Machinery News

  • Written by: Farmers Guide
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Improved performance and ride for popular UTV

David Williams tried out the latest Kubota RTV-X900

Kubota’s popular RTV900 all-terrain utility vehicle has proved useful on farms and shoots since its introduction in 2006. Aside from additional colour and equipment options its design has changed little but, for 2015 the model is replaced and, apart from the engine, everything is new. David Williams tried out the latest RTV-X900.The new RTV-X900 is the replacement for Kubota’s RTV900 utility vehicle.The RTX-X900 is aimed squarely at owners of existing Kubota machines as well as users of competitor models with increased performance, better handling and improved load carrying and towing capacity. The styling is all-new, but it retains the previous machine’s ‘look’, and has all the original features and more.Engine
The engine is the same as the RTV900; an 898cc 3-cylinder liquid-cooled diesel, producing 21.6hp at 3,200 revs. Well-proven, it is one of Kubota’s best selling power units and is used in many of its other products as well as by other manufacturers.Off-road performance is improved with the relocation of the cooling radiator to the top of the under- bonnet compartment, which ensures it will stay cleaner for longer and is less likely to become blocked by mud and debris. The new cooling pack is 20 per cent larger and provides 12 per cent greater cooling capacity, according to the manufacturer.Transmission
The hydrostatic transmission of the RTV900 had a single pump supplying oil to two motors, one of which produced most of the torque and the other giving back-up power when extra was needed. A totally new hydrostatic unit has been developed for the new model, with one pump and one motor, offering greater flexibility, smoother operation, better power delivery and more torque to the drive shafts.There is still the option to select high or low ranges to suit the operating conditions but the improved performance means there is less need to select low when pulling heavy loads or operating in more demanding terrain.The new transmission provides more torque and smoother operation. During the test-drive, which provided an opportunity to try the new model and the previous machine around the same demanding off-road course, it was easy to feel the improvements, as steep slopes were easier to climb requiring less throttle adjustment and when descending slopes the new transmission brought the vehicle to a gentle stop when the accelerator pedal was released, compared with the previous model which came to a more abrupt halt as soon as the engine speed decreased. Both models have excellent engine/transmission braking for safe control on steep slopes, but the newer model is easier and more comfortable to drive.A test route along several miles of concrete tracks demonstrated that the improvements don’t only apply off-road and a test circuit, which included evenly spaced speed humps, meant rapid acceleration and deceleration were required, the machine’s speed decreasing quickly but smoothly as soon as the accelerator was released.Off-road ability is improved, an all-new chassis and suspension system providing generous 260mm ground clearance.Operators of the current model will immediately notice and appreciate the improvements. The smoother transmission provides a much less tiring ride, particularly on bumpy ground where the effect of a driver’s foot bouncing on the accelerator pedal is reduced. The limited-slip front differential provides automatic lock-up to both front wheels when needed,  and combines with the foot-operated locking rear differential to give improved traction in slippery conditions.Brakes
In-board wet disc brakes front and rear are used, which allows them to work efficiently whether the vehicle is operating in hot, dusty or wet, muddy conditions.Cab
The operator environment has been improved with a new 60/40 split bench seat with storage compartments under, considerably lighter power steering, easier to reach controls and a better dashboard.The operator environment is improved with an adjustable steering wheel, relocated handbrake lever – moved to the dashboard and improved seats for the operator and passenger.The handbrake is relocated to the dashboard, from the left of the driver’s seat making it easier to get at and improving cab access.  The previous analogue instrument panel is now digital with clearer displays and the operator can ensure the steering wheel is set up to suit his operating position with an adjustable steering column angle.For those likely to use the new model in all weathers, the availability, for the first time, of a new ‘sealed’ completely enclosed cab will be the most significant reason to update. The base spec includes a modular roll-bar frame with a top canopy and an upgrade option provides a vertical-opening front screen with a washer and wiper.Kubota dealer manager for central UK, Tim Yates explained that the decision to include the integral roof as standard equipment is a result of it being specified previously by almost all UK users. The next upgrade option adds side doors, which are fully glazed top to bottom and have thick rubber seals to provide protection from the elements. For added comfort there is the option to upgrade further to a heater, and a kit that includes interior lights and a sun visor.The cab is a significant improvement with sealed glass doors and a heater option. The rear load carrier tips hydraulically, without the operator needing to leave the cab.One of the test vehicles had the side doors fitted, and these made the machine feel less like a utility vehicle and more like a small pick-up truck, preventing draughts even when travelling at speed and providing full protection from mud splashes, even with a strong cross wind.Even with the engine just a foot or so below the seating under the driver, the noise levels with the doors closed were reasonably low, and a noise meter test showed a level of just 83db at full engine revs, compared to 85db for the more basic cab of the previous machine. The new seats are supportive and comfortable and the inertia reel lap belts allow quick fastening and release, which means they are more likely to be worn by users than basic fixed belts.Chassis and load bed
The chassis is totally new and designed to accommodate all-new double wishbone suspension for the front and rear axles. Off-road ability is considerably better as a result with ground clearance up to 260mm under the final drives. The shock absorbers are adjustable to suit the load, with five progressive levels of spring compression available, set using a hand tool in under a minute.Suspension travel is generous at 8in front and rear. The front axle has an anti-roll bar, which helps keep the machine level during tight high-speed turns.The new chassis and suspension set-up has also allowed improved manoeuvrability and the turning circle is tighter than before.The rear load bed has hydraulic tipping, operated by the vehicle’s auxiliary service, as standard. This means emptying the load takes just a few seconds, and saves the operator leaving the cab, unless the rear tailgate is in use. Capacity is up to 500kg and rear hitch towing capacity is up from 500kgs to 1,000, which Tim said is the best in its class.Standard tyre equipment for agricultural work are 6-ply 25-10-12 cleated flotation tyres for grip and reduced ground pressure but there is also a turf tyre option for amenity use.Verdict
The differences between the current and new models are significant and will increase productivity as well as improving conditions for the operator. Handling, power delivery and performance, both on and off-road, are considerably better and, with Kubota’s reputation for durability and reliability will undoubtedly attract back some of the market share the company has lost in recent years to competitors’ machines.Homologated and non-homologated versions are available, and there is also a choice of colour; orange or Realtree camouflage.  Prices start at 12,300 for the non-homologated RTV-X900 in Camo with chevron pattern tyres.”The new models have improvements and features which will appeal to users and we expect the most popular specification to be the base version for farm use, although many users will then retro-fit the doors to provide an enclosed cab for greater operator comfort later,” explained Kubota business development manager for Kubota tractor and groundcare, Adrian Langmead.”The improved transmission is superb, and the progressive engine braking available now will improve operator comfort over the more abrupt braking provided previously. This will be a big advantage, particularly for those operating in hilly areas.The transmission performance means heavier loads can be transported more easily, with increased power available at the wheels and the faster acceleration when carrying a load will improve work-rates and provide time savings. We have a 13 per cent share of the UK UTV market currently and anticipate this rising to 20 per cent by the end of 2015 with the new model available now.”

  • Written by: Farmers Guide
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