Claas of 2017

Claas Arion 440 trac­tor

Farms & Farm Machinery - - Contents -

Claas is ex­pand­ing its of­fer­ing in Aus­tralia with the launch of two new mod­els in the al­ready pop­u­lar Arion 400 trac­tor range. Join­ing the ex­ist­ing Arion 400 line-up, which has been in pro­duc­tion since 2009, are the 120hp Arion 440 and 140hp Arion 460 trac­tors.

The pow­er­ful-look­ing trac­tor has a re­designed bon­net to house its new FPT en­gine, larger cool­ing pack­age, and the diesel ox­i­di­s­a­tion cat­alytic con­verter.

From a dis­tance the bon­net re­design is the most ob­vi­ous point of dif­fer­ence com­pared to the ex­ist­ing of­fer­ing. But a closer in­spec­tion re­veals that there have ac­tu­ally been quite a few be­hind-the-scenes changes to its de­sign aimed at creat­ing a more ef­fi­cient, com­fort­able, safer and user-friendly trac­tor in the pop­u­lar 100-to-150hp range.

When climb­ing into a new trac­tor for the first time I ex­pect to find a few new and ex­cit­ing fea­tures but I had no idea I was about to be com­pletely blown away by the in­ter­nal cabin space on the Arion 440.

While the lay­out is on par with other trac­tors in the premium end of the mar­ket, it’s the level of vis­i­bil­ity from the driver’s seat that ex­ceeds any­thing I have ever seen be­fore and, as far as I know, is un­matched in the mar­ket.

I’m not nor­mally one for show­ing to much ex­cite­ment but I just sat back in the seat and thought, ‘Wow! How good is this?’

I had heard about the panoramic cabin that Claas was of­fer­ing on the new 400 se­ries trac­tors but never imag­ined it was go­ing to be this good.

A re-en­gi­neered roof line has seen the front ROPS bar re­lo­cated fur­ther back into the roof struc­ture to al­low its large poly­car­bon­ate sun­roof to flow all the way to the front where it joins with the top of the wind­screen.

The re­sult is a com­pletely un­bro­ken view from the floor to some­where close to 90 de­grees above the driver’s seat. With­out chang­ing your po­si­tion in the seat or strain­ing your neck you can main­tain full vis­i­bil­ity of the loader to its fully raised po­si­tion.

The only thing that gets close to this fea­ture is a trac­tor with no cab at all.

When the sun gets a bit bright and you’re start­ing to feel the heat level ris­ing in the cab you can slide the re­tractable roof shade back into its for­ward po­si­tion to give the feel of a tra­di­tional cabin.

It seems such an ob­vi­ous de­sign yet I’m left won­der­ing why it has taken so long to come about. Ac­cord­ing to LandPower prod­uct spe­cial­ist for trac­tors Michael Pundt it’s be­cause mov­ing the front ROPS bar and still con­form­ing to strin­gent safety stan­dards is not as easy as one might think.

EN­GINE

With­out doubt the most sig­nif­i­cant step in the evo­lu­tion of the 400 se­ries trac­tors is the change of en­gine man­u­fac­turer. A

Fiat Pow­er­train FPT en­gine has re­placed the pre­vi­ously fit­ted John Deere DPS 4.5-litre 4-cylin­der op­tion. The new 4.5-litre FPT 4-cylin­der turbo-diesel en­gine pro­duces about 5 per cent more torque than its pre­de­ces­sor.

While I’m not ar­gu­ing that the in­crease in power is a bonus, it’s the struc­tural de­sign of the en­gine which makes it quite unique in to­day’s mar­ket. Adopted out of the tech­nol­ogy used in the Ax­ion 900, the new en­gine has a stronger casted sump built into

the base of the en­gine which al­lows a front-end loader to be fixed di­rectly to the en­gine block from one cen­tral lo­ca­tion point with­out the need for any ad­di­tional sup­port beams.

