Top Tractor Shootout 2016
The 2016 Top Tractor Shootout mega comparison returns as once more we rate and review the best tractors in the country.
It’s the Top Tractor Shootout 2016! We assembled six of the best 2016 tractors from 80-100hp in a paddock at Victoria’s Werribee Mansion, and asked two trans-Tasman judges to rate and review them. Adjudicator Matt Wood tells us how the judges chose Australia’s best value-for-money tractor.
Picking the best tractors for 2016
Among the tractors in the Top Tractor Shootout 2016 comparison we had the Massey Ferguson 5609, Deutz-Fahr 5105.4G, John Deere 6105M, Case IH Farmall 95C, Kubota M100GX and the New Holland TD5.90. Representing some of the best and most popular agricultural machinery on the market, all were fitted with loaders and arrived without any bells and whistles, no counterweights and no wheel weights.
So how did we determine the best value for money 100 hp tractor (or close enough to 100hp)? For a start, the object of Top Tractor Shootout 2016 was to find the best value for money utility tractor, not the best overall tractor. It stands to reason that if you throw enough money at a machine you’ll end up with a pretty darned good tractor regardless of brand.
When you think about a Top Tractor Shootout, you may be envisaging a boring diatribe by two blokes with clipboards debating the benefits of different PowerShift transmissions and holding conflicting opinions on the location of hydraulic hoses.
Or you may be thinking that this is all a charade and the judges will let brand bias and the promise of a free lunch sway their ability to vote on what they feel is the best agricultural machinery? Well think again!
This year’s Farms & Farm Machinery Top Tractor Shootout2016 turned out to be an action-packed affair that has sparked a bitter trans-Tasman rivalry. And there was no free lunch.
I admit it – I was prepared to be bored, but nothing prepared me for the manic glee and kamikaze enthusiasm exhibited by a clearly bonkers Kiwi scribe, Jaiden Drought. And our even own mild-mannered Tom Dickson rose to the challenge with a steely determination that had me just a little bit scared. All this to find out which 80-100-horsepower utility tractor represents the best value for money on the Australian market.
My job was to stand around in a freezing paddock like a penguin on an ice floe and to make sure that proceedings went smoothly … and to fetch aforementioned coffee. I also had the dubious honour of policing Bauer Media’s company-wide ban on jokes involving sheep. I carried a very big stick.
Historic Werribee Mansion in Victoria proved to be the perfect setting for two of Australasia’s foremost tractor journos to battle it out as they put the six tractors through their paces on our tractor course.
Best tractors 2016: the contenders
One of my biggest beefs with tractor manufacturers is that they insist on sticking a whole bunch on numbers and letters in their model nomenclature. On paper, the whole bunch together looks like a recipe for chemical fertiliser. It would make my life so much easier if they just used a name. I think something like Massey Ferguson Lugger has a great ring to it!
So, lined up in a row we had the Massey Ferguson 5609, Deutz-Fahr 5105.4G, John Deere 6105M, Case IH Farmall 95C, Kubota M100GX and the New Holland TD5.90. All these new 2016-model tractors were fitted with loaders and arrived without any bells and whistles, no counterweights and no wheel weights.
As you’d expect, each tractor had its own array of features to put on show. For example, the Deere was the only one of the bunch with a suspended front axle. Of course, the John Deere 6105M also featured a full-frame chassis, but was also equipped with a 24-speed power quad transmission. It was hard to miss the twinkle in Tom’s eye as it rolled off the truck.
The Massey was well laid out for loader work with a nicely tapered bonnet and featured a 16x16 semi-powershift ‘box and, as a plus for bucket duties, also had joystick shuttle control. The other green machine was the Deutz that, like the Massey, featured a high-visibility bonnet and cab, as well as transmission stop ’n’ go.
The Case IH Farmall 95C sported a 24-speed synchro ‘box and adjustable shuttle modulation, which can be used on the go. The little blue New Holland TD5.90 used a 12x12 synchro stick-shift and was rated to lift 3.4 tonnes at the linkage. And the Kubota MX100GX stood out with a trick bevel gear front axle and bi-speed turn function, which gave it extra ground clearance and a tight turning circle. A three-range ‘box with eight powershifts in each range kept the cogs swapping for the orange Massey Ferguson 100GX.
It should be stressed that the object of the exercise was to find the best utility tractor for the money, not the best overall tractor or most popualr tractor. It stands to reason that if you throw enough folding green at a machine you’ll end up with a pretty darned good bit of gear regardless of brand. However, the bulk of business decisions are based around the best bang for your buck.
We set up a tight tractor course based around the environment these tractors would usually be working in. As loaders around livestock and shedding these tractors need to be intuitive to operate, have good visibility and be nimble around the farm sheds, dairy or stockyards.
Both Tom and Jayden were timed from a standing start. From there, they had to climb into the tractor, start it and hit the tractor course.
We named the first hard left Farmhouse Corner, before the next hard right, which we called Hayshed. Both these corners saw full power turns with the boys hard on the turning brakes as they battled the clock and each other.
From there it was into the Dairy, where Tom and Jayden had to execute a quick back-and-forth manoeuvre before powering into the ominously named Widow Maker and out into the loading area.
The guys then had to grab three buckets of bark chips, dropping them into our simulated hopper before detaching the bucket. After hitching up the bale spikes, our two test pilots had to then load or unload six bales of hay from our strategically-placed Isuzu truck. The clock stopped when the last bale hit the deck.
It should be said that both Deutz and John Deere marginally exceeded our horsepower criteria, so we had to come up with a penalty. Much to the chagrin of Tom and Jayden, it was decided that they both had to drop and give us the same amount of push ups that corresponded with the amount of horsepower over the 100hp limit. In the case of Deutz it was 102hp, which equalled two push ups, and in the case of John Deere the penalty was five push ups for its cheeky 105hp displacement.
This actually became quite entertaining as after a couple of false starts I managed to get about 15 push ups out of Jayden. I should get into personal training…
I spent two days dodging flying sod as Jayden upped the ante over Tom, who then fought back gallantly. Over the roaring of engines and the clank of buckets, I watched as white-knuckled hands gripped wheels and determined grimaces danced behind windscreens. It was a hoot.
But, in the greater scheme of things, this tractor course was just one very small part of the comparison. All of the machines were scored on ergonomics, layout, visibility, power, ease of use and standard equipment. Once collated, the numbers were crunched and, of course, we then retired to the pub to argue about the results over beer.
Matt’s 10-cents’ worth
No doubt the emotional favourite here was the John Deere, but the big green John Deere 6105M felt like a very big tractor in this role. The New Holland felt generationally lagging in this company, but it is priced accordingly and it’s an easy little beast to operate.
The Deutz-Fahr 5105.4G had great visibility, but the colour-coded cab seemed a little twee to me. Once in the Deutz way of doing things, though, it proved to be a smooth operator. The Massey combines great visibility with a myriad of control options inside, but I always manage to pinch my pudgy little fingers in the door handles. So it’s not my favourite. The Case Farmall seemed like a good all-rounder and the shuttle modulation proved handy. On top of that, it’s hard to ignore the market-leading 600-hour service intervals.
However, it was the Kubota M100GX package that impressed me the most. It was intuitive to operate in this role. The 3x8 gearbox was a fantastic thing to use, and the big four-pillar cab was easy to move around in and provided awesome all round visibility – though I’d be careful with those big doors on a windy day.
It may not have been the flashiest machine on display, but from the driver’s seat, it struck me as the best all-round middleweight in terms of layout and operation.
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