REVIEW: JCB Fastrac 3230 tractor

By: Matt Wood, Photography by: Matt Wood, Video by: Matt Wood

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The JCB Fastrac has been around since the early 1990s. MATT WOOD heads to Gippsland, Victoria to take a look at the newest model in the range of road friendly tractors.

The Victorian town of Korumburra is nestled on the southern slopes of the Strezlecki Ranges. The heavy red and grey volcanic dirt that coats these picturesque rolling green hills makes it prime dairy country.

Looking after pasture and gaining productivity from the soil, keeps operations such as Korumburra Lime and Spreading ticking over.

The 22-year-old business owned and managed by Rod Abbott provides fertiliser spreading services to the area as well as supplying product to farmers who prefer to handle the spreading task themselves.

My main reason for showing my face is ostensibly to have a closer look at the company’s newest acquisition, a JCB Fastrac 3230 modified to be a spreader.

View the JCB 3230 specifiations

To get a feel for the machine I head out to the flatlands south of town to see the JCB in action.

According to Abbott the main advantages of the Fastrac in this application are driver comfort combined with good off-road ability plus a full chassis that can be stretched.

Some of the country around here is too rugged even for the JCB so that’s when the aerial option can be used.

 "The JCB simply offers the best platform to mount a spreader body on," Abbott says.

To make room for the Comspread spreader unit on the back, the Fastrac’s chassis needs to be stretched 1.2m, which is a local aftermarket task.

Rod Abbott’s second in charge Matt Whiteside handles operations duties back in the office while his brother Josh Whiteside drives this particular 3230 for a living.

He has brought out a load of urea from the depot and I climb aboard to see the machine in action as we venture out onto the waterlogged pasture.

 

Machine overview

JCB Fastrac 3230_1

The challenging, often wet, undulating terrain of the area means these guys need go-anywhere machines to get the product down on the pasture. And that’s where the JCB comes in.

The British built Fastrac is at this point in time the only tractor in the world currently using a chassis and it also features suspension on both axles.

As the name would suggest it also handles relatively high travel speeds of up to 80km/h. In many ways it’s a truck influenced tractor, it’s even available with optional ABS brakes.

Bogs do happen from time to time, so this particular machine has a 30-inch (76.2cm) wheel and tyre package to increase ground clearance.

This limits the machine’s cruising speed to 65km/h, something that Abbott feels is a fair compromise. He also claims there’s less pasture compaction from using the bigger rubber.

 

Engine and Transmission

JCB Fastrac 3230_Engine _10

Power comes courtesy of a 7.4-litre 230hp (172kW) Sisu engine which in turn drives a 24-speed semi powershift transmission.

At speeds of more than 25km/h the front differential automatically disengages to keep the front diff happy on asphalt.

 

Cab

JCB Fastrac 3230_cab _5

Cab access to the JCB is a little awkward. The ladder steps could do with an angle in when climbing into the cockpit.

But once in the driver’s seat everything seems pretty comfy.

The commanding view from the cab does make it easy to read terrain and identify obstacles.

Sitting in the centre of the machine gives a good view down both sides of the spreader. But it is the ride of the JCB that impresses me the most.

 

Comfort

Depending on conditions these machines usually spread at around 20km/h and the triple link suspension really soaks up the bumps.

At that sort of speed a conventional tractor will hop and bounce over much of this terrain, which also doesn’t help in the safety and handling department.

The mid-mounted cab of the Fastrac no doubt helps as well.

The driver sits smack in between the axles and the added wheelbase of this machine also contribute to taking some kick out of the ride.

 

Controls

All of the company machines are hooked up to a TracMap GPS that relays vehicle location and field information back to the office.

 A display screen in the cab shows Whiteside exactly where he’s already spread within the paddock and the same info is also displayed back in the nerve centre.

A multifunction joystick is used for transmission selection when the tranny is in powershift mode. A PLC touchscreen display shows which ratio is selected.

In the paddock Whiteside generally uses C mode and manually flicks between the gears using the joystick. I adopt the same approach though a bit of delicate throttle application is needed to take the jump out of the gear changes.

There’s also a delay between the cogs swapping that takes a little more anticipation to make sure you’ve got the right gear exactly when you need it.

Hydraulic switches for the spreader have been fitted to the console of the machine and the TracMap PLC unit displays the field data while on the move and exactly where the product has been spread.

I quickly get the hang of switching between ratios without causing the machine to surge and we are rolling relatively smoothly around the paddocks.

 

On-road performance

A flick of the touchscreen puts the transmission back into auto mode for road travel.

I take the machine for a brief stint up the blacktop at 60km/h and find it to be both smooth and quiet at travel speeds.

The Sisu power plant is very civilised in power delivery and operating noise.

 

Verdict

Not everyone needs JCB Fastrac and it’s a premium product. But there are some roles where it will really shine, the road manners, comfort and cruising speed of the machine really play into the hands of ag contractors.

Clearly a standard wheel base Fastrac will make an excellent spray tractor or nail any other roles where speed, comfort and fuel economy are high on the list of priorities.

Hits

  • Very comfortable in the paddock and on the road
  • Visibility
  • Scoots along very nicely

Misses

  • Cab access not as easy as it could be
  • Premium product, premium price

 

Specifications

Make/model: JCB Fastrac 3230

Engine: 7.4-litre Sisu turbo diesel

Power: 230hp (172kW)

Torque: 1,015Nm

Transmission: 24-speed semi-powershift P-Tronic

Drive: All-wheel drive

Look up the detailed specifications >>

 

For Matt's full test report on the JCB 3230, pick up a copy of New Farm Machinery magazine issue 27, on-sale October 12. 

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JCB Fastrac 3230 1 Part tractor, part truck, this stretched Fastrac is an interesting machine. JCB Fastrac 3230 1
JCB Fastrac 3230 6 The Fastrac is light on its feet, and I noticed minimal soil compaction. JCB Fastrac 3230 6
JCB Fastrac 3230 cab access steps 4 Cab access steps are a little steep and tight. JCB Fastrac 3230 cab access steps 4
JCB Fastrac 3230 cab 5 A comfortable cockpit with everything within reach. JCB Fastrac 3230 cab 5
JCB Fastrac 3230 chassis 3 The JCB’s chassis has been stretched locally by 1.2m. JCB Fastrac 3230 chassis 3
JCB Fastrac 3230 Engine 10 The 7.4-litre Sisu engine puts out 230hp and 1,015Nm of torque. JCB Fastrac 3230 Engine 10
JCB Fastrac 3230 loading 7 Loading up with urea for the first job of the day. JCB Fastrac 3230 loading 7
JCB Fastrac 3230 spreading 8 The Comspread unit throws a bit of lime around. JCB Fastrac 3230 spreading 8
JCB Fastrac 3230 Suspension 2 Suspension on all four corners takes away any hop and bump. JCB Fastrac 3230 Suspension 2

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