Test: John Deere 6155R

By: Jaiden Drought and Harrison Hunkin, Photography by: Andrew Britten


John Deere’s new 6155R ‘mid-frame’ tractor is a seriously good bit of gear, featuring exceptional build and some of the best technology in the biz

Testing the latest high-tech offering from any manufacturer is exciting and this particular example – John Deere’s new 6155R – is no different.

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The largest in the ‘mid-frame’ six-cylinder line-up, like all 6000 series John Deeres, it comes complete with full-frame chassis design.

The rear hitch, axles, and the optional loader attach directly onto this, while the engine and transmission are cradled within, allowing the chassis to take up the strain, not individual components.

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While the full chassis is a tried-and-tested design, this machine is also equipped with the new high-tech StarFire 6000 receiver, which allows full auto-steer.

Engine

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The 6155R is equipped with John Deere’s own Tier 4-compliant 6.8-litre, six-cylinder engine with maximum power of 195hp plus 40hp Intelligent Power Management (IPM) boost. The boost kicks in for either the PTO (over 2.5km/h) or transport (over 15km/h).

To reach Tier 4 compliance, the twin-turbo engine runs EGR, DPF, DOC, and SCR to keep a cap on the dreaded black smoke. Gone are the days of being able to see where the tractor was in the paddock by the billowing black smoke from the chrome stack.

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Aside from many of the negatives in terms of engine complication to reach Tier 4, one positive is engine service intervals are set at 750 hours while hydraulic oil needs dropping every 1500 hours.

Another positive and welcome modification from the 30 series is that the engine oil dipstick and fill point are within easy reach for daily checks, from the front. Given the extra heat, thanks to the engine gas reticulation, extra cooling needed.

Due to space being a premium, the air-cleaner unit is mounted high on top of the engine, although, the handy mesh pull-out screens on the fixed radiator are another classic John Deere feature operators have become accustomed to.

Transmission

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Operators have a smorgasbord of transmission options when it comes to the 6155R. The test machine was the Premium Plus spec with the 50km/h IVT complete with CommandArm.

Other variants include the PowerQuad Plus, AutoQuad Plus or Eco, and DirectDrive Eco, all of which come with either 40km as standard or optional 50km on the Eco variations.

The John Deere infinitely variable transmission (AutoPowr/IVT) uses a combination of mechanical and hydrostatic power, providing step-less, and continuous power from 0 to 50km.

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While a multi-function joystick is absent on the Command Arm, the transmission is, in my opinion, probably the easiest to operate on the market. This is thanks to a single lever controlling the transmission with two ranges (0–20km/h and 0–50km/h).

Ranges are not a mechanical change; operators simply push the lever forward to go faster or gently pull back to slow down. For a more precise control, a roller wheel on the top of the controller allows very accurate speed settings for jobs such as precision planting or harvesting.

The power zero capability within the transmission allows the tractor to remain perfectly still on steep hill when drive is stopped to the transmission.

Different drive modes (e.g. pedal, custom, PTO) allow the operator to choose the best setting to allow the engine and transmission to find the most fuel-efficient combination. This set-up makes operation an absolute breeze for anyone who has spent a bit of time in a John Deere.

Cab comfort

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There is no denying this is one of, if not the largest, cabs on the market. John Deere claims an extra 20% more room over the 6030 series premium cab and comfort levels will not disappoint. With up to 16 front and six rear work lights (the test machine was even equipped with LED lights), burning the midnight oil shall no longer be an obstacle.

Sitting in the large comfortable seat, the visibility is excellent with large full-glass doors that are easy to shut even compared to some six-pillar designs. The ‘R’ series is equipped with a very good-size passenger seat and visibility to the drawbar may be slightly better than the 6030 series.

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The most noticeable thing about the cab is the lack of noise. It is easily one of the quietest cabs we have been in, and with climate control and the large premium spec seat, there is little to complain about in terms of comfort.

Even small things such as the new door latch make the doors easier to close compared to the older models. Sometimes it’s the little things that count.

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The CommandArm is not the most sophisticated armrest on the market but it is comfortable, and with access to four electric remotes, auto steer, two headland management options, PTO switch, linkage control as well as the transmission functions and throttle, there isn’t much you can’t get your hands on.

The touchscreen monitor is simple and logical to navigate. Anything that has electronic control can be operated, adjusted, stored, and saved on this monitor – as well as split-screen auto-steer view.

