Review: John Deere 6120M tractor with IVT

By: Harrison Hunkin & Jayden Drought

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A revamp of John Deere’s popular 6M tractor range might have been enough, but adding its high quality IVT transmission system changes the game. Harrison Hunkin & Jaiden Drought get a look at the John Deere 6120M tractor with IVT

The new John Deere 6120M stands out in the market in that it comes with CVT without the usual premium price tag

When John Deere revamped its popular 6M tractor range in 2019 by adding a short wheelbase model with a sleek-looking sloped bonnet, tractor aficionados around the world stopped and took notice.

When John Deere then announced that it was also selling them with its famous AutoPowr infinitely variable transmission (IVT), interest peaked even higher… and for good reason.

We recently tested the John Deere 6120M with IVT and, while we’ve come away impressed, we also have the question – was it all just a fantastic John Deere marketing ploy?

SHORT BUT SHARP

Like many, it was at Agritechnica 2019 where we first glimpsed the latest John Deere 6M family of tractors in the flesh. The short wheelbased 6120M definitely stood out the most. John Deere redesigned the entire cabin; a facelift that also extended to a striking new sloped bonnet design; this new 6120M (and the baby 6110M) looked nothing like its other 6M cousins.

Arm armrest is well laid out and positioned in fingers’ reach and comes with a really crisp A-Pillar display that presents all the machine’s technical data.

John Deere fans will feel at home inside this new 6120M as it still has that familiar beige interior but with a few ergonomic tweaks. Also, thanks to the display being positioned on the A-Pillar, the cab provides the operator with some truly fantastic visibility and the reconfigurable electronic joystick is slick.

Speaking of visibility, most of that has to do with the sleek new bonnet design. John Deere has swapped out that distinctive 6M bonnet for a new sloped, snub-nose bonnet. It’s a good-looking design feature and will certainly catch some eyes. However, the visibility it helps to create is most important. It’s fair to say that Deere is a little late to the sloped bonnet party. The Massey Ferguson 5S has been running a similar sloped bonnet style for quite some time, perhaps we need to do a comparison?

Impressively, the 6120M also has front axle suspension that makes for an extremely comfortable ride. Front axle suspension mixed with the 6120M’s unique cabin and short wheelbase made for a great ride in the field while we were working on some heavy ground, as well as on the road. Strangely, the day before we tested this 6120M we spent the day in a 1980s 4040 and that thing shook you like a bowl full of jelly… so front axle suspension gratefully accepted.

Which leads us to the IVT transmission.

 

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

Why? Because John Deere has given the famous M series tractor range the continuously variable transmission (CVT) treatment. More importantly, John Deere is offering its variable transmission (traditionally associated with high-specification) in base-spec machines as well, providing CVT for the masses. So, whether you’re an orchardist or a grazier, you can opt for a no-frills tractor with a clever transmission that is perfect for an array of applications.

We’ve been critical of Deere in the past for believing it should receive applause for announcing ‘ground-breaking’ features that competitors have been doing well for yonks, however, on this occasion, John Deere has almost reinvented the wheel. You simply can’t get a John Deere tractor with a CVT transmission unless you opt for the premium R range of tractors – CVT has traditionally been seen as an exclusive feature to the top of range tractor models with every single bell and whistle on the options catalogue, so the 6120M is a true rarity in this sector of the market.

But, how bare-bones can you actually go? By using the John Deere tractor configurator, we worked out we could get a 6120M with IVT with nothing more than a larger hydraulic pump, so to answer the question is very. The website said $160k but add a dealership handshake and we think we could get that price down.

To be honest, the full spec 6120M we tested is almost R money, which raises a very valid question: will adding IVT to the M series destroy the sales of the ‘Premium" R model line-up?

Deere is mindful of this and has limited the IVT option to only the 6110M, the 6120M and the 6140M and is only available in the Tier 4 models with the AdBlue, which will keep the R series safe, so why add IVT at all?

Because it saw an opportunity. The 6120M is the quintessential loader tractor; incredibly manoeuvrable, very tight 4.36m turning circle and an IVT trans makes sense.

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