When JCB’s first Fastrac emerged from the company’s Staffordshire factory 18 years ago, it was radically different from almost every other tractor on the market. Its full suspension, sophisticated braking and high-speed capability meant it was great for carting on the road or hauling a demount sprayer across bumpy land.
It could turn its hand to most field jobs, too, although its design (especially those relatively small equal-sized wheels) meant an inevitable compromise in areas such as traction, turning circle and cab size. The transmission was a relatively unsophisticated, too.
Now the 7000 series tractors, with their bigger cabs, new transmissions and uprated all-round self-levelling suspensions, aim the Fastrac right at the increasingly popular 170-220hp bracket. And the conventional big-wheels-at-the-back layout (as seen on the more recent 8250) mean this looks much more like a regular tractor.
So what do we have here? Well, it’s a big, beefy almost military-looking piece of hardware that makes a 2000 or 3000 series “traditional” Fastrac look decidedly petite.
And whereas the cab on those models sits midway between the axles, on this one it’s almost (though not quite) back where you’d find it on a conventional tractor.
It’s an amazingly wide cab, with room for a full-sized passenger seat and plenty of space for the bulky armrest, which hosts the joystick and key switchgear.
Storage space is far better than in most cabs. The toolbox fits snugly under the passenger seat, there are three cupholders, a neat in-your-face mobile phone holder and all manner of other lidded compartments, plus cargo nets in the roof.
Meanwhile, the centre console has been kept trim and the bonnet narrows as it meets the cab, so the view of the front wheels is pretty good. Climate control is standard and at least a dozen vents should keep you cool in what is essentially a big glass greenhouse.
The armrest-mounted joystick is where your hand will spend much of its time. The six buttons can be programmed to do whatever you want them to – raise and lower the linkage, for instance, or engage the pto or activate spool valves. You have to set them up each time you want to change the functions, but it only takes a minute or so.
JCB’s new standard-fit monitor screen is not the biggest on the market and it’s not the ISOBUS sort that can double as a monitor for implements such as drills and balers – although that’s apparently in the pipeline. The icons are big and colourful and you don’t have to press your finger too hard to activate them.
There is also what seems a well-sorted headland management system, with a decent amount of logic to it and a choice of fully automatic sequencing or the sort where you still press a button to start each operation. But there are no preset throttle settings that allow you to return to a set level of revs each time.
JCB says it worked hard to get noise levels down and the 7000’s hush levels are certainly well in line with other big, modern tractors. There is a cheerful purring exhaust note from the Cummins six-cylinder engine and just a bit of boom just below the 2000rpm mark.
Transmissions on the 7000 series are all six-speed, four-range, fully clutchless semi-powershifts, which are designed and built entirely in-house. The joystick is well made, nice to use and simple – nudge right to go up a gear, left to go down. Then nudge and hold a button on the front of the stick to go up or down a range.
There was a bit of technique to this. You need to put just the right amount of sideways pressure on the stick and it’ll slip seamlessly into the next gear, but do it sloppily and it won’t play ball.
Range changes in field work were on the slow side (as is usually the case with powershift boxes) but a JCB-designed CVT box is apparently in the pipeline for those who want a seamless transition through the ratios.
Shuttle changes were a good compromise between over-harshness and over-softness. And you can change direction at up to 20kph without causing anything untoward to happen. Turning circle is better than on previous Fastracs, too.
An interesting change on the new 7000s is the arrival of oil-over-air self-levelling on both front and rear axles – other Fastracs have hydro-pneumatic on the rear but coils on the front. The idea is that that the tractor will automatically level itself to take account of whatever weight is on the front and rear and maintain the 60:40 weight distribution.
With a six-furrow plough on the back, starting off could be slightly unnerving as the tractor adjusts itself. But you soon get used to it, and it does make for a very smooth ride, even in pretty extreme conditions.
On the road, whacking great 600mm diameter discs on all four wheels pull you up sharply. Combined with standard ABS, 70kph top speed and an auto option on the transmission, the Fastrac should retain its position as the roadgoing tractor of choice.
So has JCB finally produced the all-round tractor it probably had in mind back in 1990? On the basis of this short drive, it seems to have pretty much addressed the cab, transmission, traction and turning circle shortcomings of previous models. So the answer could well be yes.
Model Power Transmission Lift capacity Price
7000 Series spec