5 April 2002

Fendt flexes muscle in low power sector

Fendt plans to take the sub

100hp tractor market by

the horns with its new trio

of upgraded Farmer 300C

tractors. Andy Moore

climbed aboard and gave

the range-topping 309C

version a test drive

TAKE a look round most UK Fendt dealers and, more often than not, it is hard to spot a tractor below 120hp in the yard.

This is not to say the dealer is rubbing his hands after a recent sales spree, but because, as Fendt admits, it has historically sold few tractors in the low power market.

Now, after many years of trying, the German maker intends to capture this shrinking sector with its revamped Farmer 300C range.

Based on the original 300 models from the mid-1980s, 300C models borrow the same cab as their big brothers in the 700, 800 and 900 Vario range. The trio includes the 307C, 308C and 309C which are rated at 75hp, 86hp and 100hp, respectively.

"Fendt has a stereotyped image of selling sophisticated tractors with high horsepower and a high price tag," says Fendts Tony Bourne. "The 300C series will appeal to livestock and mixed farmers wanting a lower cost, simpler specification tractor."

So what are the new 300C models like to drive?

AGCOs training centre near Stoneleigh, Warks was a suitable site to drive the 309C.

First stop, the cab. Drivers familiar with Vario-tractors will not be short-changed when entering the 300C series cab. Even on this pint-sized model it is as luxurious as the larger models.

On the ventilation front, a three-speed fan and an opening windscreen and sunroof should be enough to keep the driver cool – if not there is air conditioning fitted as standard.

In front of the driver, the dashboard is home to analogue and LCD gauges, together with levers for pto, shuttle and range selection.

Starting the four-pot 3.2-litre motor is puzzling at first – the driver has to search for the ignition key – but once fired up it runs quietly.

The unit is designed to maintain 100hp from 2300rpm-1900rpm, which enables engine speed to be reduced by 300+rpm without loss of power, claims Fendt.

For drive train, 300C models have a 21F x 21R overdrive shuttle transmission.

Operated by no less than four levers, there is a gear stick to select six speeds from two gates, a hi/low splitter, a forward/reverse shuttle and a range lever.

On the move, dip the turbo clutch, shove the splitter into "hare", select a high range/gear and there is slight delay before the clutch engages.

The turbo clutch works similarly to a torque converter – a turbine wheel and pump impeller have to rotate at the same speed for drive to be fully transmitted.

This is noticeable at 1400rpm as the tractor accelerates smoothly up to its 15mph, before the clutch is dipped again to select 18.5mph and 25mph.

There is so much "give" in the clutch that it is nearly impossible to stall even when dumping the clutch pedal or stamping on the brakes for an emergency stop. The 4.2t tractor is fitted with rear drum brakes and a disc braked cardan shaft.

Releasing the accelerator pedal provides engine braking similar to a stepless transmission.

Not only that, the tractor can even be held on the brakes with the clutch engaged.

Not recommended for long periods, this is handy for pulling out of road junctions, hill starts or inching close to implements.

All in all, the transmission offers nine gears from three of the six speeds on the gear stick for pto and heavy draft work. These can then be split into three from the range lever.

Operating the range lever is a pull-push, and hope for the best, procedure at first, an indicator showing which one is selected would be a useful aid.

Even so, directional changes can be swift and smooth, despite the driver having to dip the clutch and clunk the shuttle in position.

Fendt says the 300C tractors are ideally suited for loader work on the strength of their shuttle, turbo clutch and two hydraulic pumps.

Rated at 33 litres/min, one pump gives priority to the steering and the other supplies up to 37 litres/min to the linkage control valve and up to three auxiliary services.

With its modern cab, the 309C should be a versatile workhorse for performing a wide range of jobs on smaller acreage farms. &#42