Growers planning to add to their tractor fleets have numerous options as manufacturers extend and plug gaps in their ranges with new performance-orientated models. Peter Hill reports
Tractors in the top-most power sector – mostly built for the vast expanses of the North American prairies – have largely relied on brute power to deliver performance. Put a big engine at one end of an articulated chassis, add a couple of heavy-duty axles capable of handling dual- and triple-wheel installations and slot in a big manual or powershift gearbox.
True, these machines have come on recently when it comes to cab comfort and control electronics; and there are plenty or arguments in favour of their tracked counterparts whether they are running on four or two traction belts, especially for machines expected to perform top work as well as heavy autumn cultivations and drilling.
But with its stepless transmission, multi-mode steering, multiple electric systems and choice of operating configurations, the latest Xerion from Claas brings a new level of sophistication to the power sector. Beneath the bulging bonnet of this bigger and heavier take on the Xerion concept is an 8.8-litre Caterpillar six-cylinder engine as before – only this time tuned to deliver up to 483hp in the Xerion 4500 and 524hp in the Xerion 5000.
“As a high-horsepower arable tractor, the new Xerion has a number of distinct advantages over the big articulated and other machines at this power level,” says Alastair McCallum of Claas UK.
“It’s the first tractor in this segment with a continuously variable transmission, which provides greater speed and control flexibility than the powershift units normally used in tractors of this size.”
Then there is the multi-mode four-wheel steering, which should give the machine a high degree of manoeuvrability while spreading its weight over more than two wheelings in crab mode.
Add the mobility factor, with a 50kph top speed and front-axle steering giving predictable behaviour, and it should certainly give large-scale growers who rely on Quadtracs, Challengers and artic four-wheel drives from Case, Deere and New Holland cause to review their options.
Although similar in concept to the existing 3300 and 3800 models, the Xerion newcomer’s bigger, tougher chassis permits heavier gross vehicle weights from 13,400kg to 24,000kg, enabling it to handle demanding draft implements and get sufficient traction to keep them on the move.
Tyres up to 710/75R42 keep the tractor within 3m overall width, but they can go to 900/60R42 for maximum traction and flotation.
Operators who want just a big, powerful, four-wheel drive tractor will go for the standard Trac version with fixed central cab. But for a different approach, there is the Trac VC model with a cab that rotates into a position above the rear linkage for reverse-drive operation and the potential to carry rather than tow a large seed or fertiliser hopper.
Whichever version is chosen, the stepless speed control and selectable power and torque delivery characteristics of the ZF Eccom 4.5 transmission give the latest Xerion an ace that should result in more productive and economical performance across a range of applications.
At the other end of the power scale, the Claas Arion 400 series provides a three-model range of utility tractors of 100hp, 110hp and 120hp for arable top work and the like. In CIS spec, the four-cylinder 4.5-litre Deere PowerTech E engine delivers an extra 10hp for most circumstances except low-speed, high-torque operations. It compensates when the viscous-drive fan is running and bolsters performance when demands are made on the hydraulics system and/or the pto. It is also activated when the tractor undertakes light draft work, operating from the mid-gear onwards in the 16-speed transmission, which corresponds to speeds from about 7kph.
Manufacturers boost power and reduce emissions
Tractor manufacturers are busy topping out some of their important ranges with models that hike power outputs closer to the next biggest models in the line-up.
When John Deere’s 6534 model becomes available early next year, it will become the most powerful four-cylinder tractor in the company’s range. It will also reinforce an industry trend brought about by emissions control regulations that will see an increasing number of high power-density, four-pot diesels replacing six-cylinder engines below 150hp.
In this case, the 6534 replaces the six-cylinder 6530 and, as with most mid-range Deere tractors, it will be available in three versions. The standard model’s 4.53-litre engine uses electronic fuel injection and a conventional turbocharger to pump out up to 131hp for all applications. On the Premium and AutoPowr IVT versions, a more sophisticated motor with a variable geometry turbo and power management electronics extracts up to 145hp to begin with, plus a further 4hp when driving a pto-powered implement or hauling a heavy load faster than 15kph.
