The MLT 627 was a very important model for Manitou, so tackling the issue of meeting emission regulations while keeping existing customers happy with its latest model is a tricky balancing act. James Rickard finds out if the manufacturer has pulled it off with an on-farm test.
The MLT 627 is a tough act to follow for Manitou. Its compact dimension has made it very popular with livestock farmers up and down the country, making it Manitou UK’s best seller.
So operators will be glad to know the manufacturer has stuck with the same critical dimensions for its replacement – the MLT 629.
While it is 150mm (6in) longer overall, width, height and wheelbase are all the same as the predecessor. The extra overall length is to accommodate the new 3.4-litre Perkins motor, along with a diesel particulate filter (DPF) to clean up emissions and a new, larger cooling pack.
The cooling pack now gets three individual radiators for engine coolant, transmission and fuel, along with a turbo intercooler. As a result, the engine canopy now sits a little higher.
Steering lock and lift height remains unchanged, as does the Dana Spicer axles with braking on each and the Manitou-style headstock. Lift capacity has been up rated though to 2.9 tonnes and power also gets a little boost over the predecessor from 101hp to 102hp.
Three levels of specification are now available; Classic with cloth seat, rear-view mirror and radio; Premium gets CD/MP3 player, air conditioning, and the easy connect system; Elite spec adds boom suspension, Bluetooth radio connectivity, hydaulic locking device for attachments and pneumatic seat with active suspension. A pick-up hitch is fitted as standard.
Our test model was the MLT 629 in Elite specification on 24in wheels. As an option, 20in wheels can also be specified, as can a low profile version if height restrictions are an issue.
Cosmetically, the 629 gets new styling and graphics, along with a refreshed dash to accommodate new warning symbols such as when the DPF is regenerating and new forward and reverse indicators.
Cab layout is decent, with the JSM joystick conveniently falling to hand. For those unfamiliar with the JSM, it is a mouse-style joystick which fits in the palm of your hand and allows you to control all movements with one hand including functions such as raising and
lowering the boom, crowding and tilting, auxiliary service for operating attachments and also direction of travel.
A heated seat also makes it harder to leave the cab on a cold day.
One of the new features (Elite specification only) is Comfort Ride Control boom suspension. By using hydraulic accumulators, it is designed to take out shocks and jolts in the boom, whether that be on the road, over a rough field or even around the yard.
To activate, it requires the boom to be fully retracted and down, followed by the press of a button which activates the system.
Once activated it will stay on until the attachment reaches a height of three metres (9.8 feet), then it will automatically shut off. It reactivates again when the boom is dropped below this. Also whenever any sideways action is placed on the joystick, resulting in crowding or tilting of the headstock, it will shut off and re-engage automatically. This is to give you more accuracy when using
attachments. Particularly useful when you need boom rigidity when shaking a bucket or placing a pallet.
Presented with buildings to muck out, diet feeders to fill and tight yards and passageways to navigate, the MLT 629 had a real test on its hands.
Thankfully, the new Perkins motor, coupled to the tried and tested four-speed torque converter provided swift acceleration along with a smooth power delivery. It seemed to have a bit more grunt than the last model too, which was noticeable by the increase in pushing force.
Its famous compact dimensions and four-wheel steering shone through in our tight confines, while the machine remained stable even with the largest of bucket loads.
Disappointingly though, the hydraulic performance seemed to be lacking. While it was not too slow, carrying out multiple functions at once was difficult as the machine tended to give priority to one movement only. You can get around this though if you really concentrate on balancing the controls and piling on the revs. It probably did not help that the machine only had three hours on the clock and it was a cold November day.
However, because the steering system gets hydraulic priority, it remained very light and agile.
All round visibility was good too and even though its bottom has gained a few pounds, sight lines to the rear were not impeded too much.
Inside the cab noise levels have remained the same, but outside they are definitely quieter.
To comply with the EN15000 technical standard, which is designed to prevent forward overturning, the 629 has three operating modes; handling, bucket and suspended which can be selected via buttons in the cab.
Handling mode will pretty much suit all operations and gives you full capacity of the telehandler, but when the safe boom-out limit is reached it then only allows you to make non-aggravating movements, i.e. retraction of the boom or lifting of the boom.
Bucket mode allows the above plus crowd and tilt movements and the use of an auxiliary service.
Suspended mode is similar to handling mode, but with five per cent less capacity.
This safety system may sound interfering and over-nannying, but in normal operation it is hardly noticeable. It is only when the machine is pushed it begins to kick-in. Either way, it does give you piece of mind when working. If necessary though, the system can be
overridden for 60 seconds via a press of the ‘parachute’ switch, which is a two-handed operation.
Critically, Manitou has stuck with the same compact dimensions as its predecessor which has made it a popular machine.
The firm has also managed to comply with stringent emission regulations, while at the same time refine the 627 concept.
On the down side, there are a couple of faffy procedures to deal with such as the activation of the boom suspension. Manitou tells us it is a legal requirement it has to be done this way. Shame it cannot just be turned on or off.
Overall, the MLT 629 is a hard telehandler to ignore when weighing up which machine to buy, and we think Manitou has done a decent job with this incarnation, Although it could just do with a little more hydraulic performance.