In the ab­sence of a loader sup­port struc­ture trav­el­ing to the front of the trac­tor, the area be­hind the front wheels is quite nar­row. Its widest point is di­rectly over the front axle where a larger, more ef­fec­tive cool­ing pack­age is lo­cated, and then it nar­rows again to­wards the front.

The ta­pered width both for­ward and be­hind the piv­ot­ing points of the front wheels al­lows for the Arion to achieve a tight turn­ing ra­dius of 4.5 me­tres.

Ad­di­tion­ally, a front link­age pack­age can be at­tached di­rectly to the front end with­out hav­ing to fit any ad­di­tional brac­ing or sup­ports.

The new FPT en­gine de­liv­ers stage IV (Tier 4) emis­sions stan­dards us­ing a diesel ox­i­da­tion cat­a­lyst (DOC) and se­lec­tive cat­alytic re­duc­tion (SCR). The SCR sys­tem per­forms an au­to­matic self-rinse af­ter each use and the AdBlue tank is heated to im­prove its over­all op­er­a­tion.

The new tier 4 en­gine gen­er­ates more heat than its tier 3 pre­de­ces­sor. To coun­ter­act the higher op­er­at­ing tem­per­a­ture, the new 400 se­ries trac­tors have been fit­ted with a larger, eas­ier to ac­cess ra­di­a­tor pack­age. It is specced with a larger, slower ro­tat­ing fan, com­bin­ing an in­crease in air­flow with a re­duc­tion in the amount of drag on the en­gine to run it.

The ra­di­a­tors fold out very smoothly with the slight­est ef­fort thanks to a cou­ple of hy­draulic struts, mak­ing the job of reg­u­lar clean­ing a breeze, which in turn keeps the en­gine op­er­at­ing within its op­ti­mum tem­per­a­ture range.

The strap used to pull the bon­net down is made from an elas­tic-type ma­te­rial. As the bon­net comes down the strap shrinks so you’re not left try­ing to tuck in all the ex­cess be­fore slam­ming the hood down. It’s a very sim­ple in­clu­sion but proves that the de­sign team at Claas are al­ways try­ing to achieve that ex­tra 5 per cent, which can be the dif­fer­ence be­tween a re­ally good trac­tor and an ex­cep­tional one.

Ser­vice in­ter­vals on the new FPT en­gine are set at 600 hours.

TRANS­MIS­SION

While I ad­mit to be­ing pretty ex­cited about the re­designed roof struc­ture, par­tic­u­larly the view it pro­vides for front-end loader work, my first im­pres­sion of the trans­mis­sion isn’t far be­hind.

The 16-speed Quadr­ishift trans­mis­sion has four ranges with four Pow­er­shift gears in each range. I found the trans­mis­sion ex­cep­tion­ally easy to op­er­ate from the mo­ment I jumped in – as op­posed to some that re­quire a univer­sity de­gree to en­able ba­sic op­er­a­tion. Per­haps what I’m most im­pressed by is the fact you can choose to op­er­ate it in a way that best suits the par­tic­u­lar job you are do­ing.

Every gear change can be done from an elec­tronic switch on the arm­rest-mounted multi-func­tion joy­stick. A gen­tle nudge on the switch will in­sti­gate a gear change and a firm push will skip to the next range. Once you get used to this ba­sic form of op­er­a­tion you can ex­per­i­ment with some more ad­vanced op­er­at­ing modes.

Chang­ing from for­ward to re­verse can be as­signed to one of the func­tion but­tons on the joy­stick as an op­tion to the shut­tle lever on the left-hand side of the steer­ing col­umn.

This is es­pe­cially handy while do­ing front-end loader work be­cause it al­lows you to keep your left hand on the steer­ing wheel at all times.

The abil­ity to place it in the fully au­to­matic mode just by push­ing a but­ton on the right-hand side con­sole is by far my favourite fea­ture re­gard­ing the trans­mis­sion. In auto mode the trac­tor will change up and down through all 16 gears as you in­crease and de­crease your de­sired speed from 0-40km/h.

