It has to be said that the total market for 500hp-plus tractors is not vast when compared to the number of tractors sold in the lower hp divisions. In the UK, we are literally talking about no more than a handful — maybe 30 to 40 units per year. Yet, while their sales numbers may be small, the manufacturers of such monsters — AGCO Challenger, Case IH with its Quadtrac and John Deere — are all keen to ensure that they retain their respective slices of this niche but significant market.
There is, after all, considerable kudos at stake here, and the value of a successful and high-profile flagship unit to a brand should never be underestimated. In this sector, John Deere is no different to its rivals in that it offers both wheeled and tracked versions of the 9030 range. Those who opt for a tracked ‘T’ model will have to fork out another 50,702 ($100,000) when compared with the wheeled version and must also be prepared for the possibility of higher running costs. A pair of DuraBilt 5500 rubber tracks costs around 1,000 ($2,000) more than four top-spec 800/70 R38 tires, but, on the plus side, John Deere claims that the tracks should last for 5,500 operating hours. How accurate that expected life figure turns out to be will obviously depend on the nature of the soil being worked, the amount of road travel and the sort of general treatment the tracks receive from the operator.
Tracks or tires?
Well, that’s an article in itself. In summary, all tracks are in their element when pulling a heavy implement across loose dirt where a high degree of lugging horsepower is required at relatively slow speeds. And on the 9630 there is certainly no shortage of lug.
Its beefy Category V-type drawbar enables the 9630 to make full use of available engine power, although the spec counter to this is that the linkage is only Cat IV and rated to just 470hp. The reality, of course, is that rear linkage tasks are unlikely to figure too prominently in a typical 9630’s agricultural workload.
Even though there is a powerful argument for tracks in this sector, Deere could be seen to have bucked the trend in that, unlike Challenger and Case IH, it has sold a fair number of wheeled artics into the U. K. That may be because Challenger and Case IH have done a top job in persuading their customers over to tracks. Yet there are still several high profile farming/ contracting businesses that, having examined all the arguments, prefer to stick with the greater versatility of wheels.
Traditional downside of wheeled artics was the thinking that they had to go on dual wheels, making it difficult to move the machines between farm sites. But that doesn’t have to be the case. Modern tire technology means that large singles can have their traction boosted by installing 650 kg inner wheel weights, along with a further 200 kg of weights bolted to the outside of the rims. Such ballasting hikes the 9630’s 16.9-tonne curb weight up to more than 21 tonnes, but the