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Caterpillar has unveiled their new XE range of wheel loaders, boasting innovative new features, improved fuel efficiency and performance.

The Load and Haul event, hosted by local WA and NSW Caterpillar dealer WesTrac, took place at the WA Bluemetal Quarries facility in Whitby on October 31st and featured demonstrations of the new Cat 972M XE and 988K XE wheel loaders. 

Machines4U were invited to attend the event and had the opportunity to speak to WesTrac CEO Jarvas Croome, WesTrac General Manager of Construction Cameron Callaway, and Caterpillar Global Construction & Infrastructure Manager Ranil Tennakoon about these new machines.

In this article:

  • WesTrac & Caterpillar’s Load & Haul event coverage
  • A glimpse of Caterpillar’s wheel loader history
  • The new XE Series wheel loaders

The Launch

Caterpillar / WesTrac Load & Haul Event

The launch hosted over 200 attendees at Quarry Farm in Perth, WA. Photo courtesy of Andre Chang-Fane/WesTrac

Tucked away at Quarry Farm, south of Perth, Caterpillar showcased a wide range of their machinery. Not only the brand new wheel loaders, but also an impressive lineup and display of the 6015B hydraulic shovel, the 745 and 755F articulated dump trucks, and a cameo of the Piacentini Panther low loader. The showcase was smooth, well timed and well coordinated.

With more than 200 attendees, it was the first Caterpillar event of its kind in Australia. Jarvas Croome, WesTrac CEO, said the event took a lot of planning and was a great opportunity for both WesTrac and Caterpillar. 

“It’s always a busy time of year, particularly when you organise a massive event like this, but our staff love the opportunity to put on a showcase like this. To work with dealers across Australia and with Caterpillar to really highlight the product that we’ve got available.”

“We are delighted to be able to host such an important event on behalf of Caterpillar and welcome the interest and input of [the] industry,” Jarvas said.

A Glimpse of History

Caterpillar 988 model wheel loaders lined up

50 years of Caterpillar wheel loader ingenuity. From left to right: the Caterpillar 988B, 988F, 988G, 988H and 988K XE. Photo: Machines4U

A really rare and unique sight of the showcase was a lineup of the 988 model wheel loaders, including the 988B, 988F, 988G, 988H and 988K XE. These machines showcased over 50 years of Caterpillar engineering, design and evolution, and was an incredible sight. 

“It’s not every day you’ll see a machine [988B] that close on 45 years old, still operating. And that’s one of the cool things that people quite often don’t realise, is that we have so many machines that are 20, 30, 40 years old, still running. You can still get parts for them, you can maintain them. And that’s the real cool thing about the Caterpillar product. It’s designed to be reused, upgraded, and maintained. You can keep it running for 20, 30, 40 years. There’s not many products out there today that can do that,” said Jarvas.


The New XE Series Wheel Loaders

972M XE & 988K XE Wheel Loaders

The 972M XE and the 988K XE wheel loaders. Photo courtesy of Andre Chang-Fane/WesTrac

After the wheel loader lineup, it was time to see the new range. 

The XE premium wheel loader range is based on popular predecessor models and features improved performance, productivity and efficiency. They are ideal for construction, earthmoving and smaller mining operations. They’re powerful machines that host a wide range of new and improved features.

Jarvas Croome, WesTrac CEO, says these wheel loaders are built to the needs of Caterpillar customers. “This is the next generation of wheel loaders. You’ve got increased operating comfort and the ability to be more productive with some automated features on board.”

He also discussed how features on new Caterpillar products are prioritised. “We’re always looking for that safety benefit, that productivity benefit, the operator comfort, fuel efficiency, so Caterpillar rank these features very quickly into that sort of order,” said Jarvas.

Cameron Callaway, WesTrac GM agreed, “The exciting bit is we’re actually lowering the cost of the customer producing material. So that’s where it starts. It’s about what their job is. How can we make you more efficient, more effective?” 

“From a caterpillar perspective, it’s looking at how can we make the job safer or better for the operator,” added Cameron.

So let’s take a closer look at these wheel loaders.


988K XE Wheel Loader

Caterpillar 988K XE Wheel Loader

The 988K XE wheel loader was put to work during the showcase. Photo: Machines4U 

The new 988K XE wheel loader is ideal for those demanding job sites where fuel efficiency impacts the bottom line. Featuring an electronic drivetrain, the 988K XE is truly a unique piece of machinery.

