Tractor test: Putting them through their paces

Like the proverbial Swiss army knife, there’s a lot expected of a 100hp tractor. On small and medium farms they invariably act as front-line workhorses and even large-scale operations often rely on them for lighter jobs. More than 2000 tractors in this class were sold in the UK in 2008.

What are the real capabilities of these 100hp machines? To find out, we used the machines in the field and asked the DLG (German Agricultural Society) to test things like power output, torque rise, fuel consumption, lift capacity and noise.

We invited all the leading manufacturers to send their machines for comparison. Seven companies accepted our invitation and sent us the contenders pictured on these pages.

We wanted to test the Claas Axos with its Perkins engine but Claas wasn’t able to supply an Axos for comparison and the new Arion 400 wasn’t available at the time.

At our request the manufacturers delivered the tractors with a loader of their choice. We wanted to judge the performance of the tractor during handling work – not the performance of the loader itself.

Interestingly, the difference between the cheapest and the most expensive tractor in the test group was a massive €27,000 (£24,405). Bear that in mind when you read the test results.


The DLG’s pto power test showed that transmission losses at the pto meant recorded power was lower than the rated measurements manufacturers quote for an engine running on the bench.

Settings had to be within a permitted tolerance range of ±5%, so the engines could not be tuned or chipped.

The DLG also ran an exhaust test for nitrogen oxide content, designed to show if an engine might have been “prepared” for the test by running with altered injection timings. All the tractors had between 23 and 129 hours on the clock and all had air brakes (standard in Germany) and air conditioning.

Even with mechanical injection, some of the tractors (such as the New Holland) achieved the requirements of Tier 3A emissions regulations. Fendt’s Deutz engine represented the other extreme of the engine sophistication scale with common-rail injection, intercooling, viscous-fan, externally cooled exhaust gas recirculation and 4-valves/cylinder.

Tractors in this class seldom have power boost. The MF was the exception, with boost activated in pto work as well as in third and fourth range. The boost could not be switched off so the DLG could only test the MF 5445 with it activated.

Fuel consumption

The DLG measured consumption in g/kWh. At a given rpm the most economical tractor sipped just 258g/kWh while the thirstiest guzzled 314g/kWh Ð a difference of 20%.

The Fendt 310 Vario was particularly efficient here with 270g/kWh. Then there was a gap, with the New Holland coming in at 282g/kWh and the Deutz-Fahr with 287g/kWh. Thirstiest here was the Perkins engine in the MF, consuming some 20g/kWh more than the average.

All tractors were tested for draft performance with the same tyres (540/65 R38). Performance laid down at the wheels depended mainly on drivetrain efficiency.

The average loss when comparing pto output with draft performance was 15hp. With the Valtra only 10hp was lost and in the worst case up to 24hp of the New Holland’s power disappeared.

The difference with the Fendt’s stepless transmission was 17hp. But such figures only offer a rough idea of drivetrain efficiency (the lower the pto loss, the worse draft efficiency appears).


Though tractors of this size are very much built to a price, most still manage to offer operator-friendly gearboxes. The Fendt’s Vario box offers maximum versatility but seems overly complex for this type of machine.

John Deere and Valtra offer easy operation with their automatic powershift programmes. MF’s Dyna-4 transmission is completely electro-hydraulic so that all speed changes (including range shifts) can be made without the clutch with either right or left hands (via the shuttle lever). This allows the right hand to stay with the front loader joystick – ideal.

All tractors had a powershuttle lever as standard. MF and Deutz-Fahr allow its aggressivity (ie its sharpness or softness) to be adjusted to suit the work in-hand – another big plus-point.


Access is important and the cab should not be so high that low entrances are a problem. Good visibility is vital for loader work too. Turning circle tests were carried out on concrete without 4wd engaged and the circle measured from the outside of the front wheels.

Case-IH CS 105 Pro

This tractor hails from the Steyr factory at St Valentin in Austria. It is a real classic, having originally been dreamed up by Steyr back in 1995.

Following an interim production stop after Case’s buy-out and the subsequent CNH merger, the CS-Pro assembly line fired up again in 2007 using the classic combination of a Sisu engine and ZF transmission.

Deutz-Fahr Agrofarm 430

Although a 100hp Agrotron is available we opted for the Agrofarm as it’s not featured in any of our tests before.

Having been around since 2008, it’s identical in all but colour to the Same Explorer, Lamborghini R3 Evo and HŸrlimann XB Max.

Fendt 310 Vario

The 300 series has existed since the 1980s, traditionally one of the Marktoberdorf factory’s
best sellers.

When emissions rules meant a complete overhaul in 2005, Fendt decided to swap to a stepless transmission, bringing it into line with of the rest of its range. The 310 Vario has a Deutz engine, common rail injection, four valves/cylinder, visco-fan and external exhaust recirculation.

John Deere 5100 R

The Mannheim-built 5020 series was launched in 2003 and shared a cab with the now defunct 3800 pivot-steer telehandler range.

The current tractor has been on the market for around a year, still uses that same cab and has a PowerTech engine with common rail, intercooling and two valves/cylinder. Other lower-spec, compact, fruit and vineyard versions are available.

MF 5445

The smallest model from the Beauvais factory, with the chassis from the ubiquitous 6200 and Perkins engine. With its drop-nose styling and glass roof this tractor is a livestock farm favourite and is among the most popular MF models.

New Holland T 5060

This model’s lineage clearly dates back to Fiat’s mid-80s 7090 and 8090 and later series L or TL tractors.

The current T5000-series has a New Holland/Cummins/Iveco NEF engine with mechanical injection. New Holland plans to offer the tractor, which is one of its best sellers, with stepless “SuperSpeed” transmission in the future.

Valtra N92

Together with the N82, this tractor makes up the compact section of the N-series range. The front end comes from the A-series, the rear from the larger N models. With a two valve/cylinder Sisu engine, fixed fan and mechanical injection, the N92 is the most-popular tractor in the N-series.


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