When Russian harvester manufacturer Rostselmach bought Buhler Industries and the Versatile tractor brand in 2007, marketers and engineers alike at the Canadian factory in Winnipeg knew they had challenges – mainly in meeting upcoming Tier IVA emission standards, but more than that in updating a product many competitors were "dissing" because of its Spartan appointments and aging infrastructure.
The six new iT4 Versatile tractor models ranging from 350 to 550 horsepower introduced in Winnipeg this week show the company is up to the challenge for breathable air, and for operator comfort and convenience, plus they show the possibilities of collaboration between major component suppliers on joint projects.
First, the new red tractors continue their long lineage of Cummins diesel engine power, but with a clean-burning QSX 11.9 L model and a QSX 15 L model, backed by a Caterpillar power shift transmission throughout the lineup. Non-power shift gear boxes are available, but the bulk of Versatile's potential sales are projected to use the Cat TA19 or TA22 shifters, depending upon the model. To put the Versatile brand in the precision agriculture arena, the company is cooperating with Raven for the electronic hardware and software to keep the big machines running exactly where their operators wish via satellite contact.
The Cummins power plants use a multi-pulse (up to five per stroke) common-rail injection system to feed a compressed air stream fed by a simple variable geometry turbocharger. That boost drives a proven Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) system to keep the fires clean, while a diesel particulate filter (DPF) subs as a muffler on the exhaust stack to keep noise to a minimum and carbon soot under control. In 99% of the cases the DPF will do its own regeneration during working hours, say Versatile engineers. Otherwise, a manual regeneration can take place over a 30-minute lunch break. The system uses no urea injection.
Engine performance has been tweaked to give nearly half again the torque rise the T3 models boasted, so the new 550 pulls comparably to the older 575. And, on the road all of the new lineup will run 25 miles per hour, up from 18 mph for previous models.
The HR line includes the 350, 375 and 400 hp. models, while the HHT line is rated at 400, 435 and 550 hp.
Behind the clean and quiet 6 cylinder engines, the Caterpillar transmissions designed specifically for Versatile tractors using Cummins power, provide a smooth range of options through 16 forward gears and four in reverse. Versatile maintained its heavy frame and the outboard planetary axles for shear guts and customer loyalty, and kept its modular approach to engines, transmissions, differentials, etc. for ease of service.
Other serviceability features include an easy-swing-out grill that provides standup access to the vehicle's triple battery pack and a latching tool compartment, swing-up side panels on the engine compartment, and a hood that can be removed in 10 minutes or less to leave the entire engine exposed for service. The hydraulic tank has been relocated to just in front of the driver at the cowl level to keep hydraulic pumps primed even in rough terrain, and to add more ballast to the center and front of the machine. Fuel capacity has been boosted to 300- or 400-gallon sculpted polymer fuel tanks (depending upon the model) which are mounted amidships to maintain balance through a day's field work. Recommended diesel fuel can contain up to 20% biodiesel.
Other "running gear" changes in the new models include a beefed up hydraulic system (now 40 gallons) that is capable of pumping up to 113 gallons per minute, feeding up to six remote hydraulic couplings. A dozen exterior cab work lights on the new Versatiles are part of an electrical system powered with a 200-amp alternator that excites a number of power points in the cab, along with an in-cab household voltage receptacle for powering laptops and other amenities.
In the cab, one can stretch arms to either side – answering the critics of ancient and Spartan-like control rooms – and visibility has been increased 35% with 11 square feet more glass. The ergonomically-designed control panel at the right side of the operator's seat is adjustable up, down and sideways for an infinitely-variable set of positions. In the dash, the usual complements of fuel, oil pressure, coolant temperatures and engine RPMs stare out through a pair of circular gauges, but the operator can "touch in" nearly any desired readout for a high-definition digital panel between the two circles. Also,the dash gauges have been positioned such that the steering wheel does not block their view.
Sales manager Darrell Steiner says while final pricing has not yet been determined, buyers can expect the same competitive pricing Versatile has enjoyed in the past.
For more information visit www.versatile-ag.com.