Fendt 818 Vario
The Fendt 818 Vario has lots of ideas about how to save time
Having the optimum engine revolutions, gearbox ratio, PTO revs and groundspeed at all times means the job will get done quicker, leaving you to move onto the next paddock earlier. That’s how the Fendt 818 Vario saves time.
Recent members of the AGCO Corporation, Fendt has been building tractors in Germany, near Munich, since 1930. The Vario is a very popular range and one the company developed itself; it now has more than 35,000 Vario tractors already sold around the world.
Eddie Hill, of Eddie Hill Contracting, gave up some his valuable time to help me understand how his Fendt 818 Vario operates, and how it works best for him. Hill also runs an 119ha dry-stock property at Te Hoe, near the Ohinewai - Tahuna Road. As well as the Fendt 818 Vario, which has done 1450 hours in three years, Hill has an arsenal of well-cared-for tractors at his disposal for his successful contracting business: the McCormick MTX150 we featured in Farm Trader in early 2005, a Case MX105, and now a new 105hp John Deere 6420.
The 818 Vario is a serious man’s tractor housed in a smaller frame, one of the reasons why Hill chose to buy this model. Most of his work on the Fendt is square baling towing his Case IH LBX332. Weighing 6.8 tonne in standard trim, the Fendt 818 Vario fits the bill perfectly in several ways. Hill can get it through difficult gateways, as his small diameter roadside turning circle demonstrations highlighted. The 818 Vario has a good sized engine to pull the heavy baler up hills on the road with what is a combined 15 tonne package. The brakes functioned extremely well too, hauling all that weight up in a short distance along the road.
Hill says, "I wanted a Vario drive tractor for baling. You can choose any speed you want and not get stuck in any gear, and you can change speeds very quickly. It is good on the road too with no gear changing. You can set cruise speeds, which you do on some jobs, but with baling I don’t bother as I drive to whatever I feel is right or how rough the ground is."
As well as baling, the 818 Vario does groundwork on occasion using a 3m 3002 Kuhn power harrow. Hill says the Fendt handles it easily and could manage a 5m unit without too many problems.
To increase overall stability, the hub centre plate was shifted 100mm towards the inside of each rear wheel to extend both wheels out by 100mm on each side.
At the front end the lockable active front suspension soaked up the bumps as we drove along the road and through a relatively bumpy paddock. Those large diameter and wide Michelin tyres would have helped too. Similar to a couple of other brands, the front wheel guards pivot to maximize the big Fendt’s impressive 50° turning circle.
While the well-appointed cab was roomy and comfortable, with lots of dedicated places to put things and an effective fold-up ‘kiddies’ seat, it wasn’t so easy to climb in and out of. This was mostly due to the short (for this level of tractor) 2720mm wheelbase, which left only a narrow step-way leading up into the cab, between the rear wheel guard and the fuel tank. The step gradient is also very steep with little overlap for each step and, combined with poorly positioned hand holds, made it harder than all other tractors I’ve tested to get in and out of. Not an issue which would stop anyone buying it because the advantages far outweigh this minor flaw. Hill raved about the high-spec swivel air suspension seat, so I think he likes it, although it is difficult to get out of due to the proximity of the steering wheel. A thoughtful addition is a large mirror he mounted inside the cab, which makes a good difference for rearward vision. The cab has a primitive mechanical spring with dampener suspension system, but I liked it compared to other suspended cabs I’ve been in as it didn’t go overboard with the rocking motion with each bump, leaving the driver in better shape and not dizzy.
Deutz makes good engines and this 5.7 litre example is rated at 195hp and pumps out a dyno measured 180hp at the PTO. This comes from a very smooth running intercooled and turbocharged six cylinder powerplant featuring four valves per cylinder to get the best possible breathing from the individual fuel injectors. It’s quiet, too. I could barely hear the engine running while inside the cab and, with a maximum torque rating of 847Nm, it certainly has enough power for the jobs Hill uses it for. Those are big figures in anyone’s language!
Hill is right in saying this is not a tractor you can put a person in and expect them to drive it straight away. The 818 Vario is driven very differently to any other tractor and requires a good level of training on the electronic side for an operator to get the most out of it. The more time you spend learning all the features, the better off you are. But the Fendt is more.
What really makes the Fendt 818 Vario is the transmission system (no disc clutch packs to wear out), coupled to the electronic controllers. To move the tractor forward, the operator depresses a safety lock at the front of the joystick before pushing the joystick directly forward. Hold it forward and it will accelerate up to the maximum 28kmh speed in low range (0 – 50kmh in high). Anywhere in between you can pull the stick back to hold the speed you wish to drive at. To slow or stop, just pull the stick back and the engine braking and transmission system will haul it up in no time. To change direction, simply tap the joystick to the left and the Fendt will automatically slow, stop and smoothly reverse, although you can still use the shuttle system levers on the left of the steering wheel. But why bother as that means you have to move your hands more – perhaps summing up the entire Vario system. You can even choose from four different rates of acceleration from standstill – Hill uses number three.
Use the Engine-Transmission Management (TMS) button and you can instantly transform the 818 Vario into a machine which does all the thinking for you. That’s when the Variotronic operating system allows the operator to drive in the field at the most optimum speed for the work they are doing. The joystick, control console and the monitor are the key operating tools inside the cab. You set the parameters and the Variotronic works out the optimum engine RPM, transmission speed and ground speed to get through the work faster. An example is if you drive up a hill with a baler on the back you don’t have to change down gears, or worse, stop to make a range change. Not only that, the Vario keeps the Fendt working at your pre-set engine revs and, coupled with the transmission, automatically varies your ground speed to suit the workload, including the downhills too!
It doesn’t run-on. You make fuel savings by getting the job done faster and more efficiently.
Hit the manual button on the main controller and, using the sliding lever near the base of the joystick, you can pre-set the maximum speed you want for a particular job and use the foot accelerator to control your speed – just like an automatic car. Or you can run at any of your pre-set cruise speeds by moving the joystick to the right. A very well thought out tool is a 1kmh increment creeper option, activated up or down by either briefly pushing the stick forwards or backwards once. This allows the driver to very easily adjust his in-paddock speed literally at the touch of a lever. Leaving the paddock, to change into high range on the stepless variable transmission, the operator simply presses an orange button near the joystick.
The Varioterminal controller is also used for a huge range of other tasks from the hydraulics to the three-speed PTO and the heavily fabricated three point linkage, which Hill doesn’t use in his line of work. The four 110 l/min hydraulic outlets are electronically controlled by a small joystick or, for less sensitive work, by switches handily located at the top of the joystick. Each option controls two valves, with the above control method interchangeable via the main controller. There are just too many features to write about!
Hill really likes his Fendt and the people who sold it to him. "Everything is well engineered and tidy. The other tractors can be a plumber’s nightmare with pipes and hoses that could rub on one another. Waikato Tractors, representing AGCO, would be the leading tractor service company in the Waikato! They would be above everybody else. They have leading backup for parts, knowledge, helpfulness, service – everything!"
By Terry Stevenson
Fendt Vario specs
Engine 815 817 818
Rated power (kW/hp) 110/150 121/165 132/180
Max power 129/175 136/185 147/200
# cylinders 6 6 6
Max torque (Nm/rpm) 730/1450 780/1450 847/1450
Transmission stepless Vario transmission