Matbro moves cab well
into comfort zone
Basic badging job or genuine upgrade, Matbros TR250 pivot-steer gained three extra digits at Smithfield 96. Andrew Faulkner drives the new TR250-110
CENTRAL cab, swinging midriff and engine in the tail. Telescopic pivot-steers use the same basic configuration today as they did when they first appeared back in the early 1980s.
And the concept remains popular – or relatively so. Certainly, rigid chassis/four-wheel-steer machines are now the mass market for materials handlers in the UK, yet pivot pioneer, Matbro, reckons artic-type models still pick up a consistent 15% of the 3500-odd, total farm telescopic sales.
Thus, in comparison, the pivot-steer is the smaller player. Nevertheless, it still fills an important niche and retains a loyal following, with all the big makers now offering this type of machine.
Matbro was first on the scene by some margin – its original Teleram was introduced in 1982; Sanderson followed with its TX525 (now GX525) in 1992, and Manitous MLA627 arrived in 1995. Latest to join the pivot-steer party is JCB with its TM 270, announced at Smithfield and due to go on sale in the spring.
So the interest is there, and explains the pressure on Matbro to keep up with the pack. Hence, the recent update for its particular example, the TR250. Now badged TR250-110, the main changes over its predecessor are a bigger engine, transmission mods to standard-spec powershift transmission and a better cab. farmers weekly went to Somerset for a drive.
First, the important bit. Remember the torture chamber of a tin box perched on top of the original Teleram? Well, thankfully, Matbro has moved on.
Introduced in 1992, the bigger cabin of the TR250 was a dramatic improvement, and the TR250-110s plusher platform takes the family still further forward.
Over and above the TR250, cab access is now a walk up and in affair. Up the steps, plenty of room past the boot scuff pads and slimmer wheel arches, and on to the seat, whereas it used to be more a matter of smear muck on, slide past over chunky arches and park. Though the platform is still high, the steps are wide enough and house a usable toolbox. Seating gets a welcome upgrade and is now a KAB 81. Still mechanically sprung, the new chair has all the adjustments of the old version – weight, height, squab angle – but has much greater up/down travel. This comes partly from moving the heater unit from under the seat to up in the roof; whatever the reason, less bottoming out of bench on to base has to be worthwhile.
Once safely seated, other changes to cab structure and internals come into view. All-round visibility has always been a strong selling point for pivot-steers, and is obviously a fact not lost on Matbros design engineers. Extending front screen and door glass to the floor, removing the cab structure C-posts and shifting the exhaust stack to the side add to what was already a commanding panorama. Only downside is the top lateral frame member and lining, in front of the roof glass, which can obstruct upper vision when, say, loading grain into an artic.
Moving back to internals, Matbro has tidied up the dash, which is now restricted to a well positioned, digital readout showing forward speed, engine revs and gear selected. Just as well because sight of the powershift twist grip indicator, mounted on a lever to the left of the steering column, is obscured by the steering wheel. No more than a minor niggle, this.
Warning dials and assorted switch gear, which formerly resided on the dash, now migrate to a console to the drivers right – also home to a new-style Danfoss joystick for electro-hydraulic control of boom and auxiliary service.
Overall, slimming the dash and shifting most gauges to one side work well. It has allowed both brake/inching and throttle pedals to be moved closer together for a less "legs akimbo" driving style and, along with tilt/slide wheel and multi-adjustable main console to the right, means the operator can literally wrap himself around the steering column and controls for maximum comfort.
That comfort is also enhanced by lower, in-cab noise. More sound-deadening material under the floor and a change of engine/gearbox mounts get the credit here.
Last, returning to the greater area of cabin glass, Matbro has used this as an excuse to make air-conditioning standard spec. And whos complaining?
Moving swiftly on to mechanicals, here the story is much the same as before: Perkins 1000-series engine, Clark-Hurth transmission and axles, and Rexroth variable displacement hydraulic pump.
Similar, certainly, but not quite the same. The engine, for instance, is still a Perkins four-cylinder turbo but now comes with an intercooler and four extra horses on tap. At rated speed, 2200rpm, power is now 110hp with the max torque of 300lbft/ft arriving at 1600rpm.
Modest rises, admittedly, and ones that would take a more experienced Matbro operator than this reporter to pick up.
Other changes to the engine include rerouting the exhaust, as mentioned in the cab section, and shifting the air filter to make the engine oil filler more accessible.
Matbro aficionados will also spot the flatter profile to the rad grille, which should cling on to less dirt, and that the bonnet has now sprouted an air pre-cleaner bowl.
Still Clark-Hurth powershift 4F/3R, but with a subtle difference. Whereas the old system had one kick-down gear, from two to one, operated by a button on the end of the column-mounted twist grip, the latest version has gained an extra kick-down from three to two.
In fact, this extra facility is so new that it wasnt fitted to our test machine, so we cannot comment on its usefulness. But all production machines will get the two kick-downs as standard.
What we could try, and it scores a definite plus, is the change to the kick-down control position, which now joins the auxiliary button and boom in/out on the loader joystick. That means the left hand can stay where it ought to – on the steering wheel.
How long before the forward/ reverse shuttle makes the same cross-cabin trip to the joystick? It is already a feature on some Matbro industrial spec machines.
Not much to report here. Same Rexroth pump and same electro-hydraulic controls, albeit fitted with the latest generation Danfoss joystick, which nestles neatly in the hand.
Main change is the use of a roller-type switch for boom in/out – odd at first, but pleasantly progressive in operation.
Of more importance to the farm fitter will be the rerouting of the oil supply pipes to the attachment carrier. These now run down the outside of the outer boom section, rather than through the innards of the inner section. In simple terms, that means getting at an oil leak is now down to a mere "undo bolts, cover off" job, whereas it used to be a major boom strip undertaking.
So there you have it. No apologies for concentrating on the cabin which, after all, is the place where Matbro has concentrated its efforts and where all driving impressions are formed.
With the extra glass, quieter and more comfortable cab, and not forgetting the standard air-conditioning, the TR250-110 can now justifiably claim to be a drivers machine.
Whether you can afford it is another matter. The TR was already a premium-priced product, and this latest upgrade adds a further 5%. Existing pivot-steer people will probably accept it, others may splutter. *
Latest incarnation of UKs benchmark telescopic pivot-steer, the Matbro Teleram. Now badged TR250-110, the 1997 edition comes with bigger 110hp engine, mods to powershift transmission and a higher spec cab.
Dispensing with cab "C" posts opens up rear 3/4 view. Also note exhaust stack has moved from tail to alongside "B" pillar, and cab heater intake is now in the roof. Air pre-cleaner bowl on tail is another new addition.
Engine warning gauges and most switches have migrated from centre dash to drivers right, alongside the Danfoss loader controlling joystick. Armrest doubles as a neat hidehole/ knick-knack bin.
• Engine 110hp Perkins turbo, intercooled.
• Transmission 4F/3R powershift with two kick-downs.
• Lift capacity 2.5t.
• Lift height 5.5m (18ft).
• Machine height 2640mm (8ft8in).
• Machine width 2210mm (7ft3in).
• Price £42,622 (with joystick control). £41,100 (four levers/cable control).