Mighty Machines TV Episode 3 Fendt & Valtra

By: Harrison Hunkin, Video by: Matt Bourke & Paul Cannan

Presented by

Harrison gets to grips with the new Valtra T234D in a dusty paddock as Kiwi counterpart Jaiden Drought takes on a Fendt 720 S4! (Scroll down for link). Check it out! And make sure you don’t miss episode 4 airing this Saturday @ 4:30pm on 10 Bold!

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Let us set the scene. It’s a stinking hot December day in the middle of a dusty paddock. At the front of the gate is a brand spanking new Valtra T234D and a Fendt 720 S4, both with Tulip Multidiscs in tow – it was like Christmas had come three weeks early.

Both Harrison, taking on the Valtra, and Jaiden, driving the Fendt, had a great time tickling some soil in two of AGCO’s slickest machines. Here’s what they thought.

Valtra T234 side on in Australia
The Valtra T234 looks great in white

VALTRA T234

When you think of Finland, you think of Nokia mobile phones, blonde hair and freezing cold temperatures. From now on, you should add Valtra tractors to that list.

The name Valtra sounds like something from Star Trek and its current crop of tractors isn’t too far off it – sitting in the latest Valtra T Series cabin did make me feel like I was in the cockpit of a spaceship.

And while warp speed might be a way off, the Valtra T234D is among the world’s fastest, clocking a top speed of 130km/h an hour on snow a few years ago.

Regular readers of TradeFarmMachinery.com.au will remember that the Valtra T254 won top tractor of the year at Agritechnica 2018 – and the T234D has a lot of similarities to it.
 

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ENGINE

Let’s start with the power source. Under the bonnet of the Valtra is a 7.4-litre, six-cylinder AGCO Power engine that pushes out a very handy 220 horsepower (164kW).

However, the tractor also has two boost settings – enabling it to reach up to 250hp (186.4kW).

Boost one, of 10hp (7.5kW), kicks in at over 25 per cent of the max speed in its C or D range, so over 7km/h in C range or over 13km/h in D range.

Boost two is triggered at speeds exceeding 38km/h when in transport or by Sigma Power. Sigma Power has been a feature of Valtra for many years and is available across all N and T series tractors. It measures the torque load on the power take-off (PTO) shaft and engages the maximum available boost when required, regardless of travel speed.

Say you’re in the field with a power harrow that required big power or standing still in a yard with a mixer wagon; as long as the PTO is running under load the full boost will be made available. The Sigma Power feature gives up to 36 additional hp (26.8kW) for PTO work when required.

This particular model had a top speed of 53km/h, and it flew by the way, but you can get a higher speed transmission which nudges the T234D up around that 60km/h range.

Service intervals are set at 600 hours.

Like all European brands, the T234D has an emission compliant engine; this one being tier 4 final compliant. It uses a selective catalytic reduction (SCR) only, which removes all the extra hassle you get with exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) and diesel particulate filters (DPF).

However, the latest tier 5 powered tractors are said to be arriving mid-year, which will include DPF.

Under the bonnet of the Valtra is a 7.4-litre, six-cylinder AGCO Power engine
Under the bonnet of the Valtra is a 7.4-litre, six-cylinder AGCO Power engine

TRANSMISSION

If you looked deep into the tractor manual you’d see that the D in the T234D signifies this model has the Direct CVT transmission, which is the flagship of the Valtra T series.

While there’s no arguing that Fendt has the superior CVT transmission – due to the fact that they created and patented the concept – the Valtra’s CVT transmission is certainly crisp.

Nothing unusual here, you’ve got four working ranges which Valtra says allows you to set the transmission to efficiently transfer the maximum amount of torque and power for the job at hand.

They are Ranges A, B, C and D – A is for your heavy pulling, B is for field work, C is for zooming around the field and D is for road transport. Nothing too foreign there.

But where the Valtra stands out is its ease of use. Click a button at the base of the MultiFunctional lever and you’re in automatic or manual mode.

I know Jaiden mentioned a while back that the Valtra he reviewed was continually trying to shift up ranges when it didn’t need to.

That was a few years ago now, and I certainly think this new T234D has improved from that. In fact, I barely noticed when we shifted up or down a range in automatic or manual mode.

Manual mode is selected in A and B work ranges. The transmission ratio is controlled solely by the driver using the MultiFunctional lever.

In Manual mode the throttle pedal controls engine rpm and the MultiFunctional lever controls the transmission speed as you would expect. In Auto mode the pedal and the MultiFunctional lever both control acceleration and deceleration like an automatic car, with the tractor setting the engine and transmission output based on the task at hand and what settings the driver has selected through the SmartTouch screen.

Speaking of operation, it’s fair to say there are two types of farmers. Ones who enjoy the old fashioned foot pedals and ones who prefer the drive levers on the armrest. Luckily for everyone, Valtra still allows for both.

