First Drive – Massey Ferguson 7618

You can make the 7618 as complicated (or not) as you like. We’d probably opt for the changeable ratios of the Dyna-6 box.
Modern powershifts are clever enough so we’re not sure a CVT is worth the extra pennies, but it really does depend on what you’re looking for. In the field, it’ll be ideal for drilling work and almost has the grunt to double-up as a front-line tractor.

Massey Ferguson’s new 7600 range is now bulging at the seams. Squeezing in eight tractors new from the waist up, Oliver Mark gave the middleweight 7618 a run-out in a sun-soaked Poland.

Massey hopes its reinvented 7600 series will propel it to number-one spot in the light-heavyweight division.

Until last year, it could offer something for everyone with its 5400, uber-popular 6400 and bulkier 7400 tractors. So, why the change?

Well, as the key horsepower sector across Europe, it’s quite like assembling the Lions rugby squad. Massey hopes the top performers from each range will form an all-conquering 7600-series to cover the 140-235 horsepower category.

We took the 7618 Dyna-VT for a days work. At 175hp, it’s the largest of the short-wheelbase 7600s (the big boys were launched late in 2011). Weighing little more than a Japanese sumo wrestler, it looks ideal for light cultivation, drilling and transport duties.

Under the hood is a 6.6-litre Sisu, which will kick out 175hp. Dyna-4 and -6 models get a Brucey-bonus 25hp power boost, but that’s not available on the CVT version.

The tractor has what Massey calls its second generation emissions control. There have been a few changes since its first effort on the big 8600 series three-and-a-half years ago. Most notably it has meant the AdBlue tank is now tucked behind the diesel reservoir to protect it from engine heat and prevent the urea crystallising.

Massey has managed to chop idle speed from 800 to 700rpm, as well as 25% off the service interval. Up to 500 hours, it’s now in-line with most of the rivals so you’ll get an extra week of hard work before it needs to be parked up in the workshop.

It’s safe to say the iffy gearbox of the 1990s’ 3000-series is long gone. Purchasers of the 7618 get the choice of the 24-speed Dyna-6 or the seamless Dyna-VT.

We had the luxury of the Fendt-derived CVT option. As stepless transmissions go, it is pretty easy to set up and use. As usual, there are three driving modes – the foot-down-and-go pedal mode that scoots up and down the gears as you man the throttle, as well as joystick and pto modes.

Technically, you should get more accurate forward speed and better engine economy from the Dyna-VT (hence the lack of power boost). It doesn’t come cheap though – expect to pay £7,384 more for the luxury on an Exclusive version.In fact, we’d probably opt for the Dyna-6. These days you can get almost the same versatility from a clever powershift as you can a stepless transmission. The power boost might come in handy for transport and heavy draft work, too.

You could make a strong argument for the 7618 being the best looking tractor in the sector. A sleek bonnet, chunky tyres and big exhaust give it a menacing look – one jab of the throttle and you’re expecting to see plumes of black smoke go bellowing into the sky (but, needless to say, it doesn’t).

While the bottom half hasn’t changed much, there are some subtle alterations higher up. With curved cab posts and a racy bonnet, it wouldn’t look out of place tearing around the Nurburgring.

In the cabin, changes are more drastic. Massey has plumped for a dreary beige colour scheme and enlisted the help of Lawrence Llewellyn Bowen to design the jazzy seat.

But, beautification aside, it feels far more spacious than the New Holland T7 and Case Puma. Driving position is at the back end of the cab, leaving space for a well-fed Labrador in the footwell.

Visibility is generally good, too. The girthy stack housing the two SCR catalysers does it no favours, but it’s well managed – the exhaust is oval so tucks fairly neatly behind the pillar. The front window is now a complete screen, but Massey has kept the structural waistline bars (which make an ideal place to put your feet up after a few hours in the saddle).

The Exclusive spec we had comes with a joystick rather than the traditional T-bar control. Unless you’re missing a thumb, it isn’t comfortable to hold and it’s certainly not the sort of thing you could rest your hand on all day.There is the option of adding a second joystick to control spools or front loader, but we reckon you’d be better off sticking with the paddles.

Fortunately, there’s no need to know Massey’s datatronic computer system off by heart. Flick switches on the right-hand pillar control most of the key operations, while the small screen on the dash can be used to fine-tune engine speed and cruise controls.

Registering almost a tonne lighter on the scales than its rivals, it’s in the field that the 7618’s power-to-weight ratio really proves its worth.

It means it’ll be right at home on drilling and light cultivation work. We hooked it up to a set of 4m Gregoire Besson discs to break up some cloddy plough and it had plenty of muscle for the job.

We found setting up the headland management was more of a chore. Scrolling through the system with a thumbwheel you can insert and delete functions, but we found it pretty tricky.

Should you master it then you can drop the speed steer function into the programme. It makes headland work easier by reducing the number of turns of the wheel lock to lock – pretty handy in small fields.

We really noticed how small it felt compared to the New Holland T7 with its big bonnet and wide front mudguards.

Power: 175hp

Engine: Sisu 6.6-litre

Transmission: CVT

Weight: 8t

Service Interval: engine 500 hours, transmission 1,500 hours

Price: Efficient version £102,545; Exclusive version £108,581



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