From the simplest display screen graphics to the complex software controlling the continuously variable transmission, new features launched on the JCB Fastrac iCON tractors are the result of an intensive four-year R and D programme and feedback from operators driving evaluation machines.

The latest Fastrac 4000 and 8000 Series have an all-new electronics infrastructure that includes fully integrated ISOBUS implement control and GPS guidance options, with everything operated using the new iCON armrest control console incorporating a 12-inch colour touch-screen display.

In addition to creating this new operator-machine interface, JCB engineers also developed new control strategies for the CVT transmission, with fully automatic speed-based powertrain management introduced alongside existing modes, a joystick-mounted thumb roller for fine speed adjustment, and seamless, automatic switching between driving technique triggered simply by the operator using either the pedal or joystick.

JCB Agriculture Managing Director, John Smith, stated: “To meet our ambitious growth plans, engineers from across the JCB Group, covering software, structures and cab trim, were challenged to take the Fastrac to the next level.

“We started by carrying out extensive market research with real users doing real work, with Fastrac users and non-users, because it’s more critical than ever to understand exactly how our customers use the Fastrac.

“In particular, we wanted to offer a bespoke operating experience for every driver by providing multiple choice control options for things like hydraulic functions, and it was a priority to build-in plenty of capacity for storing individual operator and implement settings profiles so that operators don’t have to go through the set-up process every time.”

To achieve those goals, JCB software engineers alone accumulated more than 32,000 man-hours of development time, sitting alongside evaluation operators during the development phase with a laptop computer to make fine-tuning adjustments in real time so their effect could immediately be judged.

As a result, feedback on the finished Smart Transmission Control system, which allows the powertrain to balance revs and ratio to deliver a target ground speed, has been very positive.

Read more: JCB Fastrac new features include hi-tech options and CVT

Operators climbing aboard one of the new Fastrac iCON tractors are presented with a neatly laid-out adjustable armrest console using cast aluminium and high-quality plastics for durability, with quick access buttons for frequently-used functions such as aircon temperature and fan speed, audio and hands-free phone calls.

There is a stacked dial for rear and front linkage operation and hard keys for navigating the display with dirty fingers; otherwise, the generous 12-inch monitor, which can be moved around to the side of the console, is navigated simply by swiping left and right and tapping the relevant icons.

Ultimate flexibility is provided by the multiple choices for allocating up to six front and rear electric spool valves to controls, including any of the five numbered buttons on the master joystick, another four (as well as the x-y axis) buttons on the auxiliary joystick, and the four fingertip paddle levers, which automatically light up with the relevant spool identification colour.

Functions are assigned by tapping the ‘profile’ icon on the running screen to reveal a visual map of the control layout showing which functions have already been assigned and which controls are available to use.

Tapping on an ‘empty’ control icon and the required hydraulic function – or simply dragging and dropping the function icon into a vacant location – completes the process, which is instantly saved.

Controls giving a proportional response are clearly identified and instant auto saving means there is no risk of losing settings as they are made or adjusted, nor any need to click ‘save’ before heading back to the home screen.

The ‘bespoke’ nature of the Fastrac’s new operating experience even runs to the master joystick, which can control the transmission as now by moving it left and right to change ground speed, or by changing to a configuration that drivers of other tractors may be familiar with, moving the joystick forward and back to speed up and slow down.