Being the most popular specification of John Deere’s 5 series, we were keen to see how the 5100R (tested) fared against its competitors.
With a four-speed powershift transmission, its level of specification looks quite high compared to the other two, but will its shorter wheelbase and lighter weight have a positive or negative effect on stability when it tries to handle the same loads as the slightly heavier machines?
Launched back in 2008, with production starting the following year, the new series replaced the old 5020 range, with the 5100R as a new additional top model.
Major updates included the use of common rail engines and active charge air coolers, similar to the concept found on the 6Rs.
A de-clutch button for range changes was also added, along with quieter cabs and an increased payload capacity.
On first impressions, the 5100R’s cab feels a little cramped compared to the others. Despite this, it is a pleasant place to work.
Everything is well laid out in the usual John Deere order which many people have become accustomed to. It is relatively easy to work out for first time Deere drivers too.
The biggest niggle is the transmission lever, which is a bit low for our liking. It also accommodates the powershift change buttons and a de-clutch button, which are placed one above the other with the de-clutch button at the top. This can lead to the de-clutch button being pressed accidentally when you actually wanted to select a higher gear.
Perhaps relocating the de-clutch button to the front of the lever, like the New Holland and the Claas, could avoid this.
As you would expect from an ‘R’ (premium) specification Deere, there are a few electronics to make life easier, such as electric pto engagement and rear linkage control, and a four-speed powershift transmission.
Powershift buttons are also replicated on the loader joystick, allowing gear changes to be made without having to take your hand off the ‘stick’, which is a real bonus around the yard. The joystick has also been re-designed to make it more convenient to use.
The dashboard is made up of half digital display and half analogue dials, which are clear and concise.
It also moves with the steering column when steering wheel reach and rake is adjusted.
Unlike the other two, the Deere’s ventilation ports are located in the roof, which kept all windows clear, although airflow to left-hand side of the cab is slightly lower than the right.
A few cubby holes provide a bit of storage and there is good space around the seat, which features a lip to stop pins and balls, for example, from rolling around the cab floor.
The passenger seat is comfortable for passengers, but does take a bit of dodging on entry and exit.
Even though the Deere has not got the biggest doors in the world, cab access is good, providing the steering wheel has been folded forward out of the way.
All-round visibility is good, thanks to a roof window and large rear quarter windows.
In combination with the driving position, the loader’s tool carrier is quite close to the tractor, putting you nearer to the action.
The cab, though, could just do with a bit more head room for taller operators.
Thanks to a 65 litre per minute pressure compensating hydraulic system, the John Deere’s loader is fairly swift, without too many revs required.
However, due to its mechanical parallel linkage mechanism, which is on top of the loader arms, it does produce a few blind spots, especially down to the front wheels. This is not good when trying to dodge sticking out hinges in narrow passageways.
The tractor’s full frame design is said to spread weight, and when fitting a loader requires less bracing and brackets compared to cast iron block tractors. It is also one of the easiest to hook attachments to, thanks to decent sight lines down to the tool carrier.
Before even consulting the manual, how to get the JD’s loader on and off is the most obvious out of the three - two big pins, one either side, hold the loader in-place.
Once the stand legs are dropped, these are pulled out, the whole loader tilted up to clear a pair of hooks, and the hydraulic multi-coupling disconnected.
A hook is provided to hang the coupler on for storage.
Pins are held in a retainer when not in use. However, they can be a bit fiddly to get in and out, as one is behind the multi-coupler and the other behind the toolbox mounted on the loader.
The two main pins provide a good sense of safety, unlike a mechanism which you cannot see.
While the loader is simple to use, pipework looks a little exposed down the sides of the loader arms, especially when compared to the MX on the Claas.
Around the yard and in and out of buildings, we found the Deere had a good manoeuvrability, with some steering lock in reserve if front fenders were removed.
Despite being the lightest tractor in the group, we still found it capable and stable when handling heavy loads at height - at least on level ground.
John Deere has got its Power Quad transmission down to a fine art, and the 5100R’s 16 by 16 ‘box is no exception.
Powershift changes were both smooth and quick. Range changes were a little stiff, but we suspect this is down to it having only four hours on the clock.
Also included in the range selection is a parking position, which we like, making the handbrake almost redundant.
To achieve a compact engine bay, Deere has moved the intercooler from the front of the engine to a horizontal position above it, with its own electrically powered, variable fan.
Throttle response is a little lazy, especially compared to the spritely FPT-powered New Holland, although again this could be down to newness.
Daily maintenance access is good, with a handy pull out screen to keep radiators clean.
At the rear, three double-acting spool valves are standard. Ours was also fitted with a two- speed pto; 540 and 540E. A three-speed with a 1,000rpm setting is available as an option.
Rear fender controls make hooking up implements easier, and the drop links and stabilisers are simple to adjust. A telescopic pick-up hitch is also featured.