Test: John Deere 6125R
Mark Fouhy went along to a John Deere drive day and tested the compact, nimble and operator-friendly John Deere 6125R.
As the days get warmer and spring growth really kicks in, some out there in rural New Zealand may be thinking about making life a little easier over the busy summer months by replacing their old cultivation and supplement-making workhorse. This month I checked out one possible replacement, the John Deere 6125R. This tractor was on show at one of AgrowQuip's three demo/drive days held in various locations around the Waikato.
A S Wilcox and Sons provided the venue for the drive day at one of its properties located between Matamata and Tirau. The paddock was an excellent testing ground, having been sprayed out, baled and wrapped and passed over with Simba discs. There were a variety of green and yellow machines in the paddock and having already tested the top-of-the-range 6210R at the Farm Trader Top Tractor Shoot Out in 2012, I thought the new John Deere 6125R coupled with an Alpego Rotodent power harrow looked like an ideal test machine.
John Deere has built over half a million 6000 Series tractors. Manufactured in Mannheim Germany, the new 6R Series is an evolution of the 6000 Series, by taking the best bits and making it better, which seems to have worked pretty well. Keeping the John Deere's full frame concept provides plenty of strength, with engine and transmission then mounted on insulating blocks, helping to keep vibration and noise etc. to a minimum. Build quality and construction is impeccable, as you would expect from such a big producer like John Deere.
The 6R Series tractors have had a makeover in the cab department. The four-post design makes access on and off the tractor easy. The visibility from inside the cab is excellent given it has 6.11 square metres of glass. John Deere's suspension system meant the ride across the roughly cultivated paddock was pretty smooth but, if you're after even more comfort, you can opt for the adaptive hydraulic cab suspension and triple-link suspension on the front axle to really smooth out the bumps. The large, flat operator platform has been well laid out with the PTO/hydraulic controls that are used most often located closest to the operator on the right-hand side. All the rest of your functions including lights, four-wheel drive, diff lock, radio and air conditioning are located further away on the right-hand console.
There is a hand-grab rail to ensure you don't hit the wrong buttons at the wrong time, but the buttons are quite uniform in appearance (colour and shape), which I think should be distinguished by using different colours and shapes to further ensure the wrong buttons aren't hit. A variety of connections are on offer for power supply
to implements that require their own controls if they are not compatible with the ISOBUS functionality of the GreenStar 3 command centre display. Storage inside the cab is also ample with good-sized compartments for storing rags for cleaning your windows, or whatever else you may require. The optional refrigerated compartment would be great for keeping your drinks cold on those hot days, and you have at least three cupholders to make sure operators are not going to suffer from dehydration.
When buying a tractor over 100hp you will almost always encounter some form of operator interface/display monitor. These are not put in tractors to scare off potential buyers, but are there to ensure the tractor and operator work as efficiently as possible. John Deere has come up with a very good system with the GreenStar 3 command centre display, offering a seven-inch, full-colour screen display. Chris Hughes from AGrowQuip in Cambridge had already set up the total equipment control (iTEC) system to suit the job of power harrowing for the drive day. He set the gear and speed of the transmission and the raising and lowering of the implement, which in this case was the PTO engage and disengage. I found the tractor very easy to operate thanks to the iTEC system, however setting it up would take a bit of training. I found it easy changing back to manual operation as there were clear instructions provided. The 6125R test machine had the option of a touch screen, which is good until you jump back in the tractor with filthy oil-covered hands. This is where the keys on the right-hand console come in very handy, as you can still control the unit from here without touching the screen. With the GreenStar 3 you have the ability to add the likes of AutoTrac or other guidance-type systems too, and the vast array of lights is controlled through the GreenStar 3, although you can turn your basic lights on without it.
When it comes to the transmission of the 6125R, John Deere has excelled by offering four different options, from the PowrQuad PLUS fitted on the test tractor up to the ultimate in John Deere transmissions, the Direct Drive (like the 6140R, another demo machine available for testing on the drive day). The 6125R has a very simple to use six range transmission, with four power shifts in each. Range changes are easily made with either the clutch pedal or by hitting the de-clutch button on your range change lever. Even with the power harrow on the back and weight blocks on the front, the forward/reverse movements with the power shuttle were very smooth. Unlike some other makes/models, you do not hit park/neutral on the power shuttle. The park lock is incorporated in the transmission, so there is no confusion as to whether the tractor has been left in gear or park.
Being weighted well meant there was no problem lifting the Alpego harrow fitted with a packer roller. Sometimes four-cylinder tractors with shorter wheelbases result in the weight coming onto the back wheels with the traction and steering lost on the front. John Deere has gone for a closed centre, pressure and flow compensated hydraulic system in the 6R Series. This system has been chosen for reliability, simplicity and power (80L/min flow rate) as standard. Even better is the 1500-hour service life of the two hydraulic filters. Like most tractors of this size you also get raise and lower buttons on each rear fender for the three-point linkage. Three double-acting rear service valves come as standard. The flow rates of each of these can be controlled/adjusted in the GreenStar 3 touch command centre.
John Deere is using its PowerTech Plus engines throughout the 6R Series range. One of the key features I like about these engines is the fact they are still single-fluid operation (diesel) which keeps life simple — no need to fill to tank at filling time. While being single-liquid engines, John Deere has still managed to stick to emission requirements. In doing this, some of the new technology found in these engines (like the variable geometry turbocharger) has increased the efficiency and power of the engine. One of the main reasons you may want to opt for the R Series
John Deere over the M Series is the intelligent power management (IPM) systems offered by these PowerTech Plus engines, boosting the rated horsepower from 125 to 145, and an increase of 15kW. Engine noise is quite bearable, with a70.6.dBA offered by
John Deere in the cabin. Aside from Valtra, I am unaware of another brand getting more horsepower out of a four-cylinder tractor.
The 6125R John Deere is a basic tractor with some big features and would suit life on a bigger dairy farm where more than one operator drives the tractor, as it is easy to learn and operate. Being a four-cylinder machine, you have a more compact and nimble machine and when fitted with a loader it's ideal for feeding out mountains of silage or big bales. Equally, with the technology incorporated GreenStar 3 system, cultivation or supplement making jobs are easy and any staff member can jump in and do the job. If you are in the market for a new tractor, get along to a drive day if you can. Most of the major brands hold these once or twice a year. It's a great way to try before you buy.
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