REVIEW: JCB Fastrac 4220 tractor

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

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JCB’s brand new Fastrac 4000 series tractor has just arrived in Australia and TOM DICKSON wasted no time in jumping behind the wheel for a test drive. He finds it zippy, feature packed and, most importantly, very comfortable.

 


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The new 4000 series JCB Fastrac tractor is designed around the same core features that have earned the series a reputation for being one of the most versatile and comfortable tractors on the market.

Although it has retained all the elements of the existing Fastrac it’s actually a completely new range designed from the ground up.

It includes features that have improved its performance and manoeuvrability in the field, and JCB’s designers have made the ride even more comfortable than that of older Fastrac models.

A CVT transmission, AGCO Power engine, front and rear axle suspension, four wheel steering and heavy-duty disc brakes are just a few inclusions that elevate the Fastrac 4220 to a new level of performance.

In addition, the new CommandPlus cabin boasts more space and better visibility than before — plus a few features that could show some of the other tractor manufacturers a thing or two.

 

JCB 4000 series overview

Hydrostatic steering has replaced the old mechanical steering box assembly — which means that the tractor’s maximum speed has had to be reduced to 60 km/h, but the benefits associated with hydrostatic steering definitely outweigh the negatives.

A full-length chassis provides great strength, removing stress from the engine and transmission, and features pre-drilled holes to allow for a front-end loader to be fitted.

I feel a touch more confident that tractors built around an independent full chassis may stand up better under tough conditions.

Taking a closer look into the specifications of the 4000 series reveals that it includes some of the best componentry currently on the market.

The most obvious example of this is the choice of the CVT transmission; even better, an ML180 model manufactured by Fendt and featuring the unique planetary design that Fendt still holds the patents for.

Three models make up the range — the 4160, 4190 and 4220 — but the only one currently being brought into Australia is the 4220.

 

Engine

JCB Fastrac 4220 Engine
A new AGCO Power 6.6-litre, six-cylinder engine provides the JCB Fastrac 4220 with a maximum 235hp (175kW) of power and 950Nm of torque.

The new 4220 gets its drive from a 6.6-litre AGCO Power engine using selective catalytic reduction and a diesel oxidation catalyst to meet Stage 4 emissions regulations.

The last three digits in the model number indicate the power output, hence the 4220 is 220 horsepower (164kW).

This would certainly give it enough grunt to be a serious loader tractor. If you’re wondering how it would perform in a cropping enterprise I can tell you that it didn’t falter when I hitched it up and put it to work pulling a 35-foot (10.6m) Simplicity bar on 9-inch spacings with a 9-tonne Simplicity cart on behind.

Dropping it into the ground about 100mm caused immediate wheel slip but it found its feet again and pulled away nicely once I engaged four-wheel drive.

The bonnet lifts well clear of the engine and I am pleased to say there is no need to carry a special little tool around with you to open the bonnet latch. Both side panels come away easily to expose the whole engine nicely.

JCB Fastrac 4220 Engine Bonnet
JCB dealer Terry Michaels shows how quick and easy it is to fully expose the 6.6-litre engine for servicing and maintenance.

Unfortunately the large front wheels make it a little difficult to actually get in and around the engine bay.

I’m not too worried about this, though, because the engine oil dipstick can easily be reached without even lifting the bonnet.

Apart from topping up a few fluids every now and then there are not too many occasions other than an engine service where the bonnet needs to come up.

The 390-litre fuel tank and 45-litre AdBlue tank are mounted beside each other on the main entry side of the tractor. The filling point of each is about shoulder height so filling can be done from the ground.

The 130-litre hydraulic tank is mounted just forward of the entry steps on the same side of the tractor as the fuel tanks.

A sight glass is moulded into the side of the hydraulic tank so every time you get in or out of the tractor you get a visual of the hydraulic oil level.

 

Transmission

The ML180 CVT transmission in the Fastrac 4220 has been a proven performer in Fendt tractors. I discovered that it’s a unique transmission last year when I reviewed a Fendt 716 S4.

Unique because it is designed and manufactured completely by Fendt, which still holds all the patents on it.

