Last fall we asked Team FIN member Jeff Ryan of Cresco, IA, to test a Fendt tractor. Ryan gave the German-made machine a full workout on his crop and livestock operation. After using the tractor for everything from hauling hay at high speed to basic fieldwork, here's what he had to say.

The Vario transmission is easily the best part of the tractor. It's almost effortless to start moving and change speed across the field. Programmable cruise control is a big plus, especially with the ability to flip the joystick to the side and activate it. At 1,300 rpm or more, cruise speed remains constant, regardless of whether the throttle is wide open or at 1,500 rpm.

Road speed of 33 mph made those trips back to the feedlot/bin site/field much shorter. Pulling a load of 11 round bales at top speed was no problem. After a couple trips, the anxiety of that speed was gone thanks to the Fendt's smooth ride and excellent brakes. At lower speeds working around the yard, the reverser was very handy.

Power from the 6-cyl. diesel was tremendous, and the engine was very quiet. Torque under load was impressive, and fuel economy appeared to be very good. Even with a two-speed transmission in high range while hauling manure with a tandem-axle spreader, the engine never “dogged down” going across the field.

Visibility

The Fendt's cab is laid out such that I couldn't see the wheels touching the ground, so it was difficult to see where I was driving relative to the rows.

It would be nice if the front fenders were slightly bigger. With higher road speeds, it takes more coverage to keep the mud from flying up onto the windshield.

Maneuverability

I'd like to see a tighter turning radius. We tried to turn the Fendt at the end of the pass with a drawn chisel plow behind, but we couldn't raise out at the end of the row and get the tractor back on the next round anywhere close to where it needed to be. We'd usually end up doing a figure eight and driving over previously worked ground in order to make the turn.

Cab

For the $170,000 price, I'd like to see a lot more standard equipment. A few changes could make the cab much nicer. For instance, I'd like to be able to lock the operator station into a swivel position, instead of having to hold the handle up. Also, I found that the joystick for hydraulic functions was too close to the right side of the cab, so side-to-side motion of the driver's seat crunched my fingers. Finally, the detente position required a fine touch with a lot of finesse to get into. It was easy to go too far or not far enough to lock the cylinder into activity.

I did like the door latch; it's one of the best I've seen. And most controls are designed for ease of use. The hydraulic outlets can be operated from a set of thumb-controlled rocking switches on the main joystick, or through a cross-gate lever. That switches their operation to another, smaller joystick to the right of the main joystick. A convenient access door on the side of the engine compartment allows quick and easy access for routine fluid checks.

Editor's note: We asked Kevin Bien at Fendt to address some of Ryan's concerns. In response, Bien says that although the controls on the German-made machine do feel a bit different than on an American tractor, customers who have driven the machine for a while tend to get a better feel for them. Consider the difference between driving a Chevy versus a BMW automobile.

Bien also points out that the tractor's front fenders can be adjusted to improve tire coverage. He says that front-axle suspension limits some turning angle, but eliminates field and transport tire hop, thereby increasing ground contact and productivity. Armrest and joystick are height adjustable to enhance operator comfort.