Its better in the field and still quick on the road
After JCBs recent introduction
of its Fastrac range, the
148hp 2150 has emerged as
the new kid on the block.
Geoff Ashcroft went to
Rocester for a test drive
JCBs 148hp Fastrac 2150 is the true newcomer to the recently introduced 2000/3000 series machines (Machinery, Feb 20).
And something of a half-way house, the £59,254 Fastrac 2150 is neither 2000 series nor 3000 series, but a combination of both.
It uses the cab, panels, axles and even the identity from the 2000 series, but is combined with the chassis, wheelbase and rear linkage from the 3000 series Fastracs.
"We wanted to achieve more of a tractor feel to this size of Fastrac, while maintaining the ruggedness and durability of the much larger models," explains Nick Grills, senior product specialist with JCB Landpower.
"As this model is only two-wheel steer, we have revised the front suspension from a four-link to a three-link parallel system to shave about 2m off the turning circle. And to make the Fastrac more suited to field work, there is now a three-speed powershift on the 18×6 transmission, known as Autoshift."
Autoshift offers the operator a choice of four automated transmission functions; plough mode, trailer mode, pto 540 and pto 1000 – and if they are not enough, there is a fifth option which allows the driver to customise the powershift gear changes.
Depending on throttle position and engine rpm, autoshift controls the three powershift speeds according to the type of work being done, and at any time, the auto function can be switched off and the transmission controlled manually.
With the emphasis clearly on evolving the Fastrac into a "proper" tractor, but with a fast travel speed, the question to ask is, does it feel any more like a tractor?
farmers weekly headed up to Staffordshire to put the Fastrac through its paces.
Those already familiar with the Fastrac will feel instantly at home with the 2150, recognising only subtle changes to the cabs interior. With switches and controls now grouped together and a revised central dashboard, the cab is a nice place to be. Access is a straight walk-up-and-in affair, with no fear of banging your head on the mirrors.
Once seated, the controls fall conveniently to hand, though some taller operators may have trouble getting adequate legroom so knees do not knock on the steering column with the seat in its rearmost position; the seat does swivel though, so you could sit twisted and avoid the steering column altogether.
Time for work
A quick familiarisation with main controls and transmission functions, and it is time to put the Fastrac 2150 to work.
Using a 3.5m (11.5ft) front press and rear-mounted 3.5m (11.5ft) power harrow, there is a chance to try out the Autoshift transmission. Its choice of operating mode – in this case pto 1000 – is selected by pressing and holding an orange button, which resides with the two manual control powershift buttons on top of the main gear lever. Whichever function is selected, it is then displayed on the dash.
Power harrowing up a long bank with varying degrees of gradient gave the opportunity to overload and underload the engine. The result on the steeper areas where the engine started to struggle, was the autoshift changed down to bring the rpm back up. Then as engine load became progressively lighter, the transmission changed back up to increase forward speed.
And on a none too taxing job such as power harrowing, it meant varying forward speeds between 2.5 and 5mph to help productivity, all without the intervention of the operator.
But out on the open road the Autoshift takes a bit of getting used to.
In "trailer" mode, the change up/down points for the powershift differ again and towing a loaded Wootton trailer in a gross combination weight of 24t, the transmission certainly worked for its money.
Because the box is not able to speed match, when you change up to the next gear, the powershift will remain where it was last used (either snail, tortoise or hare). And if you are too quick on the gear changing, you can make a manual gear change at about the same point that the autoshift wants to select the next powershift.
If the engine struggles after making the next gear change, autoshift will then change down on the powershift to get the engine rpm up so acceleration can continue.
It is a smooth, effortless system, but it makes you wonder if the transmission sometimes makes too many unnecessary shifts.
That said, it does not make the Fastrac any worse for road work. And the auto function can be overridden at any point, with all powershifts then made manually, until "auto" is reselected.
And the verdict? It seems JCB has achieved what it set out to – improving the Fastracs field performance, without sacrificing its road capability. *
JCBs 2150 – the newcomer to the range – is put through its paces.