My comment at the time was: "It is way too complex for me to try and explain other than to say it is a combination of hydraulics applying resistance on planetries to create drive. The result is a completely stepless acceleration."

The continuously variable transmission offers a low range of from 0-40km/h and a high range going from 0-60km/h. Switching between the two ranges can be done on the go.

The tractor can be driven using one of three main modes: Drive, which is essentially automatic; Manual; and Powershift, which provides speed changes in incremental steps. Within each mode, cruise speeds can be set as can constant PTO speeds.

JCB Fastrac 4220 Joystick
Repetitive functions can be programed into the buttons on the joystick.

The Fastrac 4220 has four PTO speeds of 540, 540E, 1000, and 1000E to cover all situations in the most effective and fuel efficient way.

Control of the transmission is via the armrest joystick. Nothing unique about that these days but what is unique is that I quickly got my head around how to operate it.

Changing direction, adjusting speed and setting the percentage of engine power the tractor is using are easy to achieve.

Using the touchscreen monitor it’s easy to assign repetitive functions to the buttons on top of the joystick to minimise arm movement.

 

Linkage and hydraulics

It seems to be well equipped to carry out any task you would throw at a 220hp tractor. The category III linkage has hook ends as standard and uses electronics to provide smooth lifting and lowering.

It has a lift capacity of 8 tonnes and combined with the extra 4-tonne payload capacity on the deck it’s possible to haul around 12 tonnes all up on the rear with an additional 3.5 tonnes mounted on the front.

The hydraulics have a maximum oil flow of 148 litres per minute to service up to a maximum of six double-acting valves with flow and time control, constant pumping and float position.

The standard fitout provides four rear spools with rear free-flow return, but there is any number of options that you can request to customise your purchase including: three, four or five rear spools; none, one or two front spools; front free-flow return; load-sensing hydraulic connection (power beyond); and priority flow control (green spool).

The couplers are deluxe quick release (release under pressure type).

I keep coming back to driver comfort and again all the controls for linkage and the hydraulics are well placed on the armrest.

 

Cab and controls

JCB has obviously invested heavily in lifting the standard of driver comfort. Increased cabin space, an improved suspension package and better visibility are testament to the company’s commitment to improving the operating environment and reducing physical stress.

The new series JCB has two fully functioning and usable doorways for getting in and out of the cab.

Both doors are huge and the armrest is designed in such a way that I can easily step in and sit down from either side.

In the past I have been critical of many tractors that have a door on the right hand side that is completely ineffective and might as well not be there at all.

The Fastrac 4220 has a real sense of space inside the cab. The massive front windscreen and side doors allow for excellent visibility and although I feel like I could get up and go for a walk inside the cab but even with all this space the controls are still well within easy reach.

JCB Fastrac 4220 Cabin
The exceptional cabin space is modern, luxurious and is fully adjustable to best suit the driver’s stature.

The two side pillars on the six-pillar cab are mounted well back so they don’t hinder side vision and it allows two small side windows to be fitted to allow for a bit of ventilation.

At first I couldn’t quite put my finger on why I felt so at home inside the cabin but came to the realisation that it is because it is very similar to that of a car. Not just any car but a luxury car.

The new CommandPlus cab features a fully adjustable suspension seat and full-size instructor’s seat all decked out in leather upholstery.

To help eliminate back and neck strain the driver seat can now swivel 50 degrees right and 20 degrees left.

During the test the temperature outside has already climbed to a scorching 43 degrees, but thanks to the super-effective air-conditioner there is no better place to be than inside the cab.

To help pass the long hours there is an optional MP3 player and Bluetooth hands-free communications system.

A cool storage compartment keeps meals and drinks appetising, and the instruction seat can even fold flat to create a picnic table. I think the silver-service waiter is an optional extra.

The JCB Fastrac 4220’s slimline instrument panel presents all the relevant information and warning signals in a way that is easily identified and interpreted.

JCB Fastrac 4220 Touch Screen
The colour touch screen terminal is standard equipment, handling the key tractor functions in the most intuitive and clearest way.

