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On-test: Arion 400 Series sets high loader tractor standards

With its predecessor being a fairly bullet proof machine, the latest Arion 400 Series has a lot to live up to. To find out how it performs, James Rickard tested the top of the range 460.

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With more models, more spec choice and more power, the latest Arion 400 Series from Claas is quite a departure from its predecessor.

Sharing only the transmission with the previous 400s, the latest models get new engines, cabs and family styling.

 

Reflecting the varied tasks these tractors will be challenged with, the number of models has expanded from three to six, ranging from 90hp to 140hp. All models can be specified with open centre or load sensing hydraulics, along with a choice of standard or panoramic cab options. The two smallest models – 410 and 420 – can also be specified with a low profile cab with a flat roof, helped in part by the use of a smaller transmission housing compared to the four largest models.

 

Panoramic cabs are a new option for this range, giving 90 degrees of vertical, unobstructed forward views – ideal for use with a loader. And it is this new option we were keen to try out, particularly as Claas reckons 50 per cent of Arion 400s will leave the factory fitted with loaders. With that, we got our hands on a 140hp Arion 460 allied to a Claas-badged FL100 front-end loader, sourced from MX.

 

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Operation

Operation

From the outset, the tractor looks the part – a stocky little beast with angular family styling. That family feel continues inside the cab with the same dash and steering column as used in larger Claas tractors.

 

Operating logic is similar too, albeit with a slightly different layout. For example, transmission control is via a roller switch integrated into the tractor’s main control lever. Like larger CIS- and Cebis-spec Arions and Axions, it is a simple case of nudging this switch forwards or backwards to change a powershift. A heavier nudge will push the switch through a detent which results in a range change – no levers required. Also, when making a range change (for non-pto jobs), the tractor automatically lowers the revs.

 

Gear changes are swift and smooth, with changes shown on the dash and on an LCD screen on the A pillar.

 

Transmission can be operated in one of two modes; road or field. Field limits powershift changes to within a range, while road mode allows you to use the transmission like a full powershift gearbox, without the need to push through the detent within the roller switch.

 

As an option, an automatic transmission mode can be specified.

Integrated controls

Integrated controls

As before, the new Arions, regardless of spec feature an integrated joystick into the right-hand armrest (those without a loader get a ‘fixed’ joystick). As well as loader operation, it now features more functions than before including controls for transmission, rear linkage, and engine speed memory selection.

 

It is really good to use too, very precise, very smooth, conveniently putting all primary functions to hand. Unlike many other loader control solutions, this has been designed from the outset to be integrated into the tractor, not an afterthought or a compromise. The only addition we would like to see is the ability to physically lock the ‘stick solid when the loader has been removed, particularly for transport work.

 

Secondary controls for rear linkage, along with pto speed selection can be found on the right hand B pillar. There is no comprehensive headland management system as such, although there are ‘dummy’ buttons scattered around the cab to suggest this is on the cards. However, there is automatic activation and deactivation of pto triggered by setting a point within the lift range of the rear linkage, at which point the pto will either be activated or deactivated.

Ergonomics

Ergonomics

Potential buyers will be pleased to know the tractor comes with a proper six post cab, without big floppy barn doors – ideal for jumping on and off.  And with it you get two rear opening quarter windows.

 

Access is good, even with the passenger seat folded down and steering wheel in place. Steering wheel position can be adjusted and a foot pedal quickly sees the sprung-loaded steering column move away from you to help exiting.

 

A small but annoying design feature is the ‘flat’ steering wheel. The actual wheel could do with being more prominent. As it is, when making turns, your palm constantly scuffs the spokes of the wheel. It is the same problem for the larger tractors, but highlighted more on this tractor because of yard work which requires a lot of maneuvering.

Panoramic cab

Panoramic cab

However, the panoramic cab’s party piece is the phenomenal visibility afforded by the removal of the cab’s forward cross member, giving uninterrupted views of the loader from the floor to full height - for the most part anyway. Its big bonnet does hinder views slightly to attachments when on the ground.

 

Up past the bonnet though, visibility is unsurpassed by any other tractor. Once loader work is done or if the sun is getting in your eyes, a roof blind can be pulled forward and another blind can be pulled down.

