Kings of Class: Claas Axion 960TT and Xerion 5000 test drive

By: Harrison Hunkin, Photography by: Sean Lander

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A first glance at the impressive Axion 900 and Xerion 5000 series tractors from Claas left us seriously impressed. Harrison Hunkin reports

Claas has enjoyed its fair share of machinery innovations over the years. The early Claas combine harvesters changed the game in Europe. Then you have their forage equipment, the company’s bread and butter really, and don’t forget about the Jaguar forage harvesters…everyone knows the influence and success the Jaguar has imparted on the globe, today 1 in every 2 foragers sold globally are Jaguars, impressive. 

Somehow, despite all this pedigree and innovation, we tend to neglect or forget about Claas when talking about the big players in the ag machinery world (John Deere, AGCO, CNH).

Perhaps it’s because they are relatively new to the tractor game, and tractors are the measuring stick when talking about machinery. Or, is it because this industrious German family-run company is drowned out by the corporate huff and puff of its ginormous competitors?

Either way, they’re now making some serious noise with its latest Axion 900 series and the Xerion 5000, and it has grabbed our attention.
 

Claas Axion 960TT with the Xerion 5000TS in Germany
Brothers in Arms - the Claas Axion 960 and Xerion 5000 in Germany

FIRST GLANCE

Rewinding back before the Covid pandemic, we spent the day with the Claas Axion 960TT and the Xerion 5000TS at a Claas facility in Germany. At that stage, the Xerion 5000TS was merely a concept and yet to be released to the world, while the Axion 960 featuring the new Terra Trac system had just received a substantial global launch at Agritechnica.

Naturally, our eyes were initially drawn to the Axion 960 and the Terra Trac, a flat ‘half-track’ system that had been trialled on the Lexion and Jaguar harvesters, now punched onto the rear of the brands' flagship Axion tractor. It was an impressive tractor to look at. 

At first glance, it’s clear the TerraTrac system is intended to act almost like a hybrid between a wheeled tractor and traditional tracked tractors. It provides the comfort of a wheeled machine, and the flexibility in variable soil conditions that you get with a traditional tracked machine, Claas claims you get 15 per cent more traction and 50 per cent less ground pressure with Terra Trac.

And that’s the beauty of this fully suspended flat track style system, it rides like silk which is amazing compared to regular tracked machines. Normal tracked systems can be a real rigid experience and really throw you around inside the cabin, especially on roads, while two-track machines can be quite sensitive to steer, but because the Axion still has and uses its front wheels to steer, you remove that horrible feeling of side steer. We haven’t had a chance to test it in the field, but we presume this also removes headland scuffing as a result.

To push this big girl along Claas has fitted it with an 8.7-litre, six-cylinder FPT powerplant and a continuously variable transmission. It has a top speed of 40 km/h, understandably lower than the wheeled variant, and pushes out an impressive 445hp of power (327kW) and 1860Nm of torque.

Other key specs and features include four-way suspension and front-axle suspension on top of the suspended TerraTrac. You also get the impressive 12-inch Cebis display and armrest that is right up there with Valtra as one of the best on the market and a neat 7.5m turning circle.

Claas Xerion 5000 TS being tested at the Claas facility in Germany
The Claas Xerion 5000TS is one of the best looking machines we have seen

WHAT IS A XERION?

Regardless of your tractor affiliations and brand colours, I’d think you’d be hard-pressed to find a better-looking tractor than the Claas Xerion 5000. 

It’s a brute of a machine that’s intended to go toe-to-toe with the "Yank Tanks" of the red or green persuasion, and Claas is adamant to show the world that its Xerion range can play ball in the high-horsepower game.

For example, the Xerion 5000 gets its power from an impressive six-cylinder Mercedes-Benz OM471 LA engine that pushes out 530hp (max) and a whopping 2600Nm of torque. For all you engine buffs out there, this is the same beast that’s kicking goals in the game-changing Mercedes Actros truck.

You can also opt for the smaller Xerion 4500 with 490 hp/360kW of power or the ‘baby’ 4200 with 462 hp/340kW. It's important to note that the test machine that we drove was the tier four spec'd model which is not available in Australia and has now been replaced with Stage V compliant engines, however, you can get the Xerion 5000 with a tier-three Perkins 2206D 12.5L engine that pushes out 524hp/385kW and 2353Nm torque. 

For the transmission, you’ll find a well-known ZF CVT box. 

 But, however capable and well equipped the Xerion series has been over the years, the German brute was missing a key ingredient. You see, the Deere’s, Case IH’s, Versatile’s — the big daddies of the tractor world — all offer customers a "tracked" option. We wouldn’t dare get into the track vs. wheel discussion, but it is important to note that the Xerion wasn’t playing in that field… until now! 

Of course, the decision to add tracks to the Xerion is more than a "Keeping up with the Joneses" moment and has more to do with providing European customers with a high-horsepower tractor that can fit down those narrow roads — all versions of the machine are less than 3-metres wide — and offer similar traction to the wheeled machines. But, you can’t tell us that this awesome tracked version hasn’t drawn the gaze of farmers who’d previously never given the Axion the time of day? Tracks are mean and striking, which is a little disappointing to know Australia won’t be seeing a tracked Xerion anytime soon. 

The Claas Axion 960TT being testing in Germany for Mighty Machines TV
The Claas Axion 960 and its Terra Trac system has changed the tracked tractor game

However, Claas tells us there is a new Xerion 5000 on duals currently demonstrating in Western Australia… yes, please! 

THE GERMAN TOUCH 

By taking over Renault Tractors in the mid-2000s, Claas had added the final piece of the puzzle to be a world player. 

So are we finally seeing Claas blossom as a tractor manufacturer? The Germans have a knack for making impressive machinery don’t they and the latest Axion TerraTrac and the Xerion 5000TS do NOT buck the trend.

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