Test: Claas Arion 660

By: Brent Lilley, Photography by: Brent Lilley


Farm Trader managed a sneak peek at the new Claas Arion 600 range, just a day after it arrived in NZ, and more recently, had the opportunity to take the new model for a test drive

Keen to get in the driver’s seat and see how the Claas Arion 660 performed on the farm, it was with much anticipation that I headed to the Lincoln Dairy Farm in Canterbury to cultivate a paddock with it hooked up to a four-metre wide Amazone Cenius disc cultivator.

Engine

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Maintenance on the large cooling pack is a simple operation

All four models in the Arion 600 range have stuck with the 6.8-litre six-cylinder DPS power tech engine, which has served the brand well in the past, with the Claas Power Management system controlling the engine to deliver maximum power and efficiency. The top-of-the-range Arion 660 I tested puts out 185hp, and with a variable geometry turbo, there is a 20hp boost, taking it up to an impressive 205 max horsepower for transport and PTO work. Fuel tank capacity sits at 370 litres, which will keep the machine on the go well into the night.

The engine is tuned and controlled to deliver more power at lower rpm to increase production and lower fuel consumption. Two engine idle speeds help save fuel. Once the transmission is put in park and the tractor knows it’s not about to move, the idle drops from 800 to 650rpm.

Servicing intervals have been pushed out to 600 hours on the engine and 1200 on the transmission, which also helps to keep running costs down. The oil can be checked and topped up without opening the large single-piece bonnet. However, once open, access is good and radiators are extremely easy to clean with latches that allow them to fold out on gas struts. It is interesting to see that in front of the radiator is a maintenance plan showing all the grease points on the tractor, leaving no excuses for them to be missed.

Cast iron side rails bolt on along the side of the engine and to the transmission, giving the added strength of a sub frame design. However, the slim scalloped shape and pivoting front guards help maximise the steering angle for impressive manoeuvrability. This frame is also set up to take loader brackets if one is fitted. This also joins to the front linkage to spread the weight of either of these evenly along the tractor.

Emissions

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Well equipped with a stainless steel exhaust and 18 LED work lights

Like most manufacturers, harmful emissions have been reduced to almost zero to meet Tier Four final standards. To comply with these regulations, the Claas Arion 660 uses a DOC (Diesel Oxidation Catalyst) with EGR (Exhaust Gas Recirculation), a DPF (Diesel Particulate Filter), and lastly SCR (Ad Blue) to clean up any remaining nasty gases.

The system and placement has been well thought out by Claas. The Ad Blue tank is tucked away under the cab, with the filler between the steps. The large exhaust is positioned well in front of the ‘A’ pillar to minimise any impact on visibility.

Transmission

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Flagship of the Arion range is the new 660 CMATIC

With a choice of the standard Claas Hexashift, offering six power shifts in four ranges, or the CMATIC continuously variable EQ220 transmission – fitted in the tractor tested – that gives smooth, seamless variable speed from 0 to 50km/hr (top speed on the road is achieved at just 1500 rpm). The powered zero feature means that even in forward or reverse, the tractor will remain stationary at idle without creeping.

Control of the transmission is straightforward with the choice of three modes. In the first two modes, the forward speed is controlled by either the foot pedal or the CMOTION multifunction lever. The engine rpm and transmission are adjusted automatically for performance and efficiency. The third mode is manual, where the driver can choose the engine rpm and transmission speed independently. These modes can easily be switched with a button on the armrest and are displayed on the screen.

There are now three customisable cruise control settings. You can activate these and toggle between them while moving, with buttons on the CMOTION lever. Displayed on screen, these are easy to set up and adjust on the move. Cruise control can be easily deactivated by pushing the button on the drive lever or touching the accelerator or brake pedal.

Engine Droop has been improved on the CMATIC transmission and has two adjustable settings: eco and power. Essentially, it allows the operator to set the engine rpm that the machine (under load) will drop to before the forward speed is automatically lowered to maintain the optimum engine rpm. So, in practice, pulling the four-metre cultivator, the engine droop was set to 1700rpm and the forward speed slightly above what was achievable. The tractor then delivers full power to maintain the maximum forward speed possible without going over 1700rpm. If the target cruise control forward speed is achieved, the rpm drops to all that is required, which drastically improves fuel consumption figures.

Suspension

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The front axle sports 125mm of travel

A new Dana front axle features in the redesigned PROACTIV front axle suspension system. This combines a rear pivot point further back under the chassis and large rams angled outwards for stability. There is now 125mm of travel and accumulators to soak up the bumps. Even trundling along at only eight kilometres per hour in the paddock, it was impressive to see the amount of movement and travel in the rougher patches.

The suspension is customisable in the cab. It can be run in auto or raised and lowered manually to a set height. Cab suspension has always been a strong point for Claas tractors and the four post mechanical cab suspension also helps give a smooth ride for the operator. Both the front and rear linkages have vibration damping soft ride, which can be switched on or off to minimise the bounce from implements.

Fitted with Michelin Ultraflex XeoBib 600/60 R30s on the front and 710/60 R42s on the rear, these top spec IF tyres offer minimum compaction and maximum traction. Michelin also independently claim to decrease fuel consumption when running these tyres.

Hydraulics and PTO

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Well shod on 710/60R42 Michelin XEOBIB’s

At the rear, four sets of colour-coded hydraulic remote valves are arranged in a staggered pattern to allow plenty of room for hoses. A release lever makes uncoupling hoses extremely easy. On the Claas Arion 660 I drove, a hydraulic top link was fitted, with external control buttons for one pair of remotes, plus the rear linkage up/down and also the PTO on/off on both sides of the rear mud guards. Two sets of mid mount valves can be used for a loader, or in the case of the tractor tested, a front linkage with a four-tonne lift capacity. A spare set of remotes are up front and, interestingly, for a front linkage, there is a free flow return as well. It’s great to see external control buttons here as well.

