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Test drive: CVT tractor for the masses from McCormick

Extending its gearbox options, McCormick’s X6 tractor series is now available with a continuously variable transmission.

 

James Rickard tries out the new X6 VT-Drive...

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Test drive: CVT tractor for the masses from McCormick

All three of McCormick’s large-frame X6 tractors are now available with the option of a continuously variable transmission (CVT).

 

These complement the firm’s X7 and X8 offerings, which sees McCormick’s CVT availability span 110-300hp.

 

However, unlike their bigger stablemates which use a ZF-sourced transmission, the X6s are equipped with a CVT designed and developed by Argo, McCormick’s parent company.

 

This sees a two-range unit offer infinite speed adjustment from 0-40kph, or 0-50kph depending on spec.

With X6 VT-Drive tractors comes a generous standard spec level too.

 

This includes a 12-in touch-screen terminal, cab suspension, three mechanical spools, push-out hitch, four-speed pto, high capacity hydraulic free-flow return and fender controls on both sides of the tractor.

 

To see how the addition of a CVT impacts the X6 tractor range, we try out the flagship 130hp (rated) X6.440 tractor fitted with a McCormick-branded Manip MP100 loader.

Engine and transmission

Engine and transmission

The transmission comprises two mechanical ranges, low and high, offering speeds up to 16kph and 50kph respectively.

 

Similar to Fendt, depending on model, a range change requires the tractor to come to a stop. While this is not a big deal, it would be good if this could be done on the move as many other CVT-equipped tractors can.

 

In each of the two mechanical ranges are effectively two ‘virtual ranges’, offering a total of four working ranges; low one, low two, high one and high two.

 

Via the tractors’ touch-screen terminal, the upper limit of low one and high one can be altered.

 

Additionally, a cruise speed in each of the four ranges can also be set. It sounds complicated, but the manufacturer has done a top job with its new touch-screen terminal making tractor set-up very simple.

 

The transmission can be operated via the main control lever or via the foot pedal. When using the pedal, the full range of pedal movement corresponds to the range of speed selected.

 

Range

 

For example, if the upper speed limit of the selected range is 10kph, then it will require 100 per cent pedal movement to achieve 10kph. This has the benefit of desensitising the pedal when working at low speeds, making speed selection more precise – good for loader work.

 

Although safe, a slight faff is the switch between high and low ranges which, via the lever, requires a consent button to be pressed with one finger and a double tap of the range change button with your thumb. Why not one button, one press?

 

Via knob, the relationship between the engine and transmission can be adjusted from fully automatic to fully manual. The former is ideal for 95 per cent of work.

 

Unlike the X7s, the transmission will come to a complete stop, and it will hold the tractor on a hill, making operation easier.

Cab and controls

Cab and controls

While similar in appearance to the X7, the X6’s cab frame is slightly smaller, suiting the tractor’s smaller stature.

 

It is a light and airy cab with relatively unhindered access, thanks in part to a recessed area in the left-hand fender which accommodates the fold-away passenger seat.

 

Its four-post design offers decent panoramic views and a transparent roof hatch is standard. While the latter does help with views to a raised loader, it certainly is not the best on the market as its small size and chunky cab cross member hinders sight lines while the curvature of the hatch distorts views.

 

As for layout, the tractor employs the same dash and steering column as its bigger brothers, along with a common armrest control concept to the right. This should enable drivers to easily hop from one McCormick tractor to another.

 

All primary functions fall to hand on the main control lever, including transmission, hydraulics and linkage.

 

For shuttling, the left-hand shuttle lever or the main control lever can be used. Also incorporated into the shuttle lever is a park lock position.

 

As mentioned, the new touch-screen terminal can be used for much of the tractor’s set-up.

 

Set-up

 

Featuring clear icons and an iPad-like feel, it is one of the simplest on the market to navigate.

 

And for set-up of functions such as cruise and engine memory settings, these can be done by getting up to the working or engine speed you desire, followed by the press and a hold of the relevant button. Again, this is very simple, offering users the choice of using physical controls or going through the screen.

 

The screen is also IsoBus-ready, however, you will need an extra screen for guidance, from McCormick’s UK partner L.H. Agro. This comes in the form of a TopCon X25 or a larger X35 screen.

 

While this is a good option for those who like to monitor a second screen, it is a shame the tractors’ screen cannot do this as an option.

Hydraulics, axles and practicalities

Hydraulics, axles and practicalities

The Argo-developed rear-end can be generously specced with up to five, double-acting spool valves; either with all five electric or two electric and three mechanical, offering dedicated hydraulic flow rats up to 110 litres per minute.

 

Pleasingly, the hydraulic and transmission reservoirs are separate, avoiding any unwanted contamination from dodgy tipping trailers.

 

Our model came equipped with Carraro-built front suspension. While it is maintenance heavy with multiple greasing points, it does offer a decent ride.

 

This can be operated in one of three modes: on, off or automatic. If turned off, it will automatically kick back in above 12kph.

 

However, the steering could do with being a touch lighter, especially for loader work.

 

On the left-hand side of the tractor, the diesel and AdBlue filler points are neatly grouped together, while steps lift up on the right-hand side to gain access to the battery. It does feature a toolbox, albeit a token gesture of one.

 

Thankfully, storage of the drawbar is at the rear of the tractor, right where you want it, and most of the spool valves are biased to the left-hand side. These are also clearly colour coded.

 

Its category two rear linkage offers a 5.4 tonne lift capacity, which is a bit under par compared to some of the equivalent-powered competition, but not too bad for most jobs.

X6.440 VT-Drive specifications

Engine: 4.5-litre, four-cylinder, FPT

Power: 130hp (rated), 140hp (boosted, which kicks in for pto and transport work)

Transmission: Two-range, continuously variable

Hydraulics: 110litres per minute, load sensing and 28 litres/minute for hitch and steering

Rear linkage lift capacity: 5.4 tonnes

Diesel tank capacity: 180 litres

Diesel exhaust fluid capacity (AdBlue): 28 litres

Tyres: For the largest diameter, up to 540/65 R38 tyres can be fitted at the rear. The widest tyre fitted can be a 600/65 R34

Wheelbase: 2,540mm

Retail price: Starts from £83,311

FG VERDICT

FG VERDICT

Unlike other ‘small’ CVT tractors on the market which give the perception of highly complicated tractors, the more down-to-earth heritage of the McCormick X6 VT-Drive brings the convenience of a CVT to the realms of the livestock farmer, and beyond.

 

Featuring a good mix of mechanical and technological elements, it is a tractor which will suit different generations of drivers. You can make it as complex or as easy as you like.

 

Aside from a few niggles, such as a poor roof widow, inadequate toolbox and having to stop to make a range change, the X6.440 VT-Drive is a ‘fully loaded’ tractor, which should suit a wide variety of applications in many farming situations.

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