New equip­ment test: Cat 239D com­pact track loader

Keen to test a new Cat 239D com­pact track loader, NZbased re­viewer Josh Simp­son heads to a new hous­ing sub­di­vi­sion on the out­skirts of Auck­land

Earthmovers & Excavators - - Contents -

With a ra­dial lift de­sign promis­ing im­pres­sive mid-lift reach and ex­cel­lent dig­ging per­for­mance, the Cat 239D com­pact track loader has been to­wards the top of our list of mus­tre­view earth­movers.

We were re­cently put in touch with New

Zealand con­trac­tor Scott Man­der­son, who is find­ing more of his work in and around the hius­ing sub­di­vi­sions that are tak­ing over the ru­ral coun­try­side of north­ern Waikato.

Scotty (as he is more well known) has re­cently re­placed his 3000-hour, 2014 Cater­pil­lar 247B multi-ter­rain loader with a new 239D.

Hav­ing a stan­dard op­er­at­ing weight of 3306kg, the 239D is the small­est of Cater­pil­lar’s D-Se­ries range of com­pact track load­ers. There are four other mod­els avail­able that up­size in ap­prox­i­mate 500kg in­cre­ments to the largest Cat 289D that tips the scales at 4778kg.

On the day we met, Scotty was in the process of tidy­ing up a num­ber of new house sites in Po­keno, and, with wet weather de­lay­ing ac­cess, it was all go to keep the devel­op­ers on sched­ule with their com­ple­tion dates.


Scotty’s lat­est ma­chine has all the bells and whis­tles. It fea­tures an en­closed, sealed and pres­surised cabin, fully sus­pended un­der­car­riage, and low-ground pres­sure tracks that are a must on some of the swampy wet ground that he some­times works.

I see that there is a choice of track style avail­able to suit dif­fer­ent ap­pli­ca­tions.

I es­ti­mate the weight of the ma­chine would be a lit­tle heav­ier with the ad­di­tion of a tilt cou­pler (as I’ll de­scribe a bit fur­ther on), and Scotty has fit­ted ex­ter­nal coun­ter­weights to re-dis­trib­ute the ex­tra weight.

Cater­pil­lar’s In­tel­li­gent Lev­el­ling (ILEV) sys­tem adds ben­e­fits such as slow­ing the down­ward mo­tion of the bucket as it reaches its stops, the pre-set­ting of work tool an­gles, and the set­ting of dig­ging an­gles.

The Cat 239D com­pact track loader is driven by an ul­tra-com­pact Cater­pil­lar C2.2 en­gine which pumps out 44kW or about 60 horse­power. At 1500rpm, the in­line-4-cylin­der en­gine de­liv­ers a peak torque of 183Nm.


The pres­surised one-piece cab must make a full work day pretty awe­some no mat­ter what the weather does.

Cater­pil­lar has tried to make the seat­ing and op­er­at­ing con­fig­u­ra­tion er­gonom­i­cally ideal, and I am told that it does take a lit­tle while to be­come ac­cus­tomed to the ‘float’ of the in­te­grated seat and con­trols cou­pled with Cat’s speed-sen­si­tive ride con­trol.

Cater­pil­lar in­dus­try rep­re­sen­ta­tive Ryan Crow tells us that ride con­trol uses the lift cylin­ders as shock ab­sorbers for the load, im­prov­ing re­ten­tion when trav­el­ling over rough ground.

“This is achieved through a hy­draulic ac­cu­mu­la­tor and is tech­nol­ogy also found in our wheel load­ers,” he says.

“The unique fea­ture of our ride con­trol is that it is speed sen­si­tive. The op­er­a­tor sets the ac­ti­va­tion speed us­ing the ad­vanced dis­play and ride con­trol en­gages au­to­mat­i­cally above this speed and dis­en­gages be­low it.

“This makes ride con­trol func­tion­ally use­ful as the op­er­a­tor can get max­i­mum per­for­mance when lift­ing/dig­ging at low speed with­out spongy loader arms and au­to­mat­i­cally ac­ti­vate ride con­trol when trav­el­ling.

