Test: Claas Arion 650

By: Jaiden Drought, Photography by: Lisa Potter


Farm Trader gets behind the wheel of the Claas Arion 650 CEBIS for an in-depth report

When you cast your mind back to 2003, memories flood back of 50 Cent’s ‘In Da Club’ blaring from your lime green Fusion subwoofer. This, of course, took up the entire boot space, while the blue neon lights illuminated the underside of your sweet ride (in no way does this depict what I was doing in 2003). Meanwhile, in other news, it is also when Claas officially entered the tractor market. While the first scenario has thankfully died a natural death, Class has continued to go from strength to strength.

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If you compare this to when John Deere entered the tractor market in 1918, this was 13 years before rubber tractor tyres were invented and tractors were still running on petrol. It’s remarkable then that Claas hasn’t even been in the tractor market for 20 years yet has produced a tractor as comfortable and impressive as the Claas Arion and is giving the more ‘established’ tractor manufacturers the good old hurry up.

The Stage V facelift Arion 650 Cebis is the second largest of the four-model 600 series being brought into New Zealand, the smallest being the Claas 610 (145hp) through to the Claas 660 (185hp boosted to 205hp). This complements the well-respected and price-competitive Claas 620 and 640C machines for the low spec, price-conscious buyer proving popular with livestock farmers and, importantly, available without all the Stage 5 wizardry that keeps things nice and simple.

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Speaking of keeping things simple, one of the more noticeable omissions from the exterior of this new Claas series is the move away from the high maintenance Carraro wishbone front axle. While amazing for comfort, it’s a bit of a high maintenance option. The switch to a rigid Dana axle with two large rams now provides the floatation up front. The Dana system self-levels as the weight increases (i.e., with a weight block) to keep the 100mm travel consistent regardless of weight on the nose.

Another noticeable feature (which should keep South Island straw balers happy) is the ability for the Claas to come on 42-inch rear wheels. Our test model for the day the Claas 650 was sitting on 540/65R30 fronts and 650/65R42 rear rubber, offering plenty of clearance for those fed up with mid-sized tractors, often bought for tasks such as baling puffy straw rows, then only able to be shod on 38-inch rear rubber and the underbelly catching the swath all day. For the low profile Xeobib lovers 710/60R42 or the big side wall 710/70R38, rears and matching fronts are also available.

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Jaiden Drought and Landpower tractor product specialist Paul Holdaway check out the Claas Arion 650

Engine

As with most updates in the ever-changing emissions world, it’s the engine that’s seen the lion’s share of tweaking to comply with the latest round of regulations. Still running a DPS motor, it now has plenty of hardware bolted onto it with a variable geometry turbo, a secondary compound turbo and wastegate to provide a boost at low revs (Claas claim between six and 14% torque increase as well).

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The fold-out radiator makes daily maintenance quick and easy

This is all on top of the SCR, EGR, DPF, and DOC we’ve now become accustomed to in the engine wizardry department. The Claas 650 has a rated power of 185hp, which is the same as the big daddy of the 600 series the 660. However, this is the only model in the range to benefit from the 20hp ‘boost’.

Suspension and brakes

I’ve always maintained that the Claas Arion series machines reign supreme in terms of being a comfortable tractor. The independent front suspension of the old series for me probably still takes top honours in terms of comfort, but from a long-term ownership perspective, the new much simpler axle is a sensible choice.  

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The heavy-duty rear end makes these machines ideal for towing (the ladder hitch is standard)

The truck-like four-point suspension is also (in my opinion) market-leading. Carting silage in the back blocks of the central North Island is a great testing ground for braking and comfort levels of any tractor; a far cry from the plains of the German countryside. Top marks all round in the suspension department, with the four-wheel braking of the 50km/hr spec’d machine also proving mountain goat-like in rugged terrain.

Arion range options:

Three spec levels are available in the new Arion series:

CIS: The lower spec of the trio, with four ranges, and six powershift gears in each range: Hexashift powershift only, basic trim level, and mechanical spool valves with colour A-pillar display showing all the critical information.

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PTO start/stop as well as linkage and one hydraulic spool can all be operated from either rear guard

CIS+: Can be either CVT or powershift tractors. The ‘+’ means a colour A-pillar display and electronic spools, but still on the simple armrest with the ‘thumb’ Hexashift gearstick.

CEBIS: The all-singing dancing bells and whistles version, again available in 24-speed Hexashift or CVT. Integrated into the much plusher armrest is the 12-inch touchscreen and CMotion joystick, now shared with all top-spec Claas combines and foragers.

