2017 John Deere 3046R Review

A deluxe mid-frame compact utility tractor

By Geof Fowler, Photography by John Deere, Feb 10, 2017
The John Deere 3 Family of compact utility tractors consists of three economy (E) and three deluxe (R) models. Tractor.com readers will be familiar with our reviews of the 3720 and 3320 from the previous series, the 3R overview we did in 2014 at the new model introduction. Since then, we’ve added a 3039R review in 2015, a three-part 3038E TLB long-term series last summer, and a 3025E review the end of last year. Along the way, we wondered what it would be like to get behind the wheel of the top-of-the-line 3046R.

2017 John Deere 3046R Loader

The 3046R is powered by a Yanmar 3TNV86CHT three-cylinder engine displacing 1.496 liters and making 45.3 gross horsepower. The powerplant is turbocharged with direct injection using a common rail system (CRS), has an electronic ECU, and uses a diesel particulate filter (DPF) to achieve EPA Final Tier 4 (FT4) compliance. The emissions system operates in one of three modes: passive, active and parked. In normal operation, the passive mode eliminates most particulate matter (PM) trapped in the DPF through natural heat from the exhaust stream.

When usage is light and at low engine rpms for extended intervals, the system can shift to active cleaning. During active cleaning, a small amount of fuel is injected at the exhaust stroke which then reaches the DPF and reacts with catalyst to burn off the PM. At no time does the fuel ignite or create any flame, and the tractor can be operated without any operator involvement. Parked cleaning is largely a situation created by an operator defeating the system and over long periods of time. Exhaust during this cycle is rerouted through a vent in the hood and the tractor cannot be operated when in parked cleaning mode.

2017 John Deere 3046R Backhoe

Transmission choices available on the 3033R and 3039R (12F/12R PowrReverser or three-range hydrostatic) are not available on the 3046R, which comes with John Deere’s technologically-advanced eHydro transmission. The eHydro system adds a number of electronically controlled functions that add to operator comfort and increase productivity. Controlled by a right fender pod (dashboard in cab tractors), an operator at a finger press can engage or disengage the cruise control, SpeedMatch which presets the maximum travel speed, MotionMatch which adjusts transmission response, LoadMatch which adjusts engine speed to max efficiency and prevents stalling, and eThrottle which links engine speed to pedal position.

An entire article could be devoted to all the eHydro intricacies, but several features in addition to what we’ve mentioned are worth highlighting. The cruise control, which has automotive-style SET/- RES/+ buttons, has a speed sensor which maintains the selected speed even while going up and down hills. MotionMatch uses a seven-position rotary knob to set the eHydro transmission response, so directional changes can be gentle for times such as while carrying a heavy load, or more abruptly such as when mowing to get the job done faster. And eThrottle, which is just convenient and at the same time helps save fuel.

2017 John Deere 3046R Profile

Control over the eHydro, which is cooled by a separate radiator, is by John Deere’s familiar side-by-side pedal arrangement. The system has become even more operator friendly with the ability to start the tractor with either pedal depressed (no forward or reverse motion can be initiated until the pedals are returned to neutral) and allows the operator to leave the seat without stalling (the tractor will come to a halt) unless the PTO is engaged.

Hydraulics run through a twin pump flowing 8.6 gpm at 2500 psi to implement demand and 5.3 gpm to the power steering system (13.9 gpm total). This gives the Cat-I three-point hitch (3PH) a lift capacity of 2,200 lbs 24” behind center (2530 lbs at link ends). Position control is standard so an implement can consistently be returned to a preset height without jerkiness or leakdown. The standard selective control valve (SCV) uses 3/8” couplers for attachments such as a loader or front blower. Up to five additional SCVs are possible, with the rear remotes getting 1/2” couplers for max flow. The joystick, which is nicely incorporated into the right fender/seat area, has an ergonomic grab handle. The handle fits nicely into ones’ palm of hand and also allows added diverter functions from the joystick such as a grapple if so outfitted. A 540 rpm rear power take-off (PTO) is standard with a mid-PTO available for a $720 upcharge. PTO horsepower for the 3046R is rated at 34.1.

2017 John Deere 3046R Studio

Climb up the left side step and into the spacious operator platform and you’ll find only a small, rounded transmission hump. Right fender/seat-side controls are: 3PH position control, PTO switch, joystick, eHydro pod, cupholder and grab handle. Left fender/seat-side controls are: range lever, 2WD/4WD, automotive-style parking brake lever, differential lock, tool box and grab handle. Brake pedals are located on the left and are split so they can be operated in concert or separately to help steer the tractor. Hydro pedals are to the right. The steering wheel tilts for operator preference and the scissor suspension seat adjusts fore/aft and to weights from 125-275 lbs. An air ride seat is available on cab and open station tractors (more on this later). Unfortunately, reverse implement operation (RIO) is a necessity of the litigation-seeking times, so backing up while operating the PTO requires the operator to pull up on the PTO switch. This operation must be repeated each time prior to reversing. We don’t want to sound anti-safety here, but requiring an operator to pull a switch prior to reversing in no way guarantees they first looked behind.

Two loaders are available for the 3046R, model H160 and H165. Both are curved boom designs and quickly attached/detached with built-in stands. The H160 can lift 999 lbs (500 mm in front of pivot point) to a max height of 86” while the H165 is rated to lift 1122 lbs at the same measuring point to 102”. Breakout force on the H165 is 2418 lbs vs. 2032 lbs on the H160. Two backhoes are also available, the 375A which has a 7’10” dig depth and 3631-pound bucket dig force and the 385A which has an 8’7” dig depth and 3752-pound bucket dig force.

2017 John Deere 3046R Working

Other niceties befitting the deluxe designation are the onboard diagnostics (OBD) which use compatible with the John Deere ServiceADVISOR service, folding ROPS with rattle isolator, one-piece hood, bevel front axle with 62-degree turn angle, and standard drawbar. Options include rear fender extensions, front fenders, additional work lights, and the abovementioned air ride seat. We checked the John Deere website and found the air ride seat a $495 option. Sounded like a no-brainer to us, but the fine print requires the addition of a code #3330 rear SCV, so the price is really $1480. A little pricier, but for the ultimate in comfort, many would think reasonable.

Our test tractor with air ride seat, code #3300 rear SCV, mid-PTO, and 43x16-20 4PR rear R4/27x8.5-16 6PR front R4 tires worked out to a MSRP of $32,358. John Deere has upped the powertrain warranty to six years /2000 hours and makes no distinction between residential or commercial users. Currently through February 2017, 0%/60-month financing with up to $2,000 in bonuses is being offered. For an agribusiness, commercial landscaper, municipality, or small-medium estate owner in the market for a deluxe mid-size 46 hp compact utility tractor, the 3046R would be well-worth checking out.

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