DENSELY PACKED with tanks and toolboxes, Fendt’s 817 stands like something hacked from the solid. Even if – and whisper this – the nose is a little bit girlie. Tall on 42in rear rubber, the 817 is the heaviest tractor in the group at 7750kg.

No quibbles with exterior quality, save for some orange-peel effect in the bonnet paint. In the cab you’ll find good materials and solid fittings, apart from a flimsy lid to the offside console’s storage box. Generally a quality product.

Cab, noise

Don’t go here if you”re allergic to buttons or screens. We counted 75 different things to push and turn (not including the heater controls), while over it all presides the great white eye of the Varioterminal – Fendt’s command centre.

And don’t expect palatial accommodation. This one-man office ties with the Case for the smallest dimensions, though it does feel roomier thanks to extra width and a much bigger windscreen. Access is OK from both sides if you watch out for the vertical offside steps.

Jelly-baby button colours rob the cab of its dignity. That aside, control layout is clear and ergonomically good, apart from the cruise control pushpads (too far away) and the all-powerful Varioterminal, which would be simpler (and faster) to use as a touch screen.

Storage space is average, the passenger seat small and hard. The driver’s air seat could swivel more for fieldwork and the steering column needs a touch more reach for tall operators. Despite that, comfort and driving position are good – very good. Climate control (fast becoming the norm in luxury cabs) isn’t yet an option.

Views aren’t bad despite a broad bonnet, the rather tacked-on front heater control box and high console sides. To the back, a deep rear glass opens up sight to the lift arms.

Power points are plentiful. And as tapped bracket holes are provided, fitting external controls should involve minimum hassle. But tread warily when hitching up – the cab is set well back over the axle, potentially putting the open rear window close to a raised implement.

The new cab suspension may influence noise levels, so we can’t quote values. Subjectively, noise quality is only average. Oil is always whooshing and groaning around in the transmission (particularly under heavy load) and the engine’s friendly, deepish growl turns briefly to a nasty boom close by 1900rpm.

Engine

Nothing to tell: see introduction for why.

Hitch/linkage

Fendt’s own self-locking stabilisers complement solid-looking linkage. The standard hydraulic top link ties up one spool.

Uncomplicated Bosch-based hitch control boasts two sets of external buttons. Inside the cab, the lift/lower rocker switch is a retrograde step from the big click-lever found in some other Fendts.

Linkage response and the range of adjustment on offer are good. Lift/lower switch aside, the only other mechanical control handles working depth; changes to draft/position intermix (and so on) can only be made through the Varioterminal. Which is tough cheese if you don”t get on with screens.

Hydraulic services

Three of the test tractor’s four electro-hydraulic spools are standard, all pulling oil from a load-sensing circuit. Operation splits between the joystick (any two valves of your choice) and a small cross lever, with a master stop button and lock pad overseeing them.

Flows and timing are set through the Varioterminal, which, while not as intuitive as twiddling a knob, is not hard. Outlets carry clear colour coding and good covers, but are set deeper between the mudguards than they might be. And performance? Below average for the group but still adequate.

Pto

Three speeds – 540, 540E, 1000 – are selected very civilly from a pushpad. Two more pads switch the bolted-flange shaft on and off, although both are too small to find and stab quickly. And while the joystick’s emergency stop button is a fine idea, it would be finer if it worked when the pto is in manual mode; currently it’s available only when auto pto is selected. Once that’s set, shaft engagement is tied to linkage position.

Diff locks, 4WD

Engaged from straightforward console pushpads, both systems have an auto in/out function linked to speed and steering angle. It all works seamlessly – no worries.

Steering, suspension and Brakes

The 817 steers light and tracks straight, delivering the most stable road drive in the group and low-effort field turns. Optional air cab suspension combines with Fendt’s own sprung front axle to deliver subjectively the most resilient ride. A medium-effort, firm pedal delivers progressive or wheel-locking stops to order. Needs less initial free travel, though.

Maintenance

Engine oil 500 hours, transmission fluid (45 litres) every 2000 hours. Relatively few greasers – seven front, six back. The two-stage bonnet opens simply from a car-style release, but the header tank isn’t filled easily. Access for rad cleaning is average, one cab filter takes a gymnast to change, fuses are unmarked. Handbook is fine.

Endnote

Solidly made and good (though never simple) to drive, this is not a tractor for novices or computerphobes. The Varioterminal way of working has advantages, yet the whole driving philosophy seems needlessly complicated. Shame we couldn’t see if this model turns in the cracking pto performance of some other Fendts, but there it is.