Review: Valtra T174ecoD tractor

By: Jaiden Drought, Photography by: Jaiden Drought

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The Valtra T174ecoD has an impressive slew of awards under its snow white belt. The Valtra T174ecoD has an impressive slew of awards under its snow white belt. The Valtra T174ecoD has an impressive slew of awards under its snow white belt.
Cab panel for lights, radio and ac works well. Cab panel for lights, radio and ac works well. Cab panel for lights, radio and ac works well.
The Valtra is very user-friendly. The Valtra is very user-friendly. The Valtra is very user-friendly.
The weight of the cast chassis design makes the Valtra very stable. The weight of the cast chassis design makes the Valtra very stable. The weight of the cast chassis design makes the Valtra very stable.

With an impressive slew of awards under its snow-white belt, Jaiden Drought couldn't resist putting the Valtra T174ecoD tractor to the test.


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It’s exciting (admittedly not for everyone) when a new model is released into the market and even though the new Valtra T174ecoD was painted a dashing Snow White with a hint of pearl, I didn’t feel sleepy, sneezey, dopey or grumpy during the test, and before you ask, it wasn’t an $8 payout brainwave – this paint job is all part of the personalised Valtra experience.

The experience was was more happy and bashful and to be honest I mustn’t be alone on this front as both the Valtra’s N4 (four cylinder) and T4 (six cylinder) Series have already won the Red Dot Design Award 2016, the Golden Tractor for the Design 2016, Machine of the Year 2015 and Machine of the Year 2016 awards.


Build quality

Valtra is often tarnished as being a little kooky inside and to be fair in the past some gear lever designs have been a little left field, although one thing which has never been in question is the build quality of these Finland made machines.

With very generous dumpings of snow and an abundance of forestry work on offer in their native homeland, it is no place for the faint hearted.

Speaking of things not for the faint hearted; last autumn, a new T174 Active tractor and four-time World Rally Champion Juha Kankkunen set a new world speed record for tractors at a blistering 130.165 km/hr.

For the tractor to even stay together at the speed is a credit to the build quality.

Like all major machine manufacturers, Valtra sends its T Series through 40,000 hours of test driving in extreme conditions, and to ensure complete control, makes all four of its major components in-house, including the AGCO Power engine (also found in the Massey Ferguson range).

One of the major developments is that the axles are shifted 250mm further apart. This means a three-metre wheelbase, front/rear weight distribution of 40/60 for traction and ride comfort, while the turning circle still comes in at less than 12 metres.

Although the new T4 has fewer parts than before aiding on the reliability front, it hasn’t been on a diet like you would expect. In fact it has been smashing the deep fried goodness to gain 700kg over the old model, but still allows for a healthy 13.5-tonne gross weight.

The easy to use rear spools do come in handy.

Engine

As mentioned the AGCO Power plant (previously Sisu AGCO Power) has been situated in Nokia, Finland for more than 70 years with a very good reputation as engine builders, employing 700 people and poking out more than 30,000 engines per year.
In the T4 series you either get the 6.6L or the 7.4L.

The T174 we tested is the first of the models to be equipped with the 7.4L and she is a big rumbling beast. As soon as you turn the key, you know what horsepower sounds like.

On the engine front, it is common belief that you cannot have horsepower and fuel economy; you either have one or the other.

Now the eagle-eyed reader may have picked out the little ‘e’ in the title (Valtra T174ecoD), but it can make a significant difference. With the simple push of a button, you can choose between power or economy, aptly named sigma power and eco power.

Eco power is ideal for road transport (53km/hr at 1650rpm). Essentially what happens is that piston speed is reduced by 20 percent and engine torque increases to hold on the pesky hills, while the sigma power is the boost feature and gives 15 extra ponies when needed.

For those who really care about engine spec, the Stage 4 final engine uses SCR and DOC without the need for a particulate filter. A large 70-litre AdBlue tank will keep you going between stops, likewise with the 380-litre main diesel tank.

The external air intake is neatly incorporated into the design.

Direct transmission

I was eager to have a crack on the Valtra CVT, which is another of the four major components made in house.

My first impression was a little unnerving as the settings hadn’t been altered to stop auto range shifting, so I found myself with the tractor deciding to do a range change in the middle of a roundabout, which in a massive white tractor is something a little hard to conceal.

Luckily this was sorted soon after, as was the auto 4WD engagement from 0 to 3.5km/hr and we were away.

