Kubota has long been a leader in contractor-grade machinery including wheel loaders, skid-steers, excavators and tractor-loader-backhoes (TLBs). In the later category, Kubota produces four models that range from the 21-horsepower B26 to the 59-horsepower M59. Somewhere in between is the L45 that is the subject of interest in this week’s review.
Kubota TLBs are purpose-driven models, meaning they all begin with heavy-duty integrated frames, beefier axles and components made to withstand the rigors of the construction environment. The L45 we tested inserts a Kubota-manufactured four-cylinder diesel engine into the heavy duty chassis that makes 45 gross horsepower at 2700 rpm. Horsepower at the power take off (PTO) is a generous 32, though purchasers who intend to run rear implements will have to check off the optional independent rear PTO and three-point hitch (3PH) on the order form. Not a big deal, as we’ll bet most of these machines will remain in TLB configurations ready to do work.
Output from the 134.1 ci mill is sent to a three-range hydrostatic transmission with range selector conveniently located to the right of the seat and is controlled by a treadle pedal. While not necessarily our most preferred arrangement, this set up offers well-modulated control over the infinitely variable 0–14.9 mph speed range. Kubota’s treadle comes with an extension at the toe, making it easy for those who prefer to push down on the pedal to go forward, then slip their toe underneath and pull up to reverse. Operators more comfortable with traditional toe/heel treadle control will be right at home. Either way, the feather-step hydraulic servo system that decreases pedal effort will be appreciated.
The advanced electronics continue as Kubota gives each L45 an HST Plus transmission, which allows automated control over the HST pump and motor. Benefits include hydro dual speed (H-DS), which adds High and Low to the three ranges and effectively makes it a six-range transmission. There is also Load Sensing, which has three settings: Manual for when the operator wants full control; Stall Guard to prevent engine stalls when doing loader work; and Auto H-DS which automatically upshifts/downshifts for hills and other condition varying loads. Response time in the later mode is fully operator adjustable. Perhaps our favorite feature of HST Plus is the Auto Throttle Advance. With this engaged the operator can just press down on the hydro pedal and engine speed will increase to handle the demand. Conversely, the operator can lift on the hydro pedal and the engine will throttle down. It’s a nice time-saving feature that helps conserve fuel. Competing with Auto Throttle Advance for our favorite feature is the L45’s Backhoe Crawling Mode. This is an ultra slow gear range that allows the operator while behind the backhoe controls to move the tractor at creep speed. Not having to reposition while digging lengthy trenches will certainly improve jobsite productivity.
Befitting a TLB meant to handle tough conditions, Kubota gives the L45 a hydraulic system that flows a whopping 25 gpm, with 11.8 gpm going to loader/backhoe functions, 6.6 gpm to the backhoe boom swing, and another 6.6 gpm to power steering needs. If a purchaser checks off the 3PH option, he or she will get a Cat I hitch with a lift capacity of 2,756 lbs at the industry standard of 24” behind lift point. Position control is standard, so an implement can be returned to an operator selectable position time after time. A nice option to consider is the top-n-tile hydraulic upper link that carries an MSRP of $2,129. Putting that hydraulic flow to work, the loader on the L45 is rated to lift 2,200 lbs to a full lift height of 113.9” at bucket bottom. If you compare “at the pivot point” specs of some competitors, the L45 is rated to lift 2,848 lbs. With a breakout force of 4,530 lbs, full dump clearance of 90”, dig depth of 3.5” and hydraulic auto leveling, this is a combination meant to be productive. Response times are slowed slightly with auto leveling turned on, but we measured 3.6 seconds to raise (3.2 seconds if turned off) and 5.8 seconds to lower (3.5 seconds turned off). Curl and dump times remained the same with auto leveling on or off and were 1.9 seconds and 2.2 seconds, respectively. Our test tractor came with a 72” quick attach round bucket and optional bolt-on reversible cutting edge. Another nice option a potential purchaser might consider is the 4-in-1 bucket, which has a MSRP of $2,983.
The backhoe also benefits from the hydraulic flow. Dig force is rated at 5,825 lbs and the dig depth is 121”, meaning 10’ deep trenches are possible. Reach is 91.3” but measured from the swing pivot extends to 160.9”. Swing arc is 180# and the stabilizer spread is 67.2″ up and 89.3” down. Transport height is 106.3”. Our test tractor was equipped with a 12” pin on bucket (optional quick attach versions are available in different widths) as is a nifty thumb for $3,745, which Kubota makes the L45 ready for with a standard bracket built in.
Climb up into the high-back suspension seat with arm rests and ample space to the operators left to rotate to backhoe position and still walk past and you are treated to a flat, roomy platform. Controls are color coded and ergonomically laid out. Kubota calls its gauge cluster an IntelliPanel and matches it to the tractor electronics well. The only analog instrument is the tachometer, which dominates center stage. Indicator and warning lights wrap the sides and an LCD panel at the top, giving the operator an instant readout of all pertinent information. When using Stall Guard and Auto H-DS modes, it is fun to watch the green turtle turn to a green rabbit and vice versa as the electronics dial in maximum performance.
The Kubota L45 TLB comes with 27 x 10.5-15 R4 front and 15-19.5 R4 rear Titan Industrial tires that ride on a 72.5” wheelbase. Tractor, loader and backhoe combine to give the L45 a test weight of 7,173 lbs and a turn radius of 11.2’. MSRP for our TLB test tractor came in at $47,757, but with a few of the options mentioned above can easily push the sticker price of a loaded L45 to $55K and above. However you equip an L45 – barebones to fully loaded – you’ll find that this is a machine meant to put in long productive hours day after day.
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