Move over, Mahindra. Slide your manspread aside, John Deere… VW/Porsche/Audi et al just became the world’s biggest tractor maker! And my TDI just became a tractor…

As usual, I had my pick of a bumper crop of April 1st press events, with a regular bidding war of fine food, drink, and scenery offered. But an invite just up the Buffalo Ridge in South Dakota struck my fancy, ‘specially since I had to get back early to “supervise” repairs on our small town water system. Such is the life of a blogging city council member…

Maybe “ridge” wasn’t the proper term for this geographic feature, it’s more a series of rises and valleys, some filled with azure lakes and others pig farms and manure pits. So as I followed the directions to “VAG Farm” I was pleasantly surprised that my olfactory senses weren’t overly aroused, and the 20 odd axle South Dakota “road train” I was following added some entertainment. Couldn’t figure out the make of tractor pulling this collection of heavy metal, but given the speed it was going on the flats, in the turns, and up the hills I was certain it was empty. Normally I would have just clicked the turn signal and passed, but I wasn’t being held up much and was curious anyways. Turns out this twice the federal gross limit behemoth was headed to VAG farm too, and surprised me by parking with the trailers over the dump pits… This hundred ton rig was loaded! While I found an outa the way parking spot, the driver got out and opened the tilt hood… I had to walk over, and passing the converter dolly I noted a big box and the smell and heat of high power electrics at work. Then the massive V8 caught my eye, topped by multiple cherry red  turbos. The driver proudly showed off his machine, too bad I’m a couple generations removed from the old country’s Swedish vocabulary… But I heard him say “900 kilowatts” and “mit 600 kilowatts hybrid” when I glanced back at the converter dolly. I was about to attempt sign language when the security guards shooed me away, barely noticing the “Scania” name on the hood… I thought they quit making trucks with hoods?

This had the looks of turning into a minor international incident ’til I found the invite in my bag and upon presentation was suddenly transformed from industrial spy to old gal pal. I was told that I could examine and even drive the hot rod Scania to my little heart’s content, but breakfast was getting cold and the aquavit warm, so best tend to that first… While we motojournaists and other hangers-on were mooching the free breakfast and especially the high octane booze, we were treated to a history of the Porsche tractor, one of the good Doctor’s pet projects that his company was never allowed to build. Suffice to say, the Beetle was just the warm up act for the Porsche tractor, powered by an aircooled diesel motor with power delivered to the rear wheels via torque tube and vertical reduction gears that predated the Type II’s by over a decade. Small wonder that while the American and Brit auto industries passed on the opportunity to take home the Beetle as spoils of war, they forbid Porsche from building tractors. So Professor Porsche and his growing company got on with building progressively more hopped up VWs and had to license out the building of the Porsche tractor to another rather disinterested manufacturer. Despite that lack of enthusiasm, the 1930’s Porsche tractor was built into the 1960s.

Now of late the Porsche family, who along with the Piech family controls VW AG and all it’s brands, has been a bit miffed at the uneducated Americans of the EPA and CARB who dared  challenge the superiority of their products. Then one of the Porsche youngins noted that the treaty provision that prohibited Porsche from tractor building had expired in 1995…

By late morning the lecture ended and/or we succumbed to sleep, the plentiful Scandinavian pastries had gone stale, and worst of all, they cut us off. We stumbled into the cruel sunlight, relieved to take up residence in easy chairs under canopy as we were replenished with steins of beer while the smell of boiling sausage and kraut wafted in. Before our glazed eyes were three of the biggest tractor pulling sleds in South Dakota and probably the world (who else is cray enough to build wheeled behemoths just to bog down tractors?) as the biggest and best 20 ton behemoths from John Deere, Case-IH, and Massey-Ferguson crawled over the ridgetop and were duly hooked to the sleds. With a combined 2000 horses the three tractors managed long and glorious pulls but were ultimately brought to a tire spinning halt. Then what looked to be a near half century old “Big Bud” tractor crested the ridge, unmistakable even under pink paint and “Scania V8” lettering. This fugitive from the 70s age of excess’ inch thick fenders struggled to cover quad tires on each corner, and pulled the first sled it hooked over hill and dale. Hooking a second sled merely slowed the Scania powered beast a bit, and hooking all three sleds only accomplished a similar reduction in speed until the first sled was torn in two, signaling lunch with a massive V8 bellow. Was fully expecting a VW AG minion to drop at least a brochure if not a thumb drive PR for their new king of the hill tractor in our laps, but we were sadly informed that this was just an “exhibition” tractor, the production models would be revealed after lunch.

Reluctantly stumbling back from the beer garden to our lounge chairs, I noted the aforementioned big 3 tractor makers biggest hitched to arrays of a couple dozen odd plows each. Next to them stood, what’s this? Looks like a VW Touareg, or excuse me, Porsche Cayenne. And what’s this hooked to the back, a three bottom plow? Oh well, after all this humor, we could use some comic relief. The big three tractors apply tractive effort and proceed to tear up a state highway wide slice of turf at a roaring fast walk… The Porsche takes off and is over the hill and headed back before we even notice! Noting a fence line that denoted a  half mile distant, I time the plowing Porsche… It’s back in barely a minute! Nobody’s even watching the creeping big three tractors anymore, and by the time they’re back the Porsche SUV has turned as much turf as all three and is cooling off in front of us.

We’re long past legally drunk and in need of more libations, but we pay attention as yet another Professor Doctor of some kind of engineering arises to lecture us. The Porsche SUV is powered by a 600 horse Tier 4 compliant V-12 TDI AND a hybrid power pack with 440 volt plug in capability. There’s a PTO shaft extending off the rear diff as well as the front  and 3 point hitches on both ends too, and the plow is a high speed streamlined design resulting from thousands of hours of “soil dynamic” analysis. The Porsche’s electronic controls adjust as soon as the plow or other implement is sensed, stiffening up the suspension to handle the plow’s drag and torque vectoring via adapted stability control systems to make those tight turns where the field ends. Front and rear three points hitches and PTOs will be standard on all four wheel drive Porsche and Audi TDIs and a full array of planters, snowblowers, and other implements designed for triple digit speeds will be offered.

Then a bunch more TDIs of various sizes of Porsche, Audi, and VW persuasions came over the ridge and danced before our tired eyes. They had Transporters hauling chickens, Tiguans making hay, and even the little Beetle was pulling a gang mower to good effect. The neu VW AG line of tractors was parked for our examination and the keys wisely pulled, we were so busy examining them that we barely noticed the jet ‘copter landing. Didn’t recognize the passenger at first, then recognized him as VW AG’s latest CEO, and of course yet another Dr. Professor, who mounted the rostrum.

After about an hour’s sturm and drag denouncement of the EPA, CARB, trial lawyers, and lazy american drivers who demand too many cupholders he got to the point… VW had examined the laws and found there were no speed limits for tractors and certainly no horsepower limits. And more to the point, tractors get to slide past the EPA and CARB by meeting an easy-peasy “Tier 4” emissions standard, easily achievable with 1970s VW AG diesel technology. So VW will retrofit every TDI with a three point hitch and a slow moving vehicle reflective triangle, and EPA and CARB can cry while the trial lawyers will have to drive their current Porsches and Audis for a few more years!

Granted, my Golf TDI will only get a “category 00” hitch, but trading up to an Audi Q5 TDI with field navigation, front and rear hitches and PTOs, and a newly “turned up” 300 horsepower diesel with near no emissions controls sounds tempting…

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