Personally, I think the Fendt has a really awkward and large drive lever. It’s ugly and resembles a Bubble O’Bill ice cream with heaps of buttons chucked on it.

Now, before you proud Fendt lovers out there bite my head off, just hear me out. I’m not saying to piss your Fendt off because of a drive lever, but seriously jump behind the wheel of a Valtra and check out the SmartTouch armrest and its new MultiFunctional lever – it’s bloody good. But more on that later.

In summary, the Valtra CVT transmission is very good. It’s really smooth when shifting between ranges, with definitely no lag.

The Valtra SmartTouch armrest
The Valtra SmartTouch armrest is exceptional

IN THE CAB

Second to that AGCO engine, the Valtra’s best feature is in its new fourth generation cabin.

If you’ve never stepped foot in a Valtra tractor, or you’re a stuck-on fan of a competitor, that’s fine, but you definitely should make an effort to check out the Valtra SmartTouch armrest (which comes standard on the Direct and Versu models).

It features probably the best monitor I’ve seen in a tractor. Why? Well, most monitors on the market simply have too much going on.

While many manufacturers claim theirs is easy to use, Valtra’s really is.

A big reason for that is because it’s been designed to operate and feel like an everyday tablet or smartphone.

It may not be able to do as much as the Fendt, but it’s super intuitive, super simple and customisable, but never something daunting.

You can access everything by a tap or a swipe of the finger. The display is fantastic and visually stunning. Valtra has packed so much ability into the SmartTouch screen they say there is rarely any need for additional monitors. A second SmartTouch screen for guidance and implement tasks will become available in the very near future.

Valtra SmartTouch screen
The SmartTouch screen has been designed to operate like an everday smartphone or tablet

It may be a turn off for some, but I’m a really big fan of the suede-like cushion on the armrest. Rest your arm on that and almost everything you need to control the SmartTouch screen and the tractor is in fingertip reach. Your standard colour coded hydraulic and PTO switches are all there in front of you; no need to reach to your side or go searching for a switch on pillar. It’s certainly a smart design.

If you’re into something a bit simpler, Valtra does offer a five-step PowerShift transmission option with three different armrest layouts for different budgets: the Hitech, the Active or the Versu (the latter offers the SmartTouch armrest).

The fourth generation cabin on the T234D is also exceptional.  The build quality is great, not quite as lush as the Fendt I will admit, but it’s certainly swanky inside.

Space in the cab isn’t an issue either. Riding shotgun in the dicky seat is pretty good, no issues there from my part. If you’re a larger lad or lass however, you may want to stick to the driver seat, or you could just option out the dicky seat altogether.

Another key feature of this new cabin is its reverse steering capability. It’s a little bit of a fiddle with a button under the armrest, but once you work it out you can spin your seat a full 180 degrees to operate in reverse. Long legs beware.

The truck-style dual airbag front suspension gives the Valtra a fantastic ride. The paddock we were working in was by no means flat, but the T234D was remarkably comfortable, even at top speed.

Optional airbag suspension on the cab is also available if you want a softer ride, but the spring suspension we had on our model wasn’t too shabby.

The rear of the Valtra T234
At the rear you have up to five electronic valve

HYDRAULICS & PTO

In terms of hydraulics, the Valtra T234D has ‘high-capacity’ load-sensing hydraulics with 115, 160 or 200 l/min hydraulic pumps.

This is available not only on the Direct model but also the Versu and Active T series models.

At the rear you have up to five electronic valves, while at the front you can have up to four. The front valves, for the front loader, front lift or both, are electronically controlled with the joystick located on the SmartTouch control arm.

PTO-wise, the model we tested had electric three-speed PTO. Options for PTO speed are 540/100, 540/540E/1000 or 540E/1000/1000E as well as a ground speed PTO for those special applications.

You also get a 9.6T lift capacity at the rear or a 5T lift capacity on the front, which really showcases the grunt this Valtra has.

THE BOTTOM LINE

I’m a big fan of this Valtra T234D tractor. It’s seriously good looking and deadly serious on the farm. Over in Europe they’re known for their crazy array of colour schemes; pink, red, green, you name it, they deliver.

However, here Down Under they’ve stuck to one colour, white. Which I love! It’s an elegant looking machine that’s for sure.

That SmartTouch armrest is superb, while that ride quality in the cabin thanks to that dual airbag suspension was pillow-like.

If the Fendt is a Volkswagen, the Valtra is a Skoda – superbly built and packed with awesome features but still trying to get out from the shadow of its bigger brother.

I’d love to hear from Valtra owners Down Under and what you think of your machine.

HITS

SmartTouch Armrest is the best in the business

Spacious cabin and comfortable ride

Plenty of model options

Elegant design

MISSES

Reverse steering a pain to spin into place

Aircon wasn’t as powerful as I’d like

 

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