Top Tractor 2016: John Deere 6105M

By: Tom Dickson


Top Tractor 2016: John Deere 6105M Top Tractor 2016: John Deere 6105M
Top Tractor 2016: John Deere 6105M Top Tractor 2016: John Deere 6105M

The John Deere 6105M eclipsed the opposition entries in many of the Trans-Tasman Top Tractor Shootout categories for the best overall score.

Arguably the best tractor in the competition, the John Deere 6105M was the most powerful, had the best traction, and was easily the most stable. It ranked best for hydraulic oil flow, maximum rear linkage lift, driver’s seat comfort and lighting. Add to the mix a front-end loader with a hydraulic quick coupler and boom suspension, as well as front axle suspension, and the John Deere entry was always going to rank highly.

However, despite having dominated on the scoresheet and amassing the highest points tally for the event, the fact that it was also the dearest tractor resulted in the 6105M being relegated to third position overall in the value-for-money competition.

At 105hp, it is the most powerful tractor in the field and exceeded the 80-100hp criteria. To negate any advantage that the extra horsepower may have provided during the time trial, it was decided by the judging panel to apply a highly technical handicapping system.

Under strict scrutiny, each judge had to complete five push-ups, one per horsepower advantage, before entering the cab. I think it’s fair to say that while my Kiwi co-judge Jaiden Drought may have just pipped me in the time trials, I claimed victory in the push-up stakes.

Walkaround

The smallest in the 6M series, the 105hp version features a Tier II, four-cylinder Power Tech E engine with two valves per cylinder, as well as a turbocharger and intercooler. The high-pressure common rail fuel-injected engine produces maximum torque of 474Nm at 1500 engine rpm.

Despite being one of the heaviest tractors, the 4.5-litre engine displays plenty of get-up-and-go to propel it around the track, and it still has that unmistakable deep throaty sound that John Deere enthusiasts have grown accustomed to.

The 6105M is constructed on John Deere’s trademark full frame chassis design. Benefits include reduced vibration and noise levels. Common sense would suggest that attaching a front-end loader to the chassis, as opposed to the engine block, has to reduce stress on the engine.

JD6105M_5

When it comes to quality and functionality, the John Deere design team very rarely gets it wrong. On the whole, the 6105M is yet another example of quality and workmanship, but what were they thinking when they covered up the high tech compact engine with a massively oversized new bonnet? It may be necessary in the higher horsepower six-cylinder models in the same series, where an extra two cylinders have to be squeezed under cover, but it left us with no option to rank it last for visibility. The big wide bonnet, with no tapering or sloping features to its design, dramatically reduces visibility out the front, especially when doing front-end loader work.

Two areas that it excelled in were fuel tank capacity and lighting. Its payload of 220 litres of diesel will see it working all day and well into the night between fills, and 14 main lights in the light package will mean visibility won’t be compromised after the sun goes down.

Those familiar with John Deere tractors will immediately recognise the 24x24 Power Quad Plus transmission, with its six-range stick protruding conveniently on the right-hand side console. Two electric buttons on the side of the range stick allow clutch-free shifting through the four gears, and a forward/reverse shuttle lever mounted on the steering column completes this very advanced yet simple-to-operate transmission.

The four PowerShift gears provided enough speed variation during the loader work part of the test not to have to change ranges. Top speed out on the road is a very credible 40km/h, with speed matching to smooth out the transition between ranges. Jaiden and I both made the comment that it’s a transmission that anyone could operate without any instruction.

My only disappointment is that it laboured to the point of stalling the engine when shuttling between forward and reverse at low revs. I imagine this could have been adjusted via the computer setting, but unfortunately we could only judge the tractors as they were presented to us on the day. In fairness, it was one of only two blemishes we could find – the other being the oversized bonnet.

The Deere blitzed the field when we started comparing the capability of both three-point linkage and its hydraulic system. At the hook ends it had a maximum lift capacity of 5600kg and, while all the other tractors were category II, the Johnny sported category III hook ends.

Simple-to-operate wind out turnbuckle-style stabiliser bars allow for quick adjustment perfect space setting of the bottom links. Rear mudguard linkage controls are mounted as standard to help with attaching those fiddly implements from outside the cabin. Similar to all the tractors except the Massey, it had two sets of rear remotes, but it gained a few extra ranking points because both had float and power beyond.

