Case 721E wheel loader

By: Terry Stevenson, Photography by: Terry Stevenson

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We visited the Kaingaroa Forest where a new Case 721E wheel loader is working hard, fitted with a forestry grapple.

Case 721E wheel loader
The Case 721E wheel loader offers excellent vision and smooth operation.
  • Full-length angled windows offer excellent visibility
  • Agile and fast when loading logs
  • Quiet and spacious cab
  • Declutch system to increase hydraulic power to lifting arm
  • Can work in small areas

The Case 721E articulated wheel loader is on the smaller end of the scale for forestry use, and doesn't mind the hard bumps associated with working as a forestry wheel loader.

Manoeuvring the 13,900kg (operating weight) 721E around I was surprised at its agility while heavily loaded with logs, assisted by the smaller 20.5 R25 wheels. Having a smaller 4WD loader capable of lifting reasonable sized loads allows operator Haami Anderson to make small inputs to better position the logs on the trucks.

Its stability with the loader arm high while on full lock was impressive for a small forestry loader. Helped by the lift arm, the Ride Control system allows the load and therefore the loader to remain more stable under the most testing potholes. More importantly, it permits the operator to drive that much faster over any terrain.

Inside the cab

The fully lined ROPS/FOPS protected cabin has lots of space. It's quiet too, with fantastic external visibility, thanks to a nicely curved rear window plus uninterrupted full height glass panels. Anderson says the side glass panels allow him to monitor exactly where the front wheels are.

In the fully adjustable air seat, driving the US-built Case 721E was more difficult than I expected, which was all to do with getting the grapple correctly positioned in order to be able to pick up and drop the logs quickly, and smoothly lowering the arm with a pile of 6m logs on.

As with an ordinary wheel loader, the joystick controls the arm rise/fall and the crowding. A toggle switch is located at the top of the joystick that's used to select forward, neutral or reverse. This can be done on-the-fly for greater speed and productivity. A small button at the front of the joystick allows the operator to change up or down between first and second gear - a definite timesaver when doing incremental work.

To the right of the joystick is the grapple lever to bring the top arm down to capture the logs and hold them tight while driving. The biggest problem I had was trying to operate the grapple lever while working the main arm, as I could barely reach the grapple lever with my small finger while holding the joystick. I'm sure productivity would be improved if a manufacturer could devise a suitably sensitive control on the joystick for the grapple function. A bit like the thumb-operated bucket tilt on an excavator, but with more sensitivity.

Anderson demonstrated the grapple to best effect by using it at the same time as driving under the logs and raising the main arm - it was incredible to watch a skilled operator working in their environment.

Engine and power

The 145Kw (194hp) engine had no trouble meeting the hydraulic lifting and driving demands placed upon it. The six cylinder 2-valve motor has electronically controlled common rail fuel injection with a turbocharger and air to air aftercooling, and meets Tier 3 emissions standards.

The 721E sees diesel travel through an electronically-governed cooling unit before entering the common rail injection system for constant temperature, providing a cleaner burn. On installation Loadlift set the engine computer to run in Economy mode (one of four power options), for fuel efficiency. A good decision since the 6.7 litre motor wasn't stressed during my visit.

Performance and handling

Included on the 721E is a manually controlled hydraulic reversing fan to clear debris from the mid-mounted radiator and prevent overheating. Opening the electro/hydraulic one-piece fibreglass hood fully exposes the motor on three sides - the only thing the technicians have to climb over is the rear counterweight. The powerplant is positioned behind the rear axle to work as part of the counterweight.

The hydrostatic transmission has four forward speeds selectable off the left steering column stick. Or, press the consol button to use the Case in programmable gear change Automatic mode. Either way, all gear changes were without jolting.

A declutch switch allows the driver to transfer more hydraulic power to the lifting arm via the brake lever without taking their hand off the controls, or putting it into neutral when loading. Also, depress the F-N-R consol button to activate the joystick trigger button for ultra-fast first and second gear changes without having to take your left hand off the steering wheel.

Haami Anderson has been logging in the Kaingaroa Forest for 26 years and chose the latest Case 721E to replace a Kawasaki 80. He's thrilled with the purchase, saying the Case has better vision and is smoother.

"With the shorter wheelbase I can work in a smaller area. With the big ones you can't really turn when you're loaded, it's not quick enough. The bigger machine slows you down, and that's why I opted for a small one. It is smooth, quiet inside and I really like the vision! I've noticed with the Case the fuel economy is a lot better too, it seems to use a lot less."

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