If you’re looking for a no-nonsense, gutsy powerhouse, you needn’t look any further than a T9030. Its simplicity and sheer grunt make it a (relatively) cheap source of hp and offers a lower-maintenance alternative to tracks (though width can make things trickier on the road).
There’s an aura of almost John Wayne-like confidence around artic-steer tractors. It must be their sheer firepower, their uncomplicated character and the fact that they’re useful to have around when the going gets tough.
And it’s good to know, too, that the390hp and 492hp models making up NH 9000 series, marking New Holland‘s return to the articulated-steer tractor market, are built at Fargo, North Dakota, a place-name that Big John would surely have approved of.
The tractors are actually made by Steiger, which became a division of Case New Holland back in 1999, and they share their heavy-duty chassis and drivelines with the Case Quadrac and Steiger wheeled and tracked brands.
Though four models are being made, only two of them – the 390hp T9030 and the 492hp T9050 – will come to these shores. The 597hp T9060, apparently, is just too big for the UK.
To trace the NH9000 series lineage, you need to go back to the days before Ford Tractors became New Holland in 1991. Ford’s first artics were the FW range and were sold between 1978 and 1982. They were actually made by Steiger (a separate firm, though it went on to become part of Case in 1986 and then Case New Holland in 1999) and ranged from 210hp to 360hp.
In 1987 Ford bought another artic maker, Versatile, giving it a well-liked artic-steer range of Ford Versatiles until the company’s affiliation with CNH began. It was sold to Canadian firm Buhler in 2001.
After several years of NH being absent from the UK articulated-steer market, the current T9000 range arrived on UK shores in 2008 when NH realised there was a gap in the market for a large wheeled tractor.
The engine on the 9030 is a 12.9-litre 24-valve Iveco Cursor unit with a straightforward intercooler, whereas its big brother T9050 has what NH calls Turbo Compound. This involves routing the exhaust gas to a second, larger turbocharger downstream from the main one.
The energy recovered from this second turbine then transfers power to the crankshaft through a set of reduction gears and a fluid coupling. The result is said to be a 5-8% fuel saving.
Artic-steer tractors are all about long days and effortless traction. They’re also unashamedly big – the 9030 weighs 20t when fully ballasted. It’s also 7.5m long with a centre-pull design that channels power to the drawbar through the centre of the chassis.
The axles themselves are a beefy 11.5cm (4.5in) in diameter and you can ballast the tractor big-time with front and rear wheel weights as well as 18 front weights.
We had a 6m Vaderstad Carrier drill behind the 9030 working at a substantial 10in depth. As you’d expect, the 9030 cruised along nicely – there was plenty of torque and with GSM engaged the tractor did a good job of changing engine speed and gear ratio to match the load.
In the field, the well-shaped gear lever can be configured in one of two ways. Ground Speed Management turns the hand throttle into a speed lever and lets the transmission match the speed with the appropriate gear. It feels just like a CVT gearbox – pull the lever back and you slow down; push it forward and you speed up.
Or you can use the transmission as a straightforward 16 x 2 powershift. This also gives you two engine speed pre-sets, one for, say, maximum in-field rpm and one for headland turns.
There’s also a useful-looking skip-shift function beyond 4th gear that misses out every other gear. The idea is that you don’t have to shift through every close-ratio gear, so you get back to your working speed via a more direct route. NH says most people will probably drive it in skip-mode, though if you’ve got something really heavy behind a button on the back of the lever will take you swiftly back to sequential shifting.
In the USA and Australia (the two countries where you’re most likely to see them), articulated-steer tractors invariably run on dual wheels to transmit as much power to the ground as possible. But the UK’s narrow and overcrowded roads mean moving dualled-up tractors can be very tedious.
But NH and tyre maker Trelleborg have come up with a neat dual-hub arrangement to ensure good transfer of power through a single tyre. The design uses two wheel centres and two hubs per wheel.
You bolt the wheel on to the inner hub and then a second bolt in the centre attaches the wheel to the outer hub – the one that normally carries the outer dual.
So high torque levels are still transmitted through all eight hubs as it would be if duals were used. It’s not ideal and duals would always be the preferred option, admits NH, but singles with the latest design of tyre can do the job almost as effectively. Of course, if road travel isn’t an issue (and bearing in mind you’ll always need an escort as even with singles it measures 3.4m wide) you can simply choose 620/70/R42 duals.
The 9030 is a good place to be, what with its leather seats, touchscreen display, electric mirrors and HID Xenon work lights. Not to mention those stirrup-like footrests, which make you feel as if you’re at home in front of the TV.
Switches on the adjustable armrest control console offer things like front and rear diff locks and Ground Speed Management engagement, and there’s a wheelslip control dial if you’re using three-point linkage.
All tractors in the range come autosteer-ready. This is activated with a handy button located in front of the padded wrist-rest, or there’s a slightly more fiddly alternative using the IntelliView II screen.
|Rated power (max)||392hp (428hp)|
|Engine||12.9 litre Iveco Cursor turbocharged|
|Transmission||16 x 2 Powershift with transport mode|