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Big tractor test

  • Introduction
    • We’ve all been there. Sat in a tractor trying to figure out what button to push to get the front linkage to go down, or how to unlock the hydraulics, or even, in some cases (usually sat in a Fendt seat), how to make the tractor go forwards.

      Perhaps you’re in the field. You think you’ve set up the headland management system to automatically disengage the PTO when you lift up at the end of the bout, then assume it’s going to kick back in when you stick the implement back in the ground.

      As you start to bulldoze most of the field in front of the power harrow, it’s clear that something hasn’t quite gone to plan. It may only be a case of operator error (perhaps too many hours spent staring at the control screen in the first place), but it takes valuable time to identify what’s gone awry.

      Sometimes, it almost demands a degree in computer science to fathom what you can actually do with modern-day terminals and all-singing-all-dancing armrests. And while that doesn’t mean that all these super-sophisticated features aren’t fantastic (when they work) – we’re all agreed that the simpler it is to operate, the better.

      Tractor designers have almost become a victim of their own success. The more features are packed into a tractor, the more complicated the layout and the less chance of drivers simply being able to jump in and drive. In fact, while the public may think that tractors are simple, the fact is that the latest models are far more sophisticated, versatile and high-tech than even the plushest car or technology-rich teenager’s bedroom.

  • Different approach
    • Having tested 20 tractors in the 100hp to 130hp bracket in the past two years, we decided that it was appropriate to change the format for this year’s test.

      The time wasn’t right for a classic tractor comparison complete with DLG measurements. All tractor manufacturers are currently in a transition phase preparing for the next stage of emissions legislation – choosing between exhaust gas recirculation, selective catalytic reduction and particulate filters. Next year, when these tractors are on the market, we will organise a traditional tractor multi-test with DLG results.

      Instead of testing each tractor for performance and drafting in the DLG to carry out fuel efficiency, power and torque tests, we’ve decided to test the most advanced tractors on the market based on their usability – both in terms of ergonomics and how easy it is to set up features like headland management. Although these tractors are the crème de la crème, they show the direction tractors of the future will be headed in terms of technology.

      Power output was secondary in this test – as long as these models were the newest, most advanced tractors each of the top manufacturers had to offer, this was enough.

      Tractors in Farmers Weekly’s annual tractor test:
      Case IH Puma CVX 225 Deutz-Fahr TTV 630
      Fendt 828 Vario JCB Fastrac 7230
      John Deere 8345 R Massey Ferguson 8690
      New Holland T7070  

      Note: As Claas do not participate in comparison tests, the international test team didn’t include them in this years test.

  • The test
    • As with all our tractor comparison tests, each tractor was tested extensively in the field. Four test teams worked during the day and at night for two weeks to get an idea of varying working conditions.

      The equipment used was simply to test the functionality of each machine in a certain task. A Lemken Karat, Dalbo disc harrow, Amazone combination drill and several other machines were used in the test.

      Most attention was given to the multi-function armrest, joystick and monitor. Each test team made a point of driving every tractor for the first time without looking at the manual. With all seven tractors, we could get driving without any major problems and the most important features could be navigated fairly easily.

      All companies showed that they had done their homework when it came to the number of features each tractor had, however it wasn’t always so clear as to how to get to them. The ideal is to be able to navigate through the setup stages, and for the tractor to choose the correct setting automatically where appropriate.

      Our test showed that, overall, it’s preferable to have a combination of touch screen, scroll button and function keys - that way the driver can choose the way he wants to navigate through each menu. We also decided that it’s better to have just two or three layers of functions.

  • The future
    • Even if you have no intention of buying a tractor of this size and spec just yet, the operating concepts tested show how tractors will develop over the next 10 to 20 years. The key technological advances have nearly always occurred in the top models, for example CVT, which is now transferring down through the smaller ranges.

      The following reviews will show what the operating systems of the future will be like across all hp ranges.

  • The test team
    • Emily Padfield, Farmers Weekly

      Frank Berning, Jan-Martin Kuper, Guido Honer, top agrar (D)

      Dr Norbert Uppenkamp, LWK Munster (D)

      Corinne Legal, Henri Etignard, La France Agricole (Fr)

      Frits Huiden, Boerderij (NL)

      Photography: Ralf Heil, G. Honer


  • Ideal setup and layout
    • From an operator’s point of view, what would be the ideal layout of a modern tractor?

      In field conditions, we have tested all the systems under practical conditions.

      What constitutes an ideal operating system?

      Here’s a list:

  • Monitor
    • All markings should be the same in the cab and on the monitor
    • Best of both worlds - touch-screen and scroller
    • All functions should be on the monitor if you have to pay extra
    • Split-screen, with the possibility to choose different run screens
    • Should be able to remember rev settings without asking to record them
    • Clear icons and home buttons to go back to important information
    • Few layers on screen; maximum two for one function
    • Be able to move terminal in every direction
    • Short text underneath each to say what each icon does
    • High quality screen with bright colours - not a black screen
    • Virtual switches (like the John Deere)
    • All manufacturers should use the same icons
    • USB stick compatible
    • Ability to rest the elbow and not have arm extended to use the terminal
  • Armrest/joystick
    • Every important function should be on the joystick and easily reachable.
    • It’s acceptable to have only an armrest but it should be clearly organised
    • Armrest should be adjustable up/down and back/forth, not electric (would break with time)
    • Terminal should move with armrest
    • On the joystick, you should find the following functions : linkage, forward/backward, HMS, cruise control, auto steer, engine presets, emergency stop buttons to stop all functions but the driveline.
  • Engine
    • Should have at least one programmable RPM setting - ideally two
    • RPM memory should be easy to setup and alter with + and - buttons/dials
    • Engage and disengage revs easily
    • Possible to activate in all modes
  • Transmission
    • All gearbox settings on one screen
    • Changing economy and droop settings should be quick, with button or quick jump screen.
    • Clear neutral button for safety
    • Clear to see which driving mode is selected
    • Should be easy to switch between pedal and joystick modes
    • Two cruise control speeds
    • Cruise control needs to be easily changed
    • Ability to preset forward/backward speed
    • All gearbox-related functions should be clearly marked and in orange
  • Drivetrain
    • Clear on/off
    • Clear Auto on/off
    • Should be possible to alter the Auto engagement by adjusting steering angle and linkage position
  • PTO
    • Clear on/off and auto function without going through the terminal
    • No minimum speed requirement
    • Should be able to stop it instantly
    • Able to see the revs on monitor
    • Clearly visible selected speed and engagement
    • Everything that deals with PTO should be yellow
    • Ability to use the fender button without activating it in the cab
  • Linkage
    • Clear up/down controls and neutral
    • Stopping it should be easy and straightforward
    • Good control to adjust depth, eg: wheel or slider
    • Not every function should be solely in the terminal - some buttons/dials for functions like drop speed and draft control
    • Front linkage on separate system and not on the hydraulics - since front linkages are fully integrated, they should have their own control system
    • Easy lock and unlocking system
    • Position indication would be good, esp. for front linkage
    • Up and down buttons on the main joystick
  • Hydraulics
    • Separate functions for flow and time in both directions
    • Quick jump or hydraulic menu clearly visible on monitor
    • Spool valve position and pre-selection clear on monitor
    • Possibility to lock single spools or all spools and to offer preselected locks.
    • Easy unlocking with separate knob
    • Ability to choose which spool valve is on cross lever
    • General button for float
    • Choice of same colour or number on levers and monitor
    • Can preset engine revs increase in relation to hydraulics on monitor
    • Editors note: If the tractor is customised, the manual should be customised too.