Driven: JCB v Claas compact telehandlers

While the JCB beats the Claas on engine power, it suffers on hydraulic output and performance, lifts 400kg less and has a reach that extends 400mm less high.

Watch the video and read the full report below.


If you want a telehandler that’s small enough to manoeuvre round the stock yard and negotiate cramped buildings, there are several options in the 6m lift height bracket.

Claas and JCB have both updated their offerings in this size category so we thought they would make a good comparison. So in the yellow corner it’s the JCB Loadall 526-56 while in the green-and-cream one, it’s the Claas Scorpion 6030 CP (built by German partner company Kramer).

Both are available with varying degrees of extras. We plumped for top-spec models – tagged Varipower with Claas and Agri Plus with JCB.

A Varipower-spec Scorpion gains a drive motor with wide-swinging swash-plate (45 degrees rather than the standard 30 degrees), taking road speeds to 40kph and said to bring greater pushing power.

This £2000 option also ups engine output from 80hp to 100hp, and adds air-con, trailer-hitch, brake coupling and rear third service, as well as variable-displacement 135l/min hydraulics. Boom suspension is a £700 option.

In a similar vein, at 114hp, Agri Plus versions of the Loadall are 14hp more powerful than standard machines and gain a 4-speed powershift gearbox instead of a manual 4-speed synchro box – at a cost of £2435.


Specs side by side

  JCB Loadall 526-56 Claas Scorpion 6030CP
Spec AgriPlus Varipower
Maximum lift 2.6t 3t
Maximum lift height 5.6m 6m
Power 114hp 100hp
Transmission 4-speed torque converter powershift, 40kph Twin range hydrostatic, 40kph
Hydraulics 80 litres/min fixed displacement gear pump, 260 bar 135 litres/min variable displacement piston pump, 240 bar
Height (on 24in tyres) 2.4m 2.26m
Width 2.29m 2.25m
Turning circle 7.16m 7.4m
Weight 6.27t 5.6t
Price £56,325
AgriPlus spec includes 40kph 4-speed powershift and 114hp engine. Extras included in price: Q-Fit carriage, trailer brakes, boom suspension and aircon.
Varipower spec adds wide-angle swash-plate transmission motor, 40kph, variable displacement hydraulics,, trailer hitch, brakes and spool valve. Extras included in price: Boom suspension.

The Scorpion uses Deutz’s ubiquitous 3.6-litre four-cylinder power-plant, as found in so many European-built machines. In contrast, the Loadall makes use of JCB’s own homegrown 4.4-litre DieselMax unit – again a four-pot.

Both are mounted sideways-on with hydraulically-driven reversible fans. The Agri Plus version of the JCB tested puts out 114hp, while the Varipower-specced Claas lags behind with just 100hp.

Service access is clearly an area that both manufacturers have paid close attention to. Hydraulic oil sight-glasses are both located behind the cabs, with the Loadall’s tucked away in a recess out of the way of flying muck and stones – a definite plus-point.

The Loadall’s four-speed twist-grip powershift steps up smoothly through the gears with little delay between ratios. The Scorpion’s hydro-unit is even smoother than that, with changes between high and low ranges done with a simple flick of a rocker switch.

But while it might be seamless, the German machine suffers on the road. It’s barely capable of propelling its own weight up even moderate inclines, so you can forget bale-carting unless you’re farming on the Fens.

That said, when hoicking out bucketloads of heavily compacted muck from awkward cattle sheds, the Claas delivers and rarely starts to scrabble. The heavier Loadall has more of a tendency to lose traction on one corner when the going gets tough.

For anyone familiar with JCB handlers, there are no surprises in the 526’s cab. You’ll find the usual forward/reverse shuttle lever, although it’s now possible to shunt to and fro using the joystick, too.

With the Scorpion you’re limited to a flip-switch on the joystick. Once you’ve got the hang of it, shuttling is smooth enough. Changing from backwards to forwards was fairly rapid with both machines, although the Scorpion manages it without any jolts or judders, even at speed.

Both machines put most of their controls on the joystick, including boom extend and retract, raise and lower, tip and a third service.

Getting the diverter valve to work on the Scorpion proved tricky. To swap between third service and locking pins you have to press and hold a dash-mounted rocker switch that prompts an electric diverter valve to direct the flow of oil away from the auxiliary valves to the carriage locking pins.

This was in contrast to JCB’s simple mechanical Q-Fit system which, despite requiring you to get out of the cab and paddle around in the mud, is pretty foolproof.

To change between steering modes on the JCB, you use a switch on the left of the dash, which automatically switches once the wheels are aligned. Scorpion operators have to wait until both lights in front of the joystick illuminate before engaging the lever at the rear of the cab.

One thing the JCB lacks is a quick-access neutral button on the joystick. Both have lockable setting for road travel, but the Scorpion wins on neatness: a tap on the top of the joystick renders it locked.

On paper, there’s a big difference between the two machines’ hydraulic outputs. While the Scorpion’s variable displacement pump puts out 135-litres/min, the Loadall lags behind with just 80-litres/min.

In practice, the difference doesn’t seem that great. The JCB has plenty of oil-flow at tickover but requires a hefty dose of right foot to match the Claas’s tear-out force in the tough stuff.

On the Scorpion, there are three settings for the optional boom suspension feature – off, on and auto – with auto activating above 7kph. A toggle switch to the left of the steering wheel gives the operator quick and simple access.

With the JCB, you go through the usual panicked “damn, I’ve forgotten to lower the bucket and flick the switch” moment, in which case you then have to pull over, stop, drop the bucket and hold the switch down until you see the boom go into float.

There’s no disputing that the Scorpion has the bigger and more comfortable cab, with plenty of cubby holes, a storage locker accessible from outside and nicely laid out controls. Chrome finishing and an air-seat bring tractor-level sophistication, too.

A bonus on the Scorpion was a tiltable steering wheel, however some things weren’t as logically laid out as they could be.

In the JCB, controls and switches will be familiar to anyone who knows the company’s products and the markings are clearer and more logically laid out than the Claas offering.

Despite the acres of glass of the Scorpion cab, its boom position means visibility isn’t quite as good as you might expect. The main pivot point is mounted low on the machine, certainly, but its position right over the tail means that when it’s raised it blocks visibility to the rear right-hand corner.

At the back, potential obstacles are obscured by the light brackets and number plate, although the Scorpion’s sculpted chassis keeps the machine’s width compact.

True, the Loadall’s box-shaped cab is about as streamlined as a biscuit tin, but in terms of being able to see what’s going on, it’s pretty good. The boom pivot is positioned slightly forward, making views over the gently sloping tail difficult to beat.



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