Re­view: Evarn Covich checks out Cat’s new ex­ca­va­tors

Earthmovers & Excavators - - Contents -

In 1972, af­ter years of test­ing, Cater­pil­lar re­leased the 225, its first hy­draulic ex­ca­va­tor to ever hit the mar­ket. Be­ing around the 20-tonne mark, these ma­chines were a siz­able unit for their time, so it seems quite fit­ting that 46 years on it would choose this same weight range to re­lease the flag­ships of what it claims to be a ground-up re­vamp of the hy­draulic ex­ca­va­tor in what is now con­sid­ered to be the medium-weight class of dig­ger.

Af­ter about $50,000,000 in re­search and de­vel­op­ment spent over the past five years, Cater­pil­lar feels that it has man­u­fac­tured a prod­uct that will send shock­waves through the earth­mov­ing in­dus­try around the globe in the form of the new ‘Next Gen­er­a­tion’ ex­ca­va­tors. Bold state­ments that in­clude “Up to 25 per cent fuel sav­ings” and “Up to 15 per cent less main­te­nance costs” from their pre­de­ces­sors, not to men­tion the op­er­a­tor ef­fi­ciency that could be boosted by “Up to 45 per cent” through the use of the in­te­grated Cat Con­nect Tech­nol­ogy that is stan­dard in two of the three ma­chines, are only a few of the up­grades made to these ma­chines that have just been re­leased onto the world mar­ket.

The three new mod­els of ma­chine are the 320GC, 320 and 323. All dig­gers are al­most iden­ti­cal in size and work­ing range, with the only real dif­fer­ence be­ing ma­chine weight, bucket size and slight vari­a­tions in break­out force. I will touch on all ma­chines in the course of this re­port, along with how these per­cent­age num­bers have come about, but first I will take you through some of the com­mon ground that they share.


In­put col­lected from clients all over the world has re­sulted in Cat’s de­sign team com­ing up with a new, more op­er­a­tor-friendly work sta­tion that comes in Com­fort, Deluxe or Pre­mium pack­ages.

In the first of a two-part se­ries,

Evarn Covich heads to Cat’s launch of its ‘New Gen­er­a­tion’ 320GC, 320 and 323 ex­ca­va­tors to see what’s on of­fer

The Com­fort cab has a me­chan­i­cal seat and is stan­dard for the 320GC while the air-ad­justable/ heated seat of the Deluxe pack­age seems to be the sta­ple for the 320 and 323, with the up­grade to Pre­mium in­cor­po­rat­ing seat cool­ing and ad­vanced cab sound sup­pres­sion in this ROPSrated work sta­tion.

The ex­pand­ing op­er­a­tor waist­lines of the world have also been ad­dressed by way of a tilt-up con­sole to make cab en­try and exit eas­ier and safer, while a change to elec­tric over hy­draulic con­trols means no more pi­lot lines, with the end re­sult be­ing a stream­lin­ing of the con­trol lever con­soles. This has made way for more room to fit a wider seat which is rated at up to 160kg. The seat is fully ad­justable, sep­a­rate from the levers, and also able to move to­gether with the con­trols to pro­vide op­ti­mum legroom. I don’t think any­one would en­counter any dif­fi­culty po­si­tion­ing them­selves in a com­fort­able man­ner for their time in the driver’s seat.

Some of the ma­chine’s func­tions have been in­cor­po­rated into the touch­screen con­trol panel, abat­ing the need for ex­ces­sive but­tons and switches. Those that re­main have been po­si­tioned in front of the op­er­a­tor to negate the need to twist and turn un­nec­es­sar­ily. Touch­screen func­tions can also be pro­grammed into the con­trol lever but­tons, mit­i­gat­ing the need for the op­er­a­tor to take their hands off the con­trols to cy­cle through the screen and se­lect a dif­fer­ent func­tion.

There is an ex­cel­lent amount of stor­age avail­able in the cab with Blue­tooth and USB ports avail­able to con­nect your smart de­vices. Vis­i­bil­ity has been im­proved with smaller front-cab pil­lars that al­low for more win­dow area along with a rear-fac­ing cam­era that comes stan­dard. A cam­era sys­tem up­grade can al­low the op­er­a­tor to have a full 360-de­gree view around the whole ma­chine, ideal for those who work in tight ar­eas or if there is a bit of foot traf­fic around.

Au­to­matic cli­mate con­trol is also stan­dard across the range. Per­son­ally, I think this should be a stan­dard fix­ture on any cab ma­chine pro­duced by all man­u­fac­tur­ers around the globe given the tech­nol­ogy that’s avail­able to­day. It al­ways makes for a nice work en­vi­ron­ment when you can keep your cab at a con­stant com­fort­able tem­per­a­ture through­out the shift.


