3 April 1998

Range-topping beef

and refined with it

The 200hp-plus tractor

bracket has recently

increased by a factor of one

– in the guise of Massey

Fergusons 8100 series

flagship tractor, the

MF8170. Geoff Ashcroft

gave the 230hp brute a

good workout

AT 230hp, the Beauvais-built MF8170 now heads up Massey Fergusons seven-model 8100 series tractor range.

But more than just a tweaked MF8160, the MF8170 comes with powershift transmission, new axles, larger engine and improvements to the cab layout.

"Its a bigger, heavier machine than the 200hp 8160," explains field support specialist Robin Thompstone. "The extra dimensions come from the physical size of the powershift gearbox."

It also contributes to the 8170s 9.75t unballasted weight – but working on the theory of "needing weight to move weight", such ballast could form an essential part of the tractors grip.

And the 8170 is the only model in the range to get a powershift box – all others use a 32×32 Dynashift transmission which calls for some left leg operation.

"Operators want more sophistication, but easier controls on a tractor of this size – having to manually change gear when trying to get the most out of a heavy draft tractor is no longer acceptable," explains Mr Thompstone.

A Funk Phase II transmission is used and carries 18-forward and eight-reverse gears. Being rated at 300hp, the firm clearly has scope to introduce larger models to the range.

Putting power into the transmission is an 8.4-litre, turbocharged, intercooled six-cylinder Valmet engine. It delivers 230hp at a rated speed of 2200rpm, with full power (242hp) available at 2000rpm – a 410-litre (90gal) diesel tank should see the day out.

Getting such power to work often calls for duals all round, but to ease transport situations, Agco and Kleber developed bigger tyres specifically to match the performance characteristics of the 8170. It means 650/85 R38s are at the rear, with 600/70 R28s riding up front.

"These tyres can withstand higher loads at lower pressures to minimise compaction and get maximum grip," says Mr Thompstone. "Flexibility in the tyre means the footprint grows in length as well as width when under heavy load. We can maintain five cleats in contact with the soil."

So, will the MF8170 move mountains, or just the skins off rice puddings? farmers weekly went to Sternberg Farms, Tenterden in Kent, to put the big Massey through its paces.

Harnessed to the MF8170s rear end was a 4.5m-wide (14.8ft) McConnel Shakerator, with 11 ripper tines set to operate at about 40-45cm (16-18in) deep – a machine deemed to be a suitable match for the tractors vital statistics.

Scaling the dizzy heights to the cab it is clearly noticeable how much simpler the 8170s cab layout is, compared to other 8100 models. Transmission, rear linkage controls and the four-wheel drive/diff-lock functions are now grouped in the seats right-hand armrest. Pto, spool valve levers and a hand throttle can still be found on the right-hand console.

With the cab on larger rubber mounts, overall height is raised providing a flat-floor. Alongside the 200hp MF8160, the new 8170 is marginally higher and longer.

Once seated, the operator is greeted with a revised instrument panel which combines analogue dials with a digital transmission display unit.

Most operators will be pleased with the amount of seat adjustment available, but the right-hand armrest only moves fore/aft – its barely adequate and left/right movement would help to provide more knee room when the seat is twisted to help rearward vision.

After a brief familiarisation with machine controls, its time to bring the 8170 to life. And a big helping of throttle puts engine revs firmly around 1500rpm – slightly above its maximum torque area.

Pressing the gear lever lock button while shifting from park to forward sets the 8170 off in a smooth manner – but having just started the engine, 13th is the default gear. Pulsing the gear lever backwards brings the transmission progressively down the box. Sixth is selected, ready for field work.

Full control

A twist of the rotary linkage control drops the 4.5m Shakerator into work and the 8170 barely knows its on the back. A pulse forward on the gear lever brings a barely audible change in engine note; another gear, then more throttle; another gear, more throttle and another gear – all the time, gear changes are executed smoothly, and under full control.

At 2100rpm, the dashboard shows 12th gear and 6mph forward speed, and the MF8170 has settled comfortably into a pattern of heavy draft work which is proving difficult to unsettle.

Once at the headland, a twist of the rear lift control and the implement is eased gently from the ground – all without lifting an arm off the armrest. Pushing the transmission lock button allows the lever to be pulled through the neutral gate into reverse and as would be expected, the tractor changes direction. A little practice helps to make direction changes smoother still.

For operators looking for easy operation to help long days at the helm of a high horsepower tractor, the MF8170 clearly has a lot to offer – but the interior still has a more functional than comfortable feel about it. &#42

At 230hp, the MF8170 is much more than a "tweaked" MF8160. Theres powershift transmission, flat-floor cab and beefier rear end.

Not too much in here to play with – armrest carries all-important powershift lever and rear linkage controls which should lead to less operator fatigue during those long days in the seat.

Revised dashboard combines analogue with digital displays – the latter shows transmission information and work done.