Kubota M7-171 KVT review

By: Mark Fouhy, Photography by: Justin Bennett, Video by: Justin Bennett


Farm Trader puts the Kubota M7-171 KVT through its paces on on a busy kumara farm in Dargaville

I recently ventured up north to Dargaville, well known for being the kumara capital of the country. Judging by the amount of bright orange I spotted in the paddocks on my travels, it could potentially also be the Kubota tractor capital of the country.

Alt TEXT HERE
The M7171 loving the dusty Northland summer

Clearly, farmers and contractors in this part of New Zealand are keen fans of Kubota, so I was well received when I arrived to check out the big daddy of the range – the Kubota M7-171 KVT.

My guide for the day was Jono Leigh, sales rep at Norwood Northland, who has a strong rural background and is keen for any excuse to get behind the wheel of his latest demo model.

Alt TEXT HERE
Quality is evident throughout the Kubota M7-171

Our test site for the day was aptly a busy kumara farm, owned by Doug and Ann Nilsson. With 250 acres of kumara to tend to, their property requires a lot of horsepower, and in keeping with their passion for investing their energy in something they enjoy – as well as endless acres of kumara – they also boast one of the largest fleet of Kubota in New Zealand with an impressive 17 Kubota tractors in their line-up of machinery.

The Nilsson fleet includes 16 higher horsepower machines, including the M7-171 models. Released in 2016, this M7-1 series gave Kubota a foothold into larger horsepower tractors in the marketplace.

Alt TEXT HERE
One piece, high-lift bonnet for service acces

To put the machine through some meaty challenges, we hooked it up to some Breviglieri tillage gear, ranging in size from 3.5 metres up to five metres.

The five-metre power harrow provided the biggest ask putting it under some pressure, but I was really impressed by the Kubota’s performance.

Alt TEXT HERE
Premium test machine with variable KVT transmission

The kumara ground we had for testing was harvested back in early spring when things were still wet, so the ground was left not only with ruts from various machinery but also with concrete-like clods of soil the size of a basketball.

With the power harrow running at 1000rpm, what should have been a tractor killer merely slowed the big Kubota down, with the engine and KVT transmission working together perfectly to keep things moving. Depending upon the finish you were after, we got along equally well at 3km/hr and 6km/hr plus.

Engine

Higher four-cylinder horsepower tractors are starting to eat into what was once only a six-cylinder machine territory. The Kubota M7-171 is a prime example of this, producing an impressive 171hp from a four-cylinder, 6.1-litre turbo power plant.

This new Kubota V6108-CR-Tier4 engine has four valves per cylinder, utilising the latest clean-engine technology (SCR and DEF/AdBlue), as well as a diesel particulate filter (DPF) and Common rail system to achieve optimal combustion and fuel burn and excellent fuel/AdBlue efficiency.

The low down power available from the Kubota engine as well as low noise level while operating are key points of the engine, along with the clean green features that allow you to get the job done with minimal impact on the environment.    

Transmission

Alt TEXT HERE
Ergonomic controller and armrest with large touchscreen monitor

The M7-1 series come with two transmission options: a four-speed six-range powershift unit or the K-VT (Kubota Variable Transmission), which is available on premium spec models like our test machine.

This transmission is sourced from ZF and used by a number of other tractor brands, primarily because of its simplicity of operation for drivers, as well as its reliability and efficiency. This transmission does have two ranges: 0–20km/hr field mode and 0–50km/hour transport mode.

Like most modern tractors, there is a power shuttle to the left of the steering column as well as forward/reverse buttons on the multi-controller. Brakes, clutch, and the accelerator can be controlled in foot mode or by the ergonomic multi-function joystick controller. Like most variable transmissions, you push the controller forward to increase speed and back to decrease speed.

The addition of shuttle control on the joystick further makes life additionally easy. So in summary, while being sophisticated in how it works, the KVT transmission is highly efficient and easy to operate – key features of a transmission for long days contracting and busy days demanding efficiency to get the job done. 

Hydraulics

Alt TEXT HERE
Impressive 9000kg rear lift capacity for the rear linkage

With impressive rear lift capacity rated to 9000kg at the Cat III ball ends, our test machine had the front linkage box ticked so we could add ballast to the tractor. The 1000kg weight block was enough to keep things reasonably balanced with the five-metre power harrow.

The Kubota M7-171 premium model comes with closed centre load sensing hydraulics with variable flow rate to handle a number of different functions at the same time.

Four rear electronically controlled service valves are standard, with the option to go to five. Trailer brakes and power beyond are standard on the M7-1 range. With 110 litres per minute of hydraulic flow rate, our job with the power harrow proved no real challenge when folding up or adjusting the packer roller for depth adjustment.

