Review: JCB JS220-LC excavator

By: Ron Horner. Photography: Dave Bullard

Presented by
  • Earthmovers & Exacavators

The JCB JS220-LC excavator handled trenching with ease. The JCB JS220-LC excavator handled trenching with ease.
The JCB JS220-LC uses the new EcoMAX T4i/Stage 3B engine, which uses up to 10 percent less fuel than the previous Tier 3 units. The JCB JS220-LC uses the new EcoMAX T4i/Stage 3B engine, which uses up to 10 percent less fuel than the previous Tier 3 units.
JCB's ‘Surelock’ quick-hitch system has twin locks and a remote LED Light sensor at the top end of the boom. JCB's ‘Surelock’ quick-hitch system has twin locks and a remote LED Light sensor at the top end of the boom.
The JCB JS220-LC excavator powered through Ron's test on a slippery, steep incline. The JCB JS220-LC excavator powered through Ron's test on a slippery, steep incline.

RON HORNER climbs into the operator’s seat of a 22-tonne JCB JS220-LC excavator — a new machine which achieves T4i emission levels without the use of a DOC/DPF filter.

Known in Australia for the supply and distribution of the world’s highest-selling backhoe range for the past 40 years, UK-based JCB is now firmly in the local excavator market with a range of super competitive and marketable excavators.

A couple of months ago we received information that JCB Construction Equipment Australia had a shipment of the new-era JCB excavators heading to its headquarters in Melbourne.

We had already heard from Europe that the newest JCB machines were more than just a mere "new decal and paint job masking as an upgrade" and if we could get the chance to put one through its paces we should jump at the chance.

I was particularly keen to sit my bum in the operator’s seat to judge how much the JCB excavator range had improved since my last opportunity … that being for Jim Abignano (Abigroup founder) over 40 years ago and on a machine which was on its last legs way back then.

JCB CEA national excavator product manager Deon Cope took us out to the testing grounds and introduced us to two new excavators. We could choose between the JS200 or the JS220-LC. We chose the latter and, after a good introduction and compulsory pre start check, I was thrown the keys to the machine and asked if I thought I could handle the beast.

Keen as mustard I jumped at the chance and said, "Let’s give it a go!!!"

I was immediately impressed.

JCB-JS220-LC-excavator -body -1

In the JCB’s cabin

Once in the cabin and firmly seated I sat back and observed the very well laid out cabin. An operator is made to feel very comfortable and at ease when he cannot find anything automatically wrong with the cabin layout. This is the case with the JS220-LC test machine.

The 70/30 front windscreen split provides excellent viewing of the right track for safe manoeuvring and trenching, the low-level engine bonnet provides excellent rearward visibility, and the rear and side cameras provide the full coverage of the rest of the machine.

The seat comes with multiple repositioning options and adjustable arm rests, and the operator’s console is fitted with a large 7-inch multi-function monitor that has an operator-friendly coloured icon-based menu with manual operation. (No requirement for an IT degree with this as JCB has kept the menu operation so simple even I could negotiate it.)

The ‘Tool Select’ feature can set up auxiliary hydraulic circuits quickly and accurately to match the flow and pressure requirements of any attachment.

The large screen is ideally suited for viewing of the factory-fitted, hard-wired twin reversing cameras, one fitted on the side of the machine and or one at the rear. (JCB fits one camera, but the machine is hard-wired ex-factory for the other.)

The JS220-LC has a great climate-controlled air conditioning system and minimal operational noise inside the cab. Noise levels have been significantly reduced to only 72dB(A) inside and 103dB(A) outside.      

JCB-JS220-LC-excavator -body -2 

On the job

The weather had been wet and the testing ground utilised to its maximum when we arrived. I took the machine to a new virgin soil depth while trenching; the materials were sticky and firm but the machine handled it as one would expect in this type of digging.

Looking for more of a challenge in this limited working environment, I requested permission to climb the wet material stockpile heap to assess the power and stability of the machine.

Personally I would have loved to put it into a quarry environment — that thickened boom and dipper was just waiting for a good work out — but that would not happen today. Instead it was the elevated material stockpile, which was quite steep and slippery.

