Review: Claas Arion 620C tractor
User-friendliness and comfort are popular requests when it comes to purchasing a tractor for the dairy farm, and the Claas Arion 620C tractor ticks all the boxes.
As dairy farming becomes more intensive, farmers are becoming more and more reliant on bigger tractors for daily feeding out.
In late 2010, I tested the 620 CIS version of this tractor and was very pleased with its comfort and layout. The 620C I am testing this month is the lower-spec livestock version and the Claas equivalent to the standard models in the John Deere range, the Plus in the New Holland range and the Bronze-level spec Case IH to give you a comparison.
From the outside, apart from the C on the bonnet, the front and sides of the tractor look exactly the same as the higher-specced CIS version. However, once you get around the back you can spot a few differences, for example you don't get two guard-mounted working lights or a plastic cover over the base of the cab and the mudguard extensions are shorter. The third and fourth remotes and trailer brake are all optional extras.
What you can't see is the hydraulic pump, which is the smaller 60 litres per minute version. However, there is a rocker switch in the cab which allows a second-stage pump to kick in and boost the flow rate to 98 litres per minute, which is more than ample.
Engine and power
In the three-model Arion C line-up, the same Deere Power Systems (DPS) 6.8L six-cylinder engine is shared, but unlike the CIS models, they don't feature the four valves per cylinder or the Variable Geometry Turbo (VGT). Instead, they have the two valves per cylinder, although they are still turbocharged with common rail injection system and are compliant with the TIER-3a emissions standards.
The 620 sits in the middle of the line-up, with a perky 140hp and 580Nm of torque straight out of the box with no boost. I personally believe these two-valve engines are as good, if not better, than the four-valve brothers.
The power of the six-cylinder engine proves more than ample when towing a loaded trailer or feed-out wagon, but unlike most four-cylinder tractors sitting in most farmers' sheds, the lugging power, stability and smoothness from the longer wheelbase makes quite a big difference. You would think the longer wheelbase would make the tractor similar to turning a barge in tight spots, but these models have front fenders that can turn as standard, so manoeuvring around the tight bins on the feed pad is a breeze.
Accessing the engine and the main daily checkpoints under the bonnet is easy, even with the loader mounts, as the large bonnet opens up high and is well out of the way, giving good access to the radiator.
For those of you familiar with the Claas Ares ATZ models, the transmission lever and function in the 620C is the same. However, the Arion C range features the Quadrishift transmission with a 16 x 16 gearbox, giving four ranges of four powershifts, rather than the 24 x 24-speed transmission in the ATZ and the new CIS versions, which has four ranges of six powershift speeds.
Functionality-wise, the transmission is very good and the hand throttle can also be activated by pushing the gear lever forward. I personally think the 24 x 24 box is better, having a few more gears in that 7 to 15kph working range, something which is always handy as I found most tasks involved changing from B to C range often.
Running with the 'simple to operate' theme of this tractor, the transmission is no different. Simply push the '+/-' button and you will shift up through the ranges, without having to use the clutch or push multiple buttons at once. On the right-hand pillar are two transmission settings: field and road. Field mode shifts through the gears like usual, but road mode, at an intersection for example, will allow you to shift a complete range, ie from B1 to C1 to D1 then up through to D4 and you are back at top speed on the road.
I genuinely believe that Claas has the best cab suspension on the market and is streaks ahead of many of the competitors. It makes the daily chore of feeding out, often on bumpy tracks, much more enjoyable and this four-post suspension is so good you feel like you have front suspension as well.
In addition to the smooth and comfortable ride, the cab is large, easy to get in and out of and uncluttered. A high roofline gives the impression of space and the large mirrors allow you to keep tabs on the implement behind you.
A Stoll FS 40.1 Profiline loader fitted to the test tractor was specced with the proportional joystick mounted on the armrest. The comfort-ride boom suspension was fitted too. This can be switched off in the cab, making loading a breeze.
Additionally, the six-cylinder was stable in the rear end and for a tractor with no ballast, it felt very safe - again, the longer wheelbase helps.
The test machine was well specced for loader work, with the full-dish front rims helping longevity so there are no worries about rims cracking after years of heavy loader work.
The two-stage hydraulic pump I mentioned earlier has the booster switch on the right-hand console and I used this constantly for the loader work. It was also handy when feeding out with the wagon for grass silage, but the single-stage was sufficient with more fluid maize silage.
My only gripe about the whole tractor is the linkage control. It doesn't need to be as complicated as it is. To activate the linkage, the paddle switch needs to be in the 'stop' position, then in the 'down' position. You then have to move the large position dial to get going. It is not hard once mastered but it is the only part of the tractor that actually needs explaining; everything else is exceptionally easy to use.
Plus, every time you hit the booster switch for the pump, the linkage automatically locks. This is a pain as the loader is much better with the booster activated, but if you use a three-point hitch once the wagon is loaded, you have to re-activate the linkage again.
Hydraulics and linkage
This is the area of the tractor I felt could have been better designed. The design of the remotes themselves was confusing: both colour coded with black and white dots. I made the mistake of hooking up the two black dot outlets (which I am used to) and wondered why the wagon wasn't working properly. The hamster eventually hopped back on the wheel and I realised that one hose is in the black and one is in the white.
To eliminate confusion, it would be good to see the different coloured stickers on the rear of the cab coinciding with the colour of the remote lever in the cab. But, to be fair, like the linkage controller, once you have done it a few times or been shown how, you are sorted.
As for lifting capacity, the C benefits from the same linkage power as the higher-specced CIS versions which, at 6.5 tonnes, will provide ample lifting potential for any farm task. Verdict
I really like the Arion-series tractors. They have a strong, hearty engine with a large cab and unmatched four-post suspension.
This is the best economy-specced tractor I have tested, with all the basics and a few added luxuries to make the task more enjoyable.
It doesn't look stripped down, either. Large mirrors and a good number of working lights, usually the first things to go, still make it a very well-equipped tractor, even with the more thrifty price tag.
However, the simplicity of operation for farmers and staff alike is by far the best feature and it hasn't been achieved at the compromise of quality or comfort.
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