Test Drives



The engineers at Kobelco must have had a clear vision in mind when pencil first hit paper, conjuring up the specs and features for the new SK135SR-5. A machine like this that is so well suited to the urban environment and packed with design features like the short rear swing, which Kobelco has made the new standard for mid-sized machines, along with the iNDr noise reduction system that shuts out both dust and noise, just doesn’t happen by accident.

Words // Heath Thompson

In fact, the list of features built into the SK135SR-5 is as long as they are impressive.

The compact shape allows access into tight areas and the INDR system dramatically reduces noise level for improved environmental protection. This along with low fuel consumption has been perfectly balanced with work performance and machine durability.


On the topic of the environment Kobelco have included the new stage IV compliance engine, which is fitted with a diesel oxidation catalyst (DOC) and an SCR device to control emissions without using a diesel particulate filter (DPF). The large-capacity Urea tank does a great job of extending intervals between fill-ups. Compared to previous models the NOx (nitrous oxides) emissions have been reduced by 88 per cent. This significant reduction has been achieved by lowering the oxygen content whilst still allowing sufficient combustion via the EGR cooler.

The engine is made by ISUZU who is renowned for environmental performance and has been specifically tuned for the Kobelco machine. This new, environmentally friendly engine changes the conventional wisdom on balancing powerful performance with eco-friendliness.

Particulate matter (PM) is mostly soot resulting from incomplete combustion.

Improved combustion efficiency reduces PM emissions. High-pressure fuel injection atomises the fuel and more precise injection further improves this efficiency, as well as contributing to better fuel economy. You start to get the idea of the level of advancements that have gone into the new engine.



When it comes to actually turning the key and firing up the SK135SR-5 in the work environment the efficiencies and workability again are a real highlight. The tail of the upper body extends very little past the crawlers, which means the operator can concentrate on the job at hand and not worry about the risk of collision.The compact design allows for continuous 180-degree dig, swing and load operations within a working space of just 3.49m.

After putting the machine through its paces, the controls are ultra-smooth and seamless.

The various systems make even the most precise work a breeze. Even the smallest inching movements are graceful and fluid.

The quarry we were working in had some steep banked edges and the excavator handled these slopes with ease due to the drawbar pulling force and powerful travel capabilities. With a max digging height of 9.190m, max dumping height of 6.740m, max digging reach of 8.34m and max vertical digging depth of 4.89m, the excavator offers a fantastic range of digging and dumping potential.

There are three operation modes available and they all offer a reduction in fuel consumption compared to previous models. As with all Kobelco excavators the fuel efficiency of the new SK135SR-5 is outstanding.

AIS (Auto Idle Stop) is another fuel saving feature that stops the engine automatically when the boarding lever is left up.


At last I get to my favourite component of the SK135SR-5: the cab. I’m a fair-sized guy at well over 6ft and I had a pile of space available in the cab. The chair still had more room to go back that I didn’t need. It was over 40 degrees outside the day we tested the machine in Brisbane and the climate control was working so well I actually had to turn it down a little because it was getting too cold inside. Whilst everyone outside was absolutely melting and looking like they were totally drenched in sweat I had the coolest and best seat in Queensland.

The field of view from the cab was exceptional and the inclusion of the rear-view camera and optional right-side camera that is displayed on the colour screen was a great feature.

The cab is also packed with operator friendly features that are very easy to use.

The main display is multi-colour and uses brilliant colour and graphics that are easy to recognise showing fuel consumption, maintenance levels, and a pile of other useful info. At the base of the console is the key pad for various settings including a one -touch feature, which allows you to convert the hydraulic circuit and flow amount to match the attachment you have just changed to with the flick of a switch.

When I think of what I want out of a cab the Kobelco pretty much ticked all the boxes. It’s a big roomy cab and the controls are light on the touch and silky smooth. It also has excellent field of view from the chair.

The door opening is nice and wide with plenty of head room for an easy entry and exit. The seat itself is really comfortable with great suspension for soaking up the minimal vibration, which is very high on my list of requirements when I’m spending long hours in the cab. The air conditioning works a treat and there is plenty of storage and accessory ports for 12V power and USB/AUX.



When it comes to maintenance of the SK135SR-5 this machine has been designed to ensure quick and simple inspections. The Machine Information Display Function only displays the info that’s needed, when it’s needed, with self-diagnostic function that provides early-warning detection and display of any electrical system malfunctions.


One of the most advanced and exciting systems on-board is the Geoscan System, which essentially is an Excavator Remote Monitoring System. In a nutshell this system sends all relevant data via GSM such as operating hours, location, fuel consumption and maintenance status back to a base station, which is then sent back to the Kobelco service personnel, dealer or customer to notify them of any service, hours or location via email or text message.

If the machine is operated outside of a pre-set operating time or moves outside a designated work area alarms are also sent.

This system really offers some amazing new features that will give both owners and operators peace of mind.

All in all I was thoroughly impressed with the SK135SR-5. I had spent several months onsite in the previous model last year and I think the new improvements and features have really pushed the boundaries to the next level to make what was already a very good excavator, truly great.

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