With eyes firmly fixed on John Deere and Fendt for a slice of the 250-300hp tractor market, Case IH has launched an all-out assault with its new range of Optum tractors. James Rickard reports.
Reacting to an emerging need in the market for a high power to weight ratio tractor in the 250-300hp segment, Case IH has produced a brand new tractor series.
Fitting in between its Puma and Magnum ranges, the new, two-model Optum series will include the 270 CVX and the 300 CVX, rated to 271hp and 300hp respectively. As alluded to by the CVX designation, both models will be equipped with the firm’s own continuously variable transmission (CVT).
Particularly driven by European requirements, it is a segment which demands flexibility, says Christian Huber, Case IH vice president tractor product management. “The Optum has been designed as a highly versatile tractor with a varying array of tasks in mind from heavy draft work to pto and transport work. Particularly in Europe it will suit a lot of contractor’s needs.”
In terms of power, the Optum picks up from where the Puma range leaves off and offers customers a lighter alternative to the lower powered Magnums.
Mr Huber adds; “We expect to see a lot of customer migration from the larger Pumas and smaller Magnums, and hopefully some new customers in a new market.”
For the first time on its tractors, there will be no boost feature for the Optum, just rated power available all the time – a figure reflected on the sides of the bonnet.
Dan Stuart, Case IH product marketing manager says; “A boost feature tends to be more useful for powershift tractors, which compensates for the momentary loss in drive between the shifts. As the new Optum is CVT only, we felt it did not warrant the need for a boost feature.”
Under the bonnet, the Optum shares the same basic 6.7-litre, FPT block as the Puma. However, to give the Optum increased strength, it uses a new sump design which sees the majority of loads and stresses transmitted through the sump and very little through the ‘block,’ with the ‘block’ effectively just sitting in the sump.
As the backbone of the tractor, the new sump design allows for a maximum gross vehicle weight of 16 tonnes and because it avoids the use of any additional chassis or side rails, turning radius is also minimised.
In keeping with the firm’s emissions clean up strategy, the Optum uses what the firm calls Hi-eSCR after treatment, a solution which only uses selective catalytic reduction (SCR) using AdBlue and no exhaust gas recirculation, allowing the engine to be tuned for the best power and torque curves, says the manufacturer.
In concert with a new variable geometry turbo (VGT), which allows higher torque levels to be achieved across a wider range of revs and be more responsive, the Optum can achieve a maximum torque of nearly 1,300Nm from 1,200rpm to nearly 1,800rpm.
Incorporated into the VGT is an exhaust flap, which in addition to being used to control engine temperature, can also be used as an engine brake by building up exhaust back pressure. As well as this, the VGT’s vanes increase their angle of attack to maximum, forcing more pressure to build up in the engine, while the engine’s variable speed cooling fan increases its speed to maximum, sapping energy from the drive line. All this is activated by a foot pedal and offers 40 per cent increase in braking power.
In addition, using the engine to slow the tractor down saves fuel and wear and tear to the brakes and drive line, says the manufacturer.
Using the same design concept as the long wheelbase Puma 185-240 models, the Optum gets a re-engineered four-range CVT. This beefed up ‘box has been designed with the higher power and torque levels in mind and is available in two versions; 40kph or 50kph - both capable of 27kph in reverse.
Final drives also see double reduction units used allowing transmission rpm to be kept up with stresses kept down, but high torque levels achieved at the wheels. Flange or 2,490mm, 2,845mm or 2,997mm (98 inch, 112 inch or 118 inch) bar axles can be specified. All options share a common wheel hub fixing with both the Puma and Magnum models.
While much of the Optum is quite Puma-based, albeit beefed up, the front axle comes directly from the Magnum. This sees it use a saddle frame design mounted to the sump with minimal moving parts and service points, says Case IH. Two damping cylinders offer 110mm of suspension travel, while an adaptive control system constantly measures vertical loads and adjusts dampening rates accordingly. To maximise dampening reaction times, the control valve is mounted very close to the dampeners. As an option, hub brakes can be specified.
The ability to automatically turn the suspension on or off can also be incorporated into a headland management sequence. Levels of stiffness can also be altered in three steps.
At the rear, a four-speed pto offers electronic shifting of speeds and is capable of 540, 540E, 1,000 and 1,000E. To keep engine revs down, the gearing of the pto sees 1,000rpm achieved at only 1,853rpm engine speed and 1,583rpm in economy mode. To prevent ‘wind down’ of implements, a pto braking function can also be incorporated into a headland management sequence.
If specified, a two-speed pto with changeable shaft from six-spline to 21-spline offers speeds of 1,000 and 1,000E. Pto speeds can be selected from in-cab and a clutch can directly disconnect the front pto’s input shaft to prevent frictional losses when not in use.
