On paper, and when looked at individually, the latest updates to Case IH’s flagship combine look negligible. But as we found out in the field, when all the gains of each element are brought together, the net result is a considerable leap forward in capacity.
Since its launch in 1977, the single, longitudinal rotor concept of the Axial Flow has not changed a bit.
However, the technology has, and the latest round of updates includes new engines, reconfigured rasp bars, a new track option and a feed rate control system.
To see what difference these updates have made to the flagship model’s performance, we tested it in a crop of wheat and gave it the beans.
From the outset, it is hard to tell the difference between the 9240 and the current 9230, apart from the introduction of a new track option and a redesigned air intake screen.
However, it is what is on the inside that counts and the increase in engine performance soon gets your attention.
Power comes courtesy of FPT with its new 15.9-litre Cursor 16 engine. Continuing with its selective catalytic reduction approach to cleaning up emissions, the firm has taken this a step further and introduced Hi-eSCR to meet Stage 4 regulations.
Essentially is uses a bit more AdBlue than before to take care of the nitrous oxide - about 6-9 per cent depending on the situation - with diesel particulates burned off in the combustion process.
Case IH says it prefers this approach, rather than recirculating exhaust gasses through the engine, as it can optimise engine tuning. Also, engine service intervals can remain at 600 hours.
The increase in AdBlue use, it says, is offset by the increase in engine performance and the net increase in combine capacity.
Tree-hugging twaddle aside, the flagship produces 635hp and is a force to be reckoned with. Particularly in demanding situations such as unloading, chopping straw and/or climbing a hill, the 9230 could be a little bit lacking at times. The 9240, however, certainly addresses this.
The sheer grunt of the motor offers plenty of headroom to play with.
While it is not recommended, we pushed the engine load up to 135 per cent, at which point the rotor then becomes the limiting factor.
That said, you would not do this for an extended period of time, rather the extra engine capacity is kept in reserve for multiple operations.
Accompanying the new engine up top is a new, fixed air intake screen, which does away with the rotary screen. Instead, a rotating arm scavenges debris off the screen via a vacuum, which is then redirected to the floor.
Even though the cooling capacity has been increased with larger radiator packs, the space the new screen takes up is less than before, making it less susceptible to damage from branches.
To improve airflow to it, new slots have been sculpted into the side panels.
While there have been a number of changes to the deck, access remains pretty good for daily checks such as oil, coolant and air filter.
The area can also be kept relatively clean, as blown dust vents nicely outwards and down the sides of the combine.
One of the major things which Case IH did to increase capacity, and meet the demands for advocates of controlled traffic farming, was to introduce a new 12.5-metre header.
The natural progression since then has been to tweak the rotor to keep up with capacity. This has resulted in a complete reconfiguration of the rasp bars, particularly those in the early, threshing stages of the rotor.
A new rasp angle now means threshing is taken care of sooner, giving more separation time along the second portion of the rotor.
As we found, this makes much better use of the power available and really gives you the confidence to push on, with minimal fear of losses over the back.
For those unfamiliar with the single rotor concept on the Axial Flow, one of the major upshots is ease of access, due to the fact there are hardly any belts in the way. Most things are either hydraulically or shaft driven, which really helps when setting up or carrying out maintenance.
In fact, the concaves are so easy to swap, you can have them all whipped out in a matter of seconds.
Depending on which crops you are swapping between, there is quite a generous amount of electrically-actuated movement of the concaves from the cab, meaning a concave change might not be necessary.
Being able to do a decent run with a 12.5m header means a large grain tank is required, hence the increase to 14,400 litres.
There has also been a slight upgrade to the clean grain elevator and bubble-up auger to match the increase in capacity.
One thing which really focuses the mind is the 9240’s ability to empty its grain tank in about 90 seconds. A miss will result in either a lot of shovelling or some really fat pheasants.
Also driven by the increase in header size is the improvement to the residue spreading mechanism, which is now capable of spreading up to the full width of the header.
However, this is probably one area which could still do with a little work, as the current spreading disc solution can be susceptible to cross winds.
The cab remains pretty similar to the 9230, with the addition of a few useful features.
To kick off, there is a new feed rate control system, which is essentially a type of cruise control for use when harvesting, operating in two modes. Mode one takes information from load sensors on the header and feeder housing to optimise the forward speed of the combine.
For instance, if the load starts to increase, the combine will automatically slow down to compensate, and vice-versa.
Mode two takes additional information from grain loss monitors to automatically alter the forward speed accordingly. Sensitivity of these monitors can also be adjusted.
Also from the cab, the operator can now switch between chopping and swathing at the touch of a button.
Aggressiveness of chop can also be altered by adjusting the position of the counter knives in four stages from fully in to fully out.
Much of the combine setup and monitoring can be done through its AFS 700 touch-screen terminal, which niftily resides on rails, allowing it to slide back and forth to a position of the operator’s preference.
For the immediate stuff though, buttons still provide quick adjustment of preset header height for speed and sieve adjustment, for example, The terminal is now pre-wired to accept three video feeds, with ports in the wiring loom near the grain tank, rear end and unloading auger.
Before even getting to the field, the difference the new optional track system makes is noticeable.
Now featuring four mid-rollers, mounted on two bogies, the tracks offer 80mm of suspension travel, with the bogies oscillating in two directions to follow ground contours.
On the road, full suspension travel is available, offering almost tyre-like comfort.
For the field, the track unit can be firmed up to take the weight of the header and maintain traction.
That said, even in field mode, comfort is much better than the previous track design, which could offer quite a hard ride.
Coupled with the header’s suspension mechanism, the combine practically ‘floats’ - well, as much as a 23-tonne machine can float.
Two widths of belts are available - 610mm which allows for a transport width of less than 3.5m, and 724mm.
Even though the new 724mm width option is actually narrower than the previous track unit, which only offered a 762mm belt, it does offer a larger footprint.
To help with maintenance, all wheel hubs are transparent, so oil levels can be easily viewed.
Standard on the tracked combines is the use of variable speed motors in addition to the main hydrostatic drive unit.
Case IH says this offers better control of speed and improved torque characteristics. As the hydrostatic unit is not doing all the work, oil runs cooler, puting less stress in the drive train. This system is an option on the wheeled machines.
Top speed of the track units is 30kph (19mph).
With this latest range of combines, and the previous 30 series to some extent, Case IH seems to be on a bit of a charge at the moment, and quite rightly so given what we have witnessed in the field.
If the new 9240 has not already caught up with other leading flagship combines, it cannot be far off.
Even if you do not take performance into account, you would almost buy this combine on sheer ease of maintenance and setup alone.
However, thanks to its latest updates, it does have the performance expectations to match - at least in our test conditions.
The new control functions and tracks make it more user friendly and comfortable to use.
However, how much more can Case IH get out of this rotor? Surely it is at the limit, and no amount of power will alter that.
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