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Tracked tractor test: John Deere 9560RT

Insights

The John Deere sits at the top of the new 9R/9RT range, replacing the 9030 series and contains three tracked and four wheeled models.

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Flanked by the squat, hunkered down stance of the Challenger and the slim, lofty Quadtrac, the 9RT looks aggressive and unfinished. It is as if the Deere broke its chains and headed for the field before all the body panels were fitted. However, this is styling based on a wheeled tractor.

 

Walking up to the steps, the Deere is an imposing machine. Its sharply sculpted front grille and bonnet, complete with shark-like styling of the smaller 6, 7 and 8R series, hides a big cooling pack and a sub-station of a power house. Like marmite, you will either love its looks, or loathe them.

 

Lifting the bonnet demands you have had your Shredded Wheat. Once up, there is ample access to the cooling pack, and also for daily check points.

 

Deere fits the 9560RT with a six-cylinder PowerTech PSX engine. With twin-turbochargers, the 13.5-litre engine delivers a constant power of 560hp from 1,500-2,100rpm and 616hp peak at 1,900rpm, reinforced by maximum torque at 1,600rpm. On paper, it looks as though it will hang on like the Government’s Chief Whip.

 

Deere favours cooled EGR in combination with a DOC and DPF to avoid using AdBlue - at least while EU Stage 3b emissions are in place.

Plenty of handles and six steps lead you safely to the cab, but on the way back down, be mindful of the guillotine-edged marker boards waiting to snag you, should you slip.

 

This aside, the climb to the cab is worthwhile. In true American style, operator comfort has been super-sized and the Deluxe CommandView II cab on the 9RT is certainly roomy. It is also a pinnacle of clarity and nowhere in the cab will you find clutter or untidiness.

 

It is the same for the Command arm. Where Case has tried to bundle several functions on a joystick, Deere has laid them out on an armrest which puts controls at your fingertips.

 

Its logical philosophy continues with the layout and navigation of the touch-screen GreenStar terminal. Shortcut keys and a scroll wheel can also be used to navigate easily through the terminal. From the home page, it is clear where all tractor functions are located in the system, making set-up and adjustment of the 9RT child’s play.

 

It is much like the headland management system, which can either be recorded or pre-programmed - we favoured the latter. It could not be simpler to use and is by far the best of the three, with gaps between functions dictated by distance.

 

The terminal also takes care of auto-steering. This takes a little more thought to fathom, but once the parameters of the tractor and implement have been inputted, set-up of an A-B or contour line is relatively easy, but it took us a few attempts.

 

Aggressiveness of acquiring the line can be adjusted; a high setting results in the tractor quickly snapping on to the line, but initially it is not as accurate and can take several adjustments to get true. A low setting means the tractor gets on the line gradually and smoothly, taking more time, but with an eventual higher degree of accuracy.

 

Power management

As with all the tractors on test, the Deere features its version of power management. This is achieved by pre-programming two target speeds using the thumb-scroll wheel mounted on the gear lever. Operators can toggle between them using a switch for making headland turns, or by incorporating them into a headland management sequence.

 

While Case’s version works well and Challenger’s version works exceptionally well, the Deere’s was tardy to respond to changing conditions. We eventually gave up using this as it was quicker to do it manually, with more efficiency - which is what the system is designed to do.

Being a pre-production tractor may account for some of its lethargy. However, John Deere assures us that production tractors will be on the ball and all pre-production tractors will undergo an extensive software upgrade.

 

Deere has also put useful storage compartments behind the seat. There really is room for all manner of things an operator would want - except for tool storage. The greasy, oily stuff will need a separate toolbox because the standard Deere box, adjacent to the steps, is barely big enough to hold a drawbar pin.

 

We do like Deere’s roof-integrated air-conditioning, which is something the Quadtrac would benefit from. This does a great job of keeping that voluminous cab cool. And for those concerned about tractor security, the 9560RT gets a new immobiliser key too.

 

We can vouch for its security. On more than one occasion, the big Deere would fire up, then immediately stop as it failed to recognise its own key. Again, we put this down to pre-production niggles and John Deere assures us out of the several thousand- plus production tractors it has sold with the system fitted, it has had no issues reported.

 

Once running, the faster the Deere travels, the smoother it feels. This is a result of using an air cushion suspension system which allows the walking beam and swing-arm track frame to oscillate around the rear axle.

 

Its steering is sublimely light too, requiring very little effort. But while the Deere is a comfortable tractor to operate, and a smooth rider too, it is wide.

 

From the seat, it feels like a big tractor - and this is not helped by Deere’s poor mirrors and their equally poor positioning.

Track widths

Without front idler weights, it measures 3.46m across its 760mm (30in belts). The four 205kg weights bolted to the front idlers pushed the 9560RT out to 3.65m.

 

But, while narrow track widths are useful in transport, its wide track gauge did provide decent directional stability and traction.

 

Although it could not quite match the Quadtrac when it came to getting its power down on slopes and greasy stubbles, it got along better than the Challenger in similarly tricky conditions.

 

Having produced a cracking working environment - the cab - the Deere is let down by a badly arranged rear-end, or at least when it is fitted with a three-point linkage and quick coupler, as ours was.

 

Spool valve positioning was its biggest problem. To get at them, the rear linkage needs lowering, but, depending on the implement you are attaching, this is not always possible. When plumbing in hydraulic pipes, we were precariously perched on either the drawbar or linkage.

 

Its drawbar pin needs a rethink - with a small handle and sharp edges, it knows how to get you rattled in a morning.

 

Specification (as tested)

  • Engine: Six-cylinder, 13.5-litre PowerTech PSX
  • Rated power (97/68 EC): 560hp
  • Maximum power (97/68 EC): 616hp
  • Transmission: 40kph, 18x6 full powershift
  • Total track footprint: 4.56sq.m
  • Weight - bare: 20,371kg
  • Weight - max: 24,494kg
  • Weight - as tested: 22,491kg including hitch
  • Number of hydraulic spool valves: up to six double-acting
  • Diesel tank capacity: 1,287 litres
  • In-cab noise levels: 77-78db(A) (measured when working for comparative use only)

Costs

  • RRP: £357,739
  • Warranty: Engine - two years, 2,500 hours; all other items - one year, unlimited hours
  • Replacement tracks: £8,780
  • Replacement idler: £1,012 front idler, £409 small idlers
  • Service intervals: 500 hours engine, 1,500 hours transmission

Pros and cons

What we like

  • Phenomenal power
  • Large, comfortable, uncluttered cab
  • Logical controls and terminal

 

What we dislike

  • Lack of external storage space
  • Transport width
  • Awkward spool valve positioning (when fitted with rear-linkage)

What we think

FG ratings out of 10

  • Cab comfort 9
  • Cab visibility 5
  • Cab layout 8
  • Headland management 10
  • Automatic steering 7
  • Transmission/power management 7
  • Traction 8
  • Manoeuvrability 8
  • Ride 8
  • Maintenance & Storage 6

Total (out of 100) 76

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