Its hydraulic oil flow of 110L/min is a bit of a contentious figure. Technically, there is 110L/min available to the remote valves and linkage rams, but with only one pump it has to be shared with the steering. All the other tractors had a main services pump with much lower output, as well as a separate steering pump.

It is serviced by a three-speed, 540/540E and 1000rpm, electro-hydraulically operated PTO. The in-cab controls are complemented by an external rear guard-mounted remote control. Just like the transmission, all the hydraulic, linkage and PTO controls are easy to find and operate on the right-hand side console.

JD6105M_6

In the cabin

The cabin doors are not as large as some others that have pushed the hinge pillars further back with the aim of creating more space, but it doesn’t make it any harder to enter.

Nestling into its exceptionally comfy air-suspension seat, I find there is heaps of space around me. Despite its six-pillar cab configuration, there is great visibility through a total of 4.79sqm of glass. There is lots of head space, so the risk of headbutting the roof is minimal, even in the roughest conditions.

On the subject of comfort, the 6105M is the only tractor with front axle suspension. The permanently active, self-levelling triple link suspension makes the John Deere the most comfortable tractor out of those tested in the event on rough ground.

The interior design of the cabin is a well-balanced blend of functionality, familiarity, comfort and attention to detail. It’s no secret that the 6105M is the dearest, but there is no mistaking that as a result of the extra cost, you get a work space to be proud of.

Inside the tiltable cabin, a display monitor is integrated into the dashboard so you don’t have to take your eyes off what’s going on out front while keeping an eye on the performance of the tractor. Sitting in the driver’s seat, however, reminds me that the bonnet is the most prominent feature and is the most obtrusive in the group.

On the job

The idea of timing the tractors through a course of tight turns was to determine which ones were most stable and manoeuvrable. The John Deere is larger and heavier than the others, so I was fairly sure that Jaiden would get through the course without the risk of tipping it over. You might think I’m joking, but on more than one occasion some of the others spent more time on three wheels than four.

On the other hand, I believed its ample size would force it to struggle to stay within the confines of the track. In the end it performed as well on the track as some of the smaller-framed entrants, and didn’t stray outside the pegged out course, proving it more than capable of operating in confined spaces.

Superior manoeuvrability around the track meant we set off at a cracking pace, but its unrivalled stability during the loader work meant we could keep the throttle down loading two large square bales at a time without losing rear-wheel traction or risk tipping over. Superior traction could in part be attributed to a good tyre package of 540/65 R 38’s on the rear coupled with 480/65 R 24s on the front.

With the pressure of maintaining good speed throughout the course, I was reluctant to risk losing momentum while attempting to change range gears. It was a relief to discover there was no need. The four clutchless PowerShift gears gave me plenty of scope to adjust my speed during the track work and loader work.

The 623 R self-levelling front-end loader was another great point scorer for John Deere. It ranked one of the best for ease of attaching the bucket and forks, had the highest reach, comes standard with a hydraulic quick coupler bank, and was the only tractor capable of electronically engaging and disengaging the Softride suspension from inside the cabin. Its time and ranking certainly did not truly reflect its potential as a terrific loader tractor and all-round workhorse.

JD6105M_4

The verdict

For me, jumping behind the wheel of the green machine was like pulling on a pair of well-worn-in work boots or relaxing into that favourite arm chair. It just felt right.

Despite the fact that, at $99,000 plus GST, it is the dearest tractor at this year’s value-for-money Top Tractor Shootout, its combination of comfort, ease of operation and an uncomplicated injection of 21st century technology means it’s well-deserved of serious consideration from anyone looking for a new tractor.

Ongoing costs have been kept to a minimum with service intervals having been set at 500 and 1000 hours for the engine and transmission respectively, and it’s backed up by a two-year,2000-hour warranty. The 6105M would quite comfortably fit into any sized operation, capable of any task applicable to its horsepower range.

Pros

  • PowerQuad Plus transmission
  • Full frame
  • Front axle suspension
  • 220-litre fuel tank
  • Stability
  • Front guards
  • 110L/min hydraulic pump
  • Tyre package
  • Highest point scorer
  • Electronic controlled soft ride suspension
  • Category III linkage with 5600kg lift capacity
  • Lighting package

Cons

  • Large bonnet
  • No sunroof
  • 8.3m inside turning circle diameter

Keep up to date in the industry by signing up to Farm Trader's free newsletter or liking us on Facebook