New equip­ment test: Volvo ECR50D ex­ca­va­tor

Evarn Covich jumps into the cab of a 5-tonne Volvo ECR50D re­ducedswing ex­ca­va­tor and finds it to be an all-round well­bal­anced ma­chine

Earthmovers & Excavators - - Contents -

With roots go­ing back over 180 years, Volvo has built an im­pres­sive rep­u­ta­tion when it comes to re­li­a­bil­ity, per­for­mance and in­no­va­tion, with count­less hours and dol­lars be­ing ded­i­cated over the years to re­search and de­vel­op­ment.

I re­cently had the op­por­tu­nity to see what

Volvo has been blow­ing some of its bud­get on over the past few years when I got to test the lat­est of­fer­ing in the com­pany’s new D se­ries com­pact ex­ca­va­tor range – a 5-tonne ECR50D re­duced-swing model lo­cated at CJD Equip­ment in Brisbane’s Aca­cia Ridge.

Hav­ing a quick look through the prod­uct brochure that I re­ceived on site, the first points of in­ter­est were the claims ‘Big on power’ and ‘De­signed to de­liver su­pe­rior dig­ging per­for­mance, high lift­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties and lead­ing break­out and tearout forces’.

These are bold state­ments to make, and meant the ma­chine had a lot to live up to in our test.


The boom looks to be well con­structed with easy ac­cess to all grease points sit­u­ated on one side of the ma­chine.

These points only need to be ser­viced at least ev­ery 50 hours, which should please a lot of oper­a­tors out there as you’d only have to grease your ma­chine once or twice a week!

The ECR50D comes with a set of buck­ets that fea­ture sim­ple but clever in­serts that al­low you to pick up your GP and trench­ing buck­ets with the cut­ting edge of your clean­ing (mud) bucket for easy trans­porta­tion.

An ar­ray of at­tach­ments de­signed and man­u­fac­tured by Volvo are also avail­able to suit each par­tic­u­lar ma­chine.

The com­pany says that this, along with ad­justable aux­il­iary hy­draulic flow rate con­trols, helps to max­imise per­for­mance and dura­bil­ity.


There’s a 2.6-litre, 4-cylin­der Volvo D2.6A en­gine on board that pro­duces 31.2kW (41.8hp) at 2200rpm.

Hav­ing the en­gine po­si­tioned on the side of the ma­chine al­lows more room around the mo­tor to place ser­vice­able items and sight glasses, all of which are within easy reach from ground level.


The track frame looks to be well con­structed with a pretty gen­er­ous-look­ing clear­ance un­der­neath and a slight an­gle on top to help al­le­vi­ate dirt build-up.

I like to see a bit more an­gle to help al­le­vi­ate this prob­lem, but it only takes a few min­utes to clean your tracks out if you get into the habit of do­ing it at the end of each day. (Just think of the time you’re sav­ing not greas­ing so much.)


The load-sens­ing hy­draulic sys­tem ap­par­ently ad­justs ac­cord­ing to ma­chine work­load, de­liv­er­ing more power when needed.

The hy­draulic tank, fil­ter and valve bank are found in­side the rear door of the ma­chine. The large hy­draulic sight glass not only makes it eas­ier to check the oil level but also makes it eas­ier to de­tect con­tam­i­nants be­fore they can harm the ma­chine.

These ma­chines come com­plete with neatly con­structed quick-hitch pip­ing, aux­il­iary pip­ing for tilt buck­ets and the like, and larger aux­il­iary pip­ing for rock break­ers, etc.

Flow rates can be ad­justed by the op­er­a­tor via a key­pad lo­cated in the cab.


The Volvo ECR50D ex­ca­va­tor’s cab struc­ture is ROPS1, TOPS & FOPS rated with two head­lights

on the roof. The climb in­side is made fairly easy with well-placed han­dles and a gen­er­ous door­way into the op­er­a­tor’s work sta­tion.

The sus­pen­sion seat is ad­justable back­wards and for­wards, and has three-level ad­just­ment up and down with a man­ual dial for the op­er­a­tor weight rat­ing.

