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Fendt reveals its version of Challenger’s tracked tractors

After months of teaser pictures floating around social media, Fendt finally reveals its new tracked tractor range. James Rickard takes a close look at the 900 Vario MT.



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The Fendt 900 Vario MT tracked tractors will be on sale in November 2017.
The Fendt 900 Vario MT tracked tractors will be on sale in November 2017.

Following the announcement that all Challenger products will be amalgamated into the Fendt brand for the Europe, Middle East and Africa regions and vice versa for North America, Fendt recently showed us what its version of a twin tracked tractor will look like.

Like the current tracked Challenger series, two ranges of Fendt tracked tractors will be available; the larger four-model 1100MT range, from 492 to 646hp; and the smaller three-model 900 Vario MT, from 380 to 430hp.

While the larger 1100MT sticks with the same V12 Agco Power engine, 16-speed Caterpillar transmission and Challenger cab interior, it is the smaller 900 Vario MT where things get interesting. More than just a fresh paint job and some new tin work, it has been heavily redeveloped to include a new undercarriage and track units, new cooling system, new transmission and new cab interior.


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It is literally just a new coat of paint for the 1100 MT.
It is literally just a new coat of paint for the 1100 MT.

But why redevelop the smaller models and not the largest? The manufacturer says the current simplicity of the 1100MT suites the heavy draft roles it carries out – it is essentially a self-propelled drawbar. However, the expanding roles of the smaller 900 Vario MT require it to be a more versatile and sophisticated tractor, more adept at handling duties such as drilling, bed forming, light cultivation and grain carting.

In terms of the Fendt tractor line-up, the new tracked 900 Vario MT will overlap with the top end of the wheeled 900 Vario Series and the bottom end of the 1000 Vario Series, while the tracked 1100MT will overlap with the top end of the Vario 1000 Series and beyond.

Representing the first major project between Agco’s Jackson factory, Minnesota (home of Challenger) and its Marktoberdorf facility, Germany (Fendt’s HQ), we take a close look at the new 900 Vario MT.

Fendt tracked tractor range overview

Model

Power

Engine

Transmission

938 Vario MT

380hp

In-line, seven-cylinder, 9.8l, Agco Power

Fendt Vario CVT

940 Vario MT

405hp

In-line, seven-cylinder, 9.8l, Agco Power

Fendt Vario CVT

943 Vario MT

431hp

In-line, seven-cylinder, 9.8l, Agco Power

Fendt Vario CVT

1149 MT

492hp

V12, 16.8l, Agco Power

Caterpillar 16-speed PS

1154 MT

536hp

V12, 16.8l, Agco Power

Caterpillar 16-speed PS

1159 MT

592hp

V12, 16.8l, Agco Power

Caterpillar 16-speed PS

1165 MT

646hp

V12, 16.8l, Agco Power

Caterpillar 16-speed PS

CVT = continuously variable transmission

PS = powershift

Engine and transmission

As its model number suggests, the 900 Vario MT gets a continuously variable transmission (CVT) derived from the firm's 1000 Vario Series wheeled tractor. This comprises a hydrostatic pump and two hydrostatic motors, with no mechanical range changes.

To adapt the Vario transmission to a tracked machine, the four wheel drive clutch which would normally be used to connect/disconnect the front and rear axle hydrostatic motors on the 1000 Vario has been replaced with a permanent shaft. This means all power can be transmitted directly to the rear drive wheels of the track units.

Like the 1000 Vario, the transmission will automatically transmit all power mechanically to the drive wheels at top speed, increasing transmission efficiency, it says.

Power comes from a 9.8-litre, seven-cylinder, Agco Power engine. Similar to the MAN engine used in the wheeled Fendt 1000 Vario, it has also been tuned to match the operating requirements of the Vario transmission. With a maximum operating speed of 1,700rpm, maximum torque is produced between 1,200 and 1,600rpm. On the road it can achieve a top speed of 40kph at 1,550rpm.

And because it uses a CVT, there is no need for high revs to compensate for the momentary loss of transmission of power in between powershift gear changes, says the manufacturer.

Keeping things cool is the same push type fan cooling concept as found on the 1000 Vario, which forces air through the radiators. As a result, the manufacturer says air travelling through the radiators is cooler and denser.

Hydraulic fan drive also allows the fan to vary its speed and only run as much as it needs to, and in reverse.

Undercarriage and track units

Said to improve grip and comfort, the 900 Vario MT gets an all new undercarriage and track units.

Developed by Agco's track experts at Jackson, Minnesota, where the tracked tractors will continue to be built, the track units are now 13cm longer, increasing footprint, and now feature a proper suspension system. This comprises helical springs with integrated pressure surge dampers, hydraulic shock absorbers for damping if bouncing occurs and a torque rod stabiliser to provide the chassis with lateral stability.

In all, the suspension offers suspension travel of 260mm (measured on the front guide wheel). It also allows a swing angle of 11 degrees on each track unit, pivoting from the rear drive wheel, comparable with the front axle suspension of a wheeled tractor, says the manufacturer.

In addition, three mid-rollers are fitted in the track frame via a new pendulum ‘bogie in bogie’ suspension system. This allows the track rollers to be adjusted to follow ground contours in the fields and on the roads. Other benefits include an even weight distribution over the track’s contact patch, adds Fendt.

Hydraulics and rear-end

The back-end of the 900 Vario MT is based on the 1000 Vario Series. However, to make it more suited to heavy draft towing work, the area around the drawbar has been heavily reinforced. Several drawbar options are also available.

Also, because the tracks take up more space compared to wheels, link-arm stabiliser blocks are used instead of stabiliser arms.

Up to two load-sensing hydraulic pumps can be specified, each with 220l/min capacities, which can supply two separate circuits. This allows one circuit to provide a high volume of oil at low pressure and one to provide low volume of oil at high pressure, for example.

The 900 Vario MT’s hydraulic fittings allow for a flow rate of up to 140l/min each, with the option of 170l/min-capable fittings. Flat faced couplers are also an option.

Cab and controls

Unlike the 1100MT, the 900 Vario MT’s interior has been thoroughly Fendt-ised. It still uses the same frame as before, but now gets a Fendt Vario terminal for all tractor set-up and the familiar armrest controls and joystick for tractor operation.

For operator comfort, the 900 Vario MT is fitted with a two-point cab suspension system, consisting of two dampers with rubber buffer at the front of the cab and helical springs with integrated shock absorber at the back. Total spring travel on the cab rear is 98mm.

As for the exterior, many design cues have been taken from the 1000 Vario including its aggressively styled bonnet and cab roof arrangement.

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