2 January 1998

Looks similar only bigger

and better…

Visually, John Deeres new

6010 series differs little

from the entire 6000 range

it replaces. So to appreciate

the changes, Geoff Ashcroft

drove one of the first models

in the country, a 115hp 6610

IN MANY instances, beauty is only skin deep. But to appreciate how John Deeres 6010 series tractors differ from the outgoing 6000 range, you need to look beneath the skin.

The eight-model range introduced at Novembers German Agritechnica show spans the all-important 80-135hp bracket. Four-cylinder 6110, 6210, 6310 and 6410 models offer 80, 90, 100 and 105hp. Six-cylinder machines are the 6510, 6610, 6810 and 6910, with 105hp, 115hp, 125hp and 135hp respectively.

Compared to the outgoing 6000 series, the 6010s offer larger capacity Powertech engines – with only marginal power increases – two new transmission options and internal tweaks to the cab.

But perhaps the most important advance is the option of an active hydraulic, self-levelling front axle suspension system known as Triple Link Suspension (TLS). It is an option on four-wheel-drive tractors from the 100hp 6310 and upwards.

Link one of TLS is a pair of hydraulic cylinders, which gives the front axle 10cm (4in) of vertical suspension travel. Link two is a Panhard rod which prevents the axle from moving left to right. Link three is the rearward part of the axle (which also carries the propshaft) and locates on a self-aligning bearing under the centre of the tractors chassis.

Small bumps and shock loadings are absorbed by a pair of accumulators connected to the suspension rams, while more aggressive suspension travel is soaked up via the rams.

Deere claims TLS improves traction and ride comfort, and can be used in conjunction with a front-end loader. And plans are already afoot to design the system into 7010s and 8000 series tractors.

Putting the TLS system to test on a 115hp 6610, farmers weekly went to Deeres UK headquarters at Langar.

Climbing aboard the 6610, theres a feeling of deja vu – indeed, Deere drivers will feel instantly at home with the whole tractor, in view of how little things have changed.

The 6010 demonstrator I drove had been fitted with an isolator valve on its TLS system which meant I could drive it on the stretch of battered airfield tarmac at high speed with and without the effect of suspension. For added measure, a 6m-wide 750A No-Till drill was hooked on the rear to help make the tractor bounce.

Running repeatedly over the same stretch of tarmac at speeds of up to 25mph (40kph) resulted in considerable changes in handling characteristics with TLS engaged and disengaged.

As youd expect, with TLS engaged the ride was smooth – though not in the same league as a fully suspended tractor such as JCBs Fastrac – and I felt relaxed. With TLS disengaged, running over the same stretch of tarmac had me reaching for something firm to hold, bracing myself in readiness for that porpoising effect which can occur at road speeds.

Deeres bump track

Similarly, over Deeres "bump track," I could withstand anadditional 1.2mph (2kph) of forward speed with the suspension engaged.

Deere claims the draft forces through the front axle are also increased using TLS, and expects this to translate into an increased workrate through less wheelslip. But bad weather conditions kept us out of the field during this drive.

Our test model was also equipped with the PowrQuad Plus 24×24 transmission. It uses a single gear lever with powershift push buttons on top of the gear knob, and means your hand need never let go of the gear lever to get all 24 speeds. Shuttling forward/reverse is now a left-hand operation, via a steering column-mounted control stalk with positive F-N-R selection.

The gear lever works a six-range gate (A range, B range and so on to F), with four powershift speeds available in each range. And as before, the clutch is needed to range-change.

But where PowrQuad Plus differs from the previous transmissions, is that it will automatically select the right gear for the speed travelled, when shifting between ranges.

For example, pulling away from rest in, say first gear in D range, then pressing the powershift buttons to reach fourth issimple enough. Skipping E range and changing direct to F range means the transmission works out forward speed and automatically selects any of the four powershift speeds to put you in the right gear to continue accele-rating.

Changing down works the same way. After working down from fourth to first, then making a range change, the transmission will select the most appropriate gear in that range to match forward speed.

With the standard PowrQuad transmission, whatever gear was selected would be the one you were in – regardless of the range selected – and would often require two gear changes to made, or let the engine struggle.

And put to the test, PowrQuad Plus works beautifully. Driving is more truck-like and changing up or down the "box" is more predictable. You dont have to worry about getting the right gear.

Deere says its more sophisticated transmission – AutoQuad – is due in the spring and offers the same features as PowrQuad Plus, but with the addition of fully automatic gear changes for road work.

Prices range from £27,768 for a two-wheel-drive 80hp 6110, up to £58,078 for a 135hp 6910 with AutoQuad transmission and TLS. But whether resale values will reflect the £2807 TLS option, only time will tell.

Test model 115hp 6610 came equipped with Triple Link Suspension (TLS) – airfields rough tarmac proved adequate high speed testing ground to appreciate effect of TLS.

Subtle internal cab changes include "work lights" panel, revised seat and on this PowrQuad Plus-equipped tractor, single gear lever control for 24×24 transmission. Shuttle control is now a left-handed affair using steering column-mounted stalk.

Triple Link Suspension remains permanently active – Deere says design of the system increases traction under heavy draft loads, and does not affect front linkage or front-end loader performance, when fitted.

JD 6010 series tractors

ModelhpEnginePrice

(cyl)2WD4WD

6110804£27,768£33,104

6210904£30,034£35,505

63101004£32,283£37,863

64101054£34,980£40,644

65101056-£41,461

66101156-£45,838

68101256-£50,467

69101356-£53,543