Valtra’s T-series tractors have a very loyal following
Valtra’s T-series tractors have a very loyal following, but even the most ardent enthusiasts have agreed for some time that the tractors needed updating, particularly the cabs. The manufacturer announced its all-new T4 machines at a press event Germany in mid-November. David Williams went along to try out the new machines.Valtra has announced its T4 series which replaces the long-established models.The T-series is an important range for Valtra, fitting in between the smaller N-series and the largest S-series tractors and including models from 155-250hp. Very popular with larger mixed and arable farms, the tractors are available with transmission types and specification to suit most types of use.The latest T4 series shares little with its predecessor and its development has been in progress for about four years, and 20 prototype and pre-production machines have undergone in excess of 40,000 hours of testing. The new range includes six models, available in the established Direct, Versu and with a brand new Active model specification; a HiTech model will be added to the line-up in autumn 2015.Power is provided by Agco Power engines; 6.6 litres on the two smallest models and 7.4 litres on the bigger machines. Meeting Tier 4 final exhaust emissions standards is achieved by the use of SCR (Adblue), without the need for any exhaust gas recirculation and, as a result, intervals have been extended from 500 to 600hrs for routine lubrication services.Single turbochargers with wastegates are used to provide high torque across the rev range, and the T174 model also has an Eco button, allowing the engine speed to drop to 1,800rpm while increasing torque available, and said to reduce fuel consumption by up to 10 per cent.Standard or available on all models is Sigma Power which increases engine output by 15hp when the PTO is under sufficient load and a boost for transport tasks also increases the power by 15hp in the higher C and D transmission ranges.Transmissions
For many years the availability of two different transmissions, combined with various levels of hydraulic performance has attracted customers, offering features and a price to suit most users. Direct models feature stepless CVT drives, ideal for tasks where precise speed control is needed such as for vegetable or root crop planting and harvesting, but also offers benefits for loader work as forward and reverse shuttle is smooth and doesn’t require the clutch.The CVT system is claimed to be very efficient, driving through four ranges providing eight match points for optimal power transmission.Versu and Active versions have Powershift systems. The 30-speed powershift transmission in the new models has significant improvements. Four ranges each with five gears provide the main operating ratios and there are 10 additional creeper speeds.The clutch pedal is used only when starting the engine as the brake pedals also control the clutch. Automatic powershift mode allows the travel speed rather than the engine speed to be controlled by the foot accelerator pedal and Valtra suggests that benefits include PTO applications such as baling, where a constant PTO speed can be maintained while varying forward speed to suit the conditions.The new powershift also provides a hill-hold function, holding the tractor and load stationary on a gradient. During a test-drive on public roads, this feature meant the operator was able to concentrate fully on other traffic rather than having to co-ordinate the clutch and brake operation when pulling away. Using the system requires the operator only to move the shuttle lever from drive to park and back again, to activate the electronic park brake.Cab improved
Having gone right back to the drawing board, customer comments played a large part in the design of the new cab. Early design concepts became wooden structures to test user feedback, and evolved into a spacious 5-pillar operator station to rival any other modern cab on the market.Everything is improved; the seating position is now excellent, allowing the operator a more commanding view of the controls and what is going on around him. The ‘plus’ specification seat, standard for UK models, is far more comfortable and includes lateral suspension while the top-spec Evolution seat option also includes ventilation and automatic weight sensing. The optional passenger seat is better too, a convenient fold-down upholstered seat providing the comfort lacked by the old flat perch.Visibility all-around is very good, a one-piece windscreen offering a good view down to the front wheels and through most of the travel of a front-end loader. The entry door opens wide and provides convenient cab access while the door frame and cab post are narrow enough not to compromise visibility to the left. On the right is a single-piece side window and at the rear is a large single screen providing good visibility for shunting during loader work, or down to a rear implement. A thin roof panel and an optional roof window, ideal for high-level loader work, add to the feeling of extra space. Electrically heated front and rear screens and a 270-degree front wiper arc are options. Valtra has a reputation for the wide range of upgrades it has available, and on the new tractors a superb high power sound system with a sub-woofer will help prevent drivers becoming bored during long working days, and a fuel-powered, mobile-phone controlled cab heater can be specified, to ensure the cab is thawed out and warmed up, before the operator arrives for his day’s work. New 5-stage mechanical or semi-active pneumatic cab suspension are options.LED lighting is an option for all models and lighting systems include a memory function for the work lights, allowing a previous setting to be memorised, and switched on or off with one switch.
