Review: Hitachi Construction Machinery ZX200LC-5 excavator

By: Tim Dittmer, Photography by: Tim Dittmer


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Tim Dittmer field tests Hitachi's ZX200LC-5 excavator on what he describes as "the perfect site" - Ohau Quarry to be precise.

Review: Hitachi Construction Machinery ZX200LC-5 excavator
Hitachi ZX200LC-5 excavator goes into action in the quarry.

It's not often you get the chance to spend the day playing with a range of new machinery and trucks on the perfect site to really test them out, without the pressure to produce your cheque book.

However, that's exactly what CablePrice did when the company put on an exceptional day at Ohau Quarry, with the latest products including the new Hitachi ZX200LC-5 excavator. Hitachi has stuck with the reliability offered by Isuzu's 6.5-litre turbocharged diesel engine to supply 168hp to the two variable displacement axial-piston hydraulic pumps, each delivering up to 212 litres per minute. These pumps give a working pressure of 350kg/cm2 for the machine functions. This steps up to 388kg/cm2 when the power boost is called upon for additional grunt.

Hitachi is claiming a nine percent reduction in fuel consumption compared to the previous models, because the HIOS lll (Human and Intelligent Operation System) hydraulic system and engine control system help to make a more fuel-efficient machine. Switching from POWER mode to ECO mode reduces fuel consumption further, allowing more savings for the one who fronts the bills.

Regenerative valves allow gravity to help speed up movements by delivering pressurised oil from the lowering of the boom to the arm cylinder for faster arm operation, without the hydraulic pump having to supply all of the pressurised oil, so less diesel is burned.

Servicing is made simpler, with the oil and diesel filters remote-mounted in the hydraulic pump compartment making them easy to access. The air filter is easy to get at, too, with plenty of room around it and there is enough space below for a bit of extra storage. A large dust-proof grill is mounted in front of the parallel-arranged cooling system and is easily removable. The oil cooler, radiator and intercooler are fitted side by side to provide easier cleaning than sandwich-type arrangements.

Service intervals for the engine oil and filter and the fuel filter are 500 hours, while the hydraulic oil stretches out to 5000-hour changes. The hydraulic filter still requires changing at 1000 hours.

The multifunction in-cab monitor provides all the information on servicing intervals and also has an extra built-in hour meter for attachments that require periodic maintenance, advising the operator when the preset time is up. The auxiliary hydraulic flow can be adjusted from the monitor and up to 11 different settings can be saved. Just about everything is displayed on the seven-inch colour screen, including a rear-mounted camera that clearly shows the surroundings behind the excavator, which is very convenient for ease of operation.

CablePrice had the excavator located in the quarry pit for the demo day. There was plenty of hard digging and rocky material to handle. Speaking to the people on site who had tried it before, I managed to get a turn. There was a lot of good feedback on the machine's capabilities so I was keen to jump in and give it a whirl and was not to be disappointed.

I found the cab to be very comfortable and well laid out. It is also built stronger to withstand a rollover or falling objects. A wider door allows better access into the cab and there is more legroom and seat adjustment available. A generous amount of vents are located around the cab to provide sufficient airflow and maintain the desired temperature.

The main control panel is located alongside the right joystick, with all the functions at your fingertips. There is plenty of room behind the seat, accommodating for even the largest of lunchboxes.

I gave the Hitachi full revs and dug into the rocky stockpile. The ZX200LC-5 pulled the bucket through the material with a little hesitation as the load increased. Movements were swift and responsive and the breakout force was satisfactory, but I wanted more. Revisiting the monitor, I realised that the excavator automatically defaults to ECO mode. Upon selecting POWER mode, the Hitachi delivered the grunt I was expecting and easily pulled through the hard rock, without any of the prior hesitation.

In hindsight, the Hitachi ZX200LC-5's ECO mode still performed very well compared with some fuel-saving modes which cut both speed and performance. Speed changes between POWER and ECO mode were minimal, while still providing greatly improved fuel savings, although the step up in breakout force was noticeable when POWER mode was activated.

I dug out a steep embankment and climbed the Hitachi up it. The machine's hydraulic distribution when combining all functions at once was impressive. Using the bucket to assist my ascent up the steep face, I still had sufficient oil flow to provide powerful tracking.

The excavator had very fast but controllable, combined responses, leaving me with no doubt in its abilities to safely operate in demanding situations. The long undercarriage provides a very stable operating platform, even when the excavator was perched on steep grades. Compared to the standard undercarriage that the LC option offers, a 300mm longer track frame and extra width of 190mm gives a larger footprint, providing better stability and lower ground pressure.

Once on top of the pile, I started digging, slewing and dumping to the side of the excavator. Digging power was excellent but I would have liked a bit more slew priority to hasten the initial response. However, once revolving a good speed is achieved. The Hitachi has medium-length joysticks which offer the kind of precise control provided by longer joysticks but without the aerobic workout. There is none of the often jerky reaction of shorter levers, either. Very fine movements could be made even at full reach, making the ZX200LC-5 suitable for delicate lifting and placing tasks.

Hitachi has excelled with its latest 20-tonne excavator, which is packed with all the features that make a brilliant machine in both performance and comfort. Smooth, fast hydraulics give efficient operation in a machine that has great characteristics.

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