Billed as a high specification compact tractor, John Deere’s latest 6RC tractor range fills the gap left by the smaller 30 Series Premium machines. James Rickard puts one to the test on-farm.
With production of the 30 Series now completely stopped, John Deere had a bit of range gap filling to do with regards its compact tractors.
As launched in Berlin in 2013, the result was the creation of the 6MC and 6RC ranges – C meaning compact, M representing standard specification and R being premium machines.
Sitting just below the larger 6 Series machines, between the two specifications of tractor the 6Ms and 6Rs comprise tractors ranging from 90hp to 120hp. Spec-wise, the Rs feature, over and above the Ms, AutoQuad and AutoQuad EcoShift powershift transmission options, Intelligent Power Management (IPM) and closed centre hydraulics. The Ms, however, can be fitted with low profile cabs and both can be specced with Triple Link Suspension.
To get a feel of these new pint-sized tractors, we tried out a 90hp (rated) 6090RC fitted with the firm’s own H310 loader with parallel lift, carrying out yard and field duties.
Following JD family styling, the 6RC looks a smart and aggressive tractor. That JD familiarity continues inside with a very predictable operating environment, not differing too much from the 30 Series machines it replaces. Non-JD users should find it not too much of a head scratch either.
Main controls are laid out well, but you can see the gearstick, spool levers and loader joystick have fought for space and the result is a bit of a compromise – you cannot really rest your arm while you use the joystick and the gearstick can get intimate with your right leg.
However, a really handy feature is the incorporated gear change buttons into the loader’s joystick, meaning once a range is selected, your right hand hardly leaves the ‘stick.
For some basic headland management, you can use the iTec feature which automates differential lock, four wheel drive and pto activation, based on the rear linkage position. To use, simply select the functions you want by putting them in auto, then turn on iTec.
Pto activation can also be primed in a similar way so you can activate the pto via the rear fender buttons.
Confusingly though, and like an out of control AC/DC concert, the differential and 4WD switches do not rock in the same direction.
Visibility all-round is pretty decent, aided by curved rear quarter windows and a generous transparent roof for loader work, both of which open for a bit of fresh air. However, thanks to a rather big and boxy bonnet, views to the headstock, on the ground, are practically non-existent.
This makes for a bit of guesswork during operation, particularly knowing where the edges of a bucket are, and it makes hitching up to attachments more of a challenge.
Also, having the parallel linkage mechanism positioned on top of the loader booms does not help visibility either.
Under the bonnet, JD has shoe-horned in a 4.5-litre power unit. The problem this causes is things are a little cramped. While the radiators do slide out, there is not a huge amount of room for hands to get in and clean debris off. The bonnet also needs lifting to dip the engine.
In terms of performance, we were left a little underwhelmed with the 90hp available. Although this boosted to 104hp for pto work, as we found on muck spreading duties the engine does need a little encouragement to get the rotary spreader turning. Once spreading though, and IMP has kicked in, it handled it well. If more power is what your after then there is the option of the more powerful 6110RC.
Equipped with a John Deere H310 loader with mechanical self levelling (hydraulic self levelling or no levelling are options), we also got the chance to see what the 6090RC was like as a loader tractor.
A quick coupling device mounted near the headstock on the loader affords quick hydraulic attachment of grabs, etc, but the multi-coupler would be much better mounted on the headstock itself. This would negate the need for excessive pipe work on the attachment. since this test, this has been rectified and the multi-coupler now resides on the headstock.
Majority of pipe routing is done through the loader’s frame, making it very neat, although when it gets to the tractor, a big bank of pipes run under the cab which look really susceptible to damage.
Loader construction looks solid with all pivot points and brackets made out of cast steel. And thanks to the tractors’ chassis which spreads the loader’s weight, the loader’s brackets can be kept relatively small with no extra bracing.
Even with a hefty load up front, steering is super light. Good hydraulic flow soon became apparent, as the tractor needed hardly any revs to achieve swift loader actions.
Dropping the loader on and off is a doddle too – one of the simplest in the industries secured with two, reassuringly large pins.
While the gearbox used in the 6RC is getting long in the tooth, there is no denying JD’s powershift transmission works very well, in our case a 24 by 24 speed AutoQuad.
With four gears in six ranges, powershifts are smooth and instant with plenty of ratio choice - if only it was six gears in four ranges. Gears are also speed matched between ranges and a de-clutch button on the gearstick does mean a bit less legwork when changing ranges.
Similarly, shuttle direction changes are responsive and smooth and the clutch pedal light and short.
Essentially using a 5R cab, a 30 Series powertrain and some 6R styling, one could be forgiven that the 6RC is a bit of a lazy update, and that it was only done because of engine emissions.
However, by using tried and tested components and knowhow, the 6RC does give you a good sense of confidence in the product. The tractor’s predictable operating nature is also a major plus, particularly with casual staff – it just feels right.
Is it a little too high spec for this particular type of work? Maybe, but we have all become accustomed to the creature comforts in life such as powershift transmission and integrated loader controls.
Overall the 6090RC is a good all-rounder and makes for a decent loader tractor package - just could do with a more sightline-friendly bonnet.