Noise levels are low, below 70dB.Controls
An all-new right hand console provides easy-to-use chunky controls. Everything is now arranged logically and is easily to hand, the most frequently-used controls positioned on the armrest along-side the suspended seat, moving up and down with the operator, and following the seat throughout its 180 degrees of possible rotation, and other controls are on the panel against the side of the cab.The forward and reverse shuttle lever is on the left of the steering column while a stubby joystick on the right console controls the transmission. On Direct CVT models, this can be pushed to the right for foot control and to the left for hand control. This makes it easy to swap between the two, for example when carrying out headland turns allowing the operator to select pedal for shunting and hand for field operations. It is also used to adjust travel speed and to change between the four operating ranges.
On powershift models the same lever shifts the gear and range steps, and is used to swap between manual and automatic operating modes.An integrated display screen is provided on Versu and Direct versions.
Another long-established Valtra option is TwinTrac, a reverse drive position, and this has been carried over, with improvements, to the new series. Previously, the additional rear steering wheel was connected by wires and had just two possible mounting points, but the new version can be positioned anywhere across the rear of the cab on its mounting track. Already popular with forage contractors operating large grass mowing machinery who appreciate the extra productivity it offers, (up to 15 per cent over a conventional driving position), the new version with its more flexible work position will be an attractive proposition for new and existing users.Chassis and manoeuvrability
The base weight of the new T4 machines is approximately 7.3t, and total all-up weight is almost 13.5t providing flexibility for ballasting to suit a wide range of field and transport tasks. The wheelbase is 2,995mm and the turning radius is a very tight 5.25m, even with a front loader, front axle with pneumatic suspension and front linkage fitted. A new option is QuickSteer, allowing a decreased number of steering wheel turns lock-to-lock at low speeds to improve productivity for yard and loader work. Above 25kph the mode returns to standard, and the operator can select on a dial the degree of sensitivity to suit the application. QuickSteer is standard on TwinTrac models, further increasing efficiency of turns.The all-new chassis offers 40/60 per cent front to rear weight distribution to maximise grip, and has allowed the integration of the front loader sub-frame as well as the frame for the front linkage and PTO. Visibility was a key requirement during the design process, and despite the high ground clearance, the chassis and narrow engine design, as well as the external exhaust gas treatment system, have allowed the bonnet to be shaped for the best possible front view and the cab to be mounted low, making the new T4 series the most compact 6-cylinder range on the market, claims Valtra. Despite the compact size, tyres up to 710mm wide can be fitted, for maximum performance when carrying out fieldwork. Ground clearance is a generous 60cm.Hydraulics and PTO
Load-sensing hydraulics are standard as is a 115-litre hydraulic flow with 160 litres an upgrade option. Up to four mechanical and five electronic valves can be specified with two or three front electronic valves available. Power beyond on all models provides up to 150 litres/min.Previously, the spool valves were spread around the rear of the tractor but now they are all in one location and can be accessed by the operator standing on one side of the drawbar. Hydraulics assistance is provided with the new powershift versions, the engine speed increasing as soon as significant extra flow demand is created, without the travel speed being affected.Rear lift capacity is up to 9.5t and the optional front linkage lifts up to 5.1t.
