23 October 1998

Renault releases bulldog

on wheels…

Renault introduced its new

185hp Ares 735 RZ tractor

only last month – to

become the most powerful

in the companys range.

Andy Collings caught up

with one working on an

estate near Lincoln

WEVE been waiting a long time for Renault to introduce a high powered tractor, says Richard Setchfield, of Grantham-based RC Setchfield, Agricultural Engineers.

And as a principal Renault dealer operating in the heart of "arable UK" where large machinery is the norm, it is a view with which one can sympathise.

"With 185hp under its bonnet, the Ares 735 RZ puts us in a position where we can now compete with other manufacturers for the high horsepower market," says Mr Setchfield. "We should have had one like this three years ago."

Patience rewarded, at least for this dealer, it was time to hunt down one of the few 735s currently being demonstrated in the UK. On this occasion it was ploughing on some heavy ground belonging to the Aswarby Estate a few miles out of Lincoln.

Built in true Ares style with curved lines and, by some standards, a relatively short wheel base, the first impression is of a tractor that could be likened to a bulldog on wheels.

But, as owners of the breed will testify, bulldogs can be attractive – and powerful.

A six-cylinder turbocharged intercooled 6.8 litre Deere Power Systems engine fills most of the space beneath the bonnet. Out front, below the curved hood, are four radiators for cooling water, oil, intercooler air and air conditioning fluid – all of which fold out for cleaning.

Transmission provides 32 forward and 32 reverse ratios through the use of four gears, two ranges and four powershift ratios. Reverse is achieved by using a shuttle lever – the clutch needs to be depressed when changing direction.

A walk round the back reveals a sturdy hydraulic linkage employing two assister rams to achieve its stated lift capacity of just over 8t.

Three steps lead up in to the cab. The fact that the cab moves a little as you enter is to realise that the 735 is equipped with Renaults RZ suspended cab. Combined with a weight adjustable seat, heating and radio, the session promised to be comfortable and, to be fair, users will not be disappointed.

Noise from the engine at start up is not exactly a whisper, but the noise level in the cab would do little to deter the enjoyment of listening to, say, Brahms or Elgar – should you be so disposed.

With such a choice of gears – all found with the same stick – confusion initially reigns. I select low range third (range changes are made when the stick is in neutral by moving it to the left or right). An inch or two of throttle, the clutch raised and we move off to the waiting furrow.

Five furrows are in tow, hardly a challenge in most circumstances but with the heavy wet conditions, perhaps just enough. Lined up, one switch is operated to lower the plough, while holding the switch down beyond its central point for a few seconds ensures the plough descends to working level quickly – releasing it brings the pre-set draft and depth settings into play, along with wheel slip control and all-round differential lock.

And then it was just a matter of steering. With the throttle set at about 2000rpm pressing the powershift button to change up appeared to have little if any effect on engine speed – a gutsy engine.

Trawling up the furrow provided time to assess cab visibility to the full. Exhaust stack to the right – close to the cab – plenty of glass, plenty of clear vision to the front, rear and sides. Some users may find the cab air intake filter box – black and protruding some inches above the bonnet – an irritation. But perhaps such a view is a little pedantic.

A dashboard display informs users of forward speed, engine speed and the current gear selection, while a bank of engine management warning lights await to inform of any malfunctions. A separate box responsible for diplaying such information as area covered, work rate, hours worked, distance travelled and even outside temperature is attached to the right-hand cab pillar.

As the headland approached, I transferred throttle control to foot control and moved my hand to raise switch in preparation for a smooth exit.

But then I push the switch too far and as the plough rose I discovered I had locked it into transport, which means the system has to be re-set. Lesson: dont push the switch too far.

Plough turn over is achieved by pushing one of four spool valve levers. Turning round on full lock demonstrates the agility of the 735. A monocoque build, there are no chassis rails to impede the angling of the front wheels which have a 55 degree turn. And then its back to the furrow.

In the Ares 735 RZ, Renault has a tractor which should capture the attention of the large scale farmer.

And, as the company has intimated, when versions with 200hp-plus become available next year, Renault could look forward to life in the big league – a position Mr Setchfield and many of his dealer colleagues have been waiting for.

ARES 735 RZ

Engine: DPS 6-cylinder turbo, intercooled 185hp.

Transmission: 32 x 32 – 4 gears, splitter and Quadrishift.

Max speed: 40kph.

Front axle: 55 degree turning. Diff lock engaged with rear axle.

Electronics: Drivetronic, Infotrac computer.

Pto: 540/1000rpm.

Price: £62,175.