So as I mentioned it does have ranges – four of them in fact all controlled by a stubby curved lever, with plus and minus buttons which change up/down through the four different ranges: 0-8km/hr, 0-17km/ hr, 0-26km/hr and 0-53km/hr, all on the move, with no need for stationary range changes like on the Massey and Fendt stablemates.

Like most modern CVT transmissions, there are two driving modes. Tap the little lever towards the window and you are in ‘pedal’ mode. Engine management takes over, allowing the engine and gearbox to be controlled at the same time by the throttle pedal.

By tapping the lever back towards you this is ‘stick’ mode.

This allows you to set revs on the hand throttle and then use the lever to control forward speed, or use the cruise control buttons which can be set to a desired forward speed. More adjustment can be done by the orange thumb wheel beside the gear lever and the computer works out the rest.

Two additional dials to the right allow additional fine tuning where one alters transmission droop (either giving priority to engine or transmission depending on droop required for the task). The second dial allows you to alter the uptake between forward and reverse speeds.

What are my thoughts on the CVT? I like it, I like the fact you can change ranges on the move. It is smooth and responsive and has plenty of fine tuning options.

Pedal mode was easy to drive, had plenty of engine breaking and didn’t feel like it was going to over run.

On the road, getting up to speed was easy with pedal mode, and then flicking it into stick mode was like a built-in cruise control. The eco button kept the revs low and the suspension made road travel a breeze (apart from my altercation at the roundabout).

It has an integrated front linkage.

PTO and hydraulics

Electronic speed selection of three-speed PTO 540/540E/1000 is easy to select using the dial on the side console. For those who want four-speed, you essentially get that with the eco spec as you select 1000 PTO speed and chuck her into eco engine mode and off you go. It will maintain 1000 PTO speed but at lower revs.

The 8.9T linkage is activated by a simple auto-linkage control switch to turn the system on and off. I must admit I did have to refer to the manual to figure this out – who said males don’t read instructions?

Our test machine was fitted with five rear spools, although up to seven can be spec’d, and three valves in front. The valves are fully adjustable with electronic control using the Valtra Arm, and the high-capacity load sensing hydraulics are available with either 115, 160 or 200L/min hydraulic pumps.

A great AGCO trait is the separate transmission and hydraulics oil reservoirs; something I do genuinely believe is a real benefit. Another real cost of ownership saver is that the service intervals are 600 hours for the engine; 1200 hours on hydraulics and a 2400-hour oil drop for the transmission, which is hard to beat.

The test T174 had the optional integrated front linkage and PTO with a rated lift capacity of 5.1 tonnes. This can be operated via the cross lever on the armrest simply by turning a dial below the main screen.

Large passenger seat rounds off the very comfortable cab.

Operator environment

Plenty of time went into developing the sky-view cab and I think Valtra has done a good job. It is not the biggest cab on the market, but the way it almost bulges through the middle and narrows at the top gives the feeling of a very spacious operating environment.

Other things I like are the 270-degree front wiper, heated windscreen and an optional wiper for the right side window. Also the five-pillar design gave great views to the right, and the left-hand door had easy access.

The new air-suspended front axle was very good and gave a great ride while combined with the mechanical cab suspension, although I would love to have a go in the ‘luxury pneumatic auto comfort’ cab suspension. Even the name makes it sound like you will be floating on a cloud.


Summary

I really liked the Valtra, admittedly there are still a few things which are a little kooky but you certainly couldn’t argue with the build quality and attention to detail.

A few things about the armrest could have been done better with the activation of previous settings being one of them, and the top of the range CVT would have been handy with a larger coloured monitor such as the majority of manufacturers have today.

Ride comfort was very smooth and the paint job made it really turn heads. It was surprisingly easy to keep clean, even though all of the dirt showed up on the black.


Hits

  • Exceptionally well made Smooth and user friendly CVT.
  • Very comfortable ride.
  • Two spools as well as PTO and linkage can be controlled from both rear mudguards.
  • Spacious cab.
  • 270° front wiper and heated windscreen
  • Plenty of a/c vents around the cab, both up high and down low
  • Eco engine feature allows marginal drop in power but can reduce fuel consumption by 10 per cent.

Misses

  • Doesn’t store and re-activate these settings when the operator restarts the engine.
  • The rear hook arms were a little ‘dickey’ while the 60cm ground clearance is very good it did make the drawbar 150mm or so higher than most other makes.

 

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