for those in the vicinity of Ellington, Conn., Ellington Agway would be a great place to start.