While the 924K is its biggest wheeled loader in Cat’s agricultural line-up, by comparison it is only a baby compared to its construction and quarry machines.
With silage duties in mind, the manufacturer has specifically developed its 924K Ag Handler for pushing and climbing.
So as the only machine with a hydrostatic transmission, how will it compare to the powershift/torque converter types?
To find out how the latest crop of large wheeled loaders compare, Farmers Guardian teamed up with the Irish Farmers Journaland pitted four monster movers against each other. Find out more...
Perched on top of the Cat is a substantial-looking six post cab. The downside of all the cab framework, especially compared to the other three with four post cabs, is the impeded visibility, which is not much but it does throw up a few blind spots and makes the machine feel bulkier than it actually is.
Out of all the machines tested, only the Cat features integrated controls of the joystick in the armrest. As a result, primary functions are placed much more conveniently to hand.
Into the joystick is also integrated proportional roller control for the third service and control of forward and reverse. It also gets a button on the back of the ‘stick to engage the front differential lock.
The Cat was also the only one to have a proper terminal, as opposed to a dash-based screen, to set up machine functions and monitor performance. Through it you can view real time and historic machine performance and adjust functions such as forward creep speed in range one, throttle lock auxiliary flow and wheel torque. It is also connected to a reversing camera which displays an image every time reverse is selected, although there is a bit of a delay as to when this kicks in.
Transmission range selection is simple via soft touch buttons, as is activation and adjustment of boom suspension and handling modes. Also, whenever a button is pressed, that function pops up on screen so you can see what has been selected/adjusted.
Thanks to an armchair-like operator’s seat along with plenty of reach and rake movement of the steering wheel, it is fair to say the Cat offers the best operator comfort.
Visibility to the rear is not bad, but you do really have to look around its well-built rear-end to see the rear corners.
If cab storage is not enough for you, the Cat provides one of the best external storage boxes, located at the rear of the machine with enough space for more grease guns and spare pins than you can shake a stick at. If that is not enough, there is also a box under the right hand side of the cab.
Unlike the rest of the machines in the group, the Cat uses a hydrostatic transmission which can be operated in one of four ranges, offering speeds of 0-13kph in ranges one and two, 0-27kph in range three and 0-40kph in range four.
Range one is specifically designed for pushing and climbing, sending most of the hydraulic power to the transmission, resulting in a 75:25 split between transmission and hydraulics. While the next range up has the same overall working speed, transmission and hydraulic power split is 50:50.
It was an ideal range for buckraking too and the Cat put in a good performance on the stack. In terms of climbing speed, it was very similar to the Volvo, just behind the New Holland and the JCB.
As for more general loader work such as grain handling and muck shifting, range two or three are more likely to be used.
As a hydrostatic machine, we found it to be a very user-friendly transmission with a fair bit more accuracy compared to the torque converter machines which tend to have some ‘elasticity’ in the transmission uptake. This gives good confidence when working on the clamp, particularly when rolling the edges. And if you should find yourself carrying out pallet work, for example, it should also help with precision placement.
And while it might be deficient in gee gees, it does get all of its power down to the ground effectively and efficiently, and around the yard, 160hp was more than enough.
On the road, the Cat is a smooth operator and seamlessly cruises its way to about 42kph.
If you prefer the characteristics of a torque converter-based transmission, you can select a mode on the Cat which simulates a similar feeling, and allows the transmission to roll on after you have taken your foot off the accelerator.
For traction, the Cat employs a 100 per cent lockable, front differential. As an option, and like the Volvo, you can also spec the rear axle with a limited slip differential.
As we found, a lockable diff is great in a straight line, while LSDs are more suited to the twisty nature of farm silage clamps.
Effectively two handling modes can be selected on the Cat; bucket which is the more aggressive and pallet fork which is gentler. Suffice to say we chose the aggressive option for buckraking, although, perhaps because most of its hydraulic power is diverted to the transmission, you do need to give it a bit more joystick action compared to the other four when shaking the grass out.
Not that it got used much on this test, having a proportional roller switch for the third service is a good feature, and provides accurate control.
Flow of the third service can also be adjusted from 32-160l/min and can be set to constant for a yard brush, for example.
Similarly, a throttle lock feature allows you to maintain a constant engine rpm regardless of machine ground speed.
Boom dampening when reaching full height is also an exclusive feature of the Cat compared to the other three. It really makes a difference too as the others tested go with a spine shattering bang when reaching their upper limit.
One potential issue which may crop up, particularly if working in muck heaps, is the low position of the steering rams which look like they could soon get covered in muck.
On the plus side, centralised greasing points speed up down time and automatic lubrication is an option. General access around the machine is good too with all daily checks able to be carried out from ground level.
One very rugged feature carried over from the construction machines is the bomb proof dust caps on the tyre valves – you will definitely struggle to damage them.