8 June 2001

Baby skid-steer is eager to flex hydraulic muscle

Quaint, compact and packed

with power, Bobcats baby

463 skid-steer machine

would appear a force to be

reckoned with. Andy Moore

took it for a test drive

BOBCAT engineers were faced with a challenge when developing their latest entry level skid-steer loader.

The challenge was to increase lift performance and height yet keep the loader sufficiently trim for manoeuvring inside low buildings and narrow feed passages.

The result is the 463, a daintily dimensioned machine measuring just 93cm wide by 1.8m high. Replacing the 453 model, the 463 is fitted with a 16hp diesel engine powering a larger hydraulic pump for main lift services.

The Kubota unit develops 4hp more than the 453, while a higher capacity pump delivers 38 litres/min rather than 26 litres/min.

Use of more hydraulic muscle not only boosts lift capacity, but provides greater oil flow for powering the wide range of attachments available for farm use.

"Pressure on farm incomes has led producers to get the most out of their loaders by using them for a variety of tasks," says Barry Timms of Bobcat. "The 463 can be operated with up to 15 attachments, including post-hole borers, muck grabs, sweepers and scrapers."

On paper, the 463 would appear to pack a mean punch, but when FW tested the machine near Bobcats BS Russell dealership near Maidstone, Kent, there appeared little difference between the 463 and the 453 – at first glance.

However, first impressions can be misleading and further investigation revealed the loader has longer arms to achieve its 2.4m lift height.

And opening the bonnet at the rear of the machine uncovered an engine bay that allows good access to the main service points. A spark arrester on the exhaust should give peace of mind when operating near straw stacks or flammable liquids.

Despite the loaders sleek physique, entering the cab is not a problem even for those with broad shoulders. Once seated, the operator is secured by a robust safety bar which snaps reassuringly into place, while a twist of the ignition key brings the diesel unit to a throaty start.

At low revs, the engine causes some annoying shakes and rattles which are soon lost once the unit is pushed up to 3000rpm.

With pedals operating boom lift and crowd services and levers for direction changes, operating the 463 is a steep learning curve for the uninitiated.

As with all multi-function control systems, a few hours work provides the required experience so that driving the loader becomes almost second nature.

Light pressure on the left and right pedal guarantees enthusiastic response of boom raise/lower and crowd/tilt functions respectively thanks to the higher capacity hydraulic pump. But be warned that the operator has to be careful the loader does not jolt from axle to axle like a rocking chair.

During digging work, the loader displays impressive power and traction, with engine revs dying before any soak up of the hydrostatic transmission. Digging performance would have been improved further if the loader was fitted with a toothed digging bucket rather than a 0.15cu m version with plain cutting edge.

Despite this, the greater hydraulic power comes in handy when raising a bucket laden with heavy soil to the loftier lift heights.

Maximum tipping load is 681kg and the machines break-out force is rated at 44% more than the 453.

Further points are awarded to the loaders Bob-Tach implement coupling system which enables attachments to be fitted and locked securely by two lever-operated pins, while extra weight in the coupling system and arms is designed to allow the loader to achieve a 70/30 front/rear weight distribution.

Overall, the Bobcat 463 skid-steer could be an interesting option for those requiring a powerful machine capable of being operated in confined quarters. &#42

BOBCAT 463

Engine 16hp Kubota.

Transmission Hydro.

Pump capacity 38 litres/min.

Lift capacity 681kg.

Lift height 2.4m.

Price £12,000.

Access to engine service points is unhindered although the bonnet latching system needs a rethink.

Mini mean machine… The 463 sports a more powerful engine and hydraulic pump for powering a range of attachments.