Strange looks that give good visibility
Tomorrows tractor for today, is Deutz-Fahrs claim for its recently launched Agrotron line-up. Andrew Faulkner visits Warwickshire for a ride on the German companys vision of farm power for the 21st century
"FUNNY looking thing, isnt it" is the most common farmer reaction to Deutz-Fahrs Agrotron following the tractors limited public appearances since its August launch.
And it is not difficult to see why. Not only do the tractors incorporate the droop nose made famous by their predecessors but Deutz has taken the curved principle several stages further. Now the cab, exhaust and rear fenders all mimic the sweeping contours of the front end, resulting in a profile with barely a straight line to be found.
The effect is certainly dramatic, and the handful of tractors already in the UK have caused quite a stir at their three main public appearances so far: The Tillage events in Oxfordshire and Scotland, and the National Ploughing Championships in Somerset.
Deutz importer Watveare has recently announced the final specifications (see box) it will be offering in the UK. These differ from the details given at the German launch in August (Machinery, Sept 1, 1995).
The Warwickshire-based firm will not be bringing in the 68hp 4.70, hence the base UK model is the 75hp 4.80 which is only offered with a Synchrosplit synchromesh gearbox. Synchrosplit-only also applies to the 82hp 4.85, while on the 95hp 4.95 and 95hp 6.00 the synchro box is available as a lower cost option (prices to be announced in November). The bigger six cylinders get the top spec Powershift box as standard. All engines are turbocharged and water-cooled.
Here we gain first Agrotron impressions from the seat of a Powershift-equipped 95hp six-cylinder 6.00, which is expected to be one of the ranges big sellers.
In the cab
Love or loathe this tractors "interesting" external profile, the reasoning behind the flowing lines begins to make sense when safely installed in the drivers seat.
Its all about visibility. To the front there is no exhaust stack, no air intake, no big pillars and the bonnet drops away even steeper than before; all that sits between driver and the rest of the field are a dashboard and steering wheel.
To the side there are full-length doors. To the rear and 3/4 vision spot, there are no wide mudguards to hinder the view; the rear fenders are slim and shaped around the tyre. The effect is dramatic and it works.
Control lay-out is good too, with only a couple of exceptions. The main gearshift lever feels just that bit too distant – main changes five and six on the test tractor proved quite a stretch for this drivers short arms. The other grumble is with the hand throttle, which is an awkward-to-use twist dial located to the right of the drivers knee. Did Deutz just run out of room on the main control console?
Niggles aside, the Agrotrons platform will be a major selling point of the range. In addition to the class-leading all-round visibility, all hydraulic and pto controls fall readily to hand to the right of the drivers seat to give a user-friendly, airy operator environment.
A particularly nice touch is the twist dial for hydraulic lift/lower, which is profiled to nestle comfortably within the hand and sits prominently at the front of the main control console.
In-cab noise levels are significantly better than predecessors, undoubtedly helped by the move away from the harsh bark of the old air-cooled motor to the more muffled tune of the new water-cooled unit.
To gain driving impressions of the 95hp 6.00, the test tractor was hitched up to a five-furrow slatted mouldboard Rabe reversible, set to plough on 14in furrows.
Given the ground conditions – stiff Warwickshire clay – this was probably an unfair challenge and 120hp+ would have been the more normal mate for the five-furrow outfit. But the 6.00 performed gamely, burbling along in second/low split at an albeit steady 2.5-3mph. Dropping a furrow would have made a better matched combination for the conditions.
Like all other models in the line-up, the 6.00 is fitted with one of a new generation of turbocharged, water-cooled Deutz engines which interestingly develop max power 5-7% beneath max revs. Combine that with a flat-top torque curve – max torque starts at 1750rpm and doesnt drop off until 1350rpm – and the result is a flexible motor that hangs on under load. Stretching the 6.00 with a big plough on "mans ground" proved Deutzs point.
Although Synchroshift is offered as an option on the 6.00, the test model was fitted with what is expected to be the tractors more popular box, the 24F/24R Powershift.
All 24 shifts are made with a single lever; six main clutched changes, with four on-the-move shifts made within each of those six speeds using two buttons mounted on the side of the main lever. Direction of travel is selected by a pre-select shuttle switch mounted on the steering column; depressing the clutch engages the forward/ reverse.
Gearbox operation in the field proved smooth both under load and when travelling around the headland unladen. The Germans seem to have mastered the art of slick semi-powershift progression where others can still be found wanting.
One possible improvement to the gearbox would be to add an audible warning when the clutch has engaged the pre-select direction change. Although there is a visual indicator on the windscreen pillar, the driver is not necessarily looking that way when he wants to change direction – turning the plough over on the headland, for example.
Deutz set itself the Agrotron design target of making electronic controls for the uninitiated. And this it has largely achieved.
At the back of the main console is housed a basic four-dial control panel: Position/draft mix, rate of drop, maximum lift height and main depth control. System sensitivity is set automatically while other hydraulic adjustments – main lift and lower – are made with the profiled dial at the front of the console.
Two spools come as standard on the 6.00, and include a clever locking device which enables them to be maintained in a constant pumping position.
Lift capacity on the demo 6.00 comfortably handled the five-furrow Rabe, and the lower link sensing performed effectively.
Cramming what would normally go under a big rectangular bonnet within a sloping hood necessitates careful planning. And nobody has more experience in stuffing bits into droop noses than Deutz.
Daily access points can, for the most part, be accessed without removing body panels. Getting at the air filter and radiator means raising the single-catch hood, which is an uncomplicated operation.
Access to all the major hydraulic components is also relatively unhindered because, like John Deere, Deutz has opted for external mounting of the pump, main valve block and lift rams.
As for service intervals, the claimed emission reductions of the new high fuel injection pressure/clean burn engine bring more tangible benefits – the standard 250/300 hour service interval is extended to 500 hours. Less money spent on oil and filters should be the result.
• Model: Agrotron 6.00 Powershift.
• Engine: 1012-series 95hp Deutz water-cooled, six-cylinder turbo.
• Transmission: Semi-powershift, 24F/24R.
• Hydraulics: Electronic controls, lower link sensing, twin spools.
• Lift capacity: 9240kg (20,370lb).
• Tyres: 14.9R24 fronts.16.9R38 rears.
• Price: £44,495.
Air conditioning is optional on this model.
P = Powershift: 24F/24R six-cylinders, 24F/8R four-cylinders.
S = Synchrosplit: 18F/6R six-cylinders, 24F/8R four-cylinders.
Tight packaging within sloping nose means much thought was needed for under-hood layout. Unscrewing two wing nuts drops air conditioning condenser and flips up fuel and transmission oil coolers; this gives cleaning/ maintenance access to radiator.
This 95hp Agrotron 6.00, along with the 95hp four-cylinder 4.90 and 105hp six-cylinder 6.05, is expected to be the big seller in the new Deutz tractor line-up. Powershift version, seen here, is priced from £44,495.
Main controls are colour-coded and clustered to right of drivers seat: red for gears and hand throttle, green for hydraulics, blue for spools and orange for the pto.
A self-propelled dashboard, according to one observer. Forward view is unhindered by big pillars, exhaust stack, air intake – or even a bonnet. Note foot-operated parking brake (left), shared with Mercedes cars.