REVIEW: Fendt 939 Vario tractor

By: Tom Dickson, Photography by: Andrew Britten, Video by: Andrew Britten

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Fendt tractors are known for being the most technically advanced on the market but are they too complicated for the average farmer to operate? TOM DICKSON went to Nhill, Victoria on a quest for the truth.

While everyone around him is purchasing high horsepower articulated tractors, Darren Bone from Nhill believes he is far better off with his 390hp (291kW), front wheel assist, Fendt 939 Vario.

 "I can’t afford to have a $300,000 to $400,000 tractor just sitting in the shed doing nothing for nine or 10 months of the year," he says. "It just doesn’t make economic sense."

 "We’ve got two Case headers, one for each son, and for most of the harvest season I park my bum in the semi-tipper," Bone says.

"For sowing we use a 47-foot [14.3m] Flexi-Coil bar on 9-inch [23cm] spacings and a 6.5-tonne air seeder cart. For the rest of the year I’ll use the 939 on our 3-tonne urea spreader, slasher, harrows and I’m currently trying to get my hands on a prickle chain to help flatten out paddocks sown for hay production."

Bone says he’s been doing a bit of preliminary cultivation and stubble incorporation with the Flexi-Coil bar and is rapt with the ease at which the Fendt is pulling it.

"The 939 is only 30hp [22kW] more than the 360hp Fendt I replaced, but it feels like a hundred more. It’s like night and day, and the new one is certainly day.

As a matter of interest, Bone is running 600/70 R34 Trelleborg tyres on the front and 710/75 R42s on the back. To help with getting power to the ground he has a 1,600kg weight package mounted on the front linkage.

Grosser is sales manager and managing director of Agco dealership Traction Ag for Horsham and Nhill. He sold and delivered Bone’s machine and has agreed to join us for a few hours to provide technical advice and to put me through the same driving instruction he gives all his customers when handing over the keys.

Grosser has promised to give me all the basics I need to get started.

"Within 10 minutes I’ll have you confidently using enough features to enable you to get out in the paddock and start work," Grosser says.

The time of reckoning has arrived. There is nothing left now but to take the controls and find out if a technological illiterate like myself can actually operate it.

 

Contents

Engine and transmission

Controls

Ride comfort

Hydraulics

Performance

Verdict

Specifications

 

Fendt 939 Vario Engine and transmission

The 390hp 6 cylinder Deutz engine comes to life effortlessly and idles away with hardly a detectable sound from where I sit inside the cab. It features a common rail high-pressure injection system and 7.8-litre cubic capacity.

Accelerating from 0-60km/h is completely stepless creating a really smooth drive.

Grosser explains the Vario transmission has no clutch packs because there is only one planetary in the transmission. He adds the only clutch packs are for the front wheel assist and the PTO [power take-off].

However, there are two speed ranges. The selection button is mounted on the armrest and the two options are road and field. In the road option you get the full speed range from 0.02-60km/h forward and 0.02-33km/h reverse.

Under load, e.g.; sowing and cultivation work, the best option is field range that limits the speed from 0.02-35km/h forward and 0.02-20km/h reverse and helps prevent overheating oil in the transmission.

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Fendt 939 Vario Controls

2654_Fendt 939 Vario _controls

The layout of the controls seems easily identifiable and familiar. The dash especially resembles a car in my view. The wiper control is a steering column stick and the heater and light switches are on the dash just as you would find in a car.

To fully experience the driving ease Grosser advises me to engage the TMS (Tractor Management System) button.

With TMS engaged I can increase or decrease my speed by pushing forward or backward on the joystick without having to move the throttle. The TMS automatically sets and adjusts revs accordingly to achieve my desired speed in the most economical and fuel efficient manner.

Hidden behind the multi-function joystick is a small button that needs to be engaged to instigate initial movement of the tractor. Grosser says this is purely a safety feature to prevent children or any inexperienced person accidently bumping the lever and taking off.

I release the air-operated park break, squeeze the safety button and push the joystick forward. An arrow on the dash lights up pointing forward. If I had wanted to go in reverse I would use the exact same steps but pull the joystick backwards instead.

To increase speed I only have to push the joystick forward and to slow down, I need to pull it back. Increasing speed in small increments is done by pushing then releasing the joystick in short bursts which is good around the sheds.

At the end of the run I just ease the joystick back to slow us to a comfortable turning speed, then plunge it forwards again. On the side of the joystick is a little dial marked one to four. Switching between the four settings alters the rate of acceleration response.

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Fendt 939 Vario Suspension and ride comfort

At one end of the paddock there are a few deep wheel ruts indicating someone had been bogged. This should be a good test of the suspension.

I am astounded to discover the three separate suspension devices virtually eliminate any shock. I can see the wheel ruts but feel nothing.

I put it to this test three or four times at varied speeds and the result is the same. The exceptionally comfortable ride is a result of independent front wheel suspension, pneumatic three point cab suspension and the air suspension seat.

This may be a big call and I am normally hesitant to overcommit too early but from what I have experienced so far it is possibly the most comfortable tractor I have ever driven.

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Fendt 939 Vario Hydraulics

2455_Fendt 939 Vario _color Coding

We decide to return to sheds to attach the 47ft Flexi-Coil bar. There are only two sets of hydraulic hoses to connect and they easily push straight in, even with the motor still running.

