Test: Fendt 514 Vario
The Fendt 514 has just landed on the Australian market. Matt Wood shifts some dirt and spikes some hay to see how it goes as a loader.
I had a chance to spend a few hours on the latest 140hp (103kW) Fendt 514 Vario, equipped with a loader. With an 870kg counterweight hanging off the rear linkage, I was able to play with it in roles that it is ideally suited to – loader and bucket work, as well as hay-handling roles.
The 514 uses a four-cylinder Deutz four-litre engine, and being a Tier 3 emissions unit it uses selective catalytic reduction (SCR) to remove particulates from the engine exhaust. This means it has a separate diesel exhaust fluid (DEF), or AdBlue tank, and Fendt is claiming a maximum DEF use figure of around seven percent of diesel burn depending on application.
Like many of its European contemporaries, the Deutz powerplant uses ultra-high pressure common rail injection and puts out 140hp (103kW) and develops 649Nm of torque at 1450rpm.
Fendt is quick to push the fuel economy credentials of its product at every point and claim this Teutonic green machine is green in more ways than just one.
But the real heart of any Fendt made since the mid-1990s is the Vario transmission, which is a stepless constant velocity transmission that delivers power smoothly from a virtual standstill up to road speeds of 50kph or even 60kph in some cases.
It's an extremely efficient system that doesn't absorb much in the way of driveline power like some other transmissions. There's very little energy loss through the drive train. And in keeping with the efficiency theme, the rear diff uses pressure lubrication rather than the old-school oil bath approach, which is touted to reduce drag.
Another advantage is that it effectively doesn't change gear. The hydraulic motor itself has 8000 different possible positions, so if you wanted to be picky you may be able to say that the Vario tranny has 8000 gears. But in operation it means the tractor accelerates smoothly from a crawl to roadspeed, without any gear changes.
It also means the transmission can be shuttled from forward to reverse constantly, without creating any wear and tear on the gearbox. Changing direction is a fingertip operation that makes even a clumsy operator like me look in control.
First impressions from the driver's seat are that Fendt has been working towards uncluttering its cabs. While some of the systems are unfamiliar, gone is the intimidating Lego-like dial and switch look from days gone by. The cab itself is the same as the one used on the larger 700 Series and provides excellent 360-degree visibility.
Overhead visibility is enhanced by a windscreen that curves back toward the driver at the top. This makes keeping track of a loader bucket or other attachment at height much easier and minimises the need to hunch forward over the steering wheel during operation.
As a premium product it's a given that aircon and a soundsystem are a part of the package while a tilt and reach adjustable steering wheel takes centre stage in the cabin. But what really stand out are the floating console armrest, multi-function joystick, and Variotronic screen.
Simple colour-coded buttons line the rest of the console, which would be intuitive and easy to use if I knew what half of them did.
After some instruction from Fendt product specialist Konstantin Blersch I am quickly up to speed on much of the bits and bobs inside the 514's cab.
One key feature of the little Fendt from the driver's seat is the Tractor Management System (TMS). Again this simplifies operation on a number of levels. An operator can effectively select the ground speed required and the TMS will do the rest in terms of engine speed and implement drive.
Directional control can be had from either the multi-function joystick or a steering column-mounted shuttle lever. Throttle also can be joystick controlled or foot-pedal controlled.
Headland management and optional auto-steer functions are also controlled though the one Variotronic screen to keep the number of distracting readouts inside the cab to a minimum.
Some PTO functions and linkage control are via a funky-looking dial under the display screen; all other auxiliary functions are taken care of with toggle switches lined up in easy reach of the driver.
I fire up the Deutz donk and am immediately struck by how quiet it is. The official working noise figure for this machine is around 76dB and it shows – there's no reaching for the earmuffs here.
With the bucket fitted to the loader I head for a rock pile to lift and shift.
For loader work, I find using the foot throttle the most logical and intuitive way to drive. Although I forget to select four-wheel drive on my first bite at the pile of volcanic rock, a quick stab of a button, and the front diff is in on the party.
With the counterweight hanging off the back the loader working load limit (WWL) comes in at 1850kg, and according to Fendt, every kilo in the bucket represents two kilos on the front axle.
The optimum torque range for this engine is between 1300rpm and 1900rpm, yet the lack of bang and drama from the 514 during operation made it seem a lot more sedate.
We then drop off the bucket, attach a bale spike and head out into the paddock for some hay. This is simply a matter of knocking out a couple of pins and tilting forward.
The main multifunction joystick can also be used to engage preset engine revs and engage cruise control.
One of the things you do have to watch is that you don't accidentally push that joystick to the right and activate the cruise control while cruising in a paddock.
If you've been on cruise control at 50kph out on the road and inadvertently hit cruise in the paddock this baby's going to get up and boogie very quickly and take you by surprise.
Sure the Fendt 514 is a complex bit of gear, but its interface is actually quite simple. You can fiddle with as many or as few parameters as you like to suit your application.
In the loader guise I drive it in, the 514 shines – to the point where it's nearly as intuitive to use as many telehandlers in similar roles.
By today's standards, the 514 is a small tractor but with a reasonably modest tare weight of around seven tonnes as a loader. The 514 is also the kind of platform that can appeal to civil contracting roles outside of agriculture.
For those wanting to be a bit posh in the paddock the Fendt 514 is a quiet, ergonomic and easy little machine to live with, and it's a smooth operator to boot.
- Quiet seamless performer
- Simple well laid
- out interior
- Excellent ergonomics
- Mechanical park brake seems antiquated compared to the rest ofthe machine
- Easy to accidently engage cruise control
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