REVIEW: Fendt 716 S4 Vario tractor

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

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It’s pretty fair to argue Fendt could be the Rolls Royce of tractors, with Australian contractors increasingly making it their brand of choice. TOM DICKSON trials the Fendt 716 S4 Vario which is staking its claim to the elite title.

When Charles Rolls and Sir Henry Royce sat down for lunch and agreed to establish the Rolls-Royce car manufacturing company back in 1904 they probably had no idea of the legacy they would leave the automotive industry.

For a very long time, Rolls-Royce has been regarded the undisputed symbolic champion of the automotive industry. So much so that the title ‘Rolls-Royce’ is now awarded to products and even people regarded as the absolute top in their class.

Caterpillar could be the Rolls-Royce of earthmoving equipment and most farmers regard Akubra and R.M. Williams as the Rolls-Royce of Australian headwear and apparel.

And I’d have to say Fendt would definitely qualify as the Rolls-Royce of tractors.

Gary Gebert is a farmer in the western Victorian town of Hamilton where he runs about 2,200 first cross ewes on his 300-hectare property.

He was so impressed with the performance of a Fendt he hired to help out during last year’s hay season that he decided to buy his own 160hp (119kW) 716 S4 Vario.

On top of his own workload he also performs a bit of contracting and is hoping its advanced technology and cabin design will save him time, fuel and reduce fatigue, making the whole driving experience more efficient and comfortable.

 

The new S4 line-up

The new 700 S4 series tractors has stuck with the same models seen in the previous 700 series line-up. The six models Fendt has rolled out again range from 140 to 240hp (104 to 179kW).

Tier 4 Final compliant, the new range has added a 1,000rpm economy option to its power take-off (PTO) and improved comfort through an upgraded lighting and suspension package.

It has also upsized to a 10.4-inch (26cm) touchscreen Varioterminal. For even greater visibility a new windscreen wiper design is used. It does about a 300 degree sweep of the front glass starting at the bottom footwell on one side going up and over the windscreen and finishing on the footwell glass on the other side.

 

Engine

Fendt S4 Vario _engine _8509

The 6.06-litre, 6 cylinder motor has seen a few changes but is still made by renowned engine manufacturer Deutz to Fendt’s strict design specifications.

Previously the 700 series ran a Deutz TTCD 6.1 series engine that complied with stage 3b/Tier 4 interim emissions standards using selective catalytic reduction (SCR) technology.

The new models in the S4 series have gone a step further, complying with Tier 4 Final emissions regulations to match higher horsepower Fendt models.

Tier 4 Final has been achieved by incorporating Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR), and the Coated Soot Filter (CSF) diesel particulate filter (DPF), in which unburned hydrocarbons are oxidised and particulate matter is filtered from the exhaust gases then burned off.

Whatever is left is treated with AdBlue to achieve the highest level of emissions standards currently available. An immediate cost saving is achieved by reducing the amount of AdBlue used compared with the previous models.

Other notable advancements include switching from aluminium to steel pistons, incorporating a new common-rail system where three high pressure fuel pumps are used instead of two and increasing the size of the engine oil cooling module.

 

Transmission

It’s way too complex for me to try and explain Fendt’s unique Vario transmission other than to say it is a combination of hydraulics applying resistance on planetries to create drive.

The result is a completely stepless acceleration from 0 to 50km/h. Or so they claim, we actually got this one up to 55km/h.

It doesn’t seem much but for contractors who are always pushing to get to the next job on time the extra 10 per cent of speed on the road will be a welcome advantage.

Maintenance costs on the Vario transmission have been reduced to a minimum by increasing the oil change intervals to 2,000 hours.

For extra piece of mind the hydraulic oil system is completely isolated from the transmission oil. Each has its own reservoir, so the risk of contaminating the transmission with dodgy oil from a borrowed implement is reduced to zero.

The precise nature of the transmission and the ability to easily customise it to your personal driving preferences with adjustable speed modulations really stood out for me. But I also really liked the Fend 710’s maximum speeds, two cruise control settings and a whole lot of other functions.

In particular its ability to hold its position for zero movement of the tractor when you take your foot off the throttle is impressive. I reckon this would be especially useful when carrying out front end loader work when absolute precision is required, such as when loading and positioning hay bales on a truck with the tractor on a downward slope.

As I approach the side of the tray to position the bale and remove my foot off the throttle of the tractor it remains stationary and doesn’t creep.

There is never a need to ride the clutch or brake to start reversing or risk rocking forward into the load. Depending on the situation, I could slowly sneak back by applying just the slightest foot pressure or for a speedier response push a bit harder. It can make even an average driver look like a professional.