The 939 comes standard with five sets off remotes but can be optioned up to eight sets if required without sacrificing the front three point linkage.

Out in the paddock we open up the bar and let it down. The first two sets of remotes are controlled by the cross gate lever, joystick, on the armrest. The third and fourth sets of remotes have switches on the multi-function lever and five to eight are operated by more conventional switches on the armrest.

That’s the standard set-up but you can customise this to your personal choice. For example you may prefer to assign the third and fourth set of hydraulics to the cross gate lever. It’s a really easy process and takes only seconds to make the adjustments through the touchscreen Varioterminal.

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Fendt 939 Vario Performance

2616_Fendt 939 Vario _with Flexi -Coil

As I pull away and drop the bar into the ground the Vario transmission really comes into play. I don’t have to select a gear or adjust the throttle. Just push forward on the multifunction joystick till the tractor reaches 10km/h hour then I let go and the tractor holds that speed.

When the ground gets a bit tougher I can hear the tractor quickly adjust the revs up a bit to maintain the desired speed. At 10km/h the tractor has settled on about fourteen hundred revs and is only using about thirty eight litres per hour. This info and a lot more is instantly displayed on the 10.4-inch (26.4cm) Varioterminal.

I would expect fuel consumption to increase a bit when pulling the air cart and running a hydraulic fan but 38 litres per hour with just the bar highlights its great fuel economy and the potential to cut your fuel costs.

It’s probably worth keeping in mind that the ground is very dry so the sandy type soil is offering little resistance so this is probably also contributing to the excellent fuel economy.

Grosser says it’s impossible to stall the 939 Vario and even under extreme load the tractor might stop but the engine will continue to run. As the implement is raised and the load lessened, drive is returned to the wheels and the tractor pulls away.

Bone has a set of duals in the shed if he needs them when the ground has a bit of moisture in it but from what he has experienced so far, he isn’t sure he will need them.

However, the Fendt has not come out completely unscathed. While I am cultivating I notice an annoying feature.

I tend to look over my right shoulder when keeping an eye on things out the back. Directly in my eye line is the rear window wiper and wiper motor. I just think this could have been better located on the other side.

The only other issue is pointed out by Bone. He says daily maintenance is very simple but he finds it annoying that he has to use a ladder or drum to reach the engine air filter for cleaning.

The rest of the maintenance schedule can be done from the ground and there are only a handful of grease nipples to on the three point linkage arms.

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The Verdict

No Fendt dealer will ever tell you they are cheaper than the opposition because the fact is they are not but with the premium price you get a premium tractor.

Contractors who pull heavy machinery at high speed will especially like the hydraulic trailer brakes and ABS braking.

Actually, I was one of those who in the past had criticised Fendt for being a bit complex but I was wrong. Yes that’s right I have done a complete turnaround.

After spending some time learning the basics under the watchful eye of Kym Grosser I would say this is the ideal tractor for the technology challenged operator.

I believe I have busted a few myths surrounding Fendt and have changed my way of thinking.

Fact No 1. Fendt is extremely high-tech.

Fact No 2. Fendt tractors with a Vario transmission and TMS are extremely easy to operate.

Fact No 3. The Fendt 939 Vario is perhaps the most comfortable tractor I have driven.

Fendt 939 Vario hits

  • Simplicity         
  • Vario transmission
  • 0-60km/h speed range
  • Tractor Management System
  • Suspension
  • Hydraulic trailer brakes
  • Power to the ground

Fendt 939 Vario misses:

  • Rear wiper placement
  • Engine air filter
  • Cab filters require constant cleaning

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Fendt 939 Vario Specifications         

ENGINE

MAKE: DEUTZ

CYLINDERS: 6

CAPACITY: 7.8 litres

MAX. POWER: 390hp/291kW

TRANSMISSION

TYPE: Continuously variable, Vario Transmission

SPEED RANGES: Road (0.02-60km/h) / Field (0.02-35km/h)

Click here for view the full specifications.

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For the full report, pick up a copy of New Farm Machinery magazine issue 21, on-sale now. 

 

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Look up Fendt tractor specifications.

2417 Fendt 939 Vario front Three point linkage on the front carries a 1,800kg weight package. 2417 Fendt 939 Vario front
2425 Fendt 939 Vario rear tyres The Vario Grip tyre pressure regulation system ensures the 939 Vario has maximum traction always. 2425 Fendt 939 Vario rear tyres
2455 Fendt 939 Vario color coding Colour coding helps with identification of important features on the Fendt. 2455 Fendt 939 Vario color coding
2461 Fendt 939 Vario catalytic converter The catalytic converter on the Stage 3B/Tier 4 interim engine sits low and poses no visual obstruction from the operator seat. 2461 Fendt 939 Vario catalytic converter
2616 Fendt 939 Vario with Flexi Coil The Fendt 939 Vario has no problem converting power to traction when pulling the 47ft Flexi-Coil bar. 2616 Fendt 939 Vario with Flexi Coil
2654 Fendt 939 Vario controls The Fendt 939 Vario has no problem converting power to traction when pulling the 47ft Flexi-Coil bar. 2654 Fendt 939 Vario controls
2811 Fendt 939 Vario lights Twenty lights provide 360-degree illumination all around the tractor. 2811 Fendt 939 Vario lights

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