Review: Fendt 720 S4
Jaiden Drought had a great time tickling some soil for a local farmer in one of AGCO’s slickest machines, the Fendt 720 S4
For those who like high spec’d tractors (I definitely fit into that category) this Fendt 720 is about as close as you are going to get to ‘having all the boxes ticked’.
We had a large open paddock, sweltering temperatures (I know when the Aussies are seeking shade it is HOT) and a 5m set of mounted speed discs to put it through its paces.
There are a number of articles that have been written suggesting that Fendt is the Rolls Royce of tractors. While this may be true, is the eye-watering price tag associated with that really worth it – in the field and long-term cost of ownership? Come with me on this 2,000-word journey as I find out.
I will try and keep this as upbeat as possible as there is a lot to talk about with the level of technology in this machine, plus the added complexity of the tractor itself. However, I will not cover everything – why? Well, put simply, if you are going to buy a tractor sitting in the high $200k bracket, you will not pay a large amount of attention to what a daft Kiwi bloke has to say, although stranger things have happened.
The S4 GENERATION
Recently, Fendt went from SCR to the S4 series tractors in the 700 series. Most noticeably on the outside is the ‘Forest Green’ paint job (which is niiice), as well as the 4cm-taller bonnet, differently shaped lights and the absence of a windscreen wiper, which is actually there – just tucked behind the bonnet and gives 300-degree cleaning. On the inside, four-speed PTO is now standard, the ZF front axle is new and the same Deutz six-litre engine now meets final tier IV, made possible with extra exhaust gas treatment, or in layman’s terms: jiggery pokery and witchcraft.
The six-cylinder Deutz TCD 6.06L engine is the same, the SCR system has been tweaked to meet stage IV final and now includes a passive particulate filter, and to deal with the additional heat a 15 per cent more powerful cooling system has been included.
Entry into the powerplant for daily checks are via what Fendt labels a one-piece bonnet. There are two side panels however, which need to be removed for servicing and checking pesky birds’ nests, although they don’t require tools to be fair.
DLG PowerMix tests are regarded around the world as being the benchmark for tractor power testing to keep the manufacturers honest. Fendt in almost all tractor series when measured during mixed work have the lowest consumption figures. The 720 Vario specifically sips just 258 grams per kWh, 11 per cent lower than the average. Add low AdBlue consumption of only 13g/kWh, combined with some of the tech I will expand on later, and 500-hour intervals for the engine and 2,000 hours for hydraulic and transmission oil, all adds up to significant savings per ha.
The Vario transmission remains a main reason why people opt for the Fendt. Key features include the separate 64-litre hydraulic oil tank, meaning no foreign bodies ending up in the transmission oil, which is the reason service intervals can be extended and is undoubtedly going to extend the tractor’s working life.
The ML180HD (Heavy Duty) is the transmission series, rated to 180kW. The only niggle is the manual change between ranges; if you don’t want the burden of this you need to opt for the 1000 series, and hope you win the lottery. In work it really isn’t that much of a problem. This is also part of the reason why the Vario transmissions have a reputation of lasting the distance. Field mode is for the field and road mode is for the road; you don’t end up discing in road mode and the tractor trying to go to 50km/hr by pouring more oil at the hydraulic motors and adding unnecessary heat to the components.
In terms of operation, pedal mode or stick mode are the two options, the Profi joystick is the main drive stick, flicking the joystick to the left is direction change, to the right is cruise control – the stigma Fendt tractors are hard to drive is a fallacy.
As you may have gathered, there are some cool features already mentioned on the 720. Buckle up because there is plenty more where that comes from, this time in bullet point form to keep you awake!
- The CCLS pump has a delivery capacity of 193 litres per minute, 64 litres of available hydraulic oil, on one spool is limited to 102l/min
- The rear hydraulic couplers have pressure release levers, so you can connect under pressure and are colour coded for ease of use. We missed a proportional spool control when timed control was activated.
- In total, seven hydraulic spools can be spec’d on the machine: five at the rear and two on the front. All can be electrically timed, flow rates adjusted and switched from the joystick, to the main drive stick or to the colour coded paddles from in the touchscreen Varioterminal.
- Load Drop Compensating is a nifty feature – it maintains the set linkage drop speed irrespective of the load. Ideal for linkage mounted spreaders or seeders where weight varies depending on material level.
- With 7.4 t lift at the bottom, over 9.5 t at the top, 85 cm travel and class-leading stabilisers, the rear linkage has nothing to pick holes in
- Four-speed PTO now standard, 540/1000 plus Eco for each
- The double acting with load relief control for the front linkage (set and monitored from in the cab) is a huge advantage for applications such as front mowers. Since implement guidance quickly adjusts to uneven surfaces, the only real downside is the absence of a reversible fan option. For front mowing it would be great, particularly in the searing Australian heat.
