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On-test: JCB 453S

Insights

It might be the self proclaimed ‘king of the clamp’ but with plenty of competition about, is that actually the case?

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Intro

And while it is number one for this type of work in the UK, in Ireland it is actually Volvo which comes out on top as the preferred buckraking choice.

 

Launched in 2013 and part of the three-model S Series from JCB, the 435S sits above two smaller siblings, all boasting high power to weight ratio characteristics specifically designed for the agricultural market. But will this dedicated agricultural attribute trump card help or hinder JCB?

 

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Cab and controls

Cab and controls

With 3cu.m of cab volume, there is plenty of space to spread out in the 435S. All controls are bold and chunky and look like they are up to the rigors of rough-handed buckrake drivers.

 

Control layout is good too with most falling to hand, although it is a shame the joystick is not integrated into the right hand armrest like the Cat, and we are not too keen on switches being splashed around on both sides of the cab - the New Holland and Volvo layout is much neater. That said, the dash is clear to garner information from at a glance although navigating of its LCD screen could be better with a couple more navigation buttons. It does show a comprehensive amount of information though and you can tailor it to show what you want.

 

Everybody happy

Our joystick on test was the top-spec version with proportional third service. With it you can also change direction, or for the more traditionalists the machine still gets a left hand reverser, into which is also incorporated a twist grip for gear changes.

 

Visibility is pretty good, helped by low windows and a rear sloping bonnet. The cab is quiet for the most part, although a little bit of transmission whine does seep through on the road.

 

Ours came with an optional LED lighting package, which to say is bright is an understatement – you could light up a football pitch.

Powertrain

Powertrain

With a power to weight ratio of 17hp/tonne, the JCB is certainly a lively machine. Power comes from a 6.7-litre, Cummins, Stage 3b engine. It also gets a variable geometry turbo to reduce lag and provide better and more even torque characteristics.

 

Making good use of the engine’s weight, it is mounted as low down as possible to help with stability. Fuel is also stored inside the chassis making good use of space.

 

A useful touch is the vertical counter weights flanking the cooling package and providing a good amount of protection from stray tipping trailers.

 

Cooling

At the rear is a single face cooling pack the size of Hadrian’s wall comprising various radiators placed side by side and not on top of each other for more efficient cooling. Creating the draught through these rads is a variable, hydraulically driven fan. And boy do you know about it when it is working. Not from the inside of the cab, that is nice and quiet, but from the outside of the machine it sounds like a Vulcan bomber at full throttle. In fact it should come with a warning at the rear of the machine; ‘Beware of jet blast.’

 

This then begs the question; does it actually need all that cooling? Especially compared to the others, it is a lot noisier. If the fan has to work that hard, is the cooling package the ideal layout?

 

All daily checks can be done from ground level and auto-lube is an option, but pretty much standard.

 

Fuel saving

Like the Volvo, it does feature an eco mode which limits revs to 1,800rpm. While this is a good feature for working on the flat, when a 600hp self propelled forager is breathing down your neck it is soon full steam ahead.

A more user-friendly fuel saving trick is the automatic low idle feature which reduces revs down to 650rpm when the machine is put in neutral with the handbrake on.

 

Channelling power to the wheels is a six-speed ZF transmission. Featuring torque lock-up in every gear it is able to channel 100 per cent of its power to the wheels. It also allows for a 48kph road speed, the fastest of any machine in the group, which really helps to keep up with convoys from farm to farm. It also reduces its revs by up to 200rpm when at top speed.

 

Torque lock-up can be turned on or off. When on it automatically determines when to kick in and out based on forward speed and amount of engine revs. It is no gimmick either and makes a massive difference on the clamp in terms of how much material you can push but more importantly the speed with which you can push – it is by far the quickest out of the four at getting up the clamp.

Hydraulics and handling

Hydraulics and handling

Unlike all the other machines in this test, the JCB employs limited slip differentials (LSD) on both axles. The reason for this, says the manufacturer, is LSDs are better suited to the twisty nature of farms, providing more grip more of the time, unlike a 100 per cent locking differential which is only any use in a straight line. And to a large extent we can see their logic especially in the confines of a silage clamp. It also means you can forget about having to manage your traction and just leave the machine to do its stuff.

 

The downside we found to LSDs came on hard surfaces, where in some instances where quick steering changes are required, the steering can feel heavy with you almost having to wrestle the machine.

 

Parallel lift

Another unique feature of the JCB compared to the others is the use of a four-ram parallel lift arms as opposed to three-ram Z-bar linkage, which provides a greater level and more consistent torque throughout the rotation of the attachment, compared to Z-bar types which reduce in torque when nearing full rotation of the attachment, says the manufacturer.

 

It also means you do not have big bulky rams and linkage cluttering up your central view. In fact you really do feel like you are sat on top of the job.

 

Thanks to 264l/min twin hydraulic displacement pumps, hydraulic actions are swift and aggressive - good for shaking grass level.

Dashboard

Dashboard

Folding mud-flaps

Folding mud-flaps
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