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Pocket rocket tractor test: Transmission


How did the five pocket rockets compare when it came down to transmission?

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Claas Arion 550 Cebis

Claas Arion 550 Cebis

Hexashift is the name Claas gives to its 24 by 24 powershift transmission fitted to the Arion 550. It is the same Gima-made ‘box as found in the MF6616, and offers six powershifts in four ranges.


Managing the transmission the Claas way sees full controllability put onto the Cmotion multi-function armrest lever.


A gentle nudge forwards/backwards sees powershift moves executed; moving the lever further forwards/backwards will find increased resistance and at this point, the ‘box will range-change. Such movement also affords skip-shifting too.


There is room for improvement though, as it is too easy for big farming hands to make a range-change when you only want the next gear. Some additional resistance would give clearer definition and more feel to the lever when you are being jostled about in the seat.


Field and road modes are accessed using push buttons ahead of the Cmotion lever, and adjacent to them is an orange button showing the letter A inside a gear. This is the only button you need push to move from manual to auto shifting. If you are in field mode, you can auto shift through the six powershifts; if you are in road mode, it will shift through the ranges too.


In auto mode, the gearbox will also respond to a sharp throttle pedal input if the engine is running at low rpm, offering a kickdown to help get things moving, just like McCormick and Valtra. This makes it very easy to pick up some pace.


Start-up gears are easily set through the Cebis terminal, giving total flexibility for any job. It would be harder to make accessing them any quicker or any easier. A lot of the transmission information is also conveniently displayed on the dash.


With this Gima-derived gearbox, it would seem to be less of what you have got and more of how you use it - Germany 1, France 0.


Deutz-Fahr Agrotron 6160.4

Deutz-Fahr Agrotron 6160.4

Simplicity abounds in the Agrotron’s transmission department. It too, provides a 24 by 24 ‘box with powershift and powershuttle. But where the other four in this group get electro-hydraulic control for range-changes, the 6160.4 gets a good old lever.


However, the lever moves through such an extensive gate, the difference between 2nd and 5th ranges for example, is almost two postcodes apart. As a result, you find yourself choosing ranges 2-4-6 simply because they are easier to reach.


The downside of having six ranges means you only get four powershifts for clutchless shifting – it is not alone, the McCormick, also with a ZF-built transmission, only gets four powershifts too.


And with only four powershifts to play with, your options are limited before you need to dip the clutch pedal and fling the lever into another range. On the plus-side, the ‘box will speed match powershift selections to accommodate sequential range changes.


Thumb buttons on the side of the main gear lever or a fingertip lever on the armrest control let you move effortlessly through the four powershifts. The latter is index-finger operated and can be mistaken for the linkage raise/lower control which sits alongside.


In other respects, this is one of simplest gearboxes to use, and the shuttle lever does what it says on the tin. Shuttle aggression can be tweaked using a slider on top of the shuttle lever. Thumbing it in each direction gives access to one of five settings, with your choice shown on the right-hand A-post’s LCD panel.


Spec on this tractor means it is not an exact match for the others, which means you do not get an auto shifting function. However, Deutz does offer the C Shift version which has push button shifting, electric spools and headland management.


On the plus-side, Deutz is one of the few still offering lever-based transmissions. So if it is manual intervention you crave, then this transmission is one for the top of your list.


Massey Ferguson 6616 Dyna-6

Massey Ferguson 6616 Dyna-6

A 24 by 24 powershift with powershuttle and auto-drive capability links the MF6616’s Sisu engine to its wheels. It is the same Gima-derived transmission as used in the Arion 550.


It is called Dyna-6 and offers six powershifts in four ranges, accessed from two positions; operators can use the T-handle on the right-hand armrest, or flick the left-hand power shuttle lever. Both methods allow full manual control and access to all gears, including range changes in both directions. Pulling the power shuttle lever towards you also de-clutches.


Tortoise and Hare symbols on the dash indicate field and road modes. Field mode holds you in a range, unless you thumb the T-handle to manually move ranges.


Choosing autodrive allows auto-shifting through the ‘box according to revs. You can delve deeper and preset the shift up points between 1,600 and 2,200rpm.


