Fastrac answers the unbelievers

When the first JCB Fastrac broke cover in 1991 there were the instant fans and those who remained to be convinced.

Many of the original sceptics have remained dubious because of the high-speed tractor’s lack of transmission sophistication.

The last 14 years have seen little evolution in the transmission department.

Up until now it has remained a truck-type six-speed manual with a two- or three-speed splitter and pre-selector shuttle.

JCB says that the new Fastrac is the most technologically advanced tractor it has ever brought to production and the firm believes that it will make an impression on those non-believers.

Topping the Fastrac range, the 8250 is likely to cost in the region of 95,000.

Can its 15,000 premium over the current range-topping 3220 be justified?

It is the inclusion of Fendt’s continuously variable transmission (CVT) which is the most significant development.

On the exterior the only noticeable changes are different front and rear wheel sizes, new styling around the cab roofline and bonnet and one-piece glass doors.

In the seat

In the cab it is more or less as was, the full-size passenger seat remains as does much of the plastic trim and the familiar dashboard.

The right-hand console has been reworked with significant alterations and boasts an air of confidence.

Gone are the long gear lever and chunky spool valve levers, replaced by a sophisticated looking armrest joystick and a colour screen console – touch screen at that.

It looks promising.

The days of requiring a passenger to do the clutch work so the driver could stretch across the cab to persuade the gearbox to do as required could soon be a distant memory.

Turn the key in the ignition and you are greeted by a full-throated raspy growl.

The 8.3-litre Cummins engine has a positive feel to it and the turbo can be heard to sing when the throttle opens up.

Jumping on a Fastrac and getting it to move with no prior experience was never an easy task and this remains the case for the new one.

But in its defence you only have to be shown once and it becomes clear.

The direction of travel is confirmed by holding a button on the rear of the joystick and pushing it in the required line of attack, a beep from the console confirming your action.

Selecting “D” for drive mode from the console – which is nicely located to your right – and pressing the throttle sets you in motion.

Much like an automatic car, more throttle equals more speed when in drive mode.

Flexi mode – designed for use in pto applications – maintains constant engine revs with forward speed controlled using the foot throttle.

This would be ideally suited for use in conjunction with a mower conditioner or hedge trimmer.

We hooked up a 10-furrow semi mounted plough which, judging by the lugging ability of previous Fastrac models, felt a touch ambitious.

For this task yet another transmission setting is selected – powershift mode – which simulates ratio changes.

Pushing the lever to the left or right shifts the transmission up or down accordingly – we set off in low fifth.

As a pleasant surprise the tractor happily works away up to eighth gear and stabilises at around 9kph.

But to test its lugging ability we needed to force it out of the comfort zone.

It takes a shift up to ninth and then 10th before the revs drop off past the point of no return and the tractor almost stalls.

As regards serviceability of the machine there is still the problem of getting into the engine area.

Despite a one-piece hood which opens easily from the front, access is obstructed by the large front wheels.


JCB has made huge inroads into improving driveability with the Fastrac 8250, with particular credit going to the armrest-mounted joystick and the touch-screen console.

With this new console taking centre stage in the cab it is easy to overlook other inefficiencies of the tractor’s design.

For example the air conditioning unit remains as it was – it is either on or off with three fan settings from gusty to gale force – and the steering column isn’t as adjustable as it needs to be.

This latest Fastrac has the potential to rewrite the script.

The old belief, that it is purely a haulage tractor and that it will always remain so, is in jeopardy of being ploughed in.

In the field it surprised with its gutsy pulling performance while on the road the comfort levels are what you would expect from a fully-suspended Fastrac – high quality.