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Reviewing John Deere 6R Series tractors

In the last issue we took a close look at John Deere’s 7R tractors. This time we see how owners and test results rate a sampling of the smaller 6R models

Back in 2011, John Deere introduced the 6R Series as part of an update to its tractor line-up in the mid-horsepower range. Last summer the company announced the addition of 12 more models to the 6 Series family, which now also includes the 6M and 6D tractors.

With Deere’s current model numbering system, the more a tractor’s capability increases, the higher its letter designation. So, the 6D models offer the most basic features, the new 6Ms are mid-range models, and the 6Rs, the most capable machines, top out the line.

Engine horsepower ratings in the new 6M line run up to 170 and overlaps 6R range. “They’re for customers who may not want all the technology that’s in a 6R but still may want the horsepower,” says Bradley Tolbert, division marketing manager for 6 Family tractors. “We’re happy to have that higher-horsepower, standard-spec tractor.”

There are now four 6D models, six 6Ms, and eight 6R Series tractors spanning the 105 to 210 engine horsepower range. Deere offers more option and model choices in this horsepower range than any other. If price is important, the baby of the 6 family, the 6105D with a cab and two-wheel drive starts at US$61,730. At the other end of the scale, base price for a 6210R with cab and MFWD comes in at US$164.469. So there is something in this group for almost everyone.

All eight 6R models use a six-cylinder, 6.8-litre, PVX engine. “We wanted to make sure we got the Intelligent Power Management (IPM) (in all 6Rs), and we can do that very well with the six-cylinder engine,” explains Tolbert.

The IPM feature in 6R tractors will automatically boost engine output delivering up to 20 or 30 extra horsepower (depending on the model) when used in transport and non-stationary PTO operations. This feature is designed to give the tractors a little more muscle to more easily power through the tough spots.

“We’re really excited about IPM,” says Tolbert. “The 140 and 150 have a 20 horsepower IPM boost. And the 170 through 210 have a 30 horsepower boost. So the extra ponies are there when you need them.”

The base transmission is 20-speed AutoQuad Plus ECO Transmission. Optional choices include a 16-speed PowerQuad Plus or IVT Transmission. The IVT and AutoQuad Plus configurations are available with up to 50 KPH (31 MPH) transport speed.

This year, a brand new option for the 6R line is Deere’s DirectDrive transmission. It’s a mechanical gearbox that allows the tractor to behave in a very similar way to those equipped with an IVT. Operators get the advantage of easier control requirements, such as not having to clutch during forward-and-backward direction changes when using a front-end loader. Just apply the brake and the tractor stops. Release it and the tractor begins moving again.

Test results

For this evaluation, we’re focusing solely on the 6Rs. So, let’s start with a look at how a sample model fared during formal testing. At the time of writing, Nebraska Tractor Test Lab results hadn’t yet been made available, but DLG, the German Agricultural Society, had put a Mannheim-built 210 horsepower 6210R AutoQuad through a power-mix test at its facility in Gross-Umstadt.

The power-mix tests (which blend demand between drawbar and PTO loads) were performed under two conditions, one measuring the standard horsepower rating and a second measuring output with the IPM (Intelligent Power Management) “boost” feature.

If my metric-to-imperial conversion calculations are correct, here’s how those DLG test results came out.

During standard testing, the 6210R netted 203 PTO horsepower under full load at rated speed. When operating at full throttle and delivering 80 per cent of maximum power at rated speed, fuel consumption was measured at 15.87 horsepower hours per gallon.

In boost mode, the engine developed 214 PTO horsepower under full load at rated speed. And with the engine again operating at full throttle and delivering 80 per cent of maximum power, this time it put out an even better 16.1 horsepower hours per gallon.

Owner impressions

The 6Rs have now been around long enough for owners who bought one soon after the line was introduced to get a good feel for them. So formal testing aside, do the farmers who paid money for these machines think they got what they paid for?

To find out, we asked two 6R owners to tell us how their tractors have been performing and what they like and don’t like about them. Between them, these owners have three 6170Rs with total combined operating hours hovering around the 1,000 mark.

Here’s what they said.

Both cited the cab interior, instrument and control layout along with very low interior noise level as something they really liked. “It’s amazing how quiet it is,” says one of the owners, a Saskatchewan farmer who asked not to be named. “It’s excellent, very quiet. The visibility is excellent,” says Glen Walter of the Big Rose Hutterite colony at Biggar, the other owner.

As for the control arrangement, Walter liked that too. “It’s very simple. Everything is right there.” “Instrumentation is really good,” added the anonymous owner. But he didn’t care for the electronic front-end loader joystick. “It’s too sensitive when lowering the loader,” he says.

Outside the cab, though, both thought the full-width cab door was awkward and could be hard to close. “I don’t see why they need the whole side of the cab to be a door,” says the anonymous owner. He also thought cab access could be improved if the steep angle on the steps was more gradual. Those are criticisms others have made of Deere’s larger 7R tractors as well.

Up front, the owners don’t necessarily agree on engine access. Walter thought accessing maintenance points like the engine oil dipstick was relatively easy. “For checking the oil, it’s not a problem,” he says. “But I’ve never worked on one.” The anonymous owner found the hood awkward to open, and he thought unfastening side panels for other maintenance procedures, like oil changes, was unnecessarily time consuming.

When it comes to field performance, both owners are back in agreement. “It looks small for the horsepower,” says Walter. “It’s quite amazing how that little tractor will pull. Even without the duals, it pulls excellent.” The anonymous owner agrees, but added he wished he would have ordered rear wheel weights for even better results. And both say they were impressed with how manoeuvrable their tractors are.

Ample hydraulic capacity and the convenience of computer aided shifting were cited by the anonymous owner as other major pluses.

When it comes to reliability, both owners were satisfied overall. The anonymous owner’s machine did suffer a couple of problems. A computer programming fault early on was corrected in his yard, but a later hydraulic check valve failure meant it had to go back to the local dealer for warranty repair. That was handled satisfactorily and the tractor is back in service.

Walter said one of the Big Rose tractors had an unusual noise that turned out to be a hydraulic line touching the cab, and that was easily corrected. But there have been no significant warranty claims on these two.

The conclusion

Once again we put this question to the owners: If they had known before they made the purchase how their specific tractors would perform on their farms, would they still have bought them? For both owners, the answer is a definite yes.

“They’re the best thing since sliced bread,” says Walter, enthusiastically. He adds that the colony is considering trading these two tractors back on newer 6R models. This time he says they’ll get the optional right-side cab door so operators can access the new tractors from both sides, which will make them handier when used for stationary PTO work. †

About the author


Scott Garvey

Scott Garvey is a freelance writer and video producer. He is also the former machinery editor at Grainews.

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