Engine

Engine

Under the bonnet of the Arion 400 it is practically a scaled down version of the larger Axion 800s. And like the Axions, it is out with Deere Power Systems engines and in with Fiat Powertrain Technologies motors. Meeting Stage 4 emissions levels via the use of selective catalytic reduction and a diesel oxidation catalyst, the new four-cylinder motor is said to be cleaner and leaner.

 

As we found, it is a feisty motor with a raring-to-go sort of attitude. No gimmicky boost features also add to the appeal of this power plant, which offers up maximum available power all the time regardless of operation.

Front-end

Front-end

Taking another design principal from the Axions, Claas has developed its own ‘stressed’ sump design for the 400s. This enables loaders and front linkages to be fitted without the need for extra bracing, affording tighter turning circles as a result.

 

Access to radiators is spot on too which fold out like a fan giving plenty of space to get your hands and air lines in. A flat plate underneath the radiators prevents dust and dirt build-up offering easy cleaning.

 

Something the 400s have never had before is front axle suspension. This has now been rectified with the ability to spec the same Carraro-made independent suspension system as used on the larger 500s.

 

It does a good job too, as we found when hauling slurry down some bumpy farm tracks. However, it is quite a maintenance intensive unit with several grease points to keep happy - a dealer-fitted, centralised greasing option is available.

Loader

Loader

As far as loader choice goes, we do not think Claas has gone far wrong with its partner, MX. It and the tractor are a good match and the loader has some pretty user friendly features such as quick coupling of hydraulics and a simple headstock locking mechanism.

 

Of particular note, an automatic locking mechanism allows quick and safe attachment and reattachment of the whole loader in a matter of seconds. However, you do need a good aim when drawing up to the loader, as the tractor’s big bonnet does not leave much room for error.

 

Having the parallel linkage controlled via hydraulics also means visibility over the top of the booms is not compromised by a mechanical linkage system.

Back-end

Back-end

At the rear, ours came with two mechanical service valves, although electric spools can be specified with load-sensing hydraulics.

 

For mechanical valves, flow rate can be adjusted via taps at the rear. In-cab, the spool levers also feature a handy rotary dial which can be used to lock or limit lever movement.

 

Ours was specced with 110l/min load-sensing hydraulics which offered very swift loader actions with little revs – only really topping 1,200rpm when mucking buildings out.

 

In true Claas logic style, there is handy ball and drawbar storage at the rear – where they should be.

 

Further storage can be found underneath the right hand side of the cab, with a proper solid box which opens up to reveal battery access and a decent-sized tool box.

Pickup hitch

Pickup hitch

One possible contentious issue at the rear could be the use of a chain type pickup hitch.

 

Depending on your preference we were quite impressed by the alternative system to using conventional lift rods. With it, lift rods are not required, just a hydraulic service which moves the chains in/up and out/down. A conventional locking mechanism holds it in place for transport.

 

While it is simple to use, a slight down side is the reduced controllability you get when it comes to positioning the hook. The hook is also positioned relatively high within the carriage which means you need deep enough skids on the drawbar.

FG Insight verdict

FG Insight verdict

Aside from a few niggles such as a flat steering wheel and the inability to physically lock the joystick, we were mightily impressed with the new Arion 400 Series.

 

As a £1,000 optional extra, we reckon the panoramic cab option will be a popular choice. In combination with the integrated loader controls and swift hydraulics, the tractor really does lend itself to loader work. That is not to say it is not more than capable in-field.

 

It is certainly up there with high spec loader tractors from the likes of Massey Ferguson’s 5600 Series, Fendt’s new 300 Series and JD’s 6RC Series.

Arion 460 specifications

  • Engine: 4.5-litre, four-cylinder, FPT
  • Maximum power: 140hp
  • Maximum torque: 570Nm
  • Transmission: 16 by 16 semi-powershift in four ranges
  • Hydraulics: 110l/min load-sensing
  • Rear linkage maximum lift capacity: 5,750kg
  • Overall height with panoramic cab: 2,765mm
  • Wheelbase: 2,525mm
  • Retail price: £79,890 base, £98,000 as tested with loader
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