Review: McCormick X8 680 VT-Drive

By: Mark Fouhy, Photography by: Justin Bennett

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Delays with machinery arriving on these shores have become almost standard over the past year, so it was a sense of relief that the McCormick X8 680 VT-Drive was finally unveiled. This impressive offering represents McCormick entering the high horsepower tractor market.

The new four-post cab has been completely redesigned

The latest McCormick release, the X8 680 VT-Drive, tops out the X8 range at 310hp (231kW) at 1,900rpm.

Initial impressions were a big thumbs up. As expected of any tractor in this class, it’s large, with LED lights aplenty, and on quality big rubber – what’s not to like? While ‘blacking out’ tractors seem to have become a recent trend – with dark wheels, panels and windows – McCormick has stayed true to its bold red aesthetic. However, rather than its usual fire engine red, this special edition is more of a classy metallic red. Ironically, it almost perfectly matched the Strautmann Magnon loader wagon we hooked it up to for our test drive. 

Operating on flat ground and without being loaded due to the availability of grass and terrain options on the day we visited, it’s a little hard to truly say just how much power the McCormick X8 has under full load. However, FPT engines are known for having plenty of torque through the low to mid-range, where they tend to be operated most of the time. 

In terms of get up and go, there was no disputing its ability in this regard. It can reach 50km/h at a low 1,600rpm and tow up to 40 tonnes safely, thanks to the engine exhaust brake, as well as air and hydraulic brake connections for trailed implements. 

Although it looks big, it actually only measures three metres and has a turning radius of five metres and turning circle of 11 metres, so is considerably nimbler than you would expect. 

Overall, the tractor weighs 10,800kg, with that weight distributed 45 per cent in front and 55 per cent at the rear, helping keep soil compaction low and traction at its optimum level.

The X8 680 VT-Drive is McCormick’s entry into the high horsepower tractor market

Transmission

Like most tractors this size, a CVT transmission is the way McCormick has spec’d its X8 tractors.

Opting for a four-stage continuously variable transmission (CVT) allows the best match for speed and power, as well as optimum fuel efficiency.  Control of the transmission is made easy via the VT pilot control with functions grouped together. 

With a total of four different drive modes – auto, manual, power take-off (PTO) and cruise – there are plenty of options to suit a variety of tasks when out on the farm.

The bonnet and grill have been given a modern redesign

Hydraulics

Plenty of hydraulics and hydraulic flow are important to run big modern implements on high horsepower tractors. A closed centre hydraulic system with a variable pump system (flow rate of 157L/min and the option to take 212L/min) is the best way to do this effectively, using oil flow only as required.

Up to 11 electro-hydraulic remotes are available: six rear, two mid and three front. Using a front buck rake with hydraulic top link, the test tractor makes the most of its front linkage with 5,000kg lift capacity.

This comes as standard on a McCormick X8 tractor. Rear lift is an impressive 12 tonnes, with electronic control. Working with the three-speed PTO, PTO can be programmed to start/stop at set linkage heights.

The LED lighting package makes night-time operation easy

Engine

Although there’s certainly a push towards having us all start driving electric vehicles in this country, we’re still allowed to operate higher emission tractors (at this stage). While the X8 is available with a stage 4/Tier 4 Final engine, you can still get them as Tier 3, which doesn’t require AdBlue or exhaust treatment (like our test tractor for the day). 

Even better is that, where the 70-litre AdBlue tank should be located, this tractor had a steel lid – great for standing on to clean windows and also provides a lockable toolbox, which is handy. 

Back to the engine details: the Betapower 6.7-litre turbo (FPT) engine run in these tractors is similar to what you would find in a New Holland T7.310, so between McCormick/Case IH/New Holland dealerships, you shouldn’t need to go far to find filters for servicing.

Scheduled servicing is the same as other machines running FPT engines: 600-hour engine, 1,200-hour transmission. Daily servicing is straightforward, with the engine oil dipstick easily accessible from the ground and a clear sight glass for transmission oil at the rear. 

The bonnet lifts up out of the way for engine access and is secured by heavy-duty wire rope. Radiator’s release and fold out for easy cleaning. These are designed to be cleaned in just five minutes, so you can crack on with work and hopefully finish your day sooner. The engine air filter and cab filter are both quite a way from the ground but still accessible. 

Close up of left/right rear fender controls

Cab

McCormick has designed a premium cab and I’ve seen some of the features previously on a McCormick X7 tractor. However, the X8 Premium cab version is another level again and pretty much ticks all the boxes for what you’d hope for in terms of comfort and features. 

The new four-post cab has been completely redesigned over the offerings of past generations. The cab is pressurised to help keep dusty conditions outside the tractor. Inside the cab, climate control air conditioning keeps this working environment just how the operator likes it. Even better is the well-sized fridge compartment for keeping lunch and drinks cool for the day. 

Like all manufacturers, McCormick has come up with its own functional controller. The VT-Easy Pilot controller is an ergonomically designed unit where you can rest your hand with key functions within easy reach. One of the standout features for me was the large 12-inch (30.5cm) touchscreen, offering plenty of room to display tractor functions and set-up. Factory-fit GPS for McCormick is Topcon.

However, this test machine was being fitted with Trimble to match other tractors in the fleet where it was headed. Something I hadn’t seen before is an electric button for steering column and central display adjustment, and this works well. 

One thing I did feel was a little out of place in such a modern, up-to-date cab was the mechanical handbrake. However, this was something specifical-ly requested by the client, who has a preference for simplicity in this case. The only other issue I found was that the steps to the cab, which is relatively high, are quite steep, but this is often the case in a tractor this size as to avoid losing cab space the steps need to be quite vertical. 

12-inch touchscreen monitor displays tractor functions

Summary

Although 300hp tractors are not the most popular, they certainly have their place within contracting fleets and larger farming operations. 

I believe McCormick has done the right thing in making use of the best components for its X8, from electrics and hydraulics to axles and tyres, etc. This should make getting parts and servicing easier, with components being familiar to technicians working on other brands. 

After spending the day behind the wheel, as well as testing and installing the GPS system, the big McCormick was headed to the Manawatu where it will be put to use on heavy cultivation in spring. There are also plans to fit it with a buck rake on the front so it can spend some of the summer months on silage stacks: both jobs well suited to the McCormick X8 in my opinion.  

McCormick tractors are available from a number of dealers across Australia. See: www.mccormick.it/au/dealers/

Five steps to the cab if you want to rock and roll

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