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My day with a Lexion

My day with a Lexion

If you’re thinking about buying a combine, Claas wants you to give a Lexion a try. Literally. Last week, at its a factory headquarters in Omaha, NE, Claas of America hosted close to 100 would-be customers and their dealers to drive a few of their newest Lexion models and get a first-hand feel for German-American engineering.

Claas, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, is a company known for its combines and forage harvesters. Each year, the company chisels out about a week to show prospective buyers the vehicle features that it says warrant the $600,000-plus price tag on the largest models. They call the event, Adventures in the Field.”

“The purpose of today is to give farmers a feel for the Lexion combine,” says Christopher Girodat, product specialist for Claas of America. “Once they get behind the wheel and experience the features, we think they’ll want to invest.”

Girodat says that one thing that sets its combines apart from other players in this highly competitive market is its hybrid threshing system, called APS, or Accelerated Pre-separation System, which separates nearly 30% of the grain before it hits the concave. Claas officials say the APS threshing system, with its industry-leading throughput, helped the company set the world record for harvesting corn in 2011, when its Lexion 760 processed 51,153 bushels in 10 hours.

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“With the APS system, you have three-drum threshing upfront and dual rotors in the back, which provides a lot of separation area,” Girodat explains. “And it allows you to fine-tune your adjustments, too. If you need more threshing or less threshing, you can change the rotor speed without having to slow down the separator speed. Couple that with our jet stream cleaning and you get a lot of capacity with our machines--almost to the point that our throughput compares more closely to competitive machines that are one class size larger than ours.”

Upraded features, new technology

Those attending the event had a few hours of classroom time to learn about the features of the combine before being escorted to the track to drive one. Among them: the 3rd-generation Terra Trac suspended track system. Cebis (CLAAS Electronic on-Board Information System) machine monitoring and control system. And a newly branded line of precision farming technology called Easy, which stands for Efficient Ag Systems.

During a combine walk-around, new Easy specialist Brandon Olstad pointed out the progression of advancements that are leading to autonomous combines. He says the first was automated steering, which took over steering. The second was Cruise Pilot, a ground speed control system. And a third, which Claas just launched for the small grains grower, is Cemos Automatic, which continuously makes adjustments to machine setting to match the changing crop conditions “It makes adjustments every 15 seconds, compared to the every few hours a combine driver might think of making them,” Olstad says. “It’s just another step toward autonomy.”

With that, we stepped out to the field to give these bad boys a ride. I set my sights on Claas’s newest combine, the Lexion 780. I bummed a ride with Claas intern Julian Kollmeyer from Germany, who is finishing up a graduate degree in engineering. I sat in the buddy seat while I filmed him with my iPhone.

“I’m going to show you the Lexion 780, the biggest combine from Claas,” Kollmeyer says. “It has a 16L Mercedes-Benz engine with almost 600 hp. And, it is really quiet in the back compared to other engines.”

He revs up the engine, unfolds the grain tank in back, engages the header and separation system, and together we start down the gravel path. He explains that the Lexion 780 is Claas’s second combine they’ve labeled “Class 10” designed to power today’s biggest corn heads. (Because there are no other combines on the market with the type of size and throughput that the largest Lexion combines offer, there isn’t technically a classification for anything larger than a class 9.)

Kollmeyer points out that the combine is equipped with Claas’s Terra Trac mobile track system, now in its third-generation with full and independent suspension. The tracks are fully suspended to cushion the ride and keep the combine stable when going over ditches and around obstacles.

What I’m going to show you now is how Auto Contour works,” Kollmeyer says in reference to an automated header height control system that keeps the corn heard close to the ground by automatically adjusting to ground contours.

“When we are going over the hills, you can see how it follows the contour of the ground while keeping up the ground speed. It accurately follows the ground without the head getting stuck in the ground.”

With that, Kollmeyer powers down the combine and greets a customer waiting for his turn behind the wheel.

Other models offered up for the test drive were the new 670 series straw walker combines, launched this year at the Canada Farm Progress Show, and a 100th anniversary model signed by Helmut Class to commemorate the 450,000th unit produced.

We finished off the night with a Claas-labeled lager, steak dinner, and a brownie and ice cream topped with “Claas” green and white M&Ms. Nothing like a little subliminal advertising.

I asked one farmer whether the ride-and-drive had any influence on his next purchase decision.

“I think it does,” he says while standing in line for dinner. “You get a chance to see how the machine works and what goes into it.  I’d seriously consider buying one.”