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Pocket rocket tractor test: Cab and Controls

With five tractors in the running, which one will come out on top when it comes down to testing the cab and controls?

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Claas Arion 550 Cebis

Claas Arion 550 Cebis

Innovatively, the Claas does not use a four or six post cab, but rather a five-post design. Its three posts on the left affording a regular sized door that doesn’t flex or wobble like a wooden barn door.


This means the right-hand side offers an uninterrupted, panoramic view. The right hand door does open, but only a finely tuned racing snake stands a chance of squeezing past the Cebis terminal and steering wheel.


Good access is afforded even with the passenger seat in use, which also doubles as a table when the backrest is folded down. It also conceals a generously sized fridge below.


Pretty much all controls are on the right hand armrest, with just a smattering of buttons on the right rear pillar including secondary linkage controls, plus a conveniently placed linkage control for operating the pickup hitch.


Incorporated into the armrest is the novel Cmotion lever, which makes use of all your fingers by placing primary controls on a mouse-style lever which fits in the palm of your hand. With it you can control/activate transmission, linkage, spools, headland management, auto guidance and engine rpm memory settings.


Taking care of tractor set up and performance monitoring is the Cebis terminal. By far, it is one of the most intuitive in the industry to use, affording a very simple dash/home-screen followed by clear icons depicting all tractor functions. Primary navigation is via a scroll wheel but you can make useful shortcuts to the last tractor function used via the touch of a button. Making it touch-screen would be the icing on the cake.


Our machine was fitted with a roof window which gave decent views upwards, but the cheap and nasty blind to cover it really let the cab quality down, not to mention it goes with a bang every time the door is slammed.


The huge rear window needs a push and a half to get open, however we do like its deep, curved design which wraps around, giving good views of implements.


Deutz-Fahr Agrotron 6160.4

Deutz-Fahr Agrotron 6160.4

Thanks to the widest steps in the group, you could almost climb aboard the Deutz two-by-two. However, its big glass doors do flex a bit and you have to slam them ‘just so’ to shut the doors properly.


Once inside, Deutz’s signature barrage of colour, akin to Joseph’s technicolour dreamcoat, hits you right between the eyes. But it is for good reason – the bright colours refer to groups of control functions; yellow for pto, orange for engine and transmission, blue for hydraulics and green for linkage.


It is this simplicity which is the Deutz’s greatest appeal, with this particular specification getting the yes vote from those with a love of levers.


All levers are grouped neatly along the right hand console including spools, pto selection and gear stick, while on the armrest are fingertip controls for throttle, throttle memory, powershift, linkage, pto front and rear plus auto modes, differential lock and 4WD.


The dash looks the most dated in the group, but is very simple to absorb information. And gear selections are shown on an LCD screen tucked into the right hand A-post.


Climate controls are in a handy spot to the left on the fender, and along with most of the cab architecture, have a really chunky and solid feel.


Six cab posts are Deutz’s choice of design affording two small rear quarter windows, but unfortunately the manufacturer has missed trick as neither of these open. However, the rear window latch is nifty and allows full or half opening.


A huge plus the Deutz has over the rest is its visibility. Thanks to slim cab posts and a bonnet and rear mudguards which seem to fall away, visibility all round is excellent. The only thing to let it down is a rather fat exhaust spoiling the view.


Also standard is a transparent roof panel which gives you generous upwards visibility – great for a loader.


Massey Ferguson 6616 Dyna-6

Massey Ferguson 6616 Dyna-6

The moment you climb aboard, the Massey feels a big tractor. Our model had the firm’s mid-spec cab trim called Essenatil. This offered a good dollop of electronics and automation along with a modicum of mechanical features.


Placed on the armrest were controls for transmission, linkage, two electric spools and various buttons to activate pre-programmed features such as headland management, while two other mechanical spools and pto activation and speed selection resided on the console. Secondary linkage control knobs are on the right-hand B-post.