 

Appearance

Fendt S4 Vario _8573

The most noticeable cosmetic design change and a quick and easy way of identifying the new S4 series Fendts from the previous line-up is the shape of the bonnet.

It has been raised up quite noticeably at the rear near the windscreen to fit the DPF apparatus.

The engine is fixed to the chassis using a rubber mount assembly so as to protect it from any damage from vibration. It also reduces the effect of engine vibration and noise resonating back into the cabin.

I always prefer it when the engine is not used as part of the structure of the tractor. Even more so when you start mounting front end loaders or three-point linkage (TPL) implements out the front. I don’t care what the manufacturers say; when you start attaching extra weight directly to the engine block it has to cause stress eventually.

I’m told Fendt uses a tapered mounting system when attaching a loader sub frame to the chassis.

Rather than paint on the surface, the holes in the chassis and sub frame just have a thin film of grease applied to prevent corrosion.

When a loader sub frame is attached to the chassis the tapered bolts and holes become tighter and tighter as the tension is increased. With no paint in the holes the contact is pure steel on steel so, less inclined to loosen.

 

Cab and controls

Fendt S4 Vario _controls _8841

For additional supreme comfort Gebert has specced up this model to the Evolution Dynamic seat. As well as having all the features of the lower specced air suspension seats it also has heating and cooling vented through it.

Alongside the main seat is a small but adequate passenger seat and just to the left-hand side is an air-conditioned cooling compartment for meals and drinks.

The controls on the multifunction joystick are a little different to other makes which is a little unsettling for me, but seems to be quite popular among Fendt enthusiasts and dealers.

They say it gives them a point of difference and wear it as a badge since it means Fendt isn’t a copy of the rest.

It helps though that the same colours have been used as other manufacturers to identify transmission, linkage, hydraulic and PTO functions.

With the four-way multifunction joystick, you can control the tractor easily and precisely. It accelerates and decelerates the Fendt 700 Vario without steps.

The joystick lies well in the hand and numerous features can be activated directly on the lever: cruise control, speed memory, the hydraulics and additional automated functions such as headland management. The valves can be actuated directly from the joystick and freely assigned in the Varioterminal.

The PTO has a feature allowing the operator to set a speed, then jump out of the tractor and control it from the rear mud guard. If you are using a PTO driven auger the motor of the tractor will rev up to the set speed when you turn it on then when it is turned off the tractor returns to idle.

If the controls take a little longer to become familiar with, the complete opposite can be said of the 10.4-inch Varioterminal.

I find it extremely easy to navigate my way through the infinite number of functions available from engine performance indicators, such as speed and economy, and hydraulic and linkage settings as well as headland management.

Paddock information can be recorded and individual implement headland management sequences can be saved and then used again at a later date without having to reprogram.

Fendt seems to be all about making the day behind the wheel as simple and comfortable as possible with a minimum amount of actions to perform.

 

Performance

Under the watchful eye of Phillips Farm Machinery workshop manager Danny Jacobson I get myself comfy in the seat for a bit of high speed action.

Jacobson gives me permission to tramp it to see how it behaves but unbeknown to me he’s wound the acceleration response setting up to maximum.

Whoa! I’m thrust back in my seat and a shower of mud sprays off in all directions as the four wheels spin on the moist soil searching for traction. It is unbelievable and something I am not used to coming from a tractor.

Apart from speeding up my heart rate for a second or two it shows me just how well the Fendt performs. Even at 45km/h it handles really well.

And due to the combination of self-levelling front axle suspension with 100mm of travel and three-point pneumatic cabin suspension with integrated self-levelling, the comfort of the ride is exceptional.

Maintaining confident control at varying speeds is a whole lot easier with the VarioActive superimposed steering system. When it’s not activated one turn on the steering wheel moves the front wheels 26.6 degrees, but when it is on, one turn of the steering wheel achieves a 43.3 degree angle on the front wheels.

It makes turning at headlands or front end loader work in tight spaces stress-free.

Given it’s capable of reaching high speeds and towing heavy loads, the Fendt 714 has to have reliable brakes. The pneumatic dual-circuit braking system decelerates the tractor very sensitively and precisely.

 

Visibility

Fendt S4 Vario _LED Lights _8857

The 716 S4 is chock-a-block with features to guarantee you get the ultimate in visibility both day and night, starting with the single pane windscreen starting at floor level and curving over at the top and into the roofline.

This profile allows an unobstructed sight line to a front end loader at full height. In wet weather the well-designed wiper covers the whole screen and down either side to the floor.

There isn’t a door on the right-hand side so as a result the B-pillar has been removed from the cabin structure leaving just a single window on this side for improved visibility. If things get a bit steamy inside the cabin, the heated rear window will prevent it from fogging up.