The long-track-version JCB- JS220LC didn’t even flinch. The slippery, steep incline required a bit of assistance from the dipper arm and bucket to pull it to the top but this was not due by any means to lack of power.

The tracks powered on throughout the test with the inevitable slipping due to the extremely wet conditions underfoot. Once atop the hill the machine continued to perform handsomely, being well balanced, very smooth and quite speedy in operation.

The test day opened my eyes to the continual improvements being made as each new excavator model  is bought online by the world’s manufacturers … in my opinion JCB has got it right here.

JCB-JS220-LC-excavator -body -3

The real strengths of the JCB JS220-LC


JCB has introduced the new EcoMAX T4i/Stage 3B engine, which uses up to 10 percent less fuel than the previous Tier 3 units. The EcoMAX produces high torque at 1500-1600 rpm, making for improved  fuel efficiency, aided by advanced auto-idle technology  which reduces engine speed when the hydraulics are not in use, and advanced hydraulic technologies including optimised pump settings.

Further to this the EcoMax T4i Engine does not require costly exhaust after-treatment so no heat resistant lube oils are required, the engine can run on lower grade fuels and there’s no diesel particulate filter (DPF) or selective catalytic reduction (SCR).

Structural advancements

Seeing the new JCB excavators next to the older models, it was easy to see at first glance that that there have been significant modifications made to the new range. Visually, the new models look more robust and powerful. 

The boom and dipper arms on the range have been built up quite markedly as JCB has introduced a new high-tensile reinforced dipper and boom with three- piece wrapper plates and cast ends for strength and durability.

The particular excavator I reviewed would be an ideal quarry machine as it has a good, solid grounding base, is well balanced, has a robust boom and dipper, boasts powerful hydraulics and has newly introduced graphite-impregnated bronze bushes in the boom and dipper arms, which reduces greasing intervals to 1000 hours in normal operation. All other grease points are centralised for safe and easy access.

JCB-call -to -action

Factory fitted and supplied options

The JCB JS220-LC comes fitted with a multitude of factory fitted safety options which save the end user/purchaser a bag full of cash and downtime during aftermarket fitment.

The JCB quick-hitch exceeds any current or foreseeable Australian mine or safety specification. The ‘Surelock’ system has twin locks incorporated into its manufacture and has a remote LED Light sensor located at the top end of the boom which indicates to the operator that the bucket is in safe and secure position for use.

The machine also comes fully fitted with compliant hand safety rails, dual hammer piping, integral rollover protection structure, or ROPS (a falling objects protection system, or FOPS, can be easily installed using existing fitting points), JCB’s GO2 Safety Level Lock, which isolates the hydraulics to avoid unintended movements, and anti-slip punched steel plates for steps and platforms.

JCB also has the option for the purchaser to go for full LED lighting and beacons, and equip the excavator with a full set of side- and rear-view mirrors for all-round visibility.

Also on offer from JCB is LiveLink, which is an innovative software system that lets you manage JCB machines remotely — online, by email or by mobile phone. You can access everything from machine alerts to fuel reports and history information, with all data stored at a secure centre.

JCB-JS220-LC-excavator -body -4

JCB's Deon Cope and Ron Horner check out the JS220-LC excavator.

The bottom line

Well, 40 years since my last opportunity to operate a JCB, I must admit that the JCB JS220-LC has certainly impressed me. JCB has designed and built a very tidy, mid-range, high-spec, competitively priced and innovative range of new excavators.

If the reliability and service of the excavator range can get anywhere close to that of the JCB backhoe range we could certainly find a new major player on the Australian market.

This range of diggers ticks a lot of boxes for the end user/purchaser, and the innovation coming out of Europe incorporated into the JCBs will make its mark on the industry.

If you are in the market for a new mid-range excavator and feel it’s time to look around for something that you may not have considered before may I suggest you have a look at the new range of excavators from JCB Construction Equipment Australia? Like myself I think you will be suitably  impressed.  

Click here to find JCB excavators for sale.

Click here to look up JCB excavator specifications.


Keep up to date on the industry by signing up to Trade Earthmover's free weekly newsletter. Be the first to know about new machines for sale.