Premium Kubota on trial in Australia


Kubota M7 – the biggest tractor the company has ever made will jostle for space in the competitive 100-200 horsepower range – and it’s on trial near Shepparton, Victoria. Source: The Weekly Times

Kubota is a minnow in the middleweight division with, until now, nothing bigger than its 135hp MGX. It’s a division populated with well-established products badged Case IH, Massey Ferguson, John Deere, Claas, New Holland, Fendt, Deutz Fahr, Valtra, Landini and McCormick.

Kubota enters the ring with nine new models. There are three horsepower levels – 128, 148 and 168 giving the M7s the designation numbers M7131, M7151 and M7171.

Then there are three specifications for each, with an entry-level Standard ($125,400), then a Premium, which adds electrically controlled closed-centre load-sensing hydraulics, and the top spec Premium K-VT (Kubota Variable Transmission) for the continuously variable transmission ($214,000).

Despite the stiff competition, Kubota Australia’s senior product manager, Konstantin Blersch, says the tractor is not punching above its weight.

“We’ve got a pretty strong backend (transmission and rear axle) and over catered for the drivetrain, which was built for more horsepower than the actual horsepower of the tractor,” he said.

“We’re not scunging around the edges. And that goes all the way down to the 130 horsepower model. So that’s not a 130hp drivetrain, it’s a 200hp drivetrain.”

German transmission specialist ZF Friedrichshafen AG has supplied the back end and the front axle is made by US company Dana.

Pushing power through it is a big-bore 6124cc four-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine that is a bit out of the norm for tractors in this horsepower range which usually sport six-cylinder powerplants.

“Kubota’s engine is different to anything I have tried and I have worked with a few different brands,” Mr Blersch said.

“This is a 6.0-litre engine with the bigger pistons and you get more oomph from low rpm. Then it revs through the whole range with even power, like a sewing machine.

“The figures don’t show that we’re miles ahead of our competitors, but our own dyno test showed it was very strong.”

The engine is also Tier IV final (which means it needs AdBlue) with all the acronyms such as SCR (selective catalytic reduction), DPF (diesel particulate filter) and EGR (exhaust gas recirculation).

These all add up to mean it has dramatically less emissions than the Tier II engines still legal in Australia.

This adds to the evidence that it has the European market in its sights.

Other clues are that it was built in the company’s new Dunkirk, France factory and was at Agritechnica in Germany last November where different configurations for this one model took up 70% of the display space.

Mowing, spraying, loader work, spreading and towing smaller carts, round balers and tillage gear are all within the design brief, and it’s no weakling in the lifting department. It’s capable of picking up 9000kg on the Category III three-point linkage.

“They’re very much a European-style utility tractor that has hydraulic implement attachment areas and heavy lifting capacities rather than being a pulling tractor or a single-purpose vegetable tractor,” Mr Blersch said.

“When we specced this tractor for the Australian market, we looked at what implements are being used here.

“What we’re seeing is more European-style implements that are either PTO driven or on the linkage rather than on the drawbar.

“This is because people are recognising they can have a tractor that can do three jobs rather than three different tractors. One of the key features to achieve this is a ladder hitch, which is an adjustable mounting point on the rear that suits European style trailed equipment, and a swinging drawbar.

“This is popular in Australia. It means you can run a power harrow or spreader without having to take off the linkage beforehand.”

As with most European-specced tractors in this range, there is an option for a front linkage and PTO making it good for triple mower and mounted sprayer set-ups.

On the Premium models, the load-sensing, closed-centre hydraulics pump out up to 110 litres a minute via a maximum of five valves (you get four standard and can spec up to five).

On the Standard models, there is one less valve with the open-centre hydraulics pumping at 80 litres a minute. Most tractors in this bracket offer around 120 to 150 litres a minute.

So running a broadacre air seeder is pretty much outside the M7’s design brief, as you’d expect for a sub-200hp tractor, although there are GPS guidance and autosteer options for smaller seeding and spreading operations.

Those features and pretty much everything else can be operated through the Premium models’ 12-inch touchscreen control panel.

“The K Monitor Pro is from (partner company) Kverneland, which had developed the screen to operate its implements,” Mr Blersch said.

“We’ve taken that and turned it into a tractor screen. So it’s not a tractor screen doing implement control, but an implement screen with section control and rate control controlling the tractor.

“Kverneland were at the forefront of implement control. And it’s the biggest screen in the class.”

Kubota has done that very Japanese thing of offering understated reliability, like car giant Toyota. “That’s not a bad analogy,” Mr Blersch said.