To fur­ther en­hance the driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence you can select ei­ther trans­port auto or field auto. Trans­port auto pro­vides au­to­matic gear chang­ing through all gears and ranges whereas field auto only al­lows au­to­matic gear chang­ing within the ranges.

The pause that oc­curs dur­ing an au­to­matic range change would prob­a­bly shoot you straight out through the wind­screen if you tried it while you were cul­ti­vat­ing, but just imag­ine the lux­ury of fully au­to­matic gear changes while pulling feed-out wag­ons or silage carts.

The brake-to-stop fea­ture al­lows you to put your foot on the brake to stop the trac­tor with­out ap­ply­ing the clutch. When it’s tem­po­rar­ily stopped you can change the di­rec­tion the trac­tor is go­ing to travel with the shut­tle lever and creep along slowly by feath­er­ing the brake. It takes a bit of get­ting used to but once mas­tered makes front-end loader work a breeze.

For those who want a few more gears to select from you can also get the Hex­as­hift trans­mis­sion. It has all the fea­tures that the Quadr­ishift trans­mis­sion of­fers but in­stead of four gears in

each of the four ranges you get six, giv­ing you a to­tal of 24 gears at your dis­posal.

I don’t want to sound like a cracked record but it’s an im­pres­sive piece of gear that’s so easy to use.

LINK­AGE

Stan­dard fit for the rear link­age on the Arion 440 is Cat­e­gory I. It has a max­i­mum lift ca­pac­ity of 5750kg at the ball ends and uses the mod­ern-de­sign hook ends to aid in the quick at­tach­ing of im­ple­ments.

Elec­tronic op­er­a­tion of the link­age can be done us­ing but­tons on the multi-func­tion joy­stick. The elec­tronic but­tons po­si­tioned on both rear guards pro­vide an­other source of op­er­a­tion for when you’re out­side the cabin.

HY­DRAULICS

Three sets of rear hy­draulic re­motes and a fur­ther two sets ded­i­cated to the front-end loader are ser­viced by a 110L/min hy­draulic pump through a closed load-sens­ing sys­tem.

There are dif­fer­ent op­tions of how the trac­tor can be set up with the num­ber of valves and op­tions of ei­ther me­chan­i­cal or elec­tronic op­er­a­tion.

This one has three me­chan­i­cally op­er­ated rear valves and has the bonus of be­ing able to put a di­verter on the front-end loader sys­tem to run an ex­tra two valves at the rear. Th­ese ef­fec­tively be­come elec­tronic spool valves that you can op­er­ate through the all-in-one joy­stick con­troller.

Dur­ing loader work you can flick an elec­tronic switch in­side the cabin to di­rect the ma­jor­ity of the oil flow to the front-end loader hy­draulic sys­tem. The ob­vi­ous ben­e­fits are a faster re­sponse at lower en­gine revs re­sult­ing in lower fuel con­sump­tion.

PTO

When de­sign­ing the PTO con­fig­u­ra­tion – i.e num­ber of speeds – Claas has bucked the trend that many other brands have adopted. In­stead of of­fer­ing an econ­omy mode in every con­ceiv­able speed avail­able, the Arion 440 has gone back to just 540, 540E and 1000rpm. The the­ory here is that th­ese three are the most com­monly used while the 1000E can of­ten place a high de­gree of torque on the driv­e­line, and did any­one ever ac­tu­ally work out what the 750rpm speed was sup­posed to be used for? The PTO can be quickly pro­gramed for au­to­matic en­gage­ment and dis­en­gage­ment dur­ing the process of lift­ing and low­er­ing im­ple­ments that are at­tached to the link­age.

At­tach­ing a PTO shaft to the trac­tor is made sim­ple due to the fact that the PTO spline can be freely ro­tated by hand to line up with the shaft.

