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On-test: Tracks add new dimension to 'Maggie’s' capabilities

Insights

So it has won two major European awards and claims to offer the best of both worlds with its combination of tracks and tyres. But is the new Case IH Magnum Rowtrac any good? James Rickard got behind the wheel to find out.

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Claimed to have the performance of a tracked machine and the spec and characteristics of a wheeled tractor, Case IH recently introduced its Magnum Rowtrac tractors.

 

Comprising a two-track, two-wheel design, the aim was to bridge the gap and provide to a certain extent an alternative to its smaller Quadtracs.

 

Paul Freeman, Case IH product marketing manager for large tractors, says; “While tyre technology has come a long way, tyres still have their limits especially when it comes to transport width restrictions. This is where the Rowtrac fits in with its ability to maintain a large footprint and narrow overall width.”

 

“While several other ideas of a tracked Magnum where considered, such as a twin track or a four track machine, it was a combination of wheels and tracks which provided the best mix of traction and manoeuvrability.”

 

Complimenting the firm’s five-model series of wheeled Magnums, ranging from 250-380hp (rated), Rowtrac versions of the top three models are available with 310hp, 340hp or 380hp. Engine management sees the top model boosted to 435hp.

 

In addition to finding out how a tracked Magnum performs, a drive of a Rowtrac 380 CVX also gave us the opportunity to check out the new continuously variable transmission (CVT) option and to see what the engine updates have done to the performance of the ‘Maggie’.

 

Case IH Rowtrac 380 CVX on test:

 

 

Tracks tech

Tracks tech

Up front, the Rowtrac is pretty much the same as a regular Magnum. However, at the rear, crown wheel and pinion and final drives are completely different, and are actually geared up to match the speed requirements of the track units. This, says the manufacturer, reduces torque loading and improves durability. The downside though, is that the Rowtrac option is factory fit only and not something which could be added to a wheeled Magnum.

 

A choice of trumpet housings can also be specified which give different track width options of 1,930mm, 2,032mm or 2,235mm (76, 80 or 88 inches). In addition, 406mm, 457mm, 610mm or 762mm (16, 18, 24 or 30 inch) wide tracks can be specified.

 

As you would imagine, the track unit design is very similar to the firm’s Quadtracs, albeit a bit taller and with a larger drive wheel.

 

Tracks are also positively driven via lugs and the track units oscillate around a central point. In theory this means the load exerted on the tracks should be slap bang in the centre, whether with an implement in the ground or lifted - unlike a twin track machine which shifts its load from front to rear.

Contour following

Contour following

To maintain track tension, a hydraulic cylinder pushes on the rear idler wheel. This is maintained every time any hydraulic function is used on the tractor. Pressure can also be released to remove the track.

 

Each of the track unit’s three double mid-rollers are mounted on their own frame which give to follow ground contours. The bottom of the mid rollers also sit 15mm lower than the two larger idler wheels. This, says the firm, is designed to reduce scuffing on hard surfaces such as roads, but maintain traction across the full length of the track in-field.

 

Even in-field, scuffing looked minimal – not much more than a conventional wheeled tractor.

Getting the power down

Getting the power down

Without any ballast, the Rowtrac is a naturally heavy tractor, weighing in at 18 tonnes with no extra ballast. Interestingly, that is the equivalent to a fully weighted Challenger MT 700 Series tractor, so you would expect pulling performance to be on a par.

 

In the UK, standard specification will include front linkage, allowing operators to alter the tractor’s balance by adding or removing weights, mainly to maintain pressure on the front wheels for steering.

 

Even in our challenging conditions of clay soils, rain and the odd random disused farm track lurking below the surface, the Rowtrac managed to effectively put all of its power down with minimal track slip. In fact, compared to a wheeled Magnum, the Rowtrac has about five times as much surface contact area.

 

The ability to lock the front and rear differentials was a big bonus for this test, with diffs unlocking automatically when the steering reached a certain angle.

 

Surprisingly at the headland, the Rowtrac handled just like any conventional wheeled tractor, without any tendencies to want to carry on in a straight line.

 

For comfort, suspension is afforded by the front axle and a suspended cab. An air seat also helps to iron out the bumps. However, even with little give from the track units, the ride is comfortable with none of that bounce you get with tyres.

CVT transmission and operation

CVT transmission and operation

Transmission-wise, the CVT you get with CVX spec is quite possibly one of the easiest in the industry to operate. Speed selection is via a pedal or proportional lever, and whichever one is ‘in front’, it has control.

It is the same operating logic as found on the firm’s smaller Maxxum CVX tractors and mid-range Pumas.

 

The transmission comprises four mechanical ranges and a hydrostatic swash plate pump to give the variable speed. During operation though, range changes are automatic and you hardly notice them.

 

What you can do is set three virtual ranges which can be adjusted via a roller on the main control lever and flicked between via buttons. This effectively allows you to set a slow field working range, a fast field working range and maybe a transport range.

 

Via a split throttle control, lower and upper rev limits can be set, either to maintain a pto speed or reduce revs for economy, for example. Overall, transmission is smooth and responsive.

New engines

To comply with the latest Stage 4 emissions legislation, the Magnums get sister firm, FPT’s latest Cursor 9 engines, using a selective catalytic reduction-only system to clean up exhaust emissions – known as Hi-eSCR.

 

A major step forward is the use of electronically controlled variable geometry turbos. This, says the firm, serves to manage power better, giving a more consistent power curve across the rev range. It is effectively like having a small turbo to spool up quickly and a large turbo to deliver the power.

 

Coupled with the CVT, the result is a responsive tractor with a keenness to get going.

Engine service intervals are also up to 600 hours.

Cab tweaks and new styling

Cab tweaks and new styling

Particularly for the Rotrac machines, AdBlue and fuel tanks have been re-sculpted to fit, and to give a more modern appearance. On the right-hand side, steps have been moulded into the fuel tank for easier access to clean windows, for example, aided by integrated handrails around the cab.

 

The air intake system has also been relocated to the left-hand A-post of the cab for better air cleaning in dusty environments – not that that was a problem in our rainy conditions.

 

One of The most notable styling tweak is to the roof line, which now features a new 360 degree LED lighting package, said to produce up to 60 per cent more light when compared to equivalent xenon lamps, while using less power.

 

Inside, more comfort is available as an option from a vented seat, and the latest multi-controller lever now benefits from backlit buttons.

FG Insight verdict

FG Insight verdict

As we found, the Rowtrac is quite adept at heavy cultivation, and should be proficient at lighter top work too.

 

A combination of wheels and tracks makes the Rowtrac a versatile machine, particularly when compared to the smaller Quadtracs it may be replacing. Standard pto, rear linkage and front linkage should also appeal, able to break the restraints of arable work only.

 

With its four points of ground contact, and consistent ground contact, it does seem on paper at least that it is more than a match for some twin track competitor machines.

 

One of the biggest surprises with this tractor is the lightness of controls – there is no wrestling this beast as you might expect from an American muscle tractor. It is also a very simple tractor to operate, particularly the CVT.

Magnum Rowtrac 380 CVX specifications

  • Engine: 8.7-litre, six-cylinder, FPT
  • Rated power: 379hp
  • Maximum power: 435hp
  • Maximum torque: 1,850Nm
  • Transmission: Continuously variable
  • Rear pto speed: 1,000rpm standard, 540 and 1,000rpm optional
  • Hydraulics: 221l/min standard, 282l/min with twin flow option
  • Maximum rear linkage lift capacity: 10,927kg
  • Retail price: £275,251
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