New engine emission regulations have given many manufacturers the opportunity to update their machines, not least JCB with its latest range of telehandlers. James Rickard finds out how they perform.
At first glance, JCB’s latest range of mid-sized Loadalls does not look that different from its predecessors.
However, take a closer look and, there are several new features which make the Loadall more efficient and easier to use, says the manufacturer. These include powered back-off brakes, button gear selection, brake pedal integrated transmission dump and a variable speed cooling fan with reversing function.
The six model mid-sized range is powered by the firm’s own four-cylinder Ecomax engines which meets Stage 3b emission regulations without using after treatment or a diesel particulate filter (DPF) (see Farmers Guardian July 6 2012).
While model numbering, shape, size and wheelbase has not changed, most notably across the four specifications of Loadalls, power and torque levels have all been altered.
Agri models come as standard with a 109hp engine which is said to offer 15 per cent more torque and 10 per cent more power than its predecessor. Agri Plus machines get a 125hp engine and although it offers slightly less power than its predecessor (130hp), the manufacturer says is delivers three percent more usable torque across its operating range.
JCB product specialist Richard Foxley says; “Because of a new cooling fan which requires less power, a braking system which reduces drag, a new transmission dump feature and efficient hydraulics, it doesn’t need that extra five horse power anymore. The overall result is a more efficient machine.”
Agri Super models get a choice of either a 125hp or a 145hp engine, while the 145hp motor is standard on the Agri Xtra models which offers 15hp more than its predecessor, but while being more fuel efficient, says JCB.
Our test subject was the 541-70 Agri Xtra – the largest of the manufacturer’s mid-range models sitting just below its flagship 550-80.
On all models, gear shifting of the six-speed transmission has now been placed within the head of the joystick using two buttons, eliminating the need for a twist grip gear change on the shuttle lever, which remains in-place on the steering column. This results in more convenient operation of the transmission.
Joystick loader controls are intuitive and responsive even when carrying out multiple tasks. However, not being able to shake the headstock, to get muck off a grab for example, is disappointing.
On Super and Xtra models, the firm has removed the over complicated transmission modes, which were laden, un-laden and transport, in favour of just manual or automatic. However, it is only automatic above fourth gear. Also, gears five and six feature torque lock-up for full mechanical transfer of power rather than just relying on the torque converter. This also contributes to increased efficiency, says JCB.
With the transmission controls now on the joystick, the transmission dump function is moved to the brake pedal. This allows full engine power to be applied to the hydraulic system, without the transmission driving against the brake system – a function we found very useful. Also new, high back off brakes, which pull the brake pads away from the disc to prevent drag, are now standard on all models.
In-cab, the Loadalls feature a new instrument cluster and dash layout, with a high resolution LCD monitor. While the monitor does look smart, we reckon it could do with being a bit bigger to make taking in information at a glance easier.
Other new features include a seven speed fan for the cab heating and ventilation system, an operator presence switch on the seat which prevents drive being engaged without an operator at the controls and a simplified latching mechanism on the split door. Although we think door latches could further be improved by bringing the release levers closer to the operator.
Steering mode selection has also been simplified, which uses a pull and twist knob, along with constant oil flow controls, which allows regulation via buttons which can be viewed on the dash display.
Thanks to plenty of headroom and decent adjustment from its seat and steering wheel, the Loadall has a good ‘sat up’ driving position.
Even when sat up high and far back in the seat, views to the raised boom are good, aided by cleverly angled protection bars in the roof.
The seat could just do with a pair of armrests for some extra support though.
Visibility all-round remains impressive, particularly over the engine bay which has managed to keep slim thanks to the new Ecomax engines not needing bulky DOCs (diesel oxidation catalyst) and DPFs.
The engine pod is the biggest aesthetic difference which has been altered to redirect cooling air from the front/top of the canopy, around the engine and through the cooling pack, to exit at the rear/ top of the canopy. Previously, air exited underneath the engine bay which kicked up dust and debris which increased air filter and radiator maintenance. A new variable radiator fan is also incorporated which activates only when necessary.
It is fair to say, being the number one telehandler manufacturer in the UK, that JCB knows a thing or two about producing a decent machine.
Even for non JCB users the Loadall feels instinctively familiar with easy to use intuitive controls – like slipping on a pair of comfy slippers.
Its simplicity is its biggest asset, particularly when it comes to working around the EN15000 regulation, which prevents forward overturning, by not falling into the trap of over complicating things with different operating modes for different attachments.
Not being able to shake the bucket is a disappointment and the cab could do with a few tweaks, but overall it fared well.
Like the Loadall, the main new feature on the TM320 wheeled loader is the use of the new Ecomax engines. As well as this, JCB has taken the opportunity to revise a few other areas to give increased lift capacity, hydraulic flow and power, torque lock-up in more gears and improved boom suspension.
Replacing the old TM 310 models, the TM 320 comes in two variants, the 320 and 320 S. The differences are power, hydraulics and transmission.
As with the Loadalls, the new engines, in conjunction with new features, are designed to be more efficient, says the firm.
Our test machine was the upper specced 320 S with 145hp, 160 litres/min hydraulic pump and torque lock-up in gears two to six.
Climbing aboard the TM, it is noticeable that several updates have been carried over from the Loadall - button gear change on the joystick with the selection of automatic or manual, a simplified constant hydraulic flow system (which now uses a rotary dial to regulate) and selectable transmission dump integrated into the brake pedal, These are all features we found made operating the loader a little easier.
Torque lock-up in gears two to six - which provides a direct mechanical drive to the wheels - is particularly pleasing to use and noticeable when diving into a muck heap or pushing up a silage clamp.
And coupled with decent hydraulic response and swift loader action, provided by its variable displacement pump, resulted in a very capable machine.
Both 320 variants have fully proportional hydraulic controls, with the option of two boom-mounted auxiliary services and an in-cab changeover switch.
Flow rate can be seen on the dash display and adjusted on the move to match the attachment.
Even more information is now crammed on to the inadequately small LCD display. Considering there is loads of room on the dash, why not make it bigger?
That said, the rest of the controls are well laid out and the driving position makes you feel like you are sitting on top of the job. There is plenty of in-cab storage too, with a good arrangement of vents to keep windows clear.
A new feature on the TM which would be good on the Loadall is hydraulic dump for taking pressure out of pipes when swapping attachments. This can be used with the machine running.
The 320s now have a 50mm longer wheelbase which, unbelievably, has increased lift capacity by 100kg, up to 3,200kg.
To accommodate the new 4.8-litre motor, the bonnet has been made slightly higher. However, the manufacturer has done its best to maintain maximum visibility by sloping the bonnet away from the rear window. This helps with views and, due to the shape of the bonnet/engine bay, it is quite predictable where the rear end is.
The pivot point of the boom has been kept nice and low, which helps with forward visibility. A new three-setting (off, manual and automatic) boom suspension system is now a feature, making the ride more comfortable.
With a central driving position and having the loader in front of you, we can see how the TM would appeal to operators moving from a tractor/loader combination. With it you would get both increased manoeuvrability and lifting capacity.
Being able to side shift because of the articulated steering is a big plus point too – very useful for positioning bales and hooking up to attachments. The steering also allows the rear to follow the front and vice versa making it very predictable to drive – good for tight spots in buildings and on silage clamps.
Even though it is let down by its dash, it is still one to consider.