Review: Kubota M8540 Tractor

By: Brent Lilley, Photography by: Brent Lilley

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When it came to replacing his old Kubota M4950, Brent Lilley couldn’t go past Kubota’s M8540 model, mainly due to its simplicity, reliability, lightweight and exceptional price.

Review: Kubota M8540 Tractor
Kubota M8540 tractor.

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With so many new tractors on the market, deciding on which one to buy can be an extremely difficult decision. To help you make the right decision, I suggest you stay focused on what the tractor will be used for and therefore what is required from it.

The Kubota M8540 I tested this month was purchased in November last year to replace an aging M4950 model Kubota that had given over 20 years of reliable service but was becoming a little underpowered as the size and demands of new implements increases. When the decision was made to purchase a new tractor, but another Kubota was initially over looked for some larger tractors that came with many more expensive features, but a quick reality check had us going back to the Kubota. The fact that this would be a second tractor on the farm that was destined to be working hard in some less than ideal conditions, it was the simple reliability, lightweight and exceptional price of the Kubota made it stand out from the crowd.

The tractor was put to work immediately over the summer at a variety of tasks including, mowing silage, bale stacking, spraying and loading fertiliser. From day one, the trusty Kubota has more than proven it can handle whatever is thrown at it.

On the day of the test, the Kubota was feeding out round bales of hay and silage to over 750 hungry cattle on a cold morning in June. The conditions were less than ideal as we battled rain and mud. 


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Engine and transmission

The tractor gets its power from the V3800 engine that is built in-house by Kubota and is a punchy 3.8-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine that is rated at 85hp. In my opinion, this engine provides plenty of power for such a light tractor, even on the hills with a couple of bales on board, it just powered to the top. The engine also meets Tier II regulations and uses a centre direct injection system to produce more power while still maintaining excellent fuel economy.

Fuel capacity on the ROPS model is 90 litres. The filler for the tank is located back behind the operator's seat which can be a little hard to get to when there are larger implements on the tractor.

The transmission is a six speed main gear box with three ranges and hydraulic shuttle that is used for forward/reverse to give 18 x 18 gears delivered through a reliable multiple disc wet clutch. I liked the idea of this gear box, as it gives you six gears in the high range which I found suitable for almost all situations around the farm and a top speed of 35kph. The higher gears in the medium range where handy on really steep hills or when doing a lot of loader work. The low range is essentially a creeper box, which is probably only going to be required in some specialist situations. My main complaint here is that the main gear box seems a little clunky and the six gears in an H pattern are quite tight together which can make shifting gears difficult sometimes. This is a shame to see on what is otherwise a very good transmission.

 

Operation and layout

The operator's platform on the Kubota is not quite a flat platform but it is still easy to get on and off and once in the seat nearly all of the important controls are arranged neatly on a console on the right hand side. The main gear shift is to the front of this console in a position that is comfortable to use, next to this is a lever for the mechanical park lock, which I found easy enough to use being located so close to the main gear shift, but Kubota has chosen not to put a hand brake on the tractor in favour of the park lock though, however I would have preferred to see a hand brake as well as a park lock.

Behind the gear shift are the controls for the remote hydraulic valves including the three point linkage and mechanical PTO engagement clutch, plus a hand throttle is located on the right hand side. The PTO has a lever on the back of the tractor next to the spine to select between 540 and 540E, 1000 is an option that wasn't included on this tractor.

The four wheel drive uses a mechanical clutch for engagement with a lever to the left of the seat, the rear diff lock is also mechanically engaged with a pedal on the floor to the right of the seat with the front axle using a limited slip differential. Mechanical engagement is used for almost everything on this tractor and is something that I believe is very good to see on a ROPS model tractor as past experiences have shown mud, water and electronics never mix well and considerably limit the lifespan of the electronics.

The Hydraulic forward/reverse shuttle is located on the left of the steering wheel column and is easy shuttle smoothly in either direction without taking your left hand of the steering wheel which in my opinion is very important on a loader tractor. Front of the steering wheel are buttons for the lights, indicators and a horn. The dash uses gauges to show the RPM, fuel level and engine temperature while a electronic display shows the ground speed and the PTO rpm when in use.

A point of difference well worth mentioning is the tightness of the Kubota 8450's turning circle, which is thanks to the bevel gear front axle that allows the wheels to turn on an impressive 55 degree angle. This was really noticeable when turning into sharp gateways off the race and manoeuvring bales on to the feeder.

One grip I have when operating the Kubota, is a lack of front mudguards. Without mudguards around the large tyres, the result is a messy tractor that throws a lot of mud from the front tyres over the tractor and back at the driver.

 

Hydraulics and loader

The tractor was factory fitted with a LA1353 loader from Kubota, this loader is very well-built and thought out. It was fitted with auto self-levelling in the hydraulic rams so there are no extra mechanical linkages to block visibility, self-levelling can be turned off with a switch under the joystick when it's not required. Shock-less ride boom suspension had been fitted to the loader on this tractor as an option and in my eyes is well worth it. The accumulators are tucked away inside the loader out of harm's way, and even when carrying two 400kg bales of hay on the front, the rams took away almost all the bounce from the loader to give a smoother and safer ride. The joystick to control the loader is on the right of the seat in front of the gear shift and is in a comfortable position for operation. It is interesting to see that they have used two push buttons to operate the third service instead of the usual button that you hold down to change the function of the joystick movement.

The hydraulic pump on the tractor puts out 64 litres a minute which is adequate for this size tractor but the pump was working hard and the hydraulics started to slow when trying to achieve two operations such as lifting the loader and running the feeder at the same time. As mentioned earlier there a two remotes as standard at the rear with an option for a third. Of the two remotes only one is lockable and neither has float or an adjustable flow rate. While this set up was more than adequate to run the Hustler feeder I would have liked to see them both lockable and at least one with a float position. The tractor has a fairly standard three point linkage with telescopic captured ball arms and a lift capacity of 3200kg.

 

Verdict

Overall I am pleased with what the Kubota has to offer and it has proved to be very versatile around the farm. The key points for me are its light weight and simplicity, without loads of electronics and complicated working parts to go wrong. This is something Kubota does well: they have a proven history of producing simple and reliable equipment. The bevel gear front axle is also a highlight providing manoeuvrability that in my opinion is well above others in its class. The lack of front mud guards on the tractor is one issue that I think dealers could easily solve by making them standard. As I mentioned earlier, without them the result is a fair bit of mud on your face.

Those in the market for a ROPS model tractor under 100hp at a good price should definitely check out a Kubota, just see if you can get the mudguards thrown into the deal and you can thank me next winter.

Positive

  • Excellent turning circle
  • Good range and spread of gears
  • Lightweight tractor at only 2500kg
  • Reliable mechanical linkages
  • Excellent loader that fits the tractor well
  • Loads of power for an 85hp tractor

Negative

  • Fuel tank filler can be hard to access
  • No front mudguards
  • Park lock but no handbrake
  • No float position for the hydraulics
  • Gear shift pattern very tight and a little clunky

 

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