Gebert has even got the boys at Phillips Farm Machinery to mount a rear facing camera so he gets real-time colour vision on the 10.4-inch Varioterminal. It can be seen in full screen or part screen and has the facility to take another camera.

By the time I’ve finished our driving experience it is late and the sun is well and truly below the horizon. I flick the lights on to put it away then decide to jump out to see what the light package looks like in the dark. It is lit up like a nightclub on a Saturday night.

LED lights scattered all over it blind me from the outside but when I jump back in they turn night to day. I even read in the brochure info the front lights have crossover beams to optimise illumination.

There is a light carefully positioned to light up the step area which allows me to confidently navigate my way in and out of the cab in the dark.

At the end of the day when you shut it down and turn off the lights, some of them conveniently stay alight long enough for you to get inside or back to your vehicle safely.

 

Verdict

After spending the day cruising around and getting to know the ins and outs of a 716 S4 Vario I sense it presents a strong case for claiming the title of the Rolls-Royce of the tractor industry.

I’m so impressed with it, I begin to think it’s possible an elite product or person may one day be referred to as a ‘Fendt’.

There is however one drawback of having the Rolls-Royce title as a mark of elitism. It comes with the dollars you will have to fork out to get your hands on one.

However, what other tractors have as optional extras Fendt includes as standard.

The Fendt 716 S4 Vario with a front end loader and four-way bucket will set you back somewhere in the vicinity of $239,900 plus GST. Of course prices will vary from dealership to dealership.

What you can take comfort in is the knowledge that for the extra expense you get the absolute latest in technology, comfort and cost saving features.

Hits                       

  • 10.4-inch Varioterminal
  • Three-point pneumatic cabin suspension
  • Step lighting
  • Vario transmission
  • VarioActive superimposed steering
  • Three high pressure fuel pumps              
  • Air brakes
  • Cameras

Misses                 

  • Hard to identify some features

 

Specifications

MAKE/MODEL:                 Fendt 716 S4 Vario

ENGINE

Make:                                   Deutz

Cylinders:                            6

Capacity:                              6.056 litres

Maximum power:            165hp/121kW

TRANSMISSION               

Make:                                   Fendt

Type:                                     Continuously variable, Vario transmission

Speed:                                  0.02 to 50km/h

PTO

Rear:                                     540/540E/1000/1000E

Front:                                    1000

HYDRAULICS

Flow rate:                            109l/m (standard)

                                          152/193l/m (options)

Look up detailed Fendt 716 S4 Vario specifications>>

 

For the detailed test report, pick up a copy of New Farm Machinery magazine issue 26, on-sale September 14. 

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Find Fendt tractors for sale.

Fendt S4 Vario 8563 Majestic old red gums on Gary Gebert’s Hamilton property cast a watchful eye over his new Fendt 716 S4 Vario. Fendt S4 Vario 8563
Fendt S4 Vario 8573 Fendt’s Vario transmission holds the tractor completely stationary on even the steepest of slopes. Fendt S4 Vario 8573
Fendt S4 Vario engine 8509 The one-piece bonnet with two separate side panels can be opened without tools. Fendt S4 Vario engine 8509
Fendt S4 Vario Toma nd Gary 8679 Gary Gebert, left, tells New Farm Machinery’s Tom Dickson that he believes that Fendt are the Rolls-Royce of tractors. Fendt S4 Vario Toma nd Gary 8679
Fendt S4 Vario hydraulic oil 8520 A completely separate hydraulic oil reservoir protects the transmission from potential contamination. Fendt S4 Vario hydraulic oil 8520
Fendt S4 Vario rear remotes 8527 Four sets of rear remotes are serviced with 193l/m of oil flow. Fendt S4 Vario rear remotes 8527
Fendt S4 Vario in cab 8650 The plethora of controls in the Fendt 716 S4 cab make it look like an airplane cockpit. Fendt S4 Vario in cab 8650
Fendt S4 Vario rear camera 8465 Optional cameras are the icing on the cake in regards to visibility and implement monitoring. Fendt S4 Vario rear camera 8465
Fendt S4 Vario Vario terminal 8657 The Varioterminal is the central control unit for all tractor and implement settings. Fendt S4 Vario Vario terminal 8657
Fendt S4 Vario controls 8841 Straightforward and sensible layout on the multifunction armrest. Fendt S4 Vario controls 8841
Fendt S4 Vario LED lights 8857 The LED headlights provide an especially wide and bright light. Furthermore, they save power and have a long lifetime. Fendt S4 Vario LED lights 8857

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