Test Drives

CAT 308CR Next Generation Mini Excavator

Caterpillar’s reputation as a heavy equipment heavyweight is long-established, with the US-headquartered manufacturer presiding over a portfolio of brands that cater to the varying requirements of a range of industries in markets around the world.

Among this portfolio, Caterpillar’s flagship Cat brand has long been an industry frontrunner, with Cat priding itself on its history of innovation and focus on employing new technology to deliver customer solutions – and, for this reason, it is certainly worthwhile taking note when Cat brings new products to market.

Released in Australia in June 2019, Cat’s 7–10 tonne Next Generation mini-excavator line is no exception, with the four new models that make up the line coming in a range of sizes and configurations, sporting a suite of integrated technology features and, above all, primed for performance.

As Cameron Balzat, Caterpillar Asia Pacific Marketing Manager, explained, the range fills something of a gap between mini-excavators and medium and large excavators, with each of the models designed to provide an optimised balance of performance and technology that, in the context of Cat’s wider excavator portfolio, is distinct to the line.

I recently had the opportunity to get behind the controls of Cat’s 308 CR – a compact radius model, with a minimum operating weight of 8146kg and a maximum of 9380kg, sporting a swing boom that Cat advises is designed to provide versatility when working in tight spaces where site safety requires minimal tail overhang – and the range of features is certainly impressive.

In addition to its compelling inventory of features, it is noteworthy that the 308 CR also packs a real punch when it comes to performance, and is capable of tackling tasks that at first impression might be considered beyond its compact size.

Operator Comfort And Blue Tooth-Enabled Features

Walking up to the 308 CR it certainly looks compact from the outside – however, as soon as you get inside, it becomes apparent that there is ample space, with the cab fitted out in the manner of a larger machine. Sealed and pressurised, it is designed to block outside noise, and to deliver a quiet, clean and dust-free operator environment.

Climate control adds to the comfort factor – and, it should be highlighted, the seating is fantastic, with the optional air-ride suspension seat with built-in heater more than proving its worth during our test spin on a chilly day.

Meanwhile, Cat advises that the front window is designed to slide upward, storing overhead, with the cab sporting expansive side and rear glass areas, along with a skylight providing all-around visibility.

When it comes to operation the stick steer system allows the operator to simply touch a button to switch from lever/foot-pedal steering to engage joystick control. Automatic two-speed travel comes as standard, while cruise control can be engaged by pressing a second button while the machine is moving.

A colour LCD monitor delivers a range of information and features allowing operators to set personal operating preferences, adjust hydraulic response, select attachments and modify auxiliary flow, along with engaging the rear camera.

The technology integration is fantastic, with the Bluetooth-enabled keyless start a great feature – as advised by Cat, operators can use the key to enable push-to-start instantly, or alternatively go without the key and use up to 50 programmable start codes. Meanwhile, other Bluetooth functions include the ability to play music and take phone calls in the cab.

Harnessing Power Where The Operator Needs It

Cat advises that its new line employs a fuel-saving, load-sensing hydraulic system with an electronically controlled variable-displacement piston pump, delivering operators increased travel performance and higher digging and lifting forces over earlier models – and, putting the 308 CR through its paces, I was impressed by its lifting power, with it emerging with flying colours in undertaking a number of challenging tasks.

The 308 CR is powered by a Cat C3.3B diesel engine with 52.4kW net power, while Cat states that when compared to the previous 308 CR model its Next Generation line delivers up to 65 per cent improved lift capacity and 25 per cent improved swing force.

Explaining that Cat has expressly set about harnessing power where the operator needs it, Cam pointed to the focus on producing an all-around machine that will effectively operate in a range of conditions.

“Many times a weakness on these machines is when they work on side slopes, and you load up a bucket or you’re picking up an item, and it’s very hard to swing it uphill to load a truck or move an item,” he commented. “However, the 308 CR’s improved swing torque means you can get those heavy loads uphill.

“Meanwhile, with regard to multi-function ability – the ability to track, the ability to lift, slew and move your bucket all at the same time – we like to say this brings a 20 per cent overall performance improvement in the machine over the previous model.”

The 308 CR has a standard undercarriage length, with Cat advising that a dozer blade is designed to further expand the capability of all the Next Generation models, allowing the machines to handle backfilling and grading tasks, with the blade featuring ample travel, above and below grade, and a float function.

Durable And Multipurpose

Cat advises that the major structures for its new Next Generation line – encompassing the upper and lower frames, track frames, boom and stick – have been patterned after their larger Cat excavator counterparts and are designed to deliver long-term durability. Meanwhile, when it comes to maintenance,

Cat advises that routine check points are accessible at ground level through the side doors, with the battery maintenance-free, while the side panels sport a flat and recessed design to protect them from damage, having also been designed for easy replacement.

As Cam noted, combining a variety of features in the 7–10 tonne form factor, the new line of Next Generation excavators can tackle a range of applications across different industries.

“They’re suited for pretty much anyone within the construction side of the business – so, roadside construction and infrastructure, across small, medium and large sites,” he commented. “The new line forms a beautiful gap within that space.”

[colored_box color=”yellow”]For more information visit www.cat.com[/colored_box]

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