In August, John Deere revealed its full 2015 model lineup to dealers and the media at a convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. And in true Deere fashion, the official introduction show was a spectacle to behold. The company had a lot to show off. There was a long parade of new machines to see, but what was certain to stir the hearts of dealers from Western Canada was the new 9R line of four-wheel drive tractors, which was given more than a few updates.
To start with, the number of wheeled 9R tractors grows from five to six with the addition of a 620 rated-horsepower flagship model. All the rest get an extra 10 ponies under the hood as well.
“This is the largest expansion of our top-line, four-wheel drive and track-tractor series in company history,” says Jerry Griffith, division marketing manager, John Deere Waterloo Works. “370 to 620 horsepower gives us a nice wide variety of power choices for our customers.”
Each tractor in the 9R line will now be equipped with one of three different engines, depending on its horsepower rating. That engine group includes, a little surprisingly, a Cummins.
- More Grainews: Video: We take the John Deere 9R for a test drive
A Cummins engine
“Our smaller 370 horsepower model uses our 9-litre engine, which is a similar engine to what we have in our 8R tractors,” says Griffith. “That’s the same as we’ve done in the past. As we move up to the next three models, we’re using a John Deere Power Systems PSX 13.5-litre engine. Our top two models are going to have a Cummins QSX 15-litre engine.”
“We’ve worked very hard with Cummins to provide a seamless situation for our customers,” he adds. “Our dealers will have the capability of stocking all the service parts and be trained and certified to work on these engines. The customer doesn’t have to go anywhere other than his John Deere dealer for service and warranty.”
“At this point in our portfolio with JD Power Systems engines, we don’t have high enough capacity to meet our 9620 rated horsepower. You may see some other products that have similar power levels but the load factors on a tractor relative to those products are different. For some products it works to put a JDPS engine in it, for others it doesn’t.”
Deere claims all three engines will help producers reduce operating costs even while flexing a little more muscle, delivering a three to five per cent reduction in total fluid consumption (DEF and diesel fuel) compared to the previous Interim Tier 4 versions. But while the two-track RT models will share in that fuel efficiency, there won’t be a belted 620 horsepower model. Instead, the RTs will top out at 570 horsepower.
“We didn’t go to 620 horsepower on our two-track models for several reasons,” explains Griffith. “One of which was just priority. We’ve focused a lot of energy on our wheeled model improvements this go around.”
Behind all three engines Deere is offering a new version of its e18, 18-speed powershift transmission for 2015.
“A big new feature on this transmission, in addition to being beefed up to handle additional horsepower, is its three modes of operation,” continues Griffith. “We’re very much concentrated on the full auto mode. That’s where we want customers to run this unit most of the time.
“With the full auto mode, the tractor will automatically shift up and throttle back and never leave efficiency manager,” he adds. “It’s always trying to help you save on fluid consumption.”
“In full auto mode now when you use the shift lever you are no longer shifting the actual gears in the transmission. What you are doing is changing the commanded set speed. If I want to go from five m.p.h. to seven m.p.h., just use the gear selector, as we used to call it, now it’s a set speed command. It will just go to the next commanded set speed. You can still scroll up like we used to do with our IT4 product, but a better way to do it is with the shift lever.”
With the wide range in horsepower now covered by the 9R line, those engines and transmissions get dropped onto one of two different chassis sizes.
“Our bottom three models are on one chassis and our top three models are on another,” says Griffith. “There is a slightly larger chassis on our bigger models with a little larger fuel tank, 400 gallons on the top three models, 310 gallons of fuel tank capacity on the bottom models.”
One of the key things Deere product reps wanted to talk about in August was the introduction of the HydraCushion Suspension system on the three largest, wheeled 9Rs, which is a completely new front-axle suspension system. But unlike typical front-axle suspensions, HydraCushion is designed only to eliminate power hop and loping at high speeds.
“It uses hydraulics in the cylinders to separate the axle from the tractor,” says Griffith. “There are nitrogen-filled accumulators, very similar to how we operate our suspension systems on our 8 and 7 Series tractors to take care of shock loading. It eliminates the possibility of getting into that rhythm that leads to power hop.”
The system will also allow operators to improve traction by lowering tire pressure and reducing ballast loads.
“You can minimize the air pressure in those tires to get maximum tractive effort,” he continues. “Lower air pressure and lower ballast help improve field conditions and limit compaction.”
“When we have customers come into our focus groups and show them what we’re working on, this is one thing that always gets attention. I think our wheeled tractor customers are really going to love this feature.”
The flagship 9620R will have HydraCushion included in the base equipment price. It’s also included in the base price of the smaller 9570R and 9520R. But on these two tractors it will be a deduct option, still allowing customers to order one without HydraCushion if they really want to.
“But we are going to strongly encourage customers to consider leaving it on the tractor,” says Griffith. “The price on that option is about $9,000.”
Hydraulic capacity gets a boost in the new 9Rs as well, with maximum flow rates jumping up to 115 gallons per minute and up to eight available rear SCVs.
“If you have lower (hydraulic) requirements, you can lower your engine r.p.m. and still have the capacity you need,” notes Griffith. “You save diesel fuel by running at those lower r.p.m.s.”
To make the day more comfortable for operators, 9Rs get a new CommandView III cab with a seat that swivels 40°, which makes looking out the back window a lot easier on the neck. The CommandArm also gets an update, making it more ergonomic. Attached to the front of the CommandArm is a new 4600 CommandCenter display terminal.
“A lot of work has gone into getting customer input, making sure the (4600) screen and programming is very easy to set up for what you’re going to do with your operation,” says Griffith. “It’s very easy to reconfigure.”
And the steer-by-wire concept that was introduced on the 7 and 8 Series tractors a couple of years ago now moves up to the 9Rs. Optional Active Command Steering makes these articulated tractors more stable at road speeds and much easier to turn in the field.
“That steering system allows you to have much more comfortable operation,” says Griffith. “Travelling down the road at 26 m.p.h. in an articulated tractor can sometimes be an uneasy feeling. Now with the ACS system, it does a much better job of holding that line, giving a nice smooth operation at higher speeds. In the field its a much smoother operation of the steering system.”
The redesigned 9Rs will begin production in November, with the first models ready for delivery around the beginning of December.