I WAS aware of, but paid little attention to, the infinitely variable speed transmission offered on the Deere 7000 series tractors and the continuously variable transmissions (CVTs) offered on the Fendt, the AGCO RT series and now AGCO DT series tractors. I assumed that they were just an added unnecessary expense. But since I had a chance last spring to drive an AGCO DT220A tractor that my dealer passed around, I wouldn't consider buying a new tractor without it. In the newest generation of AGCO DT tractors, what AGCO calls the PowerMaxx CVT is the only available transmission.

The transmission in the AGCO tractors is exactly the same as the one in the Fendt; only the controls are different. It's seamlessly smooth and has a reputation of being very dependable. More than 40,000 units are in use. Estimated life between rebuilds is in excess of 10,000 hrs. The most surprising feature of the AGCO transmission is that it is 91% efficient; that's more efficient than full powershift transmissions on competitive tractors. In addition, you can always drive the speed you want up to the tractor's or implement's full capacity, making it perfect for pulling drainage tile plows, balers, forage harvesters and vegetable harvesters. The tractor has foot-pedal control of the transmission, which makes it ultra-quick for loader use.

Cruising speed

I found the tractor is super nice for transporting wide tools down narrow roads. Its top speed is 25 mph. When you need to slow for cars, the transmission slows the tractor smoothly, and then reacceleration is quick and smooth. There is no need to touch the clutch, brake or throttle. It's a major improvement over the powershift in my 7060 Allis Chalmers tractor, which jars the tools with every shift. Top speed can be reached at only 1,700 rpm, which will save fuel during transport or while hauling grain. Models with front suspension will have a 32-mph top speed and are coming soon.

The tractor that I tested had cab suspension, which functions like air ride on a semitrailer and makes it feel like you are floating through the field. The cab, at 71 dB, is the quietest in the industry. The turning radius has been improved over that of previous models.

The tractor has headland management that can slow the tractor down, raise tools, etc., at field ends. The computer screen also fine-tunes flow and timing of every hydraulic ram.

Engine torque

The Sisu motor in the tractor is a real powerhouse. AGCO acquired Sisu Diesel when it recently bought the Valtra Tractor Company in Finland. It is the same motor used in the similar-sized Massey Ferguson and Challenger tractors (sold by participating CAT dealers) for the past several years. It has an extremely wide band of maximum torque. I could even pull my 25-ft. finishing tools at 1,300 rpm! The motor is marine quality and is used in oceangoing boats and forestry equipment as well as tractors. Many of these motors have gone 10,000 hrs. without any repairs. The tractor has a huge 158.5-gal. fuel tank. A manifold air heater starts the tractor easily in cold weather.

AutoGuide satellite-assisted steering is available on AGCO DT tractors. It is field-installed now and will be factory-installed soon. Fifty-inch-tall rear tires will be available. A heated seat and Xenon lights are options, along with automatic climate control.

The only complaint I have is that the hood is very wide, whereas Case IH, New Holland and Deere competitors have very narrow hoods. AGCO officials say they are working on narrower hoods, but it's getting harder than ever because today's tractors need large engine and hydraulic radiators.