18 September 1998

Steyr makes it easy to work in comfort

Comfort and driveability will

earn Steyr tractors a bigger

slice of the quality market,

maintains the marques

latest importer – Bonhill

Marketing. Ian Marshall put

the claims to the test

UNDER new management – a situation Steyr has been through twice in the past three years.

In 1996 it came under the ownership of Case IH, which confirmed that it would continue to market Steyr in its own right.

Then, in June this year, came the announcement of a change in the UK distribution arrangements. To raise Steyrs profile in the niche, higher priced "quality", sector of the market – where it takes on the likes of AGCOs Fendt models – the tractors were to be sold by a new company, Bonhill Marketing.

Bonhill attacks the market with three ranges spanning the 68-150hp bracket. Prices are from £28,300-£62,000 – "which place them between Fendt and the mainstream manufacturers," says Paul Bassett, Bonhill managing director.

At the heavyweight end of the power division comes the Steyr 9100 range, with four models from 110-150hp. They are aimed squarely at the user who spends long hours in the seat – the big arable farmer and contractor, who are offered what is described as a high-tech draught tractor which combines ease of operation with saloon car comfort.

With driver well-being such a high priority, the cab is all which would be expected of a tractor in this price bracket.

It is easy to get in and out of, spacious and comfortable, with all mod cons in terms of seat and steering wheel adjustment, heating and air conditioning.

As to all-round visibility, this is excellent due to the combination of the sloping bonnet, a "waisted" design and the extensive use of glass in the cab. Looking forward, a slim exhaust stack is the only distraction, but it is minimal as the muffler is under the bonnet.

Switch and dial controls for the hydraulics and pto are housed on a console to the drivers right.

The consoles slim profile leaves ample space between it and the seat for the key to the Steyrs driveability: The multi-controller, a single lever through which the operator controls transmission and hydraulic functions, with one hand, at the touch of buttons.

To simplify things even more, it also allows the driver to pre-select forward and reverse.

To test the system, farmers weekly put a 120hp 9115 to work with a five furrow reversible plough in some heavy Warwicks clay/loam.

First, a description of the multi-function controller. The main lever is used to select the six synchromesh travel speeds. These are laid out in a side-by-side &#42 pattern and engaged using the clutch.

Going up and down the four-stage powershift is by buttons in a command panel on the face of the multi-controllers grip, as is the control of the hydraulics and the shuttle reverser.

Then to put theory into practice. With working depth, lift height, and speed of lift and return set, the plough is dropped into work by simultaneously pressing two buttons, one on the face of the command panel the other on the underside of the grip.

With 120hp and 30% torque back-up to call on there is plenty of power on tap. Ploughing at 25cm (10in), most of the field needed second gear/second powershift at 1600rpm, it took dropping the revs to 1100rpm before the tractor started to struggle.

In changing conditions pressing the relevant button shifted the transmission smoothly up and down the powershift.

And the work was carried out in relative silence. The cabs extensive sound proofing gives it a rated noise level of 72dBA and it is effective – the long stroke engine was a muted growl in the background.

With the end of the run approaching, it was back to the multi-controller. Press a button on the command panel and reverse is pre-selected. At the headland press the up button and the plough lifts.

While turning press another button to turn the plough over, depress and release the clutch and reverse is automatically engaged. Press another button to pre-select forward, complete the turn, de-clutch and the tractor smoothly changes direction.

Remembering to activate all these functions with only the right hand was confusing at first. But it took only half an hour or so to get the hang of the technique, then it was simplicity itself.

Judging by the 9115s performance, there is no doubt that, overall, Steyr has achieved its design objectives with the 9100 range – it is both extremely comfortable and easy to operate. Next year it might be even better: Steyr plans to introduce an independent front suspension system and a continuously variable 50kph transmission.

If the price difference can be maintained, Fendt and others with models in the "quality" high hp division may well have a serious contender in the opposite corner. &#42

STEYR 9115

&#8226 Engine 6-cyl turbocharged.

&#8226 Max power 120hp at 2100rpm.

&#8226 Max torque 459Nm at 1500rpm.

&#8226 Torque increase 30%.

&#8226 Transmission 6-speed synchro with 4-stage powershift/power shuttle, 40kph.

&#8226 Max lift capacity 9t, 6.6t through full lift arc.

&#8226 Pump output 200 litres/min.

&#8226 Draught control lower link electronic sensing.

&#8226 Pto 540/750/1000/1400 with electronic engagement and modulation.

&#8226 Minimum turning circle on standard tyres 10.4m (34ft).

Price £52,800.