The firm’s Data Tronic terminal was also included, mounted on a rail to the right. We reckon this would be much better integrated into the armrest, like its bigger 8000 series brother.  It can be quite tricky to navigate when on the move as it is difficult to steady your arm when operating the scroll wheel.


Data Tronic takes care of a lot of the tractor’s set up including headland management, flow timings and rates, plus transmission. It can also be used for documentation and performance monitoring, graphically showing you how much it is costing to work an area of land.


As well as the scroll wheel, navigation can be done via hot keys corresponding to whatever is shown on the terminal adjacent to the keys. It is not too bad to navigate either, though not quite as clear as Claas’ Cebis, but at least you can incorporate guidance which avoids the need for an extra screen.


Before you even enter Data Tronic, the dash offers a lot of tractor set up. These settings are accessed via a LCD screen navigated via a keypad. It is pretty simple to do, but offers a bewildering array of possibilities, especially in the transmission department.


While on the face of it the MF’s cab is a very pleasant place to work, once you start to use the controls, you find yourself looking all over the place at what seems like a scatter gun approach to cab layout.


McCormick X7.460 Power Plus

McCormick X7.460 Power Plus

For the X7 McCormick has opted for a four post cab design affording decent visibility overall, helped in part by a one piece front windscreen that wraps around the centre console.


While its wide opening doors give good access, their barn door like size does bring into question their longevity for the more heavy handed among us.


For a bit of fresh air and views to a loader, if fitted, there is an opening roof window as standard.


While the light colours of the cab give an airy feel, is does feel a bit squashed vertically. However, the simple layout does really appeal and does not take much working out.


Primary controls reside on the armrest with a ‘grip’ incorporating buttons for number one spool, linkage, My Switch, engine memory, headland management and transmission.


My Switch is a button which can be assigned to one of four functions for a quick activation of; differential lock, four wheel drive, automatic powershift or de-clutch.


A useful development would be dimples or recesses on the buttons to define what each one does, so you can intuitively feel what each one is without having to take a look.


The armrest could also do with a few tweaks in the comfort department; the elbow rest is as comfy as a welders bench, especially when leaning on it while ploughing, and the framework underneath it can dig into the side of your thigh.


A major downside which is being looked into is also the position of the linkage depth control dial, mounted on the outside of the armrest.


Currently, the gap between it and the right hand fender is tight, and when the seat moves up or down, or swivels, it can trap your hand.


Tractor set up comes from a dash-mounted LCD screen, navigated by a scroll wheel on the armrest. Through it you can see tractor performance, set spools, adjust shuttle modulation and select what the My Switch does, for example.


While the screen is a tad small, it is easy to navigate and less affected by direct sunlight compared to some of the others.


Valtra N163 Versu

Valtra N163 Versu

Solidness and ruggedness is the first impression you get from the Valtra’s cab. Born out of the forestry industry in Scandinavia, it features framed cab doors and greasable hinges. And because of Valtra’s reverse drive option, the cab is cavernous in size, if not a little dated.


Cab layout is shared with the larger T Series and gets an armrest incorporating all the major controls. However, while the controls are there, they do take a little studying to find. Once found though, a lot of the buttons and switches fall under your fingers, and a chunky rail down the side of the armrest gives you a good place to steady your hand while operating controls – particularly good across a ploughed field.


Also included in the sleek armrest is a small screen for tractor setup, navigated by blister buttons. While it is unnecessarily small, it is really simple to fathom helped by clear symbols and bold colours.


A joystick is also included to control two spools, while the other two spools are via paddle switches. Secondary/setup controls can be found on the right hand console, including draft, drop rate and upper lift height limit.


The dash features clear analogue displays for major information such as speed and revs, but also includes a small screen for secondary information such as pto speed and gear selection. However, a lot of this information is repeated on an A-post pillar display too and also on the armrest terminal. For us, three places to view information is just too many – the terminal and dash would be fine.


Overall, the Valtra cab is a well refined place to work, however, we reckon it has had its day and it is long overdue a refresh. With the imminent re-launch of the larger Ts just around the corner,we suspect this is a distinct possibility in the future.


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