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On test: Valtra N163 - Good performance with looks to match

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.

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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.

Joystick control

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.

 

Front linkage

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.

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