Driven: Fendt 828 reverse-drive

Power Farming Verdict





Big cab, lots of computer wizardry, clever suspension and gutsy engine, but it’s £30,000 more than the nearest competition.

Cramming 280hp into a tractor of a size that would more usually be pumping out 200hp is no mean feat. Like stuffing a bull mastiff into a cat basket, it’s a tricky task and you end up with a very lively – and possibly difficult to handle – package.

But Bavarian tractor maker Fendt reckons to have managed it.

The company claims to now be market leader in the UK for tractors over 200hp – a situation that is apparently mirrored across Europe.

And so it is no coincidence that the company has extended its 800 Vario range with five new models, topping out with the 280hp 828. These add to the two existing 800s – the 818 and 820.

Described by Fendt as an 820 “on steroids”, the 828 (and its smaller siblings) is actually a completely new machine. Using the same back end as the company’s flagship 900-series tractors, its shorter chassis and smaller 6.1-litre Deutz engine bring it in 1t lighter than the range-toppers but 2t heavier than existing 800s.

Confused? We were. Fendt says it shortly plans to rearrange its numbering system to make things a little more logical.

Fendt 828 Reverse-drive
Plus Minus
Uncramped reverse-drive seating position with all controls and displays swinging to rear Fiddly shuttle-switch (although replicated on main joystick) – neither has a neutral position
Sophisticated computer controls easier to master than in earlier models Awkward seat turn-around procedure
Clearly laid-out, colour-coded controls No face vents when facing backwards
Small-tractor feel – compact, yet powerful Controls take a long time to fully master

Fendt 828 Reverse-drive specifications
Rated power 260hp @ 2100rpm (Max 280hp @ 1900rpm)
Engine 6.1 litre Deutz 6-cyl turbo with AdBlue SCR
Transmission Two range stepless Vario CVT
Top speed 60kph
Linkage lift 11.1t
Hydraulics 193litres/min load-sensing
Service 500 hours
Weight 4.7t
Price £189,992 (incl £5260 reverse-drive option)

On the engine front, the new 800s mark Fendt’s first foray into the world of Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) and the use of urea exhaust after-treatment – more commonly known as AdBlue.

A 32.5% solution of urea is injected into the exhaust, converting nitrous oxides into harmless nitrogen and water.

Fendt says that by adopting this technology rather than particulate filters, it has been able to loosen the restrictions imposed by previous emissions reduction programmes.

In short, engine maker Deutz is able to produce a fully-fuelled “dirty” power-plant that is optimised for power and torque output rather than for minimal emissions. Adding urea then cleans up the exhaust gases, without affecting either output or fuel use. Because of this, the company reckons to be able cut fuel consumption by about 5%.

And, although AdBlue comes at a cost – for every 100-litres of diesel burned, the engine uses 5-litres of urea – there is still reckoned to be a saving of about 3% to be had.

In terms of performance, the results are impressive and although we had only light second-cut grass to try the tractor on, its pulling power is clearly phenomenal on the road.

According to Fendt, the six-pot power-plant develops maximum torque at 1500rpm, maximum power at 1900rpm and achieves optimum fuel consumption slap bang in the middle of the two. Knowing that, the operator can set the transmission to aim for 1700rpm or simply allow Fendt’s TMS [“Tractor Management System”] to work to continuously tweak engine output and Vario ratios to minimise fuel use. That’s the true benefit of a stepless CVT gearbox.

With every tractor function and control clustered in the armrest, Vario computer terminal and dash, it has allowed Fendt to develop a truly uncompromised reverse-drive set-up. Unlike other set-ups – which require a second steering wheel, pedals and controls and obviously a certain amount of compromise – the 828’s entire operator’s station swings through 180deg.

It’s a simple procedure – a lever releases the dash to lift up and back towards the seat and then it’s a case of turning the whole lot clockwise to the rear – complete with pedals. A clunk-click puts everything in place.

There are, however, a number of minor hiccups. Great as it is, the refrigerated in-cab cooler box must be unclipped to avoid a clash with the steering column. Second, our pre-production test tractor had an issue with the seat turntable, which required a sumo-wrestler-style hold – really it needs two seats if a visit to the hernia clinic is to be avoided.

To be honest, we expect more from Fendt – why not fit an electric motor to make the process a quicker, easier task? At the moment it takes a good five minutes to complete.

That said, the final result is fantastic. With only one steering wheel, dash and set of pedals, there is plenty of room to push the seat right back and views out to the front (or back, depending on which way you look at it) and sides are superb.

Somerset contractor Alvis Bros runs a number of Fendt 930 tractors, two employed almost full time through grass silage on reverse-drive triple-mower combinations. Here are boss Daniel Harding’s main reasons for running in reverse:

• Cooling – radiators kept well out the way of mowers so no dust-build-up/over-heating
• Output – works like a dedicated, self-propelled machine
• Versatility – tractor can be used for other work through rest of season
• Time saving – hitching up triple-mowers takes 60% less time than a butterfly rig
• Overlaps – close-coupled mowers avoid misses on corners
• Manoeuvrability – can turn in through tight, narrow gateways

From the outside the most obvious change is a move to 900-series styling and the company’s five-post X5 cab. This big, airy greenhouse is a massive improvement on what went before. If there was one area that previous Varios were criticised for, it was the cramped cabin.

On the road, the 828 handles far better than before thanks to a new front axle design that incorporates a stability control function. This senses the tractor’s cornering speed and stiffens one or other side’s struts accordingly. With a big set of Pottinger triple-mowers on the back (this time we were facing forwards), the system clearly works, making high-speed manoeuvres a more comfortable, and hopefully safer, task.

The new touch-screen Varioterminal computer is also a big improvement. Capable of being operated by either finger-tip touches or navigation buttons and a thumb-wheel on the right-hand side, it can be used to monitor and control all the tractor’s individual functions – spools, transmission, fuel use, front and rear linkages, etc. Its four-way split screen also allows an input from multiple cameras, auto-guidance steering control and ISOBUS implement management.

ISOBUS is particularly easy to setup. Never usually quite the “plug-and-play” technology it is touted to be, when we hitched up the big Pottinger triples, the tractor instantly recognised the machine. All we had to do was assign the right joystick buttons for lift/lower and fold – a relatively straightforward task once you get to know the system.

That said, it isn’t entirely fault-free. There are certain inexplicable features that made no sense to us, one of which meant that the pto will not engage while the tractor is stationary. Fendt says this is a software issue that is easily remedied.


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