With efficiency and versatility the aim of the game, JCB has finally put the old 2000 Series Fastrac out to pasture, which can trace its lineage back to 1995 with the 1100 Series, and replaced it with the new 4000 Series.
As we found in last week’s five-way tractor test, versatility and efficiency are key to the latest tractor developments, with manufacturers shifting towards higher power to weight ratio machines.
With this design mantra, JCB has gone back to the original concept of the Fastrac, as a systems tractor with equal wheels, mid-mounted cab, rear deck and multiple mounting points.
Combining favourite features such as outboard disc brakes, ABS and all-round suspension, the firm has also developed a brand new cab and included a continuously variable transmission as standard – two key areas which came under heavy criticism on the previous 2000 Series.
Ranging from 160-220hp (rated), JCB has gone for the jugular with the 4000 Series, aiming directly at the mass volume tractor market in Europe, which accounts for about 30,000 units. UK, Germany and Scandinavia are three biggest European markets for the Fastrac.
Three models make up the range; the 4160, 4190 and 4220, with rated powers relating to the last three digits of the model numbers – maximum powers are 175hp, 208hp and 235hp respectively.
Power is courtesy of 6.6-litre Agco Power engines using selective catalytic reduction and a diesel oxidation catalyst to meet Stage 4 emissions regulations.
To prevent freezing, the AdBlue tank is insulated by the diesel tank and is heated.
A Fendt-derived ML180 is the transmission of choice for the 4000. The continuously variable transmission offers a low range of from 0-40kph and a high range going from 0-60kph. Switching between the two ranges can be done on the go.
The tractor can be driven using one of three main modes; Drive which is essentially automatic, Manual which does what it says on the tin and Powershift mode which provides speed changes in incremental steps. Within each mode, cruise speeds can be set as can constant pto speeds.
All are easily selectable via a combination of the tractor’s touchscreen terminal and joystick-mounted button, allowing you to toggle between modes, which can also be incorporated into a headland management sequence.
Tractor enthusiasts will know the 2000 Series never really had its own cab, just a modified back hoe cab. And that really hurt the 2000.
For the 4000 though, it gets its own dedicated, specially-designed operator environment.
A stand out feature is its negatively raked windscreen which has not only been designed to give good views, but give shade in direct sunlight – much like a canopy. The forward-raked windscreen also provides more upper body space, with enough room to literally swing a cat.
JCB has gone with a slim, six-post design affording rear opening quarter windows for a bit of fresh air.
The result is a much more airy and pleasant place to work with a commanding view of operations.
For those familiar with the larger 8000 Series, the 4000 gets the same operating principal, with primary controls incorporated into the right-hand armrest. This includes a joystick for transmission control, integrated into which are buttons for headland management activation and drive modes, plus four buttons which can be assigned various functions such as linkage, spools and guidance activation.
A simple to navigate touchscreen terminal takes care of all tractor set-up and adjustment, while a separate Trimble-sourced screen can be specified for precision farming applications, such as guidance, variable rate application and IsoBus implement control.
Four wheel steering is available on all three models. A knob, similar to that found on Loadalls, makes steering mode selection much easier. It allows you to select either two or four-wheel steer, plus a customised setting which can be selected via the tractor’s touchscreen terminal, including crab and delayed steering modes.
This custom steering mode can also be integrated into a headland management sequence, allowing, for example, two-wheel steering while ploughing then switching to four-wheel steer at the headland.
Four-wheel steer is automatically switched to two-wheel steer at speeds above 25kph, this re-engages when you drop below 25kph.
Fast steer is a new option which reduces steering wheel effort from four turns lock to lock down to two.
One of the 2000 Series’ biggest problems was incompatibility within mixed fleets, particularly implement pto and hydraulic pipe lengths.
To address this, the firm has repositioned the pto and all service coupling points closer to the link arm ends, bringing them closer to the attached implement.
Also, rear linkage geometry has been improved to give more ‘kick-up’ of mounted implements, creating much more clearance for a plough to turn over, for example.
Holding everything together is a new chassis. Designed to hug the components like a skin, it allows tight turning circles of less than 10 metres.
Swinging off this is a new, hydro-pneumatic, suspension system designed to self level. However, as an option you can get a double-acting version which transfers weight to maintain equal loading on each wheel. This allows tyres to be run at much lower pressures compared to conventional tractors.
Suspension can also be stiffened and manually adjusted through its 135mm of travel, enabling the tractor to ‘squat’ under a demountable implement, raise up and drive off, for instance.
Anti roll bars provide stability, most noticeable with deck-mounted equipment such as a sprayer or hopper.
While you could fit a loader before, it is now a lot simpler thanks to pre-drilled holes. It does not look out of place either and adds to the tractor’s flexibility.
With four-wheel steering it has enough agility to make it a viable option in the confines of a yard, plus the Fastrac’s suspension coupled with the loader’s suspensions, makes it a smooth operator across rough fields.
Visibility to the tool carrier, when on the floor, is not too shabby for a 200hp tractor either, and upward sight lines are aided by an optional, none-token, roof window.
Front linkage can also remain in place with a loader fitted.
For maintenance the cooling pack folds out in a ‘Z’ pattern allowing you to get your hands in, and the engine dipstick can be got at without having to lift the bonnet. Hydraulic levels can be seen via a sight glass near the left-hand steps, while transmission levels can be checked via another dipstick at the rear.
For more serious maintenance, the cab can be tilted back by 30 degrees allowing access to the top of the transmission and hydraulic pumps.
With all the improvements, the 4000 Series is now a very hard tractor to ignore. And while it is considered a specialist tractor, we think its versatile nature means it is suitable for everyone from a one-man contractor up to large-scale farms and contracting outfits.
It is quite possibly one of the most, if not the most, versatile tractor we have ever driven, completely blowing away the misconception the Fastrac is just a haulage tractor.
While its suspension, braking and handling credentials have proved themselves on the road, in the field they help get the power down, spread weight and maintain balance, making it more than capable off the black stuff. And just to add to its versatility, a loader option adds another dimension.
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