On test: Claas Arion 650 Cmatic

When Claas pulled the wraps off its Arion back in 2012, it was the culmination of a Grand Designs-style rebuild of the brand’s mid-rangers. The five-pillar cab came from the big, new-at-the-time Axion, and brought with it comfort levels the earlier Renault-inspired Ares could only dream of.

Fast-forward almost four years and that same tractor is beginning to look a little long in the tooth, but it still manages to hold its own against the competition – many of which you can read about online.

Long-lasting cab

The Arion’s cab has aged well and, despite a few years on the clock, the old girl is by no means grey-haired, wrinkly and past her best. In fact, it’s comfortably the equal of the newly refurbished Valtra T-series and also has the sort of simplicity a large portion of British farmers still hanker after.

See also: On test: 9-series takes Deutz tractors over 300hp

A quick guided tour should have most of the important controls nailed down, and sticking with dials to control drop speeds and other linkage functions can only be an advantage for occasional drivers.

Claas Arion 650 cab

The area most likely to send technophobes into a dizzy spin is the collection of programmable F-keys plastered around the handstick. The idea is to set the operation you want on the button you like, but newcomers can easily get themselves in a pickle and, in reality, things are kept simpler in the short term by leaving them where they are.

As for the rest, views outwards are pretty average and it’s irritatingly easy to clutter the entire right window with a jigsaw puzzle of implement screens. The forward position of the cab also leaves the pick-up hitch in an awkward position for all but those with giraffe-like anatomies.

Old engines

A quirk of the emissions rules allows tractor builders to stockpile engines and use them beyond the official deadline. So, while most of the big players are well into their new batch of blocks, Claas is still blowing the cobwebs off its older Stage 3B John Deere oil-burners stashed somewhere deep in the factory dungeons.

Likes

  • Simple cruise system
  • Linkage controls still on dials
  • No transmission range change
  • Manageable size

Gripes

  • Weak linkage lift
  • Low torque
  • Low hydraulic power
  • Low oil flow at two valves

As a result, the Germans are one of the few manufacturers to be selling 200hp tractors without an AdBlue injection system to keep emissions clean.

We got the DLG – Germany’s biggest tractor testing facility – to look more closely at engine output and the efficiency of the drives that take the power to the pto shaft and four wheels.

Max power reached 168hp at the pto, but there’s no boost function, so it’s a case of what you see is what you get on the power front. That simplifies things no end and should avoid buyers feeling short-changed when it comes to tillage work.

The DLG is also able to measure how much power a tractor can put to the ground. The Arion mustered 136hp, which turned out to be a pretty good return on its 168hp max power. However, weights and payloads are lower than for a lot of its rivals, so if you are looking for an out-and-out draft tractor it might be worth considering something bigger, such as the New Holland T7.230.

What’s in the box?

There are a couple of gearbox options, depending on your preference and budget. We had the Claas-made Cmatic stepless version, which makes use of two Danfoss hydrostatic pumps.

The basics

The Arion 600 range includes four models that all take power from a 6.8-litre engine the Claas boffs can tune to anything from 135hp to 185hp, with the 650 being the biggest of those.

Our test tractor was fitted with Claas’s own Cmatic stepless transmission, but there is also a mechanical Hexashift gearbox available, which has four groups and six powershift steps.

While the likes of Fendt and Massey Ferguson make the switch between ranges the driver’s responsibility, the Claas version shifts automatically and the change is as good as imperceptible to the driver.

The in-cab screen displays the three cruise speeds, each of which also has a settable maximum speed. That rather handily means it is possible to speed things up beyond the set cruise speed using the foot pedal.

Keener operators can also fiddle with acceleration, stopping speed and various other geeky extras.

Hydraulic power

The Arion has shared transmission and hydraulic tanks, which leaves its vital components – and your wallet – looking pretty vulnerable if the brakes disintegrate and work their way around the system.

The rivals

Case IH 175 CVX 172hp £95,799
Fendt 720 Vario 192hp £135,247
Massey Ferguson 7720 Dyna VT 193hp £113,787
New Holland T7.230 175hp £102,836
Valtra T214 Direct 185hp £100,321

Hydraulic output at two spools is 112 litres/min, which is fairly lame compared with the 167 litres/min average of similar-sized tractors tested last year.

The spools are controlled through a mix of paddles, buttons and a joystick, and it is possible to tinker with which valve is controlled by the fender-mounted buttons, too. It’s also worth mentioning the pressure-release system to free the hydraulic pipes and the dust covers over each outlet – two additions that make the chore of coupling up implements just that bit easier.

The downsides concern the Arion’s muscle. In particular, rear lift comes up short at just 5.7t – pretty lightweight compared with the 8.6t average of the other 200hp tractors we tested before Christmas.

Farmers Weekly verdict

The cabin is comfortable and fairly simple, and if you are easily flustered by complicated touchscreens, the Claas might fit your bill.

It’s a lighterweight tractor than some of its rivals, which might be a downside if you need an out-and-out tillage tractor. Dragging big ploughs out of heavy ground takes hydraulic muscle that the Arion might lack, and the ticket price looks quite expensive compared with some of the competition, too.

On the plus side, it’s pretty powerful for its modest dimensions, so if you are after a versatile, easy-to-drive addition to your fleet, the Arion could be the one for you.

Claas Arion 650 spec and test results

Engine capacity (cc) 6,788

PTO POWER

Power at rated rpm (hp) 158

Specific consumption diesel (g/kWh) 253

Max power (hp) 168

Specific consumption diesel (g/kWh) 239

Average diesel consumption over six points (g/kWh) 266

Constant power range (%) 27

Max torque (Nm) 700.6

DRAFT POWER

Draft power at rated rpm (hp) 127

Specific consumption diesel (g/kWh) 310

Max draft power (hp) 136

Specific consumption diesel (g/kWh) 292

Cab noise (under load, cab closed) db(A) 72.7

HYDRAULICS

Removeable oil * (litres) 44

Max oil flow at one valve (litres/min) 107

Max oil flow at two valves (litres/min) 112

Max hydraulic power (hp) 40

Linkage lift (kg) 5,781

Linkage travel (mm) 763

DIMENSIONS, WEIGHTS AND TURNING CIRCLES

Cab length x width (cm) 151 x 162

Wheelbase (mm) 2,820

Empty weight (kg) 7,715

Permissible front axle load (kg) 5,200

Permissible rear axle load (kg) 9,000

Gross vehicle weight (kg) 12,000

Payload of test tractor (kg) 4,285

Turning circle (m) 11.75

Entry-level list price ** £119,493

Price as tested ** £134,468

*manufacturer spec

**prices converted from euros

Farm Handling Event

This year’s Farm Handling Event takes place on 20-21 April at the National Agricultural Centre, Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire. As last year, many of the main manufacturers will be there and it will be a great chance to try out machines that you might be looking to buy in the next couple of years.

One of the attendees at last year’s regional event in the South West was Dieci, which had the T70 pivot-steer recently featured in Farmers Weekly available to test. For a chance to compare it with its rivals side-by-side, visit this year’s event at Stoneleigh.