A shuf­fle around of daily main­te­nance pre-start items has en­abled this pro­ce­dure to be fully car­ried out by the op­er­a­tor at ground level. En­gine oil, coolant, wa­ter sep­a­ra­tor etc, along with fil­ters and sched­uled oil sam­pling ports are within easy reach through the side doors of the

ma­chine, negat­ing the need to climb onto the ma­chine in or­der to check these items. This not only makes the pro­ce­dure a lot safer and quicker for the op­er­a­tor to per­form but may also help en­cour­age some of the peo­ple out there that have trou­ble or just can’t be both­ered as­cend­ing the ma­chine in or­der to per­form this task on a daily ba­sis.

Ex­tra steps have been con­ve­niently placed on the track-frame to pro­vide ac­cess up the side and onto the back of the ma­chine if need be via stairs moulded into the new 345-litre poly­car­bon­ate fuel tank. Al­though the stairs were slightly squeezy for my am­ple girth, this safety fea­ture en­ables the op­er­a­tor to keep three points of con­tact through­out the mount and dis­mount with the help of well-placed handrails. The new shape of the tank also af­fords the op­er­a­tor in­creased vis­i­bil­ity on the off­side of the ma­chine from in­side the cab. Cat claims that own­ers should ex­pect to save up to 15 per cent on main­te­nance costs com­pared to pre­de­ces­sors over the life of the ma­chine (12,000 hours). This has come about through the use of new fil­ters that have in­creased their life by around 50 per cent to 100 per cent over pre­vi­ous de­signs. Ac­cord­ing to Cat staff, the longer in­ter­vals be­tween ser­vices equate to about 820 litres less oil and up to 50 fewer fil­ters over the ma­chine’s life.

The re­vamped hy­draulic sys­tem now uses one less pump, two fewer fil­ters, has a 20 per cent smaller tank, and op­er­ates us­ing 50 me­tres less hy­draulic hose than pre­vi­ous mod­els, which equates to a lot less fluid in the sys­tem.

A move to elec­tric cool­ing fans eases the bur­den on the en­gine and they are able to be re­versed in or­der to blow dust build-up back out of the cores when needed. Aux­il­iary hy­draulic lines are an op­tion on these ma­chines, and al­though I un­der­stand that not all com­pa­nies re­quire the use of added at­tach­ments, I do how­ever feel that all ex­ca­va­tors in this day and age should come ready equipped with quick­hitch pip­ing as stan­dard. You will be pretty hard pressed to find a ma­chine with­out one in to­day’s cli­mate.


Claims of up to 25 per cent bet­ter fuel ef­fi­ciency over pre­vi­ous mod­els I’m sure will turn a few heads, as this can equate to a con­sid­er­able amount of sav­ings to the owner through­out the life of the ma­chine. Op­er­at­ing in the new Smart Mode set­ting con­stantly ad­justs en­gine speed to suit hy­draulic de­mand in or­der to op­ti­mise fuel con­sump­tion and en­hance per­for­mance in all types of dig­ging ap­pli­ca­tions.

The 320 and 320GC both run a Cat C4.4 Acert en­gine. The 320 mo­tor is Tier 4 emis­sion-rated and pro­duces 122kW (164hp) while the 320GC con­fig­u­ra­tion is Tier 3 and pro­duces 108kW (145hp). The 323, how­ever, is equipped with a Tier 4 emis­sion-rated, Cat C7.1 Acert pow­er­plant that also has a gross power of 122kW (164hp). The en­gines have been se­lected to pro­vide op­ti­mum per­for­mance, ef­fi­ciency and cost for each of the units’ in­tended ap­pli­ca­tions. All three ma­chines come with Prod­uct Link and Vi­sion Link, which is soft­ware en­abling the track­ing of unit lo­ca­tion, hours, fuel burn, di­ag­nos­tics and idle times etc. from a re­mote lo­ca­tion. This en­ables own­ers to see where pro­duc­tiv­ity can be im­proved while low­er­ing op­er­at­ing costs.

Some op­er­a­tors might have to be care­ful as the boss will know when­ever you try to take ad­van­tage of the new roomier cabin and go toes up for a bit of a break if you’ve had a late night.

Vis­i­bil­ity has been im­proved with smaller front-cab pil­lars that al­low for more win­dow area along with a rear­fac­ing cam­era that comes stan­dard

Make sure to check­out Part 2 next month!

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