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Which High-Horsepower Tractor Is Most Fuel Efficient?

Early this year, AGCO launched an advertising campaign claiming their Massey Ferguson (MF) 8600 Series — and its sister MT600C Challenger and AGCO Tractor DT lines — held the coveted fuel efficiency championship for their class. To back up their claim, they pointed to an independent OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) test report summary published by the Nebraska Tractor Test Lab.

But soon after, John Deere issued a press release saying its 8320R tractor was really the one entitled to claim a fuel efficiency victory; and they pointed to the results of a test conducted at the Nebraska test lab. How can that be? How can both companies claim their tractors in the same horsepower class are the thriftiest users of diesel fuel? Here’s a look at why both are laying claim to the same title.

When a manufacturer sends a tractor to the University of Nebraska’s Tractor Test Lab (or any accredited OECD test organization) for evaluation, it’s not a one-and-done affair. The tractor undergoes a battery of tests, which include engine performance, drawbar pull, hydraulic system performance and sound level readings. Measurements are made at various engine speeds and loads. Drawbar tests are conducted on the lab’s concrete test track.

Of all the information available in a final test report, arguably the most important results fall under the “horsepower hours per gallon” (Hp. h/gal) column. This is the most useful rating when it comes to measuring fuel efficiency. And it’s a clear indication of how much actual horsepower a tractor can deliver from a gallon of fuel. In this category, the higher the number the better.

When all the testing is complete, the results are published. The Tractor Test Lab also posts them on its website (Because the tests are pretty comprehensive, there is a lot information to look at. It’s also possible for one tractor to have the top performance characteristics in one category but not in another. That is exactly the case with the AGCO and Deere tractors.

JOHN DEERE’S 8R SERIES

To see how these two competitors fared, let’s start with Deere’s 8320R. This tractor is the first of the 8R Series to undergo testing at Nebraska. According to Matt Arnold, one of Deere’s senior marketing reps, the other models in the line are currently being tested.

Arnold says, when a slot opened up in October of 2009, Deere actually took an 8320R off the assembly line that was destined for a customer and diverted it, with the customer’s permission, to the lab for testing — how cool would it be to own the tractor used for testing in its class at Nebraska? Someone does, the lucky guy.

When the dust settled, that 8320R, equipped with a 16-speed, powershift transmission, had delivered 18.93 Hp. h/gal on the PTO test at full rated speed. This put it ahead of AGCO’s tractor in that test category. Deere proudly announced that fact in its press release which included this phrase in its caption: “8320R tractor sets fuel efficiency records.” And there’s no room for argument there; it did, in that particular category.

AGCO’S MR 8680

However, there are other categories, as Jason Hoult, AGCO’s product marketing manager for high-horsepower, row crop tractors points out. He argues evaluating an engine’s performance while lugging it down is more useful than looking at full rated engine speed numbers. To back up that argument, he points out engine management software typically allows an engine to lug down. “All of the automatic systems out there lug the engine to improve efficiency and productivity.” he says.

So Hoult suggests the 8320R’s rival, the CVT-equipped MF 8680, which turned out 19.56 Hp. h/ gal at rated PTO speed (0.4 more than the 8320R) should get the proverbial gold star overall when it comes to the PTO tests. The Massey also beat the Deere 20.30 to 18.99 during the maximum power PTO test.

While the remaining models in Deere’s 8R undergo testing, AGCO has completed OECD testing certification for all four of its 8600 Series models. And just like Deere, they are proud of the results.

“Specifically against the 8320R we had the best results in six out of seven engine (PTO) tests,” says Hoult.

Chad Hogan, Deere’s division marketing manager, says tractors in this horsepower class are primarily designed for pulling. “Tractors of this size aren’t used in PTO applications very often. We designed these tractors to be efficient in drawbar applications. It’s a different flow of power.”

DRAWBAR VS. PTO OUTPUT

All this may leave farmers scratching their heads wondering which test is the most relevant. “A lot of it depends on their application,” says Arnold. “The maximum (power) test is where they… try to pull every ounce of power out of that tractor (through the PTO) and see what the fuel consumption is. But there are not too many uses of a large row-crop tractor where that’s applicable.”

If a farmer plans to use a tractor primarily for pulling field implements, Arnold says taking a look at drawbar performance is better than reading PTO results. The Nebraska reports also include the results of those tests. Included among them are the 75 per cent of maximum pull at full rated

About the author

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Scott Garvey

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

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