Cab/Operation

Alt TEXT HERE
Plenty of space and excellent visibility in the large four-pillar cab

Kubota has done a great job with the cab on M7-171. Using a four-pillar cab design, there’s plenty of glass for excellent visibility around the machine. The exhaust is neatly hidden behind the right side pillar.

The 12-inch touchscreen monitor is one of the largest offered as standard equipment by any tractor brand. Incorporated into the armrest, it’s easily navigated to alter hydraulic flow rates for different remote functions, set headland management sequences, and a host of other options for adjusting and tweaking tractor implement performance and operation.

A rail runs from the back corner along the right door for mounting any different monitors required. With the ability to run ISOBUS implements and cameras through the large tractor display screen, the cab shouldn’t get too cluttered by control boxes.

Alt TEXT HERE
Steering wheel and dash set-up with the usual gauges and wipers/light functions, etc

The multi-function controller keeps most functions close to hand. Push button selection for the four-speed PTO on the rear cab pillar would fit nicely with the rest of the high-end features and finish of the cab design nicely in my opinion.

My personal preference for radio and climate controls is to see them roof mounted. The Kubotas are in the rear right corner. Although, to be fair, roof mounting is not an option with the low roofline design, which is helpful when it comes to getting throw low sheds, etc.

Globally, Kubota does have its own GPS system. However, in New Zealand, premium M7-1s come standard ready to operate on Trimble hardware and systems, which potentially more tractors will do in the future.

On the Premium M7-171 tractor, front suspension is standard (for tractors with a 50kph transmission) with three modes: firm, normal, and soft, with manual, auto adjust, and locked options.

The Dana front axle has the pivot point just in front of the cab, and I found the ride quality to be really good, particularly given that were testing the machine over hard dry kumara fields, as well as at higher speeds between fields with the five-metre power harrow.

An air-operated Grammer seat offers additional comfort, and beneath the cab, spring suspension is standard, with air suspension available as an option. While the engine is quiet, the pressurised cab keeps dust out as well as allowing minimal noise in. Being pressurised, the option of adding carbon filters for spraying is another option for even more versatility.

Serviceability

Alt TEXT HERE
One piece, high-lift bonnet for service acces

Modern styling is evident throughout the Kubota M7-1 series. Convenience is another drawcard, with the single-piece bonnet allowing quick access to the radiator and intakes for cleaning. The radiator folds out for easy cleaning to get rid of dust and dirt.

An optional reversible fan could be added. A rear sight class makes for instant level checks for transmission oil.

Alt TEXT HERE
Air cleaner and foldout radiator packs up front for cleanest air and easy cleaning

Diesel and AdBlue tanks (330 and 38 litres respectively) are on the front left side of the cab door, easily reached from ground level. Engine oil service intervals are set at 500 hours and 1000 hours for transmission oil.

Verdict

Alt TEXT HERE
Jono Leigh going through the finer points of the M7-171 before setting us lose

Kubota focuses a lot on quality throughout the M7-171. Any components not manufactured by Kubota are also top of the line, used by many other leading tractor manufacturers. Kubota has a solid reputation for longevity and reliability, and this is reinforced by the M7 Series tractors.

The M7-171 is ideal for those in the market for a high horsepower tractor but also wanting the manoeuvrability a four-cylinder tractor offers.

Kubota M7-171 KVT specifications

Engine Kubota V6108-CR-TIEF4
Cylinders/aspiration/emission 4-cylinder/turbo intercooler/Stage IV
Displacement 6124cm3
Engine power 170hp
Transmission KVT 2-speed 0–20km/hr 0–50km/hr
Shuttle shift Electro-hydraulic shuttle
Main clutch Hydraulic multi-plate wet disc
Hydraulic system Closed centre, load sensing
Pump capacity 110L/min
Three-point hitch Quick hook, CatIII
Lift capacity 9000kg
Remote valves Max five electronic valves
Rear PTO speeds 540/540E/1000/1000E
Front PTO speed 1000 (if fitted) 
Front tyres  540/65R28 
Rear tyres  650/65R38 
Fuel tank  330L 
AdBlue tank  38L 
Alt TEXT HERE
Distinctive Kubota styling incorporating plenty of lights for work after dark

Pluses

  • Large 12-inch LCD touch screen (standard in Premium models)
  • Excellent visibility from the large four post cab
  • Efficient four-cylinder Kubota designed engine
  • Quality components used: axles, transmission, hydraulics, and tyres

Minuses

  • With the new design, an electric button PTO speed selection would be preferable to the older lever system used
  • Quality comes at a price, as does a whole new tractor design, which means the M7-171 isn’t the cheapest machine in this horsepower range

 

See more tractors for sale in NZ.

 

Watch the Kubota M7-171 in action

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