The second-generation Fendt 800 Vario range will comprise five models from 193hp to 280hp featuring a more spacious cab, an information and control terminal, 60kph top speed and damper-stiffening stability control on the suspended front axle and AutoPowr spec to suit roles and applications.
By using the same chassis and transaxle as the model it replaces, the 6534 boasts a longer wheelbase, larger fuel tank (250 litres) and bigger hydraulic lift capacity (6.75 tonnes) than Deere’s other four-cylinder models. A 24×24-speed manual transmission with four-speed powershift is standard on the two non-IVT models, with auto-shifting powershift an option.
New Holland operators looking for added performance from a tractor that is a little lighter and smaller than the T7000 will find it in the newcomer that tops the T6000 line-up.
The T6090 has up to 174hp available for draft work and 201hp for pto and transport duties and when big demands are placed on the hydraulics system. At 28kg/hp, it sets a new weight-to-power ratio standard for the class, says New Holland, adding that it is the only tractor of its size available with 42in tyres.
Given the tractor’s weight, the largest size – 650/65R42 – operating at lower inflation pressures should give the machine good flotation characteristics and plenty of grip as power and torque from the 6.7-litre six-cylinder engine is channelled through the Power Command full powershift transmission.
Slotting in a more powerful six- cylinder engine and coupling it to the Power Command 19-speed powershift transaxle creates a 174/201hp model to head the T6000 range.
As on T7000 and other T6000 models, there is a choice of 50kph or 40kph economy gearing with this 19×6 speed transmission, the latter providing top speed at more leisurely and economical engine revs.
Two Massey Ferguson newcomers are further up the power scale – the 7497 Dyna-VT has up to 225hp for all operations from its six-pot engine, while the 7499 Dyna-VT puts 240hp at the driver’s disposal. Both use AGCO Variable Transmission (AVT) drive (aka Vario), as do other models in the 7400 Dyna-VT line-up, which starts at 135hp.
Power outputs apart, there are two principal specification differences: both use Sisu’s larger capacity six-cylinder engine with 7.4-litre rather than 6.6-litre swept volume, and both have a high-flow hydraulics option.
Top model in the MF 7400 Dyna-VT range is now the 7499 with 240hp available from its 7.4-litre Sisu engine.
This features a 150-litres/min pump in place of the standard 110-litres/min unit for the load sensing variable flow circuit to cope with such things as a large oil-driven fan in addition to other hydraulic functions on a large a pneumatic seeder.
While similar in functionality to other Dyna-VT stepless transmissions, the MF newcomers get Dynamic Tractor Management, an electronic connection between the engine and transmission that automatically adjusts engine speed according to load. It operates whether the driver chooses to use the pedal or lever speed control modes and is programmed to minimise rpm when appropriate to eke out as much fuel economy as possible while maintaining productivity.
A twin-pump version of the Vario continuously variable transmission – previously reserved for the 900 Vario series – will feature in the second-generation 800 Vario line-up when it appears later next year.
According to preview information, the range will comprise five models from 193hp to 280hp, thereby creating higher-spec alternatives to Fendt’s best-selling 205hp 820 Vario that feature much the same technology as the big 900 Vario models but in a smaller, lighter package.
The new tractor will also be the first to use a Deutz engine with exhaust after-treatment to comply with the next level of emissions compliance.
Injecting urea solution into the exhaust stream to get rid of nasty elements means the combustion process does not have to be compromised with respect to power and economy to the same extent. The technology – selective catalytic reduction (SCR) – is already used on the AGCO Sisu engines in Massey Ferguson 8600 Dyna-VT and Valtra S-series tractors.
The 6.06-litre Deutz unit in the Fendt 800 series II will also feature an electronically-regulated waste gate on the turbocharger to achieve better control of boost pressures and deliver power characteristics that not only deliver good field performance but also a top speed of 60kph with just 1700rpm on the clock.