For several years now, ag machinery has been all about technology. But the more advanced our tractor design becomes, the more push-back we see from a segment of the market demanding machines without all the newest features and technology. After all, tractors have been doing farm chores since the early part of the last century without computer control, and many buyers, especially those looking for utility and mid-horsepower models, believe a more basic level machine is still the right choice — and cheaper too.
As a result, all brands have broadened their offerings in recent years to cater to both the high- and the low-tech market preferences that have emerged, particularly in the 80- to 160-horsepower range.
So, at the Farm Progress Show in Iowa last year, when AGCO introduced its expanded line of lower-spec but still capable Global Series tractors in that size group, it wasn’t alone. Not far away on the show grounds, Italian tractor builder Argo was also debuting lower-cost additions to its McCormick brand as well, with its new X7 Pro-Drive Standard models.
In all, McCormick’s X7 Pro-Drive Standards add three new models to the existing X7 line. These tractors are “reduced specification” versions with 135, 152, and 159 rated engine horsepower. (Overall, the combined offerings in the X7 Series span the 131 to 181 horsepower range.)
For the time being, the X7 line is the largest of McCormick’s updated X Series models available in Canada. Over the past few years, the brand has gradually introduced other new X Series models across its product range, such as the X5 and X6, replacing older designs. Look for that process to continue when the brand eventually introduces a North American version of the larger 264 to 310 horsepower X8 models some time in the not-too-distant future, probably late 2017.
As “economy” models, the new X7 Pro-Drive Standards will offer a shorter list of available options to appeal to what brand marketing reps calls “the price-sensitive market.” But in the corporate press release announcing the tractors, McCormick was quick to point out that the driveline components in these new lower-spec models are the same as those used in the other X7 models, “The meat of the tractor has stayed the same,” reads the company press release. “Only the bells and whistles have changed.”
That means the X7 Pro-Drive Standards get the same 4.5 or 6.7 litre BETAPOWER diesel engines and power-shift transmissions, which offer four power-shift gears and six synchronized ranges with fully automatic shifting.
Pro-Drive Standard models maintain the same control layout inside their cabs, too, along with the ability to include additional mechanical hydraulic remote valves. And, surprisingly for an “economy” model, the Pro-Drive Standard models get a closed-centre hydraulic system with a variable displacement pump that can push out 123 l/min. To ensure the steering wheel doesn’t get jerky when there are large hydraulic demands from an implement or attachment, the steering system gets its own dedicated 44 l/min flow.
At the rear, the tractors can be equipped with both standard and economy 540 and 1,000 r.p.m. modes. Economy PTO settings allow the engine to spin at lower rpm while maintaining shaft speed to reduce fuel consumption when handling lighter loads.
Having covered off the lower-spec market with the Pro-Drive Standards, McCormick also introduced new higher-spec models, which offer premium features, for the other end of the market spectrum. The two X7 VT-Drive tractors offer 140- or 175-rated engine horsepower through a 50 km/h-capable CVT transmission. (They were actually introduced a few months before the Pro-Drive Standard versions.)
The CVT gives the operator four adjustable ranges and four operating modes. Although the Pro-Drive Standard and VT-Drive models get similar base specifications, there are notable differences.
The VT-Drive models can be fitted with up to five rear remotes, which is a jump up from the limit of four on the Pro-Drive Standards. But the hydraulic flow rate remains the same at 123 l/min. The lower-end line’s rear PTO options come standard on the VT-Drive models. And the steering system comes guidance ready on the higher-end versions.
One other noticeable difference is at the rear three-point hitch. Lift capacities are much different. The VT-Drive tractors get a 9,300 kg (20,500 pound) rating, making them better suited to handling mounted implements. The Pro-Drive Standards can only muscle a significantly lower 6,300 kg (14,000 pound) lift. But if all you need to move is round bales to feed cattle, that’s more than adequate.
To improve its corporate performance and ability to deliver new models along with product support in Canada, McCormick’s North American operations have recently been united. Previously U.S. and Canadian operations were separate. Now, a single brand entity will service both countries. According to Taylor Grout, North American marketing and product manager, that should allow McCormick to improve its service delivery on this side of the Atlantic.