The Visoplus cab offers excellent visibility with its unique five-pillar style cab, which combines the ease of shutting a smaller door while retaining unobstructed visibility out the right-hand side. Inside the cab it really is next level in terms of techno gadgets. If slightly overwhelming at first, it is relatively easy to grasp. All the functions are in the one place, which Fendt calls the Variotronic control system that is now standard equipment in the new 500, 700, 800, 900 and 1000 series tractors to give familiarity across the product range.
The control system includes a Varioterminal 10.4-inch (26.4cm) colour screen, which can be used as either a touch screen or by using the navigational button. On the ‘home’ page this can be split into four screens to show tractor parameters or on the ProfiPlus guidance spec the navigation can be used as full or half screen.
While not the biggest cab on the market, the Panoramic front windscreen, large two-piece mirrors, climate air and the 300-degree wiper give a more than adequate place to spend the day, particularly if it’s 40 degrees out!
This 720 Profi Plus Version was jam packed with all the good things that I think really differentiate the Fendt in the market.
While headland management is not a new feature on farm machinery, the two sets of Go/End buttons make tasks such as mowing with a sequence for the front mower and one for the rear makes oddly-shaped paddocks a breeze.
- Memory holds up to 25 implements
- You can record up to 74 functions, i.e. lift, lower, GPS on/off, cruise control on/off, PTO on/off
- A sequence can have up to 39 individual steps; these can be started by five different triggers (time, path, front linkage, rear linkage, manual).
There are different options for the accuracy of the GPS but during the test we had full RTK (without a base station), giving accuracy of +/-2 cm, even at night or in poor visibility. Put simply, you go to work on a 20ha paddock and use exactly that amount of diesel, seed, fertiliser, etc. The savings can be anywhere between 10 and 20 per cent.
A cool new feature allows automation on the headland where the VarioGuide talks to the headland management system, detects the position via global navigation satellite system and automatically launches all recorded steps on the headland. All we had to do at the headland while discing was turn it around, and even that is made easy with the VarioActive steering, which allows one turn of the steering wheel to give lock to lock turning… too easy.
For the high end ProfiPlus machines with the capability of loading geo-specific evaluation maps, these show yields, soil samples, plant nutrient availability, etc, are used to create application maps to show inputs needed. This is where VariableRateControl really is next level. It allows up to five inputs to be applied simultaneously and metered independently of each other. For example, when seed drilling, the application rates of seeds, fertiliser and insect baits can all be metered independently, and areas of the paddock with poor nutrient levels will be fertilised more intensively.
Like the VaribleRateControl, the automatic SectionControl is a massive advantage for ISOBUS sprayers, spreaders, and planters, with 36 individually controllable width sections.
Field boundaries close to steams or simply oddly-shaped paddocks are where section control is handled automatically via the VarioGuide and the savings on inputs can very quickly mount up.
VarioDoc and VarioDoc Pro are Fendt’s version of the data sharing of the mapping created in the field by the machine. This allows data such as guidance lines, field boundaries and application maps to be shared between Fendt machines or third-party guidance systems via Bluetooth or USB stick, which is integrated as standard. As a keepsake, multiple job information can be stored in the tractor’s computer with the ability to lock these, so they cannot be changed by an operator aimlessly navigating around the touchscreen.
Other things worth mentioning
- The new ZF front axle over the previous Dana still gives great comfort with the self-levelling front axle suspension, with 100mm suspension travel (50mm +/- midpoint), but the main advantage is the allowance for a higher payload.
- Gross weight of 14 tonnes meaning a heathy payload of six tonnes
- The dual-circuit air braking system quickly pulls the stead up. This machine also had exhaust brakes to use engine braking during transport, which helps extend the life of the main brakes
- This machine was footed with staunch-looking 600/65R28 and 710/70R38 tyres on a rear bar axle, although a flanged rear axle and various other tyre options are available.
Confused yet? No wonder they get the "like a spaceship" label. In reality it has a lot of new technology yoked to time-tested components. The way everything is integrated and seamlessly works together is the stand out for me and when spending this sort of tin, you want bang for your buck. I’m not sure anyone has ever described a full-spec Fendt as good value for money, but I do believe this is a carrier to save money on inputs. Not only diesel and oil, but other high value commodities such as seed and fertiliser, plus the level of integration through ISOBUS with other leading manufacturers of implements allows you to have fewer, higher value machines to maximise productivity that over the lifetime of the machine, does start to make sense.
- High Level integration of tractor components
- Smooth, user friendly transmission
- Light, bright and well laid out cab
- Excellent visibility with 5 pillar cab, panoramic windscreen and large two-piece mirrors
- Pressure controlled front linkage
- Very advanced guidance features
- Excellent ride comfort thanks to air cab suspension
- Ability to change control layout to suit individual operators
- No reverse fan options
- When the spool is in timed mode there is no proportional control, you either have off, timed or float, nothing in between
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