Photo blog: Kawasaki-KCM wheel loaders in action in Arizona

KCMA Corp. invited members of the trade press out to Wickenburg, Ariz., for a look at the newest updates in the Kawasaki-KCM Z7 wheel loader fleet. Kawasaki came out with its first articulated loader in Japan in 1962, and when you look at a timeline of Kawasaki wheel loaders over the years, little seemed to change in the design as the decades rolled. But that changed with the Z7 platform in 2012.

Some of the changes introduced in Wickenburg were driven by the era – with a focus on Tier 4 Final engines, efficiency, service and operator comfort – but other changes have been influenced by Kawasaki’s evolving relationship with Hitachi. The two companies formed a joint-venture relationship in 2010, but starting this October, Kawasaki KCMA is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Hitachi Construction Machinery. Both companies bring a perspective to the table that has made for a better overall platform, like incorporating an open-centered, load-sensing hydraulics system — common in excavators — in the new 90Z7, which provides a more controlled acceleration.

As for the compact equipment, the company is really excited about the future of its 42Z7 and 45Z7 wheel loaders – the fastest growing wheel loader segment in the lineup (up 20 percent this year). But those weren’t available for us to play with at the ranch.

The smallest machine on site was the 67Z7, which is a class with a lot of potential after undergoing a total redesign. Many features of the Kawasaki‐KCM 67Z7 are aimed at improving fuel efficiency and optimizing performance. The fuel efficient engine is aided by a hydrostatic transmission (which is unique in this class) to provide outstanding power at low fuel consumption. Two power modes are available to fit the application requirements. The efficient, proven Z‐linkage provides excellent digging performance. The standard Automatic Reversing Cooling Fan keeps the radiator cleaner and the systems running cooler. Patented HN bushings used in the loader linkage provide a lubrication reserve to allow for extended lubrication intervals up to as much as 500 hours.

So anyway, while there weren’t compact machines to play with, the rest of the fleet is still pretty awesome to look at. Behold:

Kawasaki wheel loaders

Here is Gary Bell, VP-GM of KCMA Corp., and overall guru of all things Kawasaki and all things wheel loader.

Kawasaki wheel loaders hydrostatic

The 90Z7 is equipped with a lockup torque converter, which improves fuel efficiency, acceleration and hill climb. To demonstrate, we saw a race between one machine with lockup on and one with it off. We’ll check back in on the race later.

KCMA Hitachi

The linkage and teeth on the bucket of this 115Z7 are unique to KCMA.

KCM bucket

Kawasaki wheel loaders race

We just started and the machine with lockup on is already pulling ahead.

KCM cooling system

With a Tier 4 Final engine, the cooling system is way more complicated.

Kawasaki wheel loaders 2

Maybe it won’t be a blow out?


KCM regeneration

KCMA’s Tier 4 Final engine will do away with the silver DPF system seen here. The emissions will be DOC/SCR only.

KCMA wheel loaders

Uh oh.

Kawasaki proximity sensors

Gary mentioned that the next era of equipment upgrades will have a big focus on safety. To that end, this machine is equipped with proximity sensors in the back that tie into a video monitor and alarm system in the cab.

Kawasaki safety

A look at the proximity safety system. When in reverse, if someone/thing is back there, a series of alarms are activated.

Kawasaki KCM 90z7

So, you get the point — with lockup engaged, these machines have great acceleration and are also more fuel efficient.


I haven’t turned the lockup off since I drove one home. Don’t tell anyone.