All hydraulics valves are assignable to different switches within the new CEBIS. The operator can also assign a priority spool valve for demanding applications. This gives the operator full control on the screen for functionality and flow rates. The operation of each valve can be assigned to any of the 10 multifunction keys, allowing the operator to set it up exactly how they want it. The Claas Arion 660 features the larger pump option, taking the maximum output up to 150 litres per minute, which I’m sure is more than adequate on this size tractor.

As you would expect, there is power beyond couplings and hydraulic trailer brakes. With a 50km/hr top speed, it runs air brakes as well and Claas now has a dryer in the compressed air system – a feature that has been around on trucks for a long time but is relatively new on tractors. This ensures the air circuit stays free of water without the need to drain the air tanks – something that can easily be overlooked. The PTO offers a choice of different speeds: 540 and 1000, both with an option of eco (540e and 1000e), which is great to see on a tractor this size. I found it interesting that the choice of PTO speed is one of the only things that hasn’t found its way on to the main CEBIS screen; the buttons are still found on the rear ‘B’ pillar.

Cab

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The well-laid-out interior and intuitive controls  

Interestingly for Claas, since many of its models have always had a five-pillar cab, there is now a choice between a four- or five-pillar cab, so you can decide for yourself on the age-old debate around larger doors. Regardless of what you opt for, a side wiper features on the right-hand window. Large heated double mirrors (with wide-angle lenses on the bottom for improved visibility) on each side can be electronically adjusted from inside the cab. An enclosed battery and toolbox on the right-hand side offers storage for the essential bits and pieces that need carting around.

To say the lighting package is impressive would be an understatement. With up to eight spotlights on the rear and as many as 16 forward facing lights, the bases are well covered to turn night into day. All are LED lights, including the indicators and taillights, plus there are daytime running lights located in the bonnet.

As soon a front linkage is fitted, mid pillar lights come as standard. This gives the option of switching the headlights from the bonnet to the higher mid pillar lights when carrying large implements on the front linkage.

The cab is spacious with full leather seats for both the operator and the co-pilot. The premium active seat adjusts automatically for a smooth, comfortable ride. Slim, unobtrusive pillars, along with a compact dash and low right-hand console, allow great visibility in all directions. There are several storage compartments for your lunch and other essentials, and while not huge, they are adequate.

Controls

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The 12-inch CEBIS touchscreen is clear and easy to use 

As mentioned, the new 12-inch touchscreen CEBIS terminal is in easy reach at the front of the armrest. This can pretty much display and adjust all tractor functions. The new layout is intuitive and easy to navigate, with the home screen providing a variety of information and shortcuts to the most commonly used settings. Tabs down side of the screen provide access to all available settings.

I found this touchscreen easy to use and to navigate through and adjust. While touchscreens are definitely an asset, there are times when they can be difficult to use, but this wasn’t one of them.

The scroll wheel and selection buttons on the armrest are an added bonus. Most of the other controls are on the right armrest. Everything is well laid out with clear symbols and some colour coding. The CMOTION multifunction lever not only controls the forward speed but also puts a variety of controls at the operator’s fingertips, including linkage controls, spools, headland management, auto steering, cruise control, and a forward-reverse shuttle.

The armrest also features customisable spools and function keys ideal for a loader or front linkage. Ten separate customisable function keys are spread around and can have a wide variety of operations assigned to them, including any of the remote valves. This allows a massive amount of flexibility to the operator in setting the controls up to suit. The tractor tested was also running a Claas GPS Pilot automatic steering system, which is easily fitted. Fitted to its own ISOBUS terminal, the navigation system is simple to use and easy to set up.

Verdict

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The Claas Arion 660 is powerful and versatile enough for a wide variety of tasks

With just over 200hp, the Claas Arion 660 is powerful enough to tackle serious tasks, from cultivating to baling, multiple mowers, or running a mixer wagon. It is also versatile enough for a wide variety of tasks, and the real appeal is the fact it remains compact and manoeuvrable. Equally at home with a front linkage or a loader fitted, it will appeal to those such as large-scale farmers and contractors, looking for a powerful all-rounder.

Subtle refinements to the controls and the new CEBIS touchscreen make it an easy tractor to operate, with a massive amount of functionality packed in. As well as ensuring performance, these features help maximise productivity while keeping running costs low.

Claas Arion 660 specifications

Engine 6-cylinder, 6.8L DPS engine, Variable Geometry turbo
Rated engine power 185hp/205hp max boost
Transmission 50km/hr, CVT Transmission
Max torque 833Nm
Fuel tank capacity 370L
Service intervals 600hrs engine, 1200hrs transmission
PTO 540, 540E, 1000, 1000E
Max hydraulic output 150L/min
Rear lift capacity 8000kg
Wheelbase 2820mm
Length 4848mm
Weight 8200kg
Tyres Front 600/60 R30
Rear 710/60 R42

Pluses

  • Tried-and-tested 6-cylinder DPS engine that boosts to an impressive 205hp
  • Longer service intervals
  • New front axle suspension with 125mm of travel
  • CMATIC CVT transmission
  • 150L/min hydraulic output
  • Well-thought-out lighting package
  • Clear, easy-to-navigate 12-inch CEBIS touchscreen
  • Well-laid-out controls with 10 customisable function buttons

Minuses

  • PTO controls are one of the few things that haven’t been included on the CEBIS screen

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