Sitting at the top of a 12-model series, our machine was the Direct version with a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) in four ranges and electronic armrest controls.
Other versions include HiTech, which is predominantly mechanically controlled; HiTech 5, with a more sophisticated semi-powershift transmission; and Versu, which also includes electronic armrest-mounted controls.
Visually, inside and out the N’s cab remains the same. There have been a few revisions and upgrades though. Not least the main control arm, which receives a colour terminal instead of the old monochrome version. It is much easier to see and has day and night modes, as well as the ability to alter brightness.
The armrest-mounted hydraulic joystick control now has an extra function which allows it to control the front linkage and a rear spool at the same time, unlike its predecessor.
Pto, 4WD and auto-steering buttons have been relocated on the armrest for convenience.
And, instead of having to go through the terminal, a lot of the tractor’s other primary functions are easy to access via either switches or knobs. These include controls for quick hydraulic flow set-up, transmission droop settings and engine braking.
At last, the N gets a proper, useful and logical headland management system. Sequences can be pre-programmed or recorded and then edited and saved.
Up to 32 functions can be put into a sequence, with the gaps between them dictated by time or distance. An extra headland management button lets you programme an in and an out sequence. Cruise control speeds can be pre-selected from stationary for engine and driving speeds.
On the road, towing a 7.3m (24ft) trailer with a load of straw, the N performed well. The ride was smooth and quiet, apart from a bit of transmission whine. However, it lacked a bit of get up and go.
Its ability to hold itself on a hill was impressive, without using a handbrake or putting it in park, and there is quite a decent amount of retardation from the transmission to assist braking. For economy, a top of speed of 53kph is achieved at 1,700rpm.
In the field, on mole ploughing duties, the 163 coped well with the sticky Northamptonshire clay. A bit more ballast and less tyre pressure would have not gone amiss.
For duties such as mowing and baling, a CVT control lever provides convenient control of forward speed, without the revs altering - good for backing off at headlands or in lumpy swaths.
Up front, the linkage has a lift capacity of 3.5 tonnes. Hooking up to implements is made easier with linkage and a spool valve controls mounted in the bonnet.
Thanks to a sculpted nose, when fitted with front linkage or a loader, the N’s turning circle is now less impeded compared to its predecessor. Life is made a little easier at the rear too, with an improved top-link retainer.
The rest of the back-end remains familiar and simple to use.