Driven: Kubota M130X

Power Farming Verdict





A sophisticated and gadget-packed. But how much all those toys will be used is questionable.

One thing you can say about Kubota is that it is consistent. Year-on-year, like clockwork, the Japanese firm ups the power output of its tractor range to the point where it now tops out at 130hp.

Taking over from the outgoing M128-X, the M130-X uses the same 6.1-litre four-cylinder engine as its predecessor but gains some nifty electronic wizardry that boosts output and provides some fancy toys for the operator.

For a company that traditionally focused on construction and groundscare machinery, the sophistication of its latest tractor is impressive. In fact, the M130-X has more bells and whistles than many of its similarly-powered rivals.

These include and 8-speed powershift gearbox, auto gear shifting, dual-speed engine rpm presets, a rev limiter control, an electronic fuel governor that ups fuelling to maintain constant rpm and hill descent control

The M130-X’s sophistication makes it a confusing beast. It has the electronic sophistication that you’d expect of a prime-mover closer to the 200hp mark but its size and stature suggest something more suited to stockfarm duties.

Kubota needs to bring itself into the mainstream and take on the big boys. Straightforward add-ons like linkage damping and front axle suspension would go a long way to helping in that department – we’re told they’re on the way.

Kubota M130X
Plus Minus
Armrest controls and console layout Complex auto power-shift setup
Tight-turning front axle Dated cab
Quick hitch loader Slow hydraulics

The Japanese company’s engineering department has clearly paid a great deal of attention to John Deere’s way of doing things.

Most obviously, they’ve positioned a digital display on the right hand console, mimimicking Deere’s CommandCenter. Unfortunately it carries barely a quarter of the information – just pto speeds, forward speed and, strangely, tyre circumference.

The other clear influence of the prancing deer is a rev limiter dial, though Kubota has added an interesting twist. Flicking a switch on the console activates a function the company calls Work Kruise.

Effectively this prompts the engine computer to up fuelling when it encounters heavy loading. So when baling, for example, the engine might be limited to run at 1800rpm. As the M130-X reaches a slope or a heavier patch of crop and things start to get tougher, more fuel is pumped in and revs are held that little bit longer.

It’s a bit like a power-boost function but engine output never exceeds max power – 139.9hp.

While on the subject of power, it’s interesting to note that the 6.1-litre block develops peak torque (570Nm) at a lazy – and potentially frugal – 1200rpm. For many tractors this is usually closer to 1500rpm.

But unfortunately the M130 doesn’t feel that gutsy. Maybe it was because our test tractor was low-houred or perhaps that the powershift clutch packs sap a lot of power, but alongside a number of other similarly sized tractors on the silage gang, it wasn’t noticeably more torquey.

Whatever, it is a combination of computer-controlled common-rail fuel injection and sheer cubic capacity that has allowed Kubota to make such performance claims and it doesn’t stop there. We have it on good authority that this four-pot motor is capable of pumping out 180hp – it looks like the Japanese giant isn’t going to be satisfied with a 130hp flagship for long.

You certainly wouldn’t expect to find an eight-speed powershift on other tractors of this size.

Switching between high and low ranges is the only time any clutch action is required and this is synchronised, making on-the-move range changes straightforward enough.

Thumb buttons on the gear-stick and armrest notch up and down through the powershift steps. When our test tractor first arrived, it had barely done 10 hours’ work and things were particularly jolty, making silage carting a less-than-pleasant experience.

However a relatively quick re-calibration smoothed things out. Laptop-brandishing fitters can adjust shuttle and powershift aggressiveness at the flick of a mouse button.

Auto shifting is activated by a two-position rocker-switch – up for Road mode and down for Field. In the first, shifting is prompted when the tractor reaches around 2000rpm. Downshifts should, in theory, kick in much lower but, in reality, it’s the operator that has to prompt it. The sensitivity dial seems to have little effect on when auto changes are made.

Field mode works in exactly the same way but has the added advantage of notching down a couple of ratios when the linkage is lifted – a bonus for ploughing and cultivating.

Anyone who has experienced a runaway tractor will appreciate Kubota’s Down Hill Control. Flicking this switch sets the transmission to minimise clutch-pack fill times, making for rapid – but jolty – gear shifts and limiting the tractor’s ability to over-run on steep descents.

Kubota has developed its own loader which is particularly easy to whip on and off. Two pins and a hydraulic quick-coupler make it literally a two minute job – the best in the business.

Built at one of its factories in the USA, the LA2253 will lift just over 2t to a height of 3.8m. Although those vital statistics might seem good, of course loader performance depends entirely on the tractor’s hydraulic capabilities.

And this is where the M130-X lets the side down. The 77-litre/min pump is woefully inadequate with the result that to get the loader to lift or to tip a trailer at a reasonable pace, full revs are required. As yet Kubota doesn’t offer a pump upgrade option but we’d hope the company soon will.

The Kubota flagship’s nimbleness is impressive. Using bevel gears rather than UJs for the front axle drive-shafts means it turns particularly tight.

This is further boosted by the Japanese giant’s trademark Bi-Speed feature. When the steering angle exceeds 35deg, drive speed to the front wheels notches up by 60%. This means the front wheels pull the tractor round in an incredibly tight doughnut – almost half the diameter of the standard circle.

Having this feature has allowed the company to give the M130-X the chassis length of a six-cylinder tractor without compromising manoeuverability. Unfortunately that hasn’t translated into extra stability.

Hoisting a hefty grabful of muck, the M130-X almost topples forward onto the waiting K-Two Duo. A counter-weight is a definite must and the same can be said for the front end when working with either mounted or trailed kit.

With the loader on and its suspension activated, things are relatively smooth on the road. But whip the loader off and you’ll find it bunny-hops along the blacktop with a full trailer in tow. This tractor clearly needs ballasting.

Kubota M130X specifications
Power 130hp @ 2200rpm
Engine 6.1-litre Kubota 4-cyl common rail turbo
Transmission 16F x 16R, two range, eight speed powershift with clutchlesss shuttle
Top speed 38.5kph
Linkage lift 5.8t, Cat II
Hydraulics 77 litres/min
Turning circle 8.2m (10m without Bi-Speed Turn)
Price £47,000 (Loader adds £7000)

Model Kubota M130-X JD 6430 NH T6040 MF 5470 McCormick MC130 Deutz M410 Valtra N122
Max power 140hp 144hp 151hp 145hp 126hp 134hp 142hp
Price £47,000 £64,649 £59,166 £56,577 £45,397 £63,189 £66,922