Ranil Tennakoon, Caterpillar Global Construction & Infrastructure Manager, says the electric drivetrain is truly the standout feature.

“The 988K XE’s moved to what we call electrification. So, we’ve got rid of the transmission of the torque converter and replaced it with a generator and a motor. So, what that does is it reduces the amount of fuel we run through the engine, and it gives us constant speed. We don’t have gears running all through it, they’re virtual gears that are controlled through the joysticks,” said Ranil.

Another standout feature of the XE wheel loaders is the savings on fuel, a knock-on effect of the electric drivetrain.

“So what you see on the XE range is really a lot of it’s about the fuel. So on the 988, you’ll use 25 to 30% less fuel and have up to 49% greater efficiency, depending on the application. So that’s the real difference, right? For the operator, it’s more comfortable. They’ve got more technology to use with less fatigue and greater visibility. It also provides greater productivity for the owner of the machines,” said Ranil.

988K XE Features

  • High-efficiency electric drive system
  • High production in all loading applications
  • Switched reluctance (SR) technology
  • Deluxe operator seat with air suspension, high-back design & contoured cushions 

988K XE Test Drive

Louise drives 988K XE wheel loader

I had the opportunity to drive this new machine. So of course I gave it a go! Photo: Machines4U 

While at the event, Machines4U had the opportunity to take the 988K XE out for a test drive. So, this journalist got behind the wheel and managed to easily navigate the controls.

What did I think? The cab is spacious, the controls are all very easy to reach, the pedals are responsive and well-placed, and the machine itself offered a fairly smooth ride. The seat was also ultra-comfortable—if only I could have one at my office desk!

Interior of the 988K XE wheel loader

The interior of the 988K XE cab was spacious and comfortable. Photo courtesy of Andre Chang-Fane/WesTrac

988K XE Specs – Standard Model & Lift

Maximum Gross Power (ISO)

580 HP (432 kW)

Engine

Cat C18 ACERT

Transmission

Cat switched reluctance electric drive
4F / 3R

Operating Weight

52,781 kg

Reach at Maximum Lift

2074 mm (standard), 2130 mm (high)

Bucket Capacity Range

4.7 – 13 m3

Breakout Force

437 kN (general purpose bucket, straight edge)

Static Tipping Load (Straight, Rigid Tyre)

36,029 kg

Static Tipping Load (Full Turn, Articulated 35 Degrees, Rigid Tyre)

32,325 kg


972M XE Wheel Loader

Caterpillar 972M XE wheel loader

The 972M XE showcased at the Load and Haul event at Quarry Farm, Perth WA. Photo: Machines4U

The 972M XE wheel loader, while smaller than the 988K XE, offers decent power, smooth shifts, fast acceleration and speed on grade. It’s ideal for quarry and mining operations where steeper grades and tighter loading areas are common. Its anti-rollback technology also makes for a safer worksite.

972M XE wheel loader

The 972M loaded and ready. Photo: Machines4U

Ranil said one of the big features for the 972M XE is the continuous variable transmission, which is the core of many other performance improvements.

“The 972M XE has what we call the CVT, continuous variable transmission. So you have a smooth gear change that’s constant. And what it does is gives speed on grade as well as better abilities for the operator. You don’t have that jerkiness moving up and down, it provides greater productivity,” said Ranil.

972M XE Features

  • Continuous variable transmission (CVT) 
  • Differential locks for greater traction
  • Wider payload range thanks to the dual accumulator system
  • Advanced powertrain
  • Real-time information from Cat Link

972M XE Specs – Standard Model & Lift

Maximum Net Power (ISO)

311 HP (232 kW)

Engine

Cat C9.3

Transmission

4F / 3R (virtual gears)

Operating Weight

24,896 kg

Hinge Pin Height at Maximum Lift

4458 mm (standard), 4793 mm (high)

Bucket Capacity Range

3.20 – 9.94 m3

Breakout Force

196 kN

Static Tipping Load (Full 37-degree turn with tyre deflection)

16,164 kg

Static Tipping Load (Full 37-degree turn with no tyre deflection)

17,421 kg

Overall, Caterpillar are certainly leaders in capital equipment design and innovation, which is obvious by these latest XE wheel loaders. What do you think of the new models? Let us know in the comments below.

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