Video: Multi-function ‘systems tractor’ earns its keep in Tullamore
For anyone who is a fan of big tractors, one that is sure to spring to mind is the Claas Xerion.
This is mainly due to its rather unusual concept of being a high-horsepower, equal-sized-wheel tractor with a high, lofty cab position. What really sets the Xerion apart from its competition is the option of having its spacious harvester-style cab fixed centrally or at the front (known as the Saddle Trac – essentially turning the Xerion into a tool carrier) or, finally, the VC version – which allows the cab to work in both the front and rear-facing positions (rotating in less than two minutes).
Sadly, the Xerion never really took a major foothold in the Irish market. However, it did prove more popular in the UK. In turn, this has seen occasional units subsequently make their way across the water to Irish shores.
One such machine is a 2006 Xerion 3300, which was imported by Tullamore-based business Tara Agri. Tara Agri is run by the McGrath family, who specialises mainly in tillage farming – growing on average 300ac of beet and over 1,000ac of cereals each year, as well as keeping 150 head of beef cattle.
Paul McGrath explained: “We bought a 1999 Challenger in 2008 for a number of reasons, such as its low ground pressure (due to the tracks) and also its pulling power. We pull a lot of beet and needed a tractor to handle what can often be testing conditions; the Challenger did just that.”
The McGraths used the Challenger for a number of jobs, which included ploughing, drilling, discing and harvesting beet. Being on tracks, it had its advantages when it came to traction and ground pressure but also had its disadvantages as McGrath explained.
“The Challenger was designed as a field tractor and it did that extremely well. However, our land has become more fragmented and often requires road travel of up to 10 miles each way. This is where the Challenger struggled and, ultimately, lead us to look at alternative options.”
After some research on the internet, the McGraths located a 2006 Xerion 3300 with 4,500 hours and a price tag of €60,000 excl VAT. The Xerion was on a large tillage farm, where it was responsible for all the heavy work; it even hauled grass during the silage season.
After a quick flight over, to check out the machine, and a bit of negotiating the deal was done. The Xerion subsequently arrived in Tullamore last June.
So why a Xerion? “We looked at different options, including Fendt and Massey Ferguson tractors. For the spec that was on the Xerion and the horsepower, it was half the price of the others,” explained McGrath.
The Xerion came factory-fitted with full GPS and auto-steering, as well as ISOBUS compatibility. It also came, as standard, with front linkage and four front-mounted spool valves. It also came with a factory-fitted rear pick-up hitch, which is not a standard fitting on a Xerion. In keeping with other Xerions, the back-end was equipped with a 2-speed PTO and four spool valves.
Upon its arrival, the first task was to service the tractor and replace the 650mm-wide tyres that it came with. These were swapped out for massive 800mm-wide tyres, in a bid to reduce ground pressure.
Under the massive bonnet sits a 6-cylinder, 8.8L Caterpillar turbo-charged engine, which kicks out 335hp. According to McGrath, this is more than adequate for anything they do.
“The Xerion is a far more versatile tractor than the Challenger it replaced. It has already clocked up more hours this spring than the Challenger did in a full year,” said McGrath.
During operation, the ZF Eccom 3.5 CVT (continuously variable transmission) allows for a stepless forward and reverse range – up to a top speed of 50kph. As well as ensuring that power is fed to all the wheels equally, McGrath said that the transmission “is a pleasure to use and offers the same traction and ground pressure as the Challenger did, but has the added advantage of 4-wheel-steer – which is handy when working on headlands”.
He added: “What we like about the Xerion is its usability, as many drivers will be operating it here. Because we already have Claas combines, the majority of the controls and layout are the same.”
So what about reliability and back-up service, which are things that might put someone off choosing a relatively rare or unusual machine such as this?
“We called our local Claas dealer – Kellys of Borris – who we have a long-standing working relationship with, before we went to look at the Xerion,” explained McGrath. “The service foreman was more than helpful and explained what we needed to check, noting that the engine and transmission are known as being ‘bulletproof’. He also told us that they would look after it, if we needed any work done. This was extra piece of mind for us and, ultimately, made the decision that bit more easier.”