New Holland's four-model T7000 series was introduced to replace the TM175 and TM190. While smaller TM Series models have generally been well regarded by end-users and the machinery trade, the long-wheelbase TM175 and TM190 have been tarnished by a reputation for sub-standard reliability.
However, New Holland is adamant that its replacements -- namely the T7000 models -- address these short-comings. To find out if this is being borne out on the ground, Farming Independent spoke to a T7050 user; Co Tipperary farmer and contractor, James English.
The T7050 is powered by a 6.7-litre engine, which has a rated output of 197hp (ISO 14396).
Engine Power Management boosts this to 234hp under certain conditions. As for the transmission, James opted for the 50kph, 19-speed version of New Holland's Power Command box.
He took delivery of the tractor in May. Thus far, it has clocked up over 600 hours -- not enough to allow him to render judgment on the tractor's long-term reliability, but enough for him to reveal his first impressions.
James' T7050 effectively replaced two tractors; its purchase is part of a strategy to reduce the number of prime movers on the farm.
He explained: "Some years back, I used to run four tractors. At this time of year, two would be busy lifting beet, one on the harvester and another drawing away from it. The other two tractors would be putting in winter crops, one ploughing and the other on the one-pass system.
"However, when the sugar beet industry collapsed and that work disappeared I simply didn't need as many tractors about the place.
"Furthermore, a neighbouring farmer and I have since pooled our resources to establish our crops in partnership. I do all the ploughing on his farm and on my ground, and he does all the drilling.
"The result is that I now need just one big tractor, which must shoulder 1,300ac or more of sod turning (mostly for winter crops). I'm the first to admit that the T7050 really is a big machine -- much bigger than any tractor I've had before -- but it has replaced two smaller units (a '00-reg TM125 and an '01-reg TM135)."
Alongside the T7050, James still has an '03-reg TM155. It tackles rolling, fertiliser spreading, spraying and a big chunk of the farm's haulage work.
To date, the T7050 has clocked up most of its 600-700 hours in front of a seven-furrow, semi-mounted, Kverneland PG plough, which was also bought new this year. Previously, all ploughing was done with the aforementioned TM155 and a five-furrow, fully-mounted Rabe.
I asked James how the T7050 compares to the smaller, older TM155. He replied: "Last year, I had to race up and down the field to get through the work. Now that I've got a much bigger tractor and plough, I can work at a more sensible pace. I generally plough at 7-8kph in tenth gear, with the engine running at just 1600-1800rpm.
"Because the tractor is able to comfortably lug the plough along at those low revs, I'm burning less diesel/ac than I was last year. Work-rates are well up. This season, I've been able to get through 40-50ac/day, depending on field sizes."
In a more apt comparison, James says that the T7050 represents a major step forward from the TM190; the tractor it directly replaces. He's basing these comments on the fact that he tried out a TM190 for almost a full week back in 2006.
He explained: "I had the biggest, long-wheelbase TM model out on demo last year, and it did make a good first impression.
"However, I decided not to buy it. That's because there seems to be a widely-held belief that this model (and the TM175) does not live up to the standards set by the smaller TM series tractors.
"The TM175 and TM190 are not held in particularly high esteem, due to concerns regarding reliability. As a result, they don't seem to hold their value as well as the smaller, better-established models."
He reasoned: "That's why I waited for the new T7000 series. And, based on my experiences thus far, I have no regrets!"
Commenting on the reliability of his own TMs, James said: "The TM155, which I still have, and the older TM125 gave very little trouble. The TM135 did suffer a recurring brake problem but, on the whole, it was OK."
Turning his attention to the newer model once more, he said: "The T7050 is much more comfortable to drive than the TMs were. The cab suspension system is better and it provides a very smooth ride. The cab is also very quiet, even at high revs."
He mused: "My brother-in-law was also in the market for a new 200hp tractor recently. He had a John Deere 7530 out on demo. He drove it on the road and then drove mine. When I asked for his verdict he said the New Holland was definitely quieter and smoother. So much so, in fact, that he bought a brand new T7030 soon after!"
Though the tractor's all-round visibility attracted praise from James, he was not quite so enthusiastic about those big, one-piece doors.
Nor was he impressed by the tractor's sheer size and bulk when it first arrived. He said: "The tractor seemed a bit ungainly at the start, but I quickly got used to it."
He singled out the seat-mounted controls for particular praise saying: "The positioning of the spool joystick, the gear-shift buttons and the linkage control pod are ideal.
"Having two spools at your fingertips really pays dividends when you're grappling with a big, semi-mounted plough."
I asked James if he had considered any other makes before buying the T7050. He replied: "I've been a Ford/New Holland man since the early 1990s, so I wouldn't buy something else on a whim.
"I did consider a Fendt 818 (Vario), but decided that it was just too expensive."
He added: "The last John Deere I had was a 92hp 3050 that I bought in the late 1980s; I wouldn't completely rule out another 'green' tractor but I'm in the 'blue' camp now!
"And besides," he concluded, "New Holland is offering a three-year warranty, which helped to seal the deal.
"Even so, despite trading the TM125 in against the new T7050, I still had to part with €66,000 (excl VAT). That's a lot of money!"