PER­FOR­MANCE

For over­all per­for­mance across a va­ri­ety of tasks in­clud­ing hay pro­duc­tion, cul­ti­va­tion, tow­ing and loader work, I am quite com­fort­able award­ing the Arion 440 a big A. How­ever, purely as a loader trac­tor I’d up that to an A+.

Fea­tures that in­clude brake to stop, an all-in-one multi-func­tion joy­stick with di­rec­tion con­trol, clutch­less for­ward/re­verse shut­tle, des­ig­nated oil flow to the front-end loader hy­draulic sys­tem, au­to­matic trans­mis­sion mode, as well as ad­justable steer­ing sen­si­tiv­ity that al­lows you to re­duce the num­ber of turns on the steer­ing wheel to achieve full lock are all valu­able as­sets in an all-round per­former.

Com­bine all this with the (best I’ve ever seen) un­bro­ken view of the front-end loader from the ground to its fully ex­tended height sees this trac­tor lead­ing the op­po­si­tion. It will be in­ter­est­ing to see how long it will take for other man­u­fac­tur­ers to adapt to a sim­i­lar high-vis­i­bil­ity roofline.

With one A and one A+ it would ap­pear that this Claas could fin­ish 2017 as dux of the class.

Even the front-end loader is con­structed from slim­line beams to again give the im­pres­sion of min­i­mal vi­sion loss.

The two-point cabin sus­pen­sion in­cluded on the new Arion ticks the fi­nal box in the most im­por­tant things to look for when pur­chas­ing a new trac­tor: vis­i­bil­ity; fea­tures; ease of op­er­a­tion; and, not to be un­der­es­ti­mated, com­fort.

The only as­pect to the trac­tor that I’m not en­tirely com­fort­able with is that the air-con­di­tioner in­take vents are po­si­tioned on top of the rear mud­guards. I just get a sneak­ing sus­pi­cion that they will be­come clogged up when op­er­at­ing in boggy con­di­tions.

THE BOT­TOM LINE

At around $130,000 the Claas Arion 440 trac­tor sits at the up­per end of the price bracket in the premium 120hp trac­tor mar­ket but, even at those dol­lars, I con­sider it good value for money con­sid­er­ing what you get in the way of fea­tures and the ca­pa­bil­ity of the trac­tor.

1. The new Arion 440 ticks all the boxes to be a great loader trac­tor in any type of farm­ing op­er­a­tion

2. Tom Dick­son pulls back the slid­ing sun shade to re­veal the in­dus­try-lead­ing glass sky roof

3. Only af­ter jump­ing into the driver’s seat do you get to fully ap­pre­ci­ate the ex­cep­tional view that the newly re­designed roof struc­ture pro­vides

4. The trans­mis­sion func­tions, rear link­age con­trol and front-end loader op­er­a­tion have been in­te­grated into one newly de­vel­oped, mul­ti­func­tion con­trol lever.

5. The lay­out of the front con­sole and con­trols on the Arion 440 is sim­i­lar to that of a car, mak­ing it in­stantly easy to nav­i­gate

6. Five seat op­tions from Sears and Gram­mer are avail­able, in­clud­ing a piv­ot­ing premium seat with low fre­quency air sus­pen­sion

7. The 190-litre diesel and 22-litre AdBlue tanks are both lo­cated for easy fill­ing from ground level

8. The FPT en­gine can sup­port the com­plete weight of the loader from a sin­gle mid­mount fix­ing po­si­tion with­out the need for any ad­di­tional sup­port brac­ings

9. The new Arion 440 ticks all the boxes to be a great loader trac­tor in any type of farm­ing op­er­a­tion

10. The three me­chan­i­cal spool valves on the Arion are easy to con­nect, coloured to match the in­ter­nal con­trol levers and are clearly marked to show the in­let and out­let sides to make it eas­ier to at­tach im­ple­ments safely

11. The Cat­e­gory III elec­tronic rear link­age has a lift­ing ca­pac­ity of 5750kg at the ball ends

12. Gas struts help make the process of open­ing out the ra­di­a­tor and cool­ing pack­age smooth and ef­fort­less

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