Introduced in the UK at the LAMMA Show in 2020, the range-topping McCormick X7.624 VT-Drive has finally made it to dealer forecourts. Simon Henley went to see the very first example to be sold in Britain, working in Shropshire.
Shrewsbury-based contractor Dave Piper has been a McCormick man since he first started contracting eight-years ago. Since then he has owned more than half a dozen of them, with a portfolio of tractors which includes examples from the MTX, XTX and X7 ranges.
“My allegiance to McCormick is entirely based on the service I have had from my local dealer,” says Mr Piper. “I have been dealing with HJR Agri at Oswestry since day one, and I can honestly say I would not be in business today without their continual support.”
Mr Piper runs a small contracting firm which focusses on providing a complete service to a dedicated number of clients. His contracting service includes ploughing, cultivating, drilling and precision seeding, manure and digestate injecting/spreading, hedge-cutting and also mowing and baling.
As part of his business profile, Mr Piper also contract farms approximately 400 hectares in the local area. All of this work is done with just two tractors, one of which is a John Deere 6125R AutoPowr, while the other is the first McCormick X7.624 VT-Drive to be sold in the UK. Both tractors feature a continuously variable transmission (CVT).
“I am clocking around 1,500 hours a year on both of these tractors,” says Mr Piper. “My general rule is to replace the primary tractor with a new one every two years. The second tractor is replaced less frequently depending on its hours and age. Generally, I tend to buy a low-hour second hand model as a replacement.”
Mr Piper purchased his new X7.624 VT-Drive in February. It was bought as a replacement for a X7.670 VT-Drive tractor and by the third week of April it had already clocked 400 hours.
“When you have had a CVT tractor, you really do not want to go back to a powershift,” he says. “The problem with the X7.670 was that it was not quite powerful enough for what I needed, but at the time it was the largest VT-Drive model available from the manufacturer.”
“I saw the X7.624 when it was launched at LAMMA 2020. As soon as I got home I called HJR Agri and asked them to get me one on demo as soon as the first one arrived in the country. Twelve months later, that is exactly what they did. It arrived on the farm and the moment I drove it, I knew it was exactly what I needed.”
The X7.624 VT-Drive is the largest of four new CVT-equipped models in McCormick’s line-up, which have been introduced to bridge the gap between the X7 Series and the larger 264hp to 310hp X8 Series. As part of a revamp which will be gradually be introduced throughout the McCormick line-up, the new models feature X8-inspired styling, a Stage 5 compliant 6.7-litre FPT engine, a beefed-up power train, improved lighting and a handful of technology upgrades in the cab.
As a man with a great deal of experience with McCormick tractors, Mr Piper is more than qualified to demonstrate and discuss the new features which McCormick has integrated into the new Premiere-specced X7 big-Mac.
“In terms of driving, there is not a great deal of difference between this tractor and the X7.670,” he explains. “What you do notice immediately, is the additional power and torque. This tractor really hangs on where the X7.670 would fade out, particularly on road work. The X7.624 has so far proved to be an exceptional road tractor, particularly when pulling my Conor 4,000 gallon slurry tanker.
“Another good feature is the new active air seat. It is far more comfortable, very supportive and it just adds a touch of refinement to the tractor that was previously missing. I also like the new push-button steering wheel release, which makes it much easier to push the steering column out of the way when you want to get out of the cab.”
While the control layout is almost identical to his previous McCormick, Mr Piper reveals there are several new useful features. “The driver can now set high and low cruise-speed settings for both forward and reverse gears, using the 12 inch Data Screen Manager (DSM) display monitor. Another update is the addition of a second engine-speed pre-set button.
“Adding the second button for controlling engine speed means you no longer have to use the hand throttle for the low-speed setting. Also, the engine speed settings are now permanently memorised, whereas on the X7.670 the engine-speed setting was lost when the ignition was shut-off.
“Another minor change applies to the pick-up hitch release, which is now operated using a lever mounted on a console on the right-side of the cab with the PTO-speed selectors. This is a far better arrangement than before.”
One of the key features of the new X7 VT-Drive models is the redesigned main control lever, which now features five programmable buttons. These ‘My’ buttons can be programmed to handle a variety of operating functions, including GPS-guidance and IsoBus-controlled implements. The new My button software also allows the buttons to be programmed in different sequences, which can then be assigned and saved to specific operators according to their preferences.
“Another thing I have noticed is the DSM has been updated so it is more user-friendly and more logical to navigate. They have added a new set-up screen layout and it is now easier to control which window panes are visible on the DSM screen,” says Mr Piper.
“My tractor has the optional three-section flow-divider spool valve system. This adds an extra three-stage spool valve control switch, which can be set up to operate three different functions using My-buttons one and two. I have this programmed so that depending on where the switch is positioned, I can operate the hydraulic top-link, the push-out pick-up hitch or one of the spool valves. It’s a really useful feature.”
Overall, we think it is fair to say Mr Piper likes his new McCormick. “In my opinion, it is the best X7 tractor McCormick has produced to date.”
However, like all tractors, it is not all perfect, as Mr Piper explains: “The X7 has always dropped dirt and dust inside the cab when you open the back window. I also do not like the way any condensation or rain on the roof will blow off and run dirty streaks across the door windows. It is very frustrating if you are someone like me who likes his windows kept clean.
“I would not lie and tell you that every McCormick tractor I have owned has been perfect,” concludes Mr Piper. “What I can tell you however, is how much these tractors have improved in recent years. I also cannot fault the service I have had from HJR Agri, and the next tractor I buy will be another McCormick, and very likely another X7.624 VT-Drive.”
Drilling is one of the many jobs undertaken by Mr Piper, which demands the use of auto-steer GPS guidance. His tractor is equipped with the McCormick/Topcon N-RTK system which has an accuracy of +/-2cm making it ideal for tasks like precision drilling maize.
Mr Piper’s John Deere 6215R AutoPowr CommandPro is driven by his step-son Thomas. Standing 1.95m tall, Thomas is big chap who finds the low roof height of the McCormick X7 a distinct disadvantage in terms of driver comfort.
While the John Deere offers more headroom, how does the green-machine stack up to the big X7 in terms of performance? Mr Piper spills the beans. “If I am being very honest, there is not a great deal between them. They have very similar performance in the field and the fuel consumption between the two tractors compares extremely well. Where the McCormick wins hands-down, is on the road.
“The John Deere TLS front axle suspension just cannot compete with the Carraro front-axle on the X7. The handling, the ride comfort, the directional stability and the operational control at high-speed are all superior in the McCormick. I would also say the X7 has the upper hand when it comes to handling mounted implements like the plough on the road.
“The McCormick also has a better lighting package. The LED system on the X7 integrates working lights into the side of the cab roof, which make tasks like hedge-cutting in the dark so much easier.
“On the new X7 you can now control which working lights you want to switch on, which you could not in the other tractor. I also like the turning lights on this tractor. With the working lights on, when you turn the steering wheel left or right, the headlight on that side illuminates so you can see where you are turning. This is another simple feature which works really well.”
Shropshire-based contractor Dave Piper started contracting with McCormick MTX and XTX models (below). He praises local dealer HRJ Agri as the main reason for buying the tractors.