UK specification machines will have 540/540E and 1,000rpm PTO modes as standard with additional options such as ground speed available.Servicing and maintenance
Just five daily service checks are required, all easily carried out, the bonnet opening wide enough to allow access along the full length of the engine. Four grease points require attention every 50 hours, basic lubrication services are at 600h intervals, with a longer list of service tasks needed at 1,200 and 1,800 hours. “Daily service checks take under five minutes to complete if no top-ups are needed,” explained Valtra UK sales manager Mark Broom, “but service costs are reduced due to the longer periods between scheduled maintenance by 20 per cent over previous models.”Fuel tank capacity is 380 litres and 70 litres of Adblue can be carried. The SCR-based emissions system requires no diesel particulate filter and the system is maintenance-free except for filling the Adblue tank. Transmission and hydraulic oils are kept separate for optimal efficiency, and sight glasses allow the levels to be checked at a glance.With Valtra it is the attention to detail which is often perceived as the difference between the brand and its competitors and an example is the radio aerial. Roof mounted, it isn’t as neat as some other window-based systems, but as Valtra director of product development, Pekka Ingalsuo pointed out; “We can supply the tractor with signal reception adequate to provide precise automatic steering, but operators can struggle to listen to their radios because the radio signal can’t be maintained. The external aerial provides optimal reception.”The new models entered production at the start of November, and will be shown at Lamma 2015. The first examples to land in the UK will be on show at Valtra’s UK headquarters until Lamma, and a UK tour, commencing in northern Scotland and working its way south will run from mid-February to mid-March. First deliveries to farms will be in early spring. The exception is the Hitech variant, which won’t enter production until autumn 2015, and ‘unlimited’ machines which are available with almost any specification will be shown at Sima in February.”We are delighted with the new T series tractors,” explained Mark Broom. “The price will be approximately four to six per cent over that of an equivalent current T4 model, but the standard specification will be considerably higher and ownership costs will be considerably lower. We expect the new powershift system to prove very popular, offering performance close to that of a CVT transmission and offering similar ease of use but at considerably less cost. The new Active specification will meet the requirements of most users and we expect that to be the best-selling model in the UK.”First drive impression
During the event there was an opportunity to take test-drives in all the new models, on the road and in the field with a variety of implements.First impression on climbing into the cab is that it is a very modern design. Despite retaining a similar screen arrangement to the previous T4 model, everything else is new, and the uncluttered layout and extra 20cm internal width combined with the large glazed area enhances the feeling of space.The main operating controls are easy to get used to, and a test drive around several miles of local roads in the latest Active enabled the Farmers Guide operator to try out the main functions of the new powershift transmission. In auto mode the transmission shifts between the five gears and swaps from C to D ranges automatically. Gear changes are smooth and power delivery is maintained during the change, whereas the range shifts are slower and more noticeable.Watching the display shows the gear match system in operation as when the range shift occurs the transmission will automatically select the most appropriate gear to suit the travel speed. Stopping the tractor requires nothing more than applying the footbrake. To move away, release the brake and press the accelerator.Ploughing with an Active specification tractor allowed the benefits of the new transmission to be judged under heavier loads. In manual control mode, shifting up or down through the gears was achieved by nudging the small joystick forward or back, while in auto mode the tractor selected its own gear to suit the conditions and the required forward speed. Shifting was smooth, and the operator had to select the appropriate range as, for field work, in A and B ranges the range change cannot be made automatically.There was also an opportunity to try out the Active specification machine with a Valtra front loader handling bales.The T154A had mechanical cab suspension and an air-suspended seat. Being able to start and stop the powershift-equipped tractor without using the clutch, while carefully placing the bale where required was an advantage and the operation was smooth.The visibility from the new cab was excellent and manoeuvring around the restricted area was relatively easy, even when not familiar with the machine. The loader provided an excellent test for the hydraulics assistant function, rapid operation being available when needed without having to touch the engine speed control. Gentle pushes on the loader control joystick produced small low-speed controlled movements while pushing the lever more than a quarter of its travel in any direction resulted in the engine speed increasing and much faster loader movements. The tractor also had Quicksteer which made changes in direction much easier and quicker, saving multiple revolutions of the steering wheel.Verdict
The new Valtra will certainly be popular with existing T-series owners and, with its updated specification, features and cab, will no doubt be under consideration by those looking to replace other brands. Starting at 85,341, the entry-model T144A Active specification with 155hp available is an attractive proposition.