The colour touch-screen terminal is a real pleasure and, though I only scratched the surface of its capabilities, I felt that it was one of the easier ones to use.

You can easily programme the Headland Turn Assist (HTA) feature using the touch screen.

You can set up and store control sequences for five different implements (with up to 15 steps in each) for simpler headland turns and initiate the new rapid steer option, which reduces steering wheel rotations for headland turns and loader work to just two turns lock-to-lock.

 

Suspension and drive

Four-point cab suspension combines with the pneumatic seat suspension to provide a really comfy ride but the front and rear axle suspension takes it to a whole new level of smoothness.

The suspension incorporates hydraulic struts with accumulators to keep the chassis of the tractor flat through uneven terrain and compensate when heavy implements are attached both front and rear.

JCB Fastrac 4220 Performance Comfort
The JCB Fastrac 4220’s unique self-levelling rear axle suspension is now matched by a hydraulic front system that maintains correct ride height wherever the implement is mounted.

The new three-point linkage system on the Fastrac 4220 gives it up to 8 tonnes lift capacity on the rear, complemented by 3.5 tonnes on the front linkage. Up to 4 tonnes of weight can be carried on the rear deck.

It can be used to carry product to top up spreading and spraying implements to reduce the number of trips to refill.

The Fastrac 4220 has the option of four different steering modes available at the turn of a dial.

It allows you to select either two- or four-wheel steer, plus a customised setting which can be selected via the tractor’s touchscreen terminal, including crab and delayed steering modes.

Two-wheel steering feels quite responsive and is adequate for most activities. Selecting four-wheel steering effectively reduces the tractor’s turning circle to less than 10m.

This custom steering mode can also be integrated into a headland management sequence, allowing, for example, two-wheel steering for working up and down the paddock then switching to four-wheel steer at the headland.

As a safety measure four-wheel steer automatically switches to two-wheel steer at speeds above 25km/h, then re-engages when you drop below 25km/h.

 

Customer testimonial

The most interesting and informative comment of the test comes from Dennis Baker, who owns the 1200Ha cropping property where we are working. Actually there were two comments.

Baker says he bought one of the first Fastracs that Terry Michaels sold out of his JCB dealership at Donald.

"Terry kept telling me that the Fastrac was the most comfortable tractor on the market at the time so I got him to bring one out and I put it over the roughest piece of ground I could find on the place," he says.

"I was so impressed by the way it handled the tough treatment and the comfy ride in the cab I virtually signed up to buy it before he took it out the gate."

Baker goes on to say that after a lifetime in farming his back is a little worse for wear and if it wasn’t for the comfortable ride that his JCB Fastrac gives him he would never have been able to continue spending long hours behind the wheel and would have been forced to retire years ago.

 

The Verdict

My lasting memory of the Fastrac 4220 is that it’s fast and exceptionally manoeuvrable for a tractor of its size with a turning circle of around 10m.

The cabin is exceptionally well presented with all the modern look of a luxury car with comfort to match. There seems to be more space inside the cab and visibility, in my opinion, is unrivalled.

Front- and rear-axle suspension and four-wheel steering were a real pleasure to experience.

Testament to the design was the fact I was able to use most of the features successfully.

I only received about 10 minutes of instruction before being left on my own but the simple and intuitive nature of the design allowed me to work out most of it pretty quickly.

Would I give it my tick of approval? Yes I would, 100 percent.

Hits:

  • Spacious cabin
  • Fendt transmission
  • Four-wheel steering
  • Front- and rear-axle suspension
  • Visibility and comfort
  • Access through both doors
  • Hydrostatic steering

Misses:

  • Reduced speed compared to previous models
  • Front wheels block access to engine bay

 

Specifications

Engine                                 

Make: AGCO Power

Hp: 220

Cylinders: 6

Litres: 6.6

Transmission                     

Make: Fendt

Type: CVT

Ranges: 2 (high/low)

Maximum speed: Low (0-40) / High (0-60)

Dimensions                       

Length: 5.40 metres

Width: 2.55 metres

Height: 3 metres

JCB Fastrac 4220 detailed specifications >>

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