Although I could ad­just the seat into the right po­si­tion to com­fort­ably use the con­trol levers, I was un­able to ad­just the seat and con­trol levers to­gether in or­der to op­ti­mise the leg room for my 6-foot frame. I have to have the seat slightly for­ward. (Who knows? Maybe I’ve just got short arms for my height.)

Any­way, Volvo has re­lo­cated the aux­il­iary con­trols from foot ped­als into the con­trol levers, which af­fords more floor space and gives more leg room.


The con­trol levers feel com­fort­able to hold with pro­por­tional thumb-op­er­ated switches on each. One con­trols the boom pivot and aux­il­iary at­tach­ments, and al­lows the op­er­a­tor to con­trol the amount of flow.

Arm­rests po­si­tioned un­der the op­er­a­tor’s fore­arms add to op­er­a­tional com­fort.

Other than three switches that con­trol the flash­ing light, win­dow washer and cli­mate con­trol fan speed, the ma­jor­ity of the ma­chine’s func­tions are op­er­ated via a key­pad lo­cated on the driver’s right-hand side.

As well as con­trol­ling lights, wipers, auto idle and so on, the key­pad is also used to con­trol hy­draulic flow rates and ad­just en­gine revs. From here you can also se­lect ECO mode, which is claimed to be 10 per cent more fuel ef­fi­cient.

Se­cu­rity codes can be pro­grammed into the key­pad to stop any un­wanted use from unau­tho­rised oper­a­tors. We all hate that feel­ing when a ma­chine has been left on site and, when you re­turn, it has been moved, half a tank of diesel has dis­ap­peared, and there are fresh new scratches – and no­body saw a thing or knew any­thing about it!


The all-round vi­sion from the driver’s seat is ex­cel­lent, with a large amount of glass pro­vid­ing al­most un­ob­structed view­ing around the whole ma­chine with min­i­mal pil­lar block­age.

The front win­dow is eas­ily lifted and stowed into the roof with the help of gas struts, and a small win­dow on the top front of the cab al­lows for bet­ter view­ing while cran­ing or dig­ging up high.


It was an over­cast, rea­son­ably hu­mid 31 de­grees on the day of our test, so I started the ma­chine and turned the fan up and the tem­per­a­ture down to cool the cab be­fore I started dig­ging.

Af­ter a cou­ple of min­utes I en­tered the cab and thought, “This is a bit s#*t!” It didn’t feel like it was blow­ing cold air at all.

But, af­ter a lit­tle in­ves­ti­ga­tion, I found that I also had to switch the air-con on via the key­pad, which had me feel­ing quite clever (not) at the time. That’s what hap­pens when you don’t look at the pic­tures prop­erly.

Any­way, the cab started to quickly cool down and main­tain a com­fort­able en­vi­ron­ment through­out the course of the trial.


The test area at CJD Equip­ment’s Aca­cia Ridge yard con­sists of a small stock­pile of spoil used for demon­stra­tions. The stock­pile was not large enough to test the Volvo ECR50D ex­ca­va­tor’s climb­ing abil­i­ties, but it was good enough for me to judge its per­for­mance and op­er­a­tor com­fort.

The vis­i­bil­ity from the op­er­a­tor’s seat is the best that I have en­coun­tered on any ma­chine of this size to date.

Af­ter crank­ing it up and fi­nally sort­ing out my air-con­di­tion­ing dilemma, I closed the door and found it to be a nice, quiet work­ing en­vi­ron­ment.

This was in­ter­rupted once I started to play with the stereo sys­tem. With a few tweaks I man­aged to get what I thought was a sur­pris­ingly good sound. That al­ways helps me through my day!

The cab feels spa­cious to sit in for a com­pact ra­dius ma­chine, prob­a­bly helped by the amount of glass. This means the vis­i­bil­ity from the op­er­a­tor’s seat is the best that I have en­coun­tered on any ma­chine of this size to date.

First I thought I would try out the au­to­matic twospeed tracks with the help of the dozer blade.

In high gear the ma­chine moves along at a pretty good 4.9km/h, which would get you around any site eas­ily and swiftly. I dropped the blade in and had to load it up con­sid­er­ably in or­der to en­gage the au­to­matic kick-down into low gear. This had the ma­chine trav­el­ling at 3km/h and able to push the full blade of dirt with rel­a­tive ease.

