Deere’s long-awaited 9RX is getting more than its fair share of accolades, but are they justified? To see what all the fuss is about, Geoff Ashcroft got behind the wheel to tear up some stubble with the range-topping 9620RX.
Lets deal with the elephant in the room – innovation. Deere’s 9RX tractor is, in simple terms, based on its 9R but with the wheels removed and a set of Camso track units fitted.
Building the 9RX in much the same way as the 9R though, is said to have considerable advantages. It simplifies production, and shortens manufacturing lead times.
By comparison, the twin-track 9RT version is a complex and expensive tractor to engineer. So does the arrival of the four-track sibling sound the death-knell for the 9RT?
According to Deere’s Craig Erskine, the 9RX fills a gap in the range and boosts choice for buyers. “Deere is the only manufacturer to offer wheeled, twin-track and four-track derivatives of the same series.”
“There are operators who will still buy the 9RT, though the most powerful model is the 9570RT,” he adds. “The 9RX series builds on this and offers a more powerful model at the top of the range.”
There are four models in the 9RX series - 9470RX, 9520RX, 9570RX and the flagship model as tested here, the 9620RX.
Power for the top model comes from a Cummins QSX 15 rated 620hp, with maximum power of 670hp, while torque is a whopping 2,800Nm at 1,600rpm.
All models in the range are identical in size and footprint, and a 40kph, e18 powershift transmission is common to all.
Getting Camso track units to fit – albeit engineered to Deere’s specifications – required some serious castings to be developed to raise the driveline at the end of the 9R axles.
This solution has enabled a 1,004mm diameter drive sprocket to be fitted, without compromising overall tractor height. The big sprocket provides 101 degrees of track wrap, and keeps six lugs fully engaged.
The cage-type open sprocket helps to off-load dirt and debris, while a metal scraper ensures the sprocket surface is kept clean.
Mid-wheels are common to 8RT and 9RT models, and are bolted onto their hubs, simplifying maintenance and replacement. Mid-wheel axles are ‘lubed for life’ but need their oil level checking every 1,500 hours.
Two sets of mid-rollers are favoured for low vibration levels, says Deere. A configuration, it says, produces less vertical shock loading through the axles compared to track units with three sets of mid-rollers.
Also, each rear idler sits 10mm higher than the mid wheels, while each front idler sits 20mm higher.
On standard-fit 30in belts – 36in is optional – the 9RX exerts just 7psi of ground pressure. Not bad for a machine that weighs 28-tonnes, when fully fuelled.
First up, anyone who wants more cab space, is just greedy – the 9620RX has it in spades.
It should be a familiar environment to any Deere operator too, using common operator logic as found on all its tractors from the 6R and above.
Dominating the cab architecture is the firm’s latest Command Arm console with Generation 4 Command Center display. With touch-screen and swipe capability, large icons, plus two rows of short-cut keys, we reckon it is one of the best systems on the market.
With three transmission modes – auto, custom and manual – it is straightforward to flick through the Command Center and tweak load settings, deceleration modes, shift points, engine droop and target speeds.
This Premium-spec cab offers a myriad of adjustments for the seat, with its leather covering an extra cost option. Active Command Steering was fitted to our test model, and it needs less operator input at lower speeds, improving controllability.
Pulling an 8m-wide Horsch Tiger at 6-7in deep proved a reasonable challenge for the RX. Rolling Cotswold countryside gave reason to help out with downshifts on short, sharp climbs, but an 11-12kph forward speed in 11th gear was comfortable.
Externally, the Cummins makes all the right noises – internally, it is subdued, but not whisper silent. Our noise meter recorded 74-76dB(A) depending on load, which should not have your ears ringing.
When it comes to ride quality, the 9620RX will take some beating. A passive cab suspension system sees shock absorbers on all four corners working with a heavy-duty torsion bar at the front and a Panhard rod at the back. The result is vertical cab movement that compliments the air suspended seat.
We did not get to try the tractor on a paved or tarmac surface, but the in-field experience is where it matters most. And in this respect, the tractor delivers.
An 83-litre AdBlue tank is housed in the nearside step frame, which makes it easy to reach, and a modest 1,514-litre fuel tank is draped over the rear of the chassis – much less than its red counterpart. Does this mean it is more efficient, or does it mean you will be stopping to re-fill more often?
When it comes to service intervals, the 9620RX needs engine oil changing every 400 hours, which is something to consider.
A walkway located behind the back of the cab has a hose-sized cut-out that allows you to safely hang the fuel filler on the tractor while you climb up to refuel.
Added convenience comes from 12-volt terminals to power a bowser’s electric fuel pump.
The 9RX is not Deere’s first four-track – the firm has dabbled with the H-track system in the past, and it has been making the 200hp High Speed Dozer (HSD 764) for North American construction markets for a number of years.
There is no denying the 9620RX is an impressive machine. But we are left with the impression that Deere has come to the market with just a ‘me too’ product. So why has it taken Deere so long?
The US maker could have led the way with a 1,000hp four-track and worked backwards down the range, just like Krone did when it thumped out the BiG X 1100 before other models in its range.
Deere could also have pushed boundaries with a CVT-driveline; or perhaps brushless AC electric wheel motors as found in its 536hp 944K wheeled loader. But it hasn’t. Its conservative approach has created just another four-track option for buyers.
Innovation? Not really. Imitation? Almost certainly.
So should Case-IH be worried? In several respects, yes. The 9620RX scores highly in the comfort stakes, and delivers finesse and refinement at a level you would expect from nearly a £390,000 tractor.
However, the biggest threat to the Quadtrac is from those with green blood coursing through their veins who now have access to a genuine rival, giving them the final piece of the jigsaw for an all-Deere fleet.