The adjustable dash is clear and easy to read, using two large analogue dials for engine and tractor speed, as well as two smaller dials that display fuel level and coolant temperature.

Performance

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To run the 6155R through its paces out in the field, we hitched up a Kuhn Optimer+ disc cultivator and got chewing soil on a spud farm just out of Ballarat. We couldn’t fault the Deere when operating through the soil. It was thick, clumpy, and a tad boggy, and the 6155R tore straight through it. So a big thumbs up for the 6155R with the discs in tow.

Impressive performance on the rough ground is partly thanks to the triple-link front suspension. With 100mm of travel, it is proven that front suspension improves traction by always maintaining contact and therefore transmitting maximum power to the ground.

The suspension has three settings: full auto, maximum, and manual. The manual mode is a particular favourite, as it allows you to raise and lower the suspension, which is especially handy while attaching front/rear hitch implements and trailers when you are just a few centimetres off!

The optional high-flow pump delivers 155L/min of hydraulic performance while the three-speed 540/540E/1000 PTO is electro-hydraulically operated and has exterior fender-mounted controllers.

GPS technology

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The new John Deere StarFire 6000 is a big step up from previous models with repeatability that is guaranteed for nine months from the previous job. Deere says it will last the season (12 months) but will guarantee nine months, which means cultivation, planting, spraying, fertilising, harvesting, and re-cultivation can all be accessed from the receiver and go on any AutoTrak-ready machine in the fleet.

If that isn’t exciting enough, accuracy of +/- 3cm is probably the best feature. Three centimetres is almost as good as RTK at 2.5cm without the need for a costly base station (although the RTK will gain coverage quicker in challenging conditions).

The 4600 monitor on the CommandArm allows ISOBUS implements or GPS etc. to be used as a split screen while still having the main tractor functions on the monitor to alleviate the need to fill the right-hand side of the cab with monitors.

JDLink is another option that has been around for a little while but is now becoming more widespread given the number of machines coming in with this technology to be able to talk back to the dealers.

Interesting information is being pulled, with some tractors having up to 50% idle time while combines can be broken down to idle, idle with full tank, transport, etc. You can also export yield and coverage maps as well as guidance line sharing via JDLink.

This is a great function for contractors and farmers to be able to measure productivity as well as remote diagnostic reports for the service centre. This allows some fixes to be sent from the diagnostic team to the tractor to resolve issues in the field without the need for a mechanic.

Another exciting feature that John Deere is working on is called ‘Expert Alerts’. This is where the reporting of diagnostic alerts and temperatures are being monitored by Deere on some tractors with JDLink, which allows them to have a large database.

In the future, information will be sent directly from the factory to the local service manager, alerting them to faults that will occur on the machine before it has even occurred. This information will also include the parts needed to fix that problem.

This saves both the dealer and the customer from not having techs going out to the job, diagnosing the problem, going back to the workshop, ordering parts, waiting for parts to arrive, going back out to the machine all the while losing several days in the meantime – essentially reducing admin and downtime.

Verdict

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There’s no doubt that this is a seriously good bit of gear. Build quality is exceptional, the John Deere technology is up there with some of the best, and operator comfort is top-notch, thanks to the spacious, quiet cab.

The ‘mid-frame’ design allows compact manoeuvrability with 195hp of boosted punch. This compact all-rounder comes equipped with plenty of technology and comfort to make the long days in the field turn into LED-lit paddocks at night, so you can burn the candle from both ends and really get some work done.

John Deere 6155R specifications

Engine John Deere PowerTech 6.8L six-cylinder
Power rated/boost  155/195hp 
Emissions Stage IV 
Exhaust gas treatment  DPF/DOC/SCR 
Transmission  ZF-AutoPowr 
Transmission type  IVT (Infinitely Variable Transmission) 
Max. speed  50km/hr 
Linkage  Category 3 hook ends 
PTO rear Three-speed (540/540E/1000) 
Hydraulic valves Up to six SCVs 
Hydraulic oil flow    155L/min 
Fuel tank capacity   335L 

Pluses

  • Smooth, easy-to-use transmission
  • Comfortable front and hydraulic cab suspension
  • The accuracy of the SF6000 GPS made us literally not even steerers
  • Large spacious and quiet cab
  • Touchscreen mounted on CommandArm allows split screen for GPS/ISOBUS implements and tractor performance parameters
  • Impressive LED light package

Minuses

  • The large one-piece doors are still hard to shut 
  • The CommandPro joystick would top off an already high-spec machine to give even more functionality

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