I pro­ceeded to dig into the pile of spoil, which the ma­chine cut through with ease.

On en­coun­ter­ing some damp spoil, I loaded the bucket with as much as I could fit in and put the arm out at full stretch, swing­ing around and mov­ing up and down in or­der to test sta­bil­ity.

Over­all it seemed quite good – the ex­ca­va­tor felt very sta­ble over the front and rear of the tracks but less so over the sides, as can be ex­pected.

I didn’t ex­pe­ri­ence much of a dif­fer­ence in ma­chine per­for­mance when I hit harder dig­ging con­di­tions in the vir­gin soil that lay be­neath the stock­piled spoil.

I then tried a bit of pre­ci­sion fi­nal-trim work. Even at full revs, a flat cut was able to be per­formed at a good pace and with ease and no jerky bucket move­ments.

In ECO mode, which cuts the revs back slightly, I strug­gled to find any dif­fer­ence in the ECR50D’s over­all dig­ging per­for­mance and cy­cle times.

The vis­i­bil­ity to the dozer blade is good and, as I men­tioned ear­lier, the ma­chine does not have any trou­ble push­ing a full blade of dirt.

Volvo has rounded the bot­tom of the blade in or­der to achieve a bet­ter fin­ish while back blad­ing with the float set­ting on.

I can hear the gasps of hor­ror al­ready from all those old-school oper­a­tors out there who see back blad­ing as sac­ri­lege! Truth is there are a many oper­a­tors who do this on a daily ba­sis, so it makes sense that a man­u­fac­turer should do some­thing about im­prov­ing the de­sign.


Volvo works on the premise that bet­ter op­er­a­tor com­fort equates to bet­ter pro­duc­tiv­ity, so it has de­liv­ered a more spa­cious work sta­tion for the ECR50D ex­ca­va­tor with ex­cel­lent vis­i­bil­ity and safety fea­tures.

The er­gonomic con­trols and ad­justable seat meant I was able to get my­self into a pretty good op­er­at­ing po­si­tion where I felt I could put in a good day’s work with­out too much dis­com­fort.

The cli­mate con­trol man­aged to keep the cab at a com­fort­able tem­per­a­ture (once I sorted my s#*t out), con­sid­er­ing the amount of glass on the cab and the 30-plus de­gree day.

Not many peo­ple would ar­gue about the re­li­a­bil­ity of Volvo en­gines. These ones have been matched with a state-of-the-art hy­draulic sys­tem in or­der to de­liver ex­cel­lent per­for­mance and fuel ef­fi­ciency while also de­liv­er­ing ex­cel­lent break­out force, re­sponse and smooth­ness of op­er­a­tion.

This all equates to faster cy­cle times; at the end of the day, we are here to move dirt as fast and as cheap as pos­si­ble.

The ma­chine felt very good to op­er­ate with ex­cel­lent speed, bulk­ing and break­out abil­ity

(just like the brochure said), as well as pre­ci­sion per­for­mance and sta­bil­ity mak­ing for an all-round well-balanced unit.

Fac­tory aux­il­iary pip­ing with ad­justable flow rates are also a bonus, sav­ing the cost of hav­ing it done af­ter­mar­ket. And as for 50-hour greas­ing in­ter­vals and ex­tended ser­vice in­ter­vals, who the hell wouldn’t like that? More time mak­ing money and less time spent on main­te­nance.


1. The Volvo ECR50D is mar­keted as be­ing ‘big on power’ with ‘su­pe­rior dig­ging per­for­mance, high lift­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties and lead­ing break­out and tearout forces’

2. Ser­vice­able items and sight glasses are all within easy reach from ground level 3. Volvo has de­liv­ered a more spa­cious work sta­tion

4. The 2.6-litre, 4-cylin­der Volvo D2.6A en­gine pro­duces 31.2kW at 2200rpm

5. The blade is a breeze to op­er­ate with the ex­ca­va­tor’s au­to­matic 2-speed tracks 2




6 6. The GP and trench­ing buck­ets can hook on to the clean­ing (mud) bucket for easy trans­porta­tion

7. The cab is a comfy, pro­duc­tive place to be


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