Lessons from leviathans

by Andy Bryenton

When manufacturers like Ford Motor Company produce race winning machines like their Le Mans edition GT, we know that the lessons learned from pushing the envelope of speed and power are going to filter through into our more prosaic road cars. Innovations such as disc brakes, turbochargers and aerodynamics all come from the racetrack to the road and driveway. What about the world of tractors?

These are not machines built for speed, but power. While the tractor pull contests beloved of field days and agricultural fairs are spectacular, they bear only a small resemblance to what farmers really want from their rolling stock.

In the world of agriculture, the test-bed for engine efficiency, handling innovation and control comes from the giants of the open field, those machines, which regularly link up to implements able to harrow, seed or cultivate vast swathes at a single pass. Machines like the 60-year lineage of Case IH’s Steiger series.

A look at the numbers for the 600 series tells a tale of superlatives. From the sheer size (the exhaust stack is taller than a man, and the top point of the machine’s distinctive tracks sits at shoulder height or above) to the power of a 12.9 litre twin-turbocharged inline six, this is a tractor that towers over its smaller stablemates. It’s not brute strength alone, which makes the Steiger 600 impressive. Take that engine, for example. It’s tier two compliant without the use of any AdBlue or other active exhaust cleaning tech needed.

A separate cooling system for each turbocharger delivers 30 per cent more power under load.

These are innovations driven by the need to deliver what a recent test in Nebraska, USA, ruled the ‘most powerful tractor in the industry’. They also offer insights into making other Case IH tractors more efficient.

Look at another aspect, those distinctive tracks with their five-axle design.

They’re not just to make the Steiger look like an unstoppable tank; in fact, they are more gentle on the soil and substrate, with multiple points of ground contact reducing compaction. Then there’s an industry-first high-horsepower CVT transmission, able to creep at one metre a minute or transit at 40km/h. Add in automatic fuel-saving technology, a fully suspended cab for operator comfort, and a host more features, and you can see why this flagship tractor points the way to innovations across the range like Mercedes-Benz’s S Class or VW’s Bugatti Chiron. Engineers excel when they are given a big task to complete, and the ideas they formulate benefit the entire brand. Lessons from 60 years of Steiger tractors make the whole Case IH lineup better; a case of the biggest bringing out the best.