WITH ITS plans almost in place to launch a serious bid to be a full-line farm machinery manufacturer, a lot hinges on how Kubota's new headliner tractors, the M7 series, is received by the market.

Launched recently at Disneyland, in Paris, the marque is hoping for a fairytale ending to a long-term strategy that includes selling itself and making a niche for itself on the world stage. The M7 is a key to achieving that and reperesents a massive leap in terms of market coverage for the brand, which has hitherto been seen as a stalwart of the compact and small tractor market.

The M7 series takes Kubota's considerable stable of tractors up to 170hp - a leap of 35hp over its previously largest model available - and one which allows it to encompass some 80% of the current UK market's requirements.

Built at a new factory near Dunkirk, in France, the three-model M7 range promises to be the most efficient, cleanest and most capable tractor that Kubota has ever built, it told the press recently.

At its heart is the new Kubota V6108 engine, an SCR power plant with common rail fuel injection combined with exhaust gas recirculation and diesel particulate filters to scrub out most of the toxic gases produced.

The three models are the M7-131, rated at 130hp; the M7-151, with 150hp; and the range-topping M7-171, pushing out 170hp. The latter model comes fitted as standard with Kubota's own continuously variable transmission, KVTY, while the other two have a four-speed powershift capable of giving a 24 x 24 configuration and at 40 or 50kph speed ratings - a creep option boosts that to a 40 x 40 possibility.

Famously simple in its approach to tractor design, Kubota has also come right up to date with electronics for the new range.

There is a multi-function lever capable of speed changes, diff-lock actuation, direction switch and neutral on the standard models, while the 'Premium' designation adds more functionality. Both are compatible with Kubota's own take on precision farming systems, with the former able to hook up to Isobus compatibility, while the premium name allows a single, large LCD screen with touch-screen to give control of a whole host of functions, including auto guidance and steering.

One of the main selling points in its precision farming capabilities is a headland management system which is aimed at saving inputs such as fertiliser and spraying, by being more precise in controlling overlapping.

For the operator, the cab is spacious and with excellent all-round visibility and there's been a lot of thought put in to provide night working lights around the cab. As standard there's just a fixed cab, but an air or mechanical damping system is available as an option.

As you'd expect, there's the option of a front pto and lift set up, plus the addition of an auto pto on/off link with the lift arms which switches it off at headland turns and switches back on when the implement(s) are put back into work.