Claas’ Arion series finally shook off a few ghosts when it emerged as a redesigned, stage 3b-compliant tractor at the end of 2012. But what should you be looking for with a second-hand purchase?
Geoff Ashcroft reports.
In 2012, Claas’ second-generation Arion range started to appear in stage 3b guise, featuring an all-new five-post cab and a revamped interior, plus a host of uprated mechanical components across the four-model range.
Code-named A36, it replaced the older type A19 available from 2007 to 2011, which featured a six-post cab and wore a much more rounded bonnet.
By far the best-selling Arion type A36 has been the 650, which packed a maximum output of 184hp from its Deere Power Systems engine.
It headed up a four-model range which also included 620, 630 and 640 models, which were separated bizarrely by a total of just 24hp.
The latest Stage 4 range about to replace the type A36 comes into service next month, and it sees the 620 and 640 models dropped, with a new flagship, the 205hp 660, sitting at the head of the Arion table.
“Specification levels were CIS and Cebis,” says Claas UK tractor specialist Alastair McCallum, who guides us around our 3,500-hour, 2013 example at Claas Western, Cirencester.
“CIS brought mechanical spool controls and a multi-function armrest, while Cebis brought a different armrest design carrying the CMotion joystick and greater functionality from electro-hydraulic spools.”
Factory-fitted auto-steering came in 2015, with older models requiring a retro-fit solution.
Updates were few and far between through its five-year life cycle, though a serial number check through any Claas dealership should reveal a service history, warranty repairs or upgrades, and of course, the definitive tractor specification.
With considerable experience of head gasket issues from the previous generation Arion, the Claas-derived head gasket modification cleared up 99.9 per cent of these issues with the A36 type.
The manufacturer reports a largely trouble-free operation of variable geometry turbo on this series. Previous models could gum-up and stick, with the actuator rod bending as a result.
Until 2015, the only transmission available was the Gima-derived Hexashift powershift. Supplied in 40kph (25mph) and 50kph (31mph) versions, it offered 24 by 24 gears, using four electronically-shifted ranges with six power splits in each range – all button operated.
Deere's 6.8-litre engine was shared with its own 6000 Series tractors, however, Claas sourced its own head gaskets.
Auto shifting and speed matching was standard, and the Hexashift ‘box could be extended with an optional creeper.
In 2015, Claas introduced its in-house designed CMatic continuously variable transmission to the Arion, featuring seamless speed selection from 0-50kph (0-31mph).
Service intervals were every 500 hours up front, and every 1,000 hours for the rear-end, which is shared with the transmission and hydraulic system.
Check the transmission and reverser for functionality and smoothness, and that neutral really does mean no drive, as this issue could crop up with heavily abused type A19 models. Beefed up forward and reverse clutch packs were fitted to the type A36, so should give trouble-free operation.
The Arion's light interior provides a bright and airy feel.
An all-new five-post cab sat atop of the A36 Arion range. As a five-post cab, operators got a full length right-hand door and an opening left-hand window. A curved, full width rear windscreen boosted rearward visibility too.
The four-point mechanical cab suspension system gained 30mm more movement with this generation Arion, and it brought three levels of adjustment through the torsion bars beneath the cab.
Grab the cab by the handles and give it a heave for clunks and movement to check springs, dampers and cab mounts.
Cebis spec brings with it the firm's well laid out armrest and CMotion joystick.
A good-sized passenger seat also revealed a fridge box below, although early models suffered with poor air conditioning.
Mr McCallum says: “It struggled to keep up with the increase in glass area and the extra heat entering the cab. Various upgrades took place, including software, to deliver better temperature regulation and greater cooling capability. Later models gained ‘A’ post outlets, where earlier models relied purely on dashboard ventilation.”
Light coloured plastics show dirt and grime, but do give a bright, airy interior compared to dark greys and blacks.
At the rear of the Arion 650, you will find a closed-centre load-sensing hydraulic system. Standard flow rate was 110 litres/minute, and there can be from three to six spools, all of which offer ‘release under pressure’ capability via an integral lever.
Cebis specification allowed flow rates and times to be adjusted through the in-cab terminal, while CIS flow rates were controlled by dials outside the rear window.
Rear-end is pretty well laid out, with convenient drawbar and link-ball stowage.
The Dromone push-back hitch had its plumbing integrated into the back of a spool, with a diverter valve accessed through the back window, to avoid having to reconnect when needed.
Importantly, the A36-type Arion gained larger brakes over the A19, with a new brake material in the rear axle offering better longevity and improved braking efficiency.
It also had grease-able half-shafts in the rear axle too. And if they have not been lubricated at the correct intervals, perhaps as a result of being serviced outside the dealer network, high-houred tractors could suffer from accelerated wear, and a costly rebuild would follow.
LED rear road lights were indicative of Cebis specification, as is remote operation of one spool valve on the rear wing.
All Arion 640 and 650 models came with integral brakes in the front axle, boosting brake efficiency in combination with the revised rear axle brakes.
And all 50kph (31mph) versions were fitted with Carraro’s Pro-active suspended and braked front axle.
While it did provide a smooth ride, it was maintenance-intensive and featured 21 grease nipples.
While it may provide top notch ride quality, the Carraro front axle does require regular attention with a grease gun.
Mr McCallum says: “A lazy operator could soon shorten the life of a front axle through lack of lubrication. It is worth looking after it, so look for signs the pins and joints have been getting regular lubrication.”
The front axle suspension was self-levelling, and could also be operated from the cab, so check it works.
Mr McCallum warns: “If the axle does not level up and respond evenly on both sides of the tractor, there could be seized pins or dry bushes which need attention.”
A Claas-developed optional front linkage was available direct from the factory, as was a front pto kit. When front linkage was specified, the tractor came equipped with chassis rails, offering greater rigidity to cater for the weight of front-mounted implements. So be wary of tractors with a retro-fitted front linkage which does not have chassis rails fitted.