Leicestershire farmers Watson Haynes took the plunge last year when the business replaced a Case IH Puma 160 CVX with a Claas Arion 660 CMatic CIS+. But has it met the farm’s expectations? Simon Henley went to find out.
David Haynes farms at Ullesthorpe in Leicestershire. His family has farmed here since 1931 and in recent years this farming enterprise has relied on a small fleet of Case IH 160 CVX and Puma 160 CVX models to handle the majority of the tractor work.
The Haynes farming enterprise primarily focuses on contract pig rearing, housing about 4,000 pigs at any one time, rearing somewhere in the region of 15,000 animals per year. In addition to pigs, the farm also runs 100-head of beef cattle and grows 285 hectares of combinable crops, including wheat, beans, barley and oats.
The tractor featured here is a Claas Arion 660 CMatic CIS+, which arrived on the farm last August.
Now with 540 hours on the clock, the Claas has to date been used on the farm’s 5,000 litre Landquip 30m trailed sprayer, dropping grass with a Krone 2.7m mower and for cultivation work including ploughing and paddle-rolling. So how has it faired?
Standing in the yard, parked alongside the farm’s remaining Case IH CVX models, the Claas Arion 660 CMatic looks like a gooseberry in a raspberry patch. Yet in terms of specification the French-built machine is very similar to its Austrian-made counterparts.
The Case IH Puma 160 CVX this tractor replaced, packed an FPT 6.7-litre engine which cranked out a boosted maximum of 190hp. The Claas Arion 660 CMatic features a DPS 6.8-litre engine which peaks at 205hp. The previous Case IH model featured a CNH-designed continuously variable transmission (CVT) unit. The new Arion CMatic uses a Claas designed and built EQ220 CVT.
“The Puma CVX tractor we replaced was a 2011 model,” rsays tractor driver Brian Judd, who has worked at Watson Haynes for 40 years. “The Puma was due for an upgrade, but rather than replace it with another Case, we decided to support our local dealer (Sharnford Tractors) and buy a Claas.
“Over the years we have had Fords, Fiats, John Deere and all sorts on this farm, but this is the first Claas tractor we have owned. I should point out, the Case IH tractors have all served us well and we have continually had excellent service from our Case IH dealer, Startin Tractors at Twycross.
“One of the main criteria with the Claas was it had to be a CVT model. Mr Haynes adopted CVTs on tractors years ago, and I think once you have worked with a CVT system you never want to go back to a semi-powershift.”
Having spent literally thousands of hours on the Puma CVX, we asked Mr Judd to share his opinion of the new tractor and compare the Claas Arion 660 CMatic to the Puma CVX, both in terms of its features and its performance.
“I think the Claas is simpler to drive,” he says. “This is the CIS+ model with the colour A-pillar display and multifunction armrest. The seat armrest integrates the ‘DriveStick’ lever to operate the CVT. It is quite a small lever, but it has a light action and it is easy to control.
“The transmission has a choice of three modes. In the first two modes the forward speed is controlled by either the foot pedal or the DriveStick lever. The modes can be switched using a button on the armrest and are displayed on the A-pillar screen.
“Using the foot pedal or DriveStick, the engine rpm and transmission are adjusted automatically for performance and efficiency. The third mode is manual, which allows me to choose the engine rpm and transmission speed independently.
“When I am spraying, I use the tractor in manual mode with the engine speed set on the hand throttle. If I am mowing, I set the engine speed for the pto and use the cruise settings. The droop control can also be adjusted to maintain pto speed under load, while maintaining the maximum forward speed possible up to a pre-set target speed.
“Our tractor is equipped with the Claas GPS Pilot system. The guidance system is simple to use and easy to set up, and its more accurate than the Trimble set-up we have on our Challenger 765C twin-track machine. Depending on what I am doing, I will vary between using auto-steer or just guidance.”
“The Arion 660 is a very comfortable tractor with plenty of power for everything we do,” says Mr Judd.
“I also think the mid-range CIS+ specification gives you the right amount of technology you need for farming today, without being too complicated or difficult to use.
“Overall, I would say it is a very capable all-round tractor that is easy to live with. What else could you want?”
So what does Mr Judd not like about the Claas Arion? “I preferred the linkage control on the Puma,” he says. “It was slightly simpler and easier to set up. Having said that, the Claas places linkage control buttons by the DriveStick for thumb operation while you are driving, which is very convenient.
“I have only been driving this tractor for about eight-months, so it has taken some time to learn how to use the A-Pillar display correctly. After some practice, I can now navigate quite quickly through the menus, for example to set-up the spool valves when I am changing implements. Having never used this type of system before, it took a little bit of acclimatising.
“I do not particularly like the handbrake. There is no transmission park feature on the forward-reverse shuttle, so you have use the handbrake. It is not a problem, it is just the effort of reaching down to make sure it is properly disengaged, especially when you are getting a bit older like me. I also think the mirrors were better on the Puma, and they were electric which these are not.”
In terms of its in-field performance the Arion 660 earns a big thumbs-up from Mr Judd, who reveals the slightly more powerful Claas has made lighter work of handling the farm’s eight metre set of Walter Watson paddle rolls and Kverneland six-furrow plough. The additional power has also come without an increase in fuel consumption, as Mr Judd explains.
“The Claas fuel tank carries 40 litres more fuel (370 litres) than the Puma did. On the plough, the Puma would typically go 11 hours before it needed refuelling. The Claas will go 13 hours. Roughly calculated, the Puma was using about 28 litres/hour. The Claas uses around 26 litres/hour, but then you have the added expense of AdBlue which needs replenishing every three tanks of diesel.
“Out on the road there is not a lot between them,” says Mr Judd. “Both tractors handle a 16 tonne grain trailer with minimal fuss. If anything, the Claas has a marginally smoother ride than the Puma and it also has a tighter turning circle (5.5m). This makes it more manoeuvrable, but until you get used to it you will occasionally find the rear tyres catching the trailer drawbar.”
The Claas Arion 660 joined the German manufacturer’s Arion 600 line-up of as the most powerful model back in 2018. Powered by John Deere (DPS) 6.8-litre, six-cylinder Stage 4 final engine rated at 185hp, the tractor became the first Arion 600 model to break the 200hp barrier thanks to Claas’ Power Management System, which boosted power to 205hp.
Available in three levels of specification, specifically CIS, CIS+ and Cebis Touch, updates to the Arion 600 range at the time included a new colour A-pillar display in the mid-range CIS+ models, updated Hexashift and ATIC transmissions and the availability of Claas’ Proactiv front-axle suspension. The Arion 600 CIS+ and range-topping Cebis versions could also be specified with Claas’ own continuously variable (CVT) CMatic transmission.