Versatile design finds favour
Is the Xerion multi-function
vehicle too sophisticated to
attract UK farmers, or is it
just too expensive? For one
Glos-based contractor at least,
it has proved to be a popular
choice. Mike Williams reports
IT wasnt the power output that attracted Henry Righton when he ordered a 250hp Xerion tractor last year for his Glos-based contracting business.
His main interest was using the Xerions versatile design to increase output and efficiency.
Mr Rightons Xerion 2500 was delivered in April last year, making him only the second UK customer. He uses the tractor – Claas prefers the term power unit – in his Ireland & Righton contracting service based at Dorn, Moreton-in-Marsh, and last year it was used mainly for grass cutting and powering a combi drill.
"I was not planning to buy a 250hp tractor when I heard about the Xerion," says Mr Righton. "But the concept seemed right, with more versatility than a conventional tractor and it suits most of the jobs we do."
They planned to use the Xerion instead of a Claas 690 forage harvester to power an 8100 mower, and to replace a 155hp John Deere 7710, which was then their biggest tractor. But Mr Righton decided to keep the 7710 to cope with additional work they were taking on last year, and it is still their main ploughing and baling tractor.
Being one of the first customers for a completely new high-tech machine like the Xerion could have been disastrous, with the prospect of teething troubles and a risk that the local dealers staff may be unfamiliar with the machine. Apart from two micro-switches which were not working, Mr Rightons Xerion has been totally reliable during its first 12 months and this has given him complete confidence in it.
"Apart from the two switches, I have not needed any help from Mill Engineering, the local Claas dealer, but when we needed technical information or advice over the phone the service staff were helpful and certainly knew what they were talking about. I am quite sure they can look after the Xerion," he says.
Last year the machine notched up almost 1000 hours. The biggest jobs were grass cutting with a 7.6m Claas 8100 mower and powering a 4m combi drill. The Xerion was also used on a Claas Quadrant baler, but this was mainly to provide more work for the power unit and spread the cost over extra acres.
It is a tractor with a big capacity for work, but it can also be an expensive luxury if it is under-used, he says, and their experience last year showed the Xerion could handle much more work. Targets for the 1999 season include mowing 800ha (2000 acres) of grass for silage, and Mr Righton also plans to trade in his 4m combi drill for a 6m version which will be a better match for the Xerions power output.
He has recently bought a second-hand 4.5m McConnel Shakaerator for the Xerion to pull, and including soil loosening in the list of jobs is expected to provide 200ha (500 acres) of extra work. The plans also include an additional 12t capacity Bunning manure spreader, allowing the John Deere tractor and the Xerion to share the spreading work.
One of the features which give the Xerion extra performance is the movable cab. For jobs such as combi drilling or soil loosening the cab is mid-mounted with the driver facing forwards over the engine compartment. For mowing, the cab is moved to the rear position, facing over the back of the tractor. Moving the cab is a push-button job with hydraulic operation, and the rear facing position gives the operator an excellent view over the whole width of the mower, says Mr Righton.
The visibility, plus the power available from the 250hp engine, means high work rates. The best performance last year was cutting 56ha (140 acres) in a 10 hour day, and this included travel time between farms.
"Achieving a high output with the mower is important because it gives me the capacity to cut more grass at the right time while the sugars are still high, instead of having to work late into the evening. It helps me to give a better service to my customers, and that was one of the most important reasons for buying a Xerion."
He is less impressed by the Xerions all-wheel steering and would prefer the automatic control mode available on some JCB Fastrac models.
The steering limitations show up when working with the combi drill, Mr Righton says, because the driver has to manually switch to and from four-wheel steering during each headland turn. An auto system would simplify the drivers job.
Operator comfort wins high marks from Mr Righton, who did most of the Xerion driving during last years silage season, and he thinks the fuel consumption of the Navistar engine is economical for the amount of power produced.
"I do not think the Xerion is really a farmers tractor," he says, "but it can be a good machine for a contractor if there is enough work to make full use of the high output." *
Above: Henry Rightons 250hp Xerion 2500 with the cab in the forward facing position. Left: "This year the Xerion has become a necessity, as we have increased the workload and have more equipment and a bigger drill."