Two hydraulic flow options will be available for the Optum; 165l/min or 220l/min – both achieved at 2,100 engine rpm. Charged with moving the oil is a variable displacement pump, only pumping oil when it is needed. It supplies three main circuits which look after steering and services, transmission and lubrication.
Transmission and hydraulic oil is shared with additional draw off capacity, compared to the Pumas, achieved by mounting a reservoir below the centre housing. This allows the extra capacity required without raising the oil level around the gears which would increase parasitic losses through churning.
The firm also says; compared to separate reservoirs for hydraulics and transmission, a single reservoir takes up less space and provides better cooling. It adds; filter technology is a lot better than it used to be and provides a safeguard against foreign bodies in the oil.
Total oil capacity is 148 litres with a draw off capacity of 70 litres. Hydraulic/transmission oil service interval is 1,200 hours.
At the rear is a category three linkage capable of lifting more than 10 tonnes throughout the range, along with redesigned automatic stabilisers which can be adjusted to lock where desired within the lift range. As an option, hydraulic stabiliser and top links can be specified, as can sway blocks.
Front linkage is fitted as standard and is able to lift 4,181kg throughout the lift range and features single or double acting spool valves, ball storage and an accumulator to provide suspension. Options include high flow return, IsoBus connector and a two speed pto.
Tyre sizes up to 900/85 R42 with a 2.15m diameter can be fitted at the rear. In addition, a tyre pressure monitor system can be specified, which can be viewed through the tractor’s touch screen terminal. Up to 16 tyres can be monitored via valve caps which contain transponders which transmit signals back to an antenna in the roof.
Graphic alerts on screen can then change colour if a tyre strays out of its selected pressure threshold.
As of yet, there is no RowTrac option, as featured on the larger Magnum range.
Cab-wise, it is pretty status quo. It shares the same frame as the Puma and Maxxums along with the same layout and operating logic.
Similar to the recent Stage 4 Puma updates, the Optum gets the firm’s latest generation headland management control. With it, a sequence can be created from the menu of functions, via the AFS 700 touch screen terminal, rather than only being able to record a sequence as on the old Pumas did. Up to 20 different actions can be chosen from along with various ‘triggers.’
In addition, control of hydraulic services can be customised which allows operators to assign any hydraulic service valve to buttons on the main control lever or on an adjacent joystick.
IsoBus class three is also available enabling implement commands to be sent to the tractor - this could be forward speed, hydraulics or pto. For example, a baler could dictate to the tractor what forward speed it wants to go based on the amount of material passing through the baler and loads exerted on the balers drivelines.
As standard, Optum comes auto-steer ready using the firm’s AccuGuide system. This is available in three levels offering varying degrees of accuracy with the top-sped RTK system able to deliver plus or minus 2.5cm accuracy. As an option, a signal bridging system offers 20 minutes of backup guidance coverage, should the RTK signal drop out.
Several seat options will also be available which include swivelling head rest, leather, ventilated and electric armrest adjustment options
In keeping with the firm’s new roof design as seen on the latest Pumas, a package of up to 20 LED lights can be specified.
In terms of styling, the Optum sports a new aggressive design, which will eventually become the family look for the whole Case IH range of tractors. This is already evident in the US with the latest Stage 4 Maxxums adopting the bonnet and cab style updates.
As for now, only the two models will be available while Case IH asses market uptake of the new product.
The first public showing of the Optum will be in the US at the Farm Progress Show in September. Europeans will get to see it at Agritechnica in November, with full availability of the tractor in Q1 of 2016.
Will the Optum make JD and Fendt green with envy? Certainly from our first impression of the machine, it will in many areas. However, in other areas, the Optum still has a way to go if it wants to wipe the floor with them.
On the plus side, particularly in the drive train department and its simple control logic, the Optum gives the green machines a run for their money.
Its aggressive styling looks the business too and feels a lot more nimble to drive than its model number suggests. With that you get a good sense of compactness and agility akin to the Puma.
Control logic is the same as the rest of the Case IH tractor range and could not be simpler. With the CVX you can set three virtual ranges which can be adjusted via a roller on the main control lever and flicked between via buttons. This effectively allows you to set a slow field working range, a fast field working range and maybe a transport range.
Controls have also been refined compared to the Pumas, now lighter and more responsive. It is also much more composed on the road compared to Pumas.
A particular highlight is that Case IH have finally caught up to the competition with a proper headland management system.
Disappointingly, Case IH did not take the opportunity to create a new cab for this range, one which could have eventually been filtered up and down the Case IH tractor ranges. At worst, the firm could have used the cab off the Magnum which would have afforded more space, much more befitting such a tractor. It is an area JD and Fendt are easily still in the lead.
However, Case IH says a new cab design is being looked into for future models and that it did try the Magnum cab, but overall tractor dimensions were too bulky.
Certainly within the Case IH range, the Optum is a much better option than the Magnum for pto and transport duties, as intended by the manufacturer, and is equally adept at getting the power down when needed for cultivation duties.