Test: Fendt 1050

By: Jaiden Drought, Photography by: Lisa Potter


Farm Trader's Jaiden Drought was one of the first people in New Zealand to get behind the wheel of the 500hp Fendt 1050 tractor

The newly arrived Fendt 1050 takes pride of place on Piako Tractors yard in Rotorua. Even though there are rows of impressive machinery and tractors on-site, the 1050 stands head and shoulders above the rest, both in size and performance.

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Hosted for the day by dealer principal Ian Pilcher (Pilch), we got off to an epic start with Pilch throwing me the keys, giving me directions to a Reporoa farm about 45km away and telling me to enjoy the massive Fendt.

The only snag was the fact I had to safely navigate Rotorua’s rush hour morning traffic in a tractor I’d never driven, with a 3.3-tonne weight block on the front, which isn’t visible from up in the cab. What I could see, however, was the expression on people’s faces as I tailgated them through roundabouts and traffic lights. I spotted more than a few startled faces in rear mirrors, probably wondering what the huge green beast behind them was.

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Despite the seemingly perilous journey and, admittedly, a touch of nerves about dealing with busy city drivers, after a few minutes, it was apparent that aside from getting used to the size, driving this beast is just like being behind the wheel of any other Fendt. The hour-long trip to Reporoa was a doddle, with a quick road speed test on the way.

Our first stop was to the yard of Josh’s Carston Contracting – a lovely young bloke going gangbusters on the hard ex-forestry country with eight 900 series Fendt tractors in his fleet. He’s clearly a fan of the brand. We decided to hook the 1050 up to the biggest thing we could find at the time in his yard – a large set of 4Ag DVi970 offset discs – before heading down the road to one of Sir Michael Fay’s dairy farms and cultivating some paddocks.

Engine

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One of the main reasons you can’t see the front weight block is because of the huge bonnet. However, this is needed to house the equally huge six-cylinder, 12.4-litre MAN engine with max power of 517hp. This is a massive engine and the large displacement allows for eye-watering torque figures at low revs – something I will touch on soon.

If you compare the 12.4-litre MAN, the lowest horsepower tractor in the four model 1000 series line-up (the 1038), to the 7.8-litre Deutz engine in the 939 (the largest in the 900 series), both are roughly the same horsepower, but the difference in engine size and tractor statue is vast.

Part of the reason for the large displacement engine is the ‘Fendt iD high torque/low speed concept’. The clue is in the name. The basic principle is to create the most power between 1100 and 1500rpm.

The figures are impressive: 2400Nm torque and because of this lower engine speed, the engine runs cooler, allowing less fuel to be consumed both from work rate and power extruded from the cooling set-up.

Speaking of the cooling set-up, the unusual concept CAS (Concentric Air System) means that the fan is positioned in front of the radiator, pushing cold air through rather than dragging hot air from behind the cooling packs. The other key feature (as it can’t run off the engine) in this tilted position is that it is hydraulically driven.

The low revving beast on the road is quite impressive. You expect that with 500hp it will be screaming at you, but it is purely the size and not the sound that is the impressive part of this equation. A speed of 55km/hr is achieved at 1250–1300rpm, and if you want to keep to a more leisurely 40km/hr, this is achieved at less than 1000rpm – quiet enough to almost hear nature outside.

Transmission

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The Fendt Vario has been around long enough that I don’t need to bang on about all the good things associated with it. One of the not-so-good things, which is a trick for young players, is the mechanical I/II range change. On the 1000 series, this has been abolished along with the four-wheel-drive/diff lock system and the need for independent side brakes.

This has been subbed out and replaced with ‘Fendt Torque Distribution’. Mechanically, there are still two swash plate pumps and two motors, although the two motors now have dedicated jobs: one to supplying the rear axle and the other the front.

The motors are linked with a T-fitting, which acts like a hydrostatic differential between the axles, allowing the oil flow between the pump and hydraulic motor to be free-flowing. The result is that torque can be computer controlled, allowing it to be shifted from one axle to the other. It automatically cuts out at 25km/hr and over or when there is no load on.

However, it will re-engage when the brakes are touched, effectively offering the best of both worlds between four-wheel drive and all-wheel drive.

Another benefit of this set-up is that when turning, the ‘pull in turn’ effect happens, speeding up the two outside wheels to give a side breaking effect without needing to touch a thing.

Another couple of options to get the most out of the tractor is ‘GripAssistant’. This is in the VarioTerminal and gives recommended inflation pressure and amount of ballast (front/rear) for the current tyres, target travel speed, and implement attachment.