In field mode, autodrive runs through all six powershifts; if you want auto range changes too, you need a Hare on the dash.


Shuttle aggression can be tweaked, and using SV1 and SV2 rollers on the right-hand wing, it is possible to set maximum gears and shift points.


Interrogating the display around the steering wheel gives access to anti-stall settings, preset start-up gears and a useful brake to neutral function. This allows the brake pedal to be used as a clutch before applying the brakes – handy for round baling or loader work.


But wading your way through all the transmission settings can take some time, in particular selecting a start up gear is a bit of a faff, involving simultaneous lever pushing and pulling.


If its simplicity you want, Deutz’s manual lever approach could be your best option.


The Dyna-6 is a transmission which will take time to grow into, but only if you are prepared to delve deep into the operator’s manual.


There are many layers of automation and customisation, perhaps too much for most operators. If this is the ‘box you want, then Claas has done a better job of simplifying its control.


McCormick X7.460 Power Plus

McCormick X7.460 Power Plus

You will find four powershifts in six ranges lurking beneath the belly of the X7.460.


On the front of the fixed position multi function lever are +/- buttons to thumb your way through the powershifts, while an ‘enable’ button on the back of the lever lets you do a two-button push - thumb and index finger - to execute a range-change.


You can also make a double push of the + button to incur a range-change, but only after the tractor has beeped to remind you that you are either at the top or bottom of the powershifts.


At this point, the transmission will speed match or select the closest practical powershift gear to meet a range change.


There are software upgrades coming, but at the time of our test we could not choose from field or road modes, but there is an Automatic Power Shift button which will give auto gear changes through the four available powershift ratios.


The shift point is adjustable and is the simplest of the group to set. Under the armrest cover is a rotary dial ranging from Eco to Power.


Take note other tractor makers - simply twist the dial to choose your shift point between 1,600rpm and maximum revs.


We were not able to preset the start up gear either, but again, it is a software upgrade that is on the way, so X7 defaulted to 3rd range, 1st powershift every time the engine was started.


On the road, it cleverly manages engine revs during a range change, cutting and automatically re-applying without you needing to adjust any throttle input to make the shift, perhaps the smoothest and most progressive of all the tractors tested.


Added versatility comes from being able to tweak the shuttle modulation by using a scroll wheel on the armrest to enter the instrument panel and set the sensitivity.


The X7’s transmission points to a lot of potential, though it’s unfortunate the latest software simply was not available in time for our test.


Valtra N163 Versu

Valtra N163 Versu

Versu specification brings a 30 by 30 transmission (10 of which are creeper selected via a lever) which uses a five-speed powershift with a generous three-gear overlap in each of its four ranges, managed using three push buttons on the armrest.


A single button push, easily achieved using your thumb, moves up and down each of the five powershifts. Adding a range change needs to involve your index finger simultaneously pushing an extra button beneath the armrest.


Simplicity and functionality soon come to the surface with this ‘box. Shuttle ratios can be pre-programmed and are not restricted to being in the same range, and the powershifts are speed-matched when a range change takes place.


In additional to full manual control, operators can choose from two auto modes – Mode one is a factory set gear shifting pattern, Mode two is user-defined. Once selected, it is only a matter of diving into the armrest-mounted terminal and setting or adjusting how you would like the box to behave. And there is a short-cut button beneath the shuttle lever which will take you directly to the transmission settings page, in the terminal.


Like the MF, the Valtra offers a brake to neutral function through its Auto-N switch, with added functionality from disconnecting the drive when engine revs drop below 1,100rpm. Increasing revs above this threshold once your foot is off the brake then reconnects drive, just like an automatic car. Above 18kph, Auto-N is locked out.


Further versatility can be had by selecting an auto range change from C to D giving fully auto shifting of the top 10 gears for roadwork. It too, works very well, though a time delay between the range change means manual over-ride can often result in better progress and a smoother shift, particularly if you are in a hurry.


The Valtra’s shuttle lever is the best to use, and it doubles as a parking brake too, and when selected, the revs drop to 650rpm to a low idle – the best park solution in the bunch.


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