The RX may be a prescription for traction with a light touch

It’s a 410 horse, factory, four-track, fixed frame and it’s green and yellow. The new, and somewhat anticipated, 8-series, tracked tractor from Deere is seeing a lot of attention from the farming world since its end of October debut.

John Deere has been developing the machine for several years and released it conjunction with an update to the rest of the smaller and mid-sized lines, 6, 7 and 8. But the 8RX, with tracks, isn’t just the latest 8 fitted with new shoes, like its big brother, the 9RX, it was designed from the ground up to be a tracked machine.

For more than two decades the Deere 8R tractors have been the big row-crop or higher horsepower, larger-frame machines within the company’s lineup. And while track manufacturers offered up aftermarket tire-replacement sets for those units, Deere didn’t offer it as an option.

Doug Felter of Deere said adding tracks to a machine built for tires wasn’t a plan for the company.

“Engineering it right from the start was the way to do it,” he said.

“We didn’t adapt the tractor to the tracks. It was built for it,” said Felter about the marriage of the Deere chassis to the Camso developed drive and track system. The Quebec company also provides the 9-series, articulated tractor with its belted rubber play.

Aaron Ticknor of Deere says an example of the uniqueness of the new tractor are the axle castings, specific to the new four-track machine.

These provide additional vertical clearance on the rear as well as the added space to allow the drawbar more room, so the hitching stays out of the tractor’s way during the tight turns of which the RX is capable.

A newly designed pivoting-beam axle allows the tractor to remain well-planted on the ground at all times and makes the tractor’s row-spacing adjustable, including 76, 80, 88 and 120 inch widths. The tracks on the front axle are available in 18 and 24 inch widths and on the rear, there is also a 30 inch available. There are no sun or bull-gears involved in the drives, the drivetrain is straight to the hubs.

The RX also has built in some of its own ballast with a heavier chassis, weighing in at between about 41,000 to 44,000 pounds, compared to the wheeled 8Rs in the low 30,000 area. For extreme traction, suitcase weights can be added to the RXs.

While the biggest version of the four-track 8-series is 410 h.p. three others, 310, 340 and 370 are also available. The smaller ones offer the choice of the E23 Powershift transmission or the infinitely variable version and the chance to have that under the direction of the one-stop-shop CommandPro controller, letting the operator run it all from the palm of their right hand. The big one gets the E23 and all the models can transport at 26 miles per hour.

While tracks might not deliver the ride of low-inflation tires, the new tractors get a fully suspended cab to make up for that.

Ticknor said the ride was another point that engineers focused on when designing the RX chassis. “Farmers need to be able to remain comfortable for longer hours, so it had to be part of the design,” he said.

The RX joins the 8RT, its two-track cousin, in horsepower and transmission options and gets four-post cab suspension. The RT keeps its title as the widest potential axle setup at 160 inches.

“There are significant numbers of farmers that have adopted the RT machines, especially in potatoes and sugar beets. They really like the machines, so the RX doesn’t replace the RT,” he said.

The RX, with its largest belts, has a 39 percent larger ground footprint than the 8R with duals front and back and 29 percent lower ground pressure. Compared to the RT model it puts 14 percent less pressure on the ground and has a 23 percent larger footprint.

While the chassis change for the three machine platforms, they share many components, such as engines, cabs, display and guidance technology.

The new 8R tractors with wheels return to their roots with a model at a lower horsepower rating, beginning at 230, followed by 250, 280 and then mirroring the tracked units upwards.

The 230 to 310 8Rs also have a 16-speed Powershift option, as well as the other two transmissions.

The new cabs get a new seat. After generations of pressure-system run seats, a new electrically managed seat with optional heating and cooling, as well as massage is available. The seat mount allows for greater swiveling to monitor implements and the command arm moves along with the unit.

Touchscreen radio controls and an integrated smartphone system give an automotive experience said Ticknor.

An additional foot-rest on the right allows for more operator stability and comfort and the turn signals and other controls have been morphed to more closely match those found in trucks and cars. Lighting for the new tractors is also more extensive, including eight courtesy lamps, illuminating the steps and cab entrance.

The 8-series get optional front and rear cameras. The new 7Rs get a camera at the back only.

Six and 7R models are also fully updated this season and the CommandPro controller the smaller units enjoyed with the IVTs is follows all but the largest machines.

Now built into the cab roofs are the Starfire 6000 receivers and the tractors all get the Generation Four Command Centres.

Felter said, “Guidance and telematics are just like engines and transmissions today. It’s a part of farming.”

Like this year’s offer of a smaller horsepower, large-frame wheeled tractor in the 8R, the 7R series too will return to a historical offering of a higher powered, smaller framed machine. Now available from 210 to 330 h.p., the smaller framed 7-series overlaps the lower end of the 8-series. The smaller machines also get the triple-linked suspension for more control and a better ride. The bigger tractors have the ability to support front dual wheels, while the 7s get singles only.

“For producers looking for the maneuverability of a 7, for (haying), loader work and still big enough for grain carts and field operations, the additional power provides a lot of tractor. And it can be ballasted and still have a lot of tire,” he said.

In redesigning the all of the new tractors the company also looked at a new way of approaching hydraulic lines, dropping as many as 100 fittings from the machines.

“Typically failures in lines happen at, or near, fittings. Removing them should make the tractors are more reliable. We also moved a lot of other components to make them more serviceable and keep some of them, like the batteries on the 8Rs away from heat sources up front,” he said.

Contact michael.raine@producer.com

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