Recognising a growing market for compact telehandlers, JCB has been busy developing its smaller machines, in particular its new 525-60 Agri Plus Loadall telehandler.
Originally previewed at the 2014 Royal Highland Show, the newcomer is actually a replacement for three models; the 520-50, 524-50 and 527-55. With the cab propped up right at the front and the engine at the back on these models, JCB wanted to achieve a more Loadall-like appearance for the new 525-60, incorporating big Loadall features in a small package.
So has it achieved it?
Using the same cab off the larger 527-58 Loadall model, the 525-60 gets a generously-sized cab for a machine of this class. It is a pleasant place to work and offers a relatively roomy driving position.
Controls are intuitively laid out with chunky buttons and switches labelled with clear icons. Adorning the right-hand console is a bold looking dash comprising easy to read analogue dials for revs, fuel and temperature, and an LCD screen for operational information such as oil flow and steering modes - all easy to garner at a glance.
Instinctively, JCB has kept things simple with its joystick design incorporating thumb-operated proportional roller switches for boom extension and third service. It also gets a multifunctional button which can be used to divert oil to a fourth service, activate bucket shake or activate the constant pump function. Switching between the three functions is done via a rocker switch on the dash.
Unlike the Merlo or Dieci, there is no use of a consent switch on the joystick. Instead, the 525-60 uses an operator presence switch built into the seat, so no holding onto an extra switch while trying to carry out operations.
To keep both the traditionalists and the X Box-era happy, users of the 525-60 have the choice of changing direction with either a joystick-mounted switch or a left-hand shuttle lever mounted on the steering column. Both work equally well.
Helping with visibility, everything around the cab such as engine bay and boom are kept low, especially towards the right hand rear corner which really helps in confined spaces. The bonnet also slopes forwards, so sight lines to the front/right wheel are unobstructed. Along with the Merlo, it and the JCB offer the best visibility to the work area.
Channelling power to the wheels is a single stage hydrostatic transmission featuring two electronically governed ranges; 0-12kph and 0-30kph.
Range changes, which can be done on the move, are via the flick of a switch on the dash and are pretty much seamless.
Compared to the characteristics of the other transmissions in the test, the JCB, which relies more on the hydraulic power of the transmission rather than the engine’s revs, does feel quite aggressive and keen to get going. It is no bad thing but can take some getting used to.
For more precise movements, an inching function is incorporated into the first half of the brake pedal travel.
Low range is ‘just’ fast enough for cyclic work such as mucking out a building, although another couple of kilometres per hour would not go a miss. However, you can use the machine’s Varispeed function to customise maximum speed, so you could dial back the top range.
Helping to maintain traction is the use of a limited slip differential on the front axle, sending power to whichever wheel has most traction.
It is fair to say hydraulic performance of the 525-60 is impressive. Thanks to a 90l/min variable rate piston pump, loader and attachment actions are swift.
Like its larger stablemates, the 525-60 also gets a bucket shake feature which carries out automatic shaking of an attachment, by pressing and holding a button on the joystick while tilting the bucket/attachment. And, the more you move the joystick to tilt the bucket, the more aggressive the bucket shake becomes.
However, as we found, the bucket shake feature is only there as an engineering compromise caused by the use of fly-by-wire hydraulics. Basically, to prevent unwanted boom or attachment movement caused by any unwanted movement in the joystick, such as a jolt going down a bumpy track, the electronics governing the hydraulics have to be desensitised. The problem is though, a manual bucket shake then becomes difficult, hence the requirement for an automated system.
But, if JCB want to make the feature really useful it needs to be a lot more aggressive in both frequency of shake and volume of movement – something which it has already addressed, it says.
To comply with the EN15000 technical standard, the 525-60 uses two handling modes; bucket and pallet. Essentially, bucket mode allows for a lot more aggressive, close quarter action compared to pallet mode, ideal for stockpiling muck heaps, for example. Whereas pallet mode, is a bit more conservative, with restrictions kicking in sooner when load limits are reached.
When load limits are reached, you are only allowed to lift or retract the boom, bringing the load closer to the machine.
As a size of machine which could easily find itself powering bedding dispensers and other powered equipment, potential customers will be glad to know it is able to regulate its hydraulic flow independent of forward speed.
Activation of constant oil flow is done via the aforementioned joystick button and dash-mounted rocker with, with flow adjusted by a proportional roller switch. Flow rate can also be viewed on the dash display.
As for constant engine revs and speed, this is done using the Varispeed dial and a lever, mounted to the driver’s right.
In all, it allows for a high degree of customisation without being overly complicated to achieve.
For comfort, boom suspension can be activated by pushing the joystick fully forward and pressing a switch.
As for its agility, the JCB’s turning circle is not quite as tight as the Manitou or Merlo, but is still decent none-the-less. Half a turn taken out of the steering from lock to lock would be good too.