A step up again is ‘VarioGrip’, which allows the inflation/deflation of the tyres from the comfort of the cab (this wasn’t spec’d on the 1050 tested).

Cab

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Inside the Fendt 1050, the armrest is virtually the same as any 5, 7, 8, or 900 series Fendt tractor, so functionality is very good. The only noticeable differences are the front camera section on the Vario Terminal, which allows you to see in front of the huge bonnet, and the large chilly bin, which suggests the big areas and long hours she’s equipped for.

On the road, the travel is extremely smooth, with new four-point airbag cab suspension and independent front suspension working beautifully. The top spec heated,
air-conditioned leather-bound Evolution seat, and matching passenger seat are also beautifully comfortable. The low revving concept makes it very quiet inside. Honestly, once you have the spatial awareness of the size of the machine you’re in, it is as easy to drive as any other Fendt tractor.

If I’m being picky, one small gripe is regarding the mirrors. The larger two-piece mirrors are the business and transform the 700 series tractors, but you definitely need them on this machine to have any idea about what is happening down the side.
I also found that having the lights and air condition/heater controls down on the dash a little strange. This isn’t an issue; it just feels more natural to have them up on the top of the cab.

Speaking of lights, though, the daytime running LED lights on the front make an already staunch tractor look even cooler and up to 18 LED work lights can be spec’d on the big girl.

PTO and Hydraulics

Three-speed PTO is standard here but probably not the three speeds you are used to. 1000/1000 economy and 1300 PTO, the size of the PTO shaft on the tractor is about the size of your forearm. It’s the same with the Cat 4 linkage and drawbar pin. Big is good apart from when you go to find something to hook it up to, as most gear in New Zealand is Cat3.

Just like the unconventionally massive PTO output, front lift capacity sits at a rated 5.58 tonnes with a monstrous 12.9-tonne rated at the rear. The three different hydraulic packages are no different: 169 litres per minute, 228 litres per minute, and 430 litres per minute, with the latter (on our test machine) using two CCLS pumps (a 220 litres per minute and a 210 litres per minute) on separate circuits. All spools deliver at least 140 litres per minute with one on our test machine giving the greater 170 litres per minute option (although larger couplings
are required).

Verdict

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The burning question is can it put 500hp to the ground without muddy rooster tails from the rear wheels? The answer is slightly more complicated than a simple yes or no. 

We had a set of six-metre heavy-duty discs that provided little resistance. However, it was raining, greasy, and wheel slip was noticeable. Wheel equipment and ballast will be the true telling of this yarn and is something that needs to be considered. It becomes interesting once you enter the pointy end of the tractor market; cost of ownership is really the only sales pitch that comes into the equation.

The price itself is high, to the point you should glaze over it, but (and it’s a big but for a big tractor), in this league of machine, you have a serious or several serious projects on your hands. So, spot fuel rates mean nothing. Yes, it will guzzle 100 litres per hour if you worked it hard enough and go through the 800-litre tank capacity before sundown, but the hectares you could chew up in that time are also as staggering. Hence, the long-term, overall work rates and costings per hectare are the only way to do the financial reasoning behind the investment.

The more attainable equations are how you will convince your wife, bank manager, and accountant that buying one of these things is the best idea you have come up with. I’m currently wading through one of these complex equations. Progress report: stick to flowers and chocolate for the wife; it seems to be getting some traction.

Fendt 1050 specifications

Engine  

MAN 12.4L 6-cylinder, max power 517hp @1700rpm, max torque 2400Nm @1100rpm 800L fuel, 85L AdBlue tank

Transmission TA 400 (rated to 400kW) CVT, single range, All Wheel Drive
Hydraulics

430L/min comprising two swash plate pumps working in tandem (210L/min and 220L/min). Max 6 rear spools and 1 front.

Linkage 5.58T front lift capacity, 12.9T rear
Tyres and ballast

Front: 650/65R38, 3.3T front weight block
Rear: 750/75R46 on sliding bar axle, 1250kg rear wheel weight each side

Pluses

  • It has 517hp and is about the coolest thing on four wheels

  • As easy to operate as any other Fendt, just bigger

  • Grip assist and VarioGrip help get that power to the ground

  • 430L/min hydraulic output

  • Smooth comfortable ride thanks to four-point airbag suspension and independent front suspension

  • Massive 12.4L MAN engine produces eye-watering torque figures: 2400Nm at 1100rpm with ‘Fendt ID’ concept

  • Chilly bin in the cab keeps snacks hot or cold on the
    big jobs

Minuses

  • High cost of investment
  • Mirrors could be bigger

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