Cat is planning an assault on the UK’s telehandler market with its revised C-series machines. Geoff Ashcroft took to the cab of the TH336C to see how it performs.
Caterpillar’s TH336C is one of four telehandlers in a range introduced to meet EU Stage 3b emission regulations. Using a Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) said to offer a service life of 8,000 hours, the C-series is enough of an overhaul to finally give the firm a dedicated ag-spec range with which to take the fight to market favourites JCB, Manitou and Merlo.
First impressions reveal a compact machine with some notable elements to the design. For example, lights mounted where they will not get smashed easily, a two-handed safety release for the quick hitch to prevent accidental attachment uncoupling, torque and flow regulated hydraulics which offer speed and power at low engine revs and two limited slip differentials.
However, the first thing you notice as soon as you hit the seat is the bulging engine canopy. Yes, it appears to spoil the neat lines and compact appearance of the TH336C. Unfortunately, this is a shape exaggerated by a boom which nestles in the chassis well below the bonnet line and leaves you constantly asking yourself design-related questions.
While you cannot fail to notice its peaky profile, we found the view from the cab is barely hampered by it. The seating position for taller operators is such that you tend to glance over it, or scan the rear corners when reversing and using the off-side mirrors to eyeball the right-hand side where space is limited.
Overlooking this apparent design slip, the rest of the machine is really rather good. Visibility over your shoulder to the rear is great, the view to the front end is appealing too and, with generous windscreen and roof windows, you get a good view when loading or stacking at height.
Cat’s farm-spec handler range though, remains limited. More versions are said to be on the drawing board but currently, buyers can choose from the TH336C, TH337C, TH406C and TH407C. Model numbers are related to lift capacity (3.3 tonnes and 4.0t) and lift height (six or seven meters).
Our test machine was the TH336C. Power is the mid-level 124hp version with six-speed, 40kph powershift transmission. Other variants include 100hp with four-speed and 142hp with six-speed transmission.
Buyers get boom ride control, an auto reversing fan, 500-hour service intervals, 12t-capacity trailer hitch with integral braking and lighting connections, joystick control, auxiliary service with constant or proportional oil flow and an air suspended seat.
Wheel alignment is automatic when swapping between steering modes and the attachment locking system will not activate if boom angle is above 10 degrees.
Under the engine canopy, the longitudinally mounted engine affords impressive access to all filters and oil level checks from ground level. The alternator is on the back of the engine, though removable belly panels make it easy enough to reach from below.
The DPF is tucked beneath the cooling pack and needs no intervention from the operator. For 8,000 hours, it is a ‘fit and forget’ item.
We found the cab to be an inviting, quiet place to sit. Somewhat frustratingly, the steering column is only adjustable for rake, not reach, so you are likely to compromise on seating position. Operator comfort is good but it is unlikely to change for the better on any handler until makers follow tractor designs and put joystick controls on the seat armrest and create greater opportunities for seat/steering wheel/joystick adjustment.
With a shed to muck-out and a manure heap to stockpile, there is plenty to test the TH336C’s capabilities.
The tightly packed bedding is no match for the machine’s breakout power and, the way this handler performs at low engine revs, you find yourself wondering if the TH336C is really trying. Burning less fuel is a new way of working and needs a sensory recalibration.
Cat’s use of a torque and flow-regulated 150 litres/minute hydraulic system means the TH336C offers some keen performance which is eagerly delivered without having to work the engine hard, adding to that quiet in-cab feel.
Just occasionally, we find the joystick a little numb and sometimes slow to react, which could be a result of low engine operating revs or perhaps taking a bite that is bigger than the machine can realistically handle.
With the transmission buttons mounted on the joystick and positioned alongside the shuttle switch and two proportional auxiliary rollers, it does test your ability to multi-task. You really need two thumbs on one hand, especially when simultaneously wanting to change
direction and alter boom position. Fortunately, Cat has already put a solution in place and is giving all new models a left-hand shuttle
lever on the steering column so you can use either method of shuttling to suit the task being performed.
Looking to unleash more of the TH336C’s grunt, we stockpiled muck on an adjacent headland where we could thumb the handler into first gear and make full use of its impressive traction and lift capacity. We also took the opportunity to choose a more aggressive setting for the hydraulic system, using selectable modes on the dashboard.
Intended to give more hydraulic speed to the attachment, to assist with shaking stickier materials from the fork or bucket, it is the mode we should have used from the start.
All the numbness has suddenly gone and there is more precision and responsiveness to the joystick which was previously missing.
Aside from some questionable control layout, this handler does not disappoint. Its performance is keen and it delivers without revving hard. This in turn means much lower noise levels – both in and out of the cab – and the ability to deliver low fuel consumption too.
Unless you are going to tow trailers, it leaves me wondering why you would even consider choosing the more powerful version, as the 124hp in this machine feels like all the muscle your handler could ever need.