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Sleek German design provides an eye-catching bonnet

Our test machine was the Cebis spec but the powershift trans means knocking the CMotion lever forward for up and back for downward powershifts. Overall, a smooth transmission to operate with two settings for auto shifting, field and road. Infield mode, you push the auto button and then select a gear say B4. By pulling back on the gear shifter, a red line will come over B5 and B6, which will only allow the tractor during that job to auto-shift between gears B1 and B4 –clever.

Like most electronically governed powershift boxes, there’s a noticeable delay between ranges. This has been narrowed from the previous model; however, I would be lying if I said it was seamless, particularly when under load.

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The Claas Arion 650 in its natural habitat

Cab

The last time I tested the Arion I was impressed with the cab but a little distracted by the constant fan noise of the A/C. Thankfully, this has been remedied and further to the aforementioned comfort levels, the in-cab experience will also not disappoint.

The new touchscreen was the only thing missing from the previous models, given the 10 assignable buttons on the CMotion lever along with the logical way the touchscreen works. There are sub-menus, but you don’t get the feeling you’re digging deep into the Di-Vinci code to extract the information.

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The high lift bonnet is mega convenient for servicing and maintenance

ISOBUS on the touchscreen is also savvy with 10 commands that can be assigned, which will cater for even the most demanding implement. The ability to assign the five rear and two front spools to the CMotion, joystick, or paddles again caters for individual driver preferences.

Other features worth mentioning

  • Dynamic Steering option, which allows the operator to reduce the number of lock-to-lock turns from four-and-a-half to just one
  • On CEBIS spec tractors, the external PTO controls can now be linked to the engine speed memories. For loading an effluent tanker, for example, the tractor will automatically rev up to speed when the PTO is engaged, avoiding the need to continuously get in and out of the cab – a great idea
  • Brake to clutch and option to run an increased idle to 1080rpm as an ‘anti stall’ function
  • Large microphone on the Bluetooth stereo to keep the hands free and the authorities happy
  • Operators can ‘upgrade’ to leather-clad seats and steering wheel as well as a tinted rear screen
  • High-level headlamps (mounted high on the front cab pilar improve visibility with front mounted equipment or a loader)
  • The fifth pillar on the left to allow the size of the door to be reduced to make it easier to open and close, which I am a huge fan of
  • The instructor seat doubles as storage and the air-con cooled box under the seat with room for a couple of two 1.5-litre bottles and some Scooby snacks for the long days
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No shortage of work lights here in the new Class Arion 650

Hydraulics and linkage

On the CEBIS spec’d tractors, the electric spools all have time and flow control options and can be timed into the headland management system. You can also not only adjust the flow but when the peak flow kicks in.

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The five pillar cab provides excellent all-round visibility as well as easy access

For example, if you want the flow on 100% but want a four-second delay between activation and peak flow, this is easily accommodated and stops sudden and large fluctuations inflow and is much kinder on the implement. Touchpad for controls such as changing between the four PTO speeds, linkage settings, and draft control are neatly located on the rear B pillar. The main depth control wheel is in a user-friendly position up on the front end of the armrest. 

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A comfortable and capable machine for carting silage in some rugged North Island terrain

Summary

The more time you spend in the Claas machines, the more you respect how far they have come in a short space of time. Helmut Claas died recently at the age of 94 and he was a real trailblazer in the industry and the backbone to the leaps and bounds the brand has made. This facelift model was launched in 2013. While the new 2021 may not look too dissimilar on the outside, they have refined the machine to become a top competitor in the hotly-contested six-cylinder 140–200hp market, and rightly so. It’s definitely no new kid on the block that’s for sure.

Claas Arion 650 CEBIS Specifications

Engine

6.8L DPS six-cylinder with VGT, AdBlue, DOC, DPF, and EGR

Rated power

185hp

Max torque

833Nm @ 1500rpm

Transmission

Hexashift 24x24 (4 range, 6-speed powershift) 50km/hr

Hydraulics

150L/ min

Linkage lift

Rear 8000kg max, front 3000kg (optional 4000kg)

Fuel tank

370L (AdBlue 15L)

Service intervals

Engine – 500 hours, Hydraulics/transmission – 1000 hours

Pros

  • 5-pillar cab reduces door size
  • Excellent ride comfort
  • Large touchscreen CEBIS models have all the key functions at your fingertips
  • Intelligent auto shifting feature
  • Quality feel in the cab right down to cast iron foot pedals
  • High-mounted dipping headlights make night-time road driving with a front-mounted implement much safer
  • Well-laid-out cab, which is bright and has plenty of storage
  • Two-piece mirrors, LED lights, and beacons mean you can see and more importantly be seen

Cons

  • Still a significant delay between range changes particularly when under load

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