“Speed-sen­si­tive ride con­trol is a tech­nol­ogy exclusive to Cater­pil­lar made pos­si­ble by our unique speed sen­sors fit­ted onto the drive mo­tor,” Crow adds.


Scotty is a bloke who is very keen to work ef­fi­ciently, so he’s fit­ted the Cat 239D com­pact track loader with a few third-party ad­dons: a Katipo tilt cou­pler from New Zealand man­u­fac­turer Pro­gres­sive Equip­ment, a GPS and a SharpGrade Lev­eller.

“To be hon­est, these items re­quire a de­gree of in­vest­ment, es­pe­cially for a small op­er­a­tor such as me, but the money be­comes in­con­se­quen­tial when you look at how ef­fi­cient the to­tal pack­age be­comes,” Scotty says.

“I re­cently com­pleted a four-unit site prep in half a day, where once upon a time some­thing like that would have taken a cou­ple of days,” he says. “Ob­vi­ously, this puts my busi­ness in a much stronger po­si­tion.”


Af­ter get­ting the run through from Scotty on what needed to be done on the job, it was my turn to jump on the sticks and find out if the Cat 239D would meet the ex­pec­ta­tions I had con­jured up in my mind.

Metal-grated steps (like those you’d see on a truck) as­sist you to step in­side the ma­chine in­stead of the quick-to-wear-out ‘glued-on sand­pa­per’ you find on some other ma­chines.

The first thing you no­tice in­side the cab is the afore­men­tioned air-ride sus­pended seat linked to the joy­sticks so they move in sync.

The pres­surised one-piece cab must make a full work day pretty awe­some no mat­ter what the weather does

“It’s amaz­ing,” Scotty says. “I had a bit of mo­tion sick­ness when I first jumped on the ma­chine but that quickly went, and I wouldn’t be with­out it now. I get out of the ma­chine at the end of a 12hour day and feel like I’ve hardly worked at all.”

Clos­ing the door and turn­ing up the revs, I in­stantly no­tice how quiet it is in the cab and even hear the muf­fled sound of a text mes­sage come through on the phone in my pocket.

The day’s task was to spread a pile of damp and com­pacted top­soil be­tween two houses near­ing com­ple­tion. The con­tour of the land was a per­fect sit­u­a­tion to test out the tilt cou­pler linked up to the roll-tog­gle con­trols on the joy­sticks.

With a sim­ple flick of a tog­gle, the bucket smoothly tilted to the right (or left if re­quired), al­low­ing me to get a full bucket from the stock­pile while si­mul­ta­ne­ously re­in­stat­ing the ground back to its ex­ist­ing level.

Safely re­vers­ing the 239D was pri­mar­ily as­sisted by the large rear-view mir­ror and re­vers­ing cam­era, which goes a long way to re­duc­ing back and neck strain at the end of the day.

Track­ing the ma­chine down be­hind the house on a de­cline was smooth, and I’m sure this is partly as­sisted by the ad­di­tional coun­ter­weights Scotty had added.

As I got out of the ma­chine, I spied a small of­f­cut of drainage pipe zip-tied to the floor be­low the seat.

“Oh, that’s my bot­tle holder,” Scotty chuck­led. “I’m not too sure what the lads in the US drink, but you can only fit a small en­ergy drink-sized can in the fac­tory cup holder.”

This kind of feed­back is good, as it helps ma­chin­ery man­u­fac­tur­ers to tweak fu­ture mod­els. In fact, it’s al­ready been re­layed to Cat en­gi­neers in the US.

1. The Cat 239D comes with a choice of track styles to suit dif­fer­ent ap­pli­ca­tions 2. The seat and con­trols are in­te­grated into one unit 3. The grated step pro­vides safe en­try and exit

Pho­tos by Dave Lori­mar

Above: The Cat 2.2 en­gine out­puts 44kW (60hp)

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