Claas of 2017
Claas Arion 440 tractor
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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