Just when you thought other manufacturers were starting to catch up with Fendt, the Bavarian manufacturer has once again taken a technological leap into the future. James Rickard reports.
It has been 12 months since Fendt previewed its highly anticipated 1000 Vario tractor series, but since then the firm has held its cards very close to its chest as to what is under the skin of the new beast. However, we can now reveal what makes the 1000 Vario tick, and it is not just as straight forward as a beefing up a 900 series.
The development of the 1000 Vario series follows the manufacturer’s identification of a gap in the market between standard tractors, which currently have a tendency to top out at about 400hp, and where 17 tonne plus tracked and articulated machines take over.
Ulrich Hufnagel, head of product marketing says; “The trouble with tracked and articulated machines is that they are just too rigid with what they can do. They are also heavy with the inability to shed weight when necessary.
Fendt’s marketing director, Rowland Schmidt says; “The 400 to 500hp segment accounts for only about 2,500 tractors per year around the world, half of which are in North America. We are confident we can compete in this limited market because of the 1000’s ability to do more than one or two jobs, from heavy cultivations to road work.”
Four models make up the new series; the 380hp 1038, 420hp 1042, 460hp 1046 and the range-topping 500hp 1050.
For the new range, Fendt engineers have certainly thought outside the box, perhaps reinvented the box. Ed Dennett, UK and Ireland sales support specialist says; “Rather than taking the easy option and just beef up a 900 series, which would have worked perfectly well, Fendt’s way is to look at a product and work out how to make it better.
“As a result, the 1000 series is a completely new tractor with few components used or adapted from our other tractor ranges.”
Taking a leaf out of the truck industry, Fendt has adopted a low revving, high torque development approach to the power unit of the 1000 series. Using MAN engines, developed to Fendt’s specifications, the 12.4-litre motors used have been redesigned to become a structural part of the tractor.
Rated engine speed is a lowly 1,700rpm, but more astonishing is the 2,400Nm of torque which is available between 1,100rpm and 1,500rpm. This large working range is in no small part thanks to the use of a variable geometry turbo, offering little turbo lag with a more consistent power output, says the manufacturer.
Keeping things cool is a push type fan which forces air through the radiators. As a result of pushed air, the manufacturer says air travelling through the radiators is cooler and denser. In this case, air is drawn in at an angle, coming in through the top portion of the grill. It is then channelled through the cooling package and down and out the sides of the engine bay.
To reduce fan vibration, it is not directly connected to the engine and is mounted at the front of the engine bay, driven by a hydraulic motor. This means the gap between the fan and the cowling can be minimised – 1-2mm – and therefore be more efficient, says the manufacturer. Hydraulic drive also enables the fan to vary its speed and only run as much as necessary, and in reverse. In all, Fendt reckons an efficiency gaining of 25-70 per cent compared to a conventional system.
On the emissions front, the MAN motor uses a combination of selective catalytic reduction and external exhaust gas recirculation to meet Stage 4. Thanks to the engine’s low revving characteristics, it does not need to use a diesel particulate filter or diesel oxidation catalyst.
For the first time, the manufacturer developed both the engine and the transmission in parallel with each other to achieve optimum overall performance. This resulted in the creation of a new transmission, the TA 400, permitting a maximum speed of 60kph at 1,450rpm, or 40kph at 950rpm.
Like the 900 series it comprises one hydrostatic pump and two hydrostatic motors. However, in the 1000’s case, one of the motors drives the rear axle, while the other one drives the front axle.
To prevent drag losses from the front wheels (pictured) being pushed around, which occurs in conventional drive trains and can sap up to 36 per cent of the energy applied to the ground by the rear wheels, the front axle is powered up to a speed of 25kph at which point drive to the front axle disconnects. At top speed, drive is completely mechanically transferred to the rear axle.
From the hydrostatic pump, oil is free to take the path of least resistance to either of the two motors. This enables variable torque distribution between the two axles giving the benefits of no transmission wind-up, no power loss due to friction, reduced tyre wear and improved turning circle.
However, if the tractor detects too much difference in axle speeds, during heavy cultivation for example, a mechanical 4WD will kick in automatically.
Being a high powered conventional tractor, a key challenge, and one which will make or break the tractor, will be harnessing the 1000’s power and getting it to the ground.
Mindful of this, Fendt has developed a system to help operators get the most out of the machine. Called Grip Assist, it can be accessed through the Vario Terminal and advises how much ballast is required, where to distribute it and what tyre pressures you should use, based on the job being carried out, tyre sizes and working speed.
It works in combination with the Vario Grip option, which allows operators to alter tyre pressures from the cab, on the go via an onboard compressor.
Trelleborg and Michelin are the tyre partners tasked with producing the gargantuan 2.35m diameter rear tyres required to get the 1000’s power down. Maximum tyre sizes which can be fitted are 900/70 R46, and up to 1,250kg of ballast can be added to each rear wheel.
High capacity hydraulics are afforded via two hydraulic circuits with two independent axial piston pumps; one circuit for the left hand bank of spools and one for the right. This allows them to meet demands for different flow and pressure levels, says the manufacturer. For example, one bank can provide high flow, low pressure, while the other bank low flow, high pressure.
Depending on spec, total oil flow can be either be 169l/min, 228l/min or 430l/min. As before, transmission and hydraulic oil supplies are separate.
Various options can be specified at the rear including flat faced hydraulic couplings, a two speed pto (1,000 and 1,000E), rear linkage with quick couplers and quick hitch frame.
A fully integrated front linkage can also be specified, or just a simple lift mechanism to carry ballast.
To help see the front linkage, particularly when hitching up, there is a camera located in the bottom of the Fendt badge.
Up-top, it gets a cab based on the one used on the 800 and 900 series tractors. The new X5 S is said to offer more comfort and improved climate control, with interior panelling featuring soft-touch surfaces. For extra visibility the side windows have been made larger, with the right-hand one getting a 250 degree wiper. As on the smaller models it gets a one-piece windscreen featuring a 300 degree wiper.
Pretty much the same operating logic and control layout is employed, except for the missing range change and 4WD selection buttons, as the former does not happen anymore and the latter is automatic.
In addition to the manual handbrake, an automatic handbrake is now included which applies when the tractor comes to a complete stop and releases when the accelerator pedal is pressed.
For comfort, the 1000 employs four-point air cab suspension, as well as double wishbone, independent front suspension. Also, a new adjustable steering column enables drivers to work in a better position.
A new lighting concept, taken from the automotive industry, allows headlight levelling, a third braking light is incorporated into the cab roof, and daylight running lights warn other road users that a whopping great tractor is approaching.
Production of the 1000 Vario series starts next year with deliveries expected for harvest. Orders can be taken for the new tractor from November this year. Prices TBA.