14 February 1997

Ares sure to please man

in the seat

Renault has high hopes for the Ares, its first all-new tractor for some time. In an exclusive farmers weekly First Drive, Peter Hill reports on whether the tractor lives up to expectations

DRIVERS will like this one. Stout steps lead to a roomy cab with two coat hooks, stowage spaces – for lunch box, flask, drinks can and newspaper – and there is a drinks cooler compartment for when air-conditioning is fitted.

One look into the Ares cab shows that Renault has put a lot of thought into making it a pleasant and convenient place to spend a day ploughing. From the seat, the view ahead is panoramic thanks to the wide windscreen and cab-mounted exhaust, a standard fitting on six-cylinder models.

Switch the screen wiper to intermittent or continuous, turn on the controls spotlight if it is a touch dark, adjust the Laguna-sourced heating and ventilation controls to demist the windscreen while warming the toes, and get to work.

The Ares – pronounced "RS" – is all-new, a thoroughly modern tractor with looks to match, that addresses the deficiencies of current Renaults without throwing away their better features.

There is an improved and enhanced electronics package for the lift linkage, a 4WD/pto/diff management system for the first time, and a revised Hydrostable cab suspension, a Renault feature which makes an impressive contribution to ride comfort.

The nose lifts for battery and air cleaner access but is now supported on gas struts; engine coolant level can be checked at a glance and, instead of being bolted down in front of the main radiator, the transmission oil cooler and air-conditioning condenser can be moved aside for cleaning.

Driver accommodation has been given particular attention because, as Renault says, the man in the seat often has as much say in tractor choice as the one writing the cheque. Operating the 120hp Ares 630RX, top of three six-cylinder tractors available initially, suggests the new model will be on many a drivers shortlist.

The cab structure has John Deere 6000-series overtones in its wide front window, while the sharply curved rear three-quarter glass appears to be inspired by Massey Fergusons 6100/8100-series cabin. It is a combination that works, giving the tractor a distinctive appearance and, more importantly, panoramic visibility, lots of room for getting in and out – of either door – and enough space to carry a passenger without having to be bosom pals.

A simple layout of controls and instruments, imaginative storage space, and light grey trim make this an inviting and restful place to work.

The single gear lever sprouts readily to hand from the right-hand fender moulding, while the forward/reverse shuttle is to the left of the steering wheel. This is no dinky little switch but a man-sized lever that engages the gears without electronic or hydraulic assistance.

A pre-select electro-hydraulic shuttle is on its way but the positive action of the synchro works well enough. The big lever is easy to get hold of and use, and positive in its action; less so the bulky gear lever, which will probably loosen with time.

It has a lot to do, engaging the four main gears – arranged in a conventional "H" pattern strongly spring-loaded to third/fourth – and also high/low using a firm pulse action to the right. Two thumb-operated buttons on the left side split each gear in the case of the optional 16F/16R Twinshift, or pulse up and down four powershift speeds when the standard 32F/32R Quadrishift is fitted.

This will be familiar to MF 6100-series drivers because it is essentially the same transmission, albeit with a different electro-hydraulic shuttle on the MF. The two companies have it built at a joint-venture factory in France. Renault maintains this latest version has a number of detail internal changes and improvements.

Whatever, both splitter and powershift versions are commendably smooth whether or not under load. The clutch, in contrast, is a mite sharp and needs careful feathering to avoid a prompter-than-intended take-off.

Renaults electronics package is as comprehensive as ever but now comes with simpler controls including light (but durable?) push buttons and flush touch pads. A small rotary control handles the linkage, easily operated by thumb and set into the top of the control panel, which forms a comfortable hand rest. Flicking the switch up two stages lifts the linkage but go too far and the transport lock engages, which means having to prime the electronic brain again.

Hydraulic oil is delivered by constant output tandem gear pumps, which some would say puts the Ares at a disadvantage alongside the costlier but potentially more economical flow and pressure sensing systems of key competitors. Still, the tractor makes up for things with hefty linkage lift capacities.

A lever next to the pto shaft (rather than in the cab) changes between the two standard power take-off speeds – economy 540 and ground-speed pto are optional. That, says Renault, reminds operators to switch the interchangeable stub shafts, held in place by half a dozen Allen-head bolts.

Power and torque should attract no complaints, judging by the Ares 630RX. At 120hp and 495Nm, this models engine, supplied by Deere Power Systems, has much the same power (though rather less torque) as John Deeres 6800.

Both are 6.8-litre turbo motors but they are different engines; for one thing, it is a stressed installation in the French tractor, whereas the Deere has a chassis to support the power unit.

But both deliver "constant power" characteristics over a 300rpm rev band and ploughing a stocky soil revealed a good depth of torque, even if it peaks at a relatively high 1500rpm compared with a class average between 1200rpm and 1400rpm.

In summary, although the Ares breaks no new ground in terms of specification or technology, it comes close to setting new standards of cab interior design and offers a comprehensive specification. Its looks and features will widen Renaults appeal and will certainly not harm a drivers bar-room cred. On first acquaintance, it is an impressive and convincing package. &#42

Renaults Ares has chunky good looks; this is the most powerful of the three six-cylinder models that will be available initially. Higher hp versions come on stream in the autumn.

Left: Lift-up nose – a regular Renault feature – gives access to battery, air cleaner, radiator, aircon condenser and transmission oil cooler. Centre: Open-topped toolbox tucks into space at the bottom of the exhaust pipe. Right: Steep but stout steps enable good access to the cab; low-mounted fuel tank provides 220 litres capacity; prominent worklights are guarded rather than sunk into cab roof. Side exhaust stack improves forward view.

Neat controls comprise single gear/powershift lever, mechanical shuttle (left of steering wheel), climate controls (ditto), and push/touch buttons on linkage console. Spool valve levers are ideally positioned for easy use.


ARES DATA


&#8226 Model Ares 630RX.

&#8226 Engine Deere Power Systems 6cyl turbo.

&#8226 Power 120hp.

&#8226 Max torque 495Nm @ 1500rpm.

&#8226 Std gearbox 32F/32R Quadrishift.

&#8226 Max hydraulic lift (at lower link ends) 8.47t.

&#8226 Fuel tank capacity 220 litres (48gal).

&#8226 Price £51,120.