Like No Other Machine: Test Run of Case’s DL550 Minotaur

Case created an entirely new equipment category when it launched its DL550 Minotaur – billed as a combination dozer and compact track loader.

In this episode of The Dirt, host Bryan Furnace, who is a professional equipment operator, spent eight hours operating the Minotaur recently and gives his views on what it’s like to run this groundbreaking machine.

“You’ve never run anything like this before,” Bryan says. “This thing is a beast.”

To get an inside look at what it’s like to operate the most-talked-about new construction machine of the year, check out this latest episode of The Dirt.

Equipment World serves up weekly videos on the latest in construction equipment, work trucks and pickup trucks – everything contractors need to get their work done. Subscribe and visit us at equipmentworld.com!

In this episode

00:00 Case Minotaur DL550 overview

4:44 Skid steer features

11:39 Dozer mode

17:10 Coupling and decoupling

19:10 Movement modes

21:58 Push ability

24:52 Things to consider with the Minotaur

32:37 Summary on the Case Minotaur


Video transcript:

Bryan (00:00):

Boy, do I have a machine for you guys today, but fair warning put on your big boy pants because this is not a beginner's machine. Hi everyone, welcome back to Equipment World. You're watching The Dirt. I'm your host, Bryan.

Bryan (00:20):

And today we're here to tackle the Case Minotaur or more commonly known within Case, the DL550. This is the new product category that Case is created. It is a true dozer skid steer combination. So if you're not familiar with the machine, a traditional dozer blade that goes on a skid steer doesn't have any real coupling to the frame of the machine.

Bryan (00:40):

And therefore it's always been a relatively ineffective grading tool. With the Case DL550 or the Minotaur, they actually have a C frame that pins to the frame of the machine, which really does turn this machine into a small dozer. This is a really capable, really versatile grading skid steer dozer combo machined.

Bryan (01:01):

It absolutely lives up to everything it was promised to be, but that being said, this is not a beginner's machine, but before we really dive deep, let's kind of start with the initial walk around. One of the first things that is apparent to you as soon as you step out of the truck is the size of this machine. This is a beast of a machine.

Bryan (01:21):

If you're going to compare this to a traditional skid steer, you're going to struggle on some of the small lots that you might want to get into. Mid-size lot, no problem whatsoever for this machine. It will be an efficient grading tool, but for some of your smaller residential lots, this sucker is not going to fit where a traditional skid steer would.

Bryan (01:39):

On top of the fact that you have a fairly lengthy track base, it is a beast of a machine, you also have a ripper package that hangs about two feet off of the back of the machine. So overall it's a pretty lengthy footprint. That's going to provide challenging for some of your smaller contractors that are doing small retaining wall projects or small yard restorations in a backyard of a quarter acre lock.

Bryan (02:01):

Things can get a little tight with this machine due to the size, but that being said, if you think about what it's trying to accomplish by being a combination machine, this machine's going to be able to sneak into a lot of tight places that you would never dream of getting a dozer into.

Bryan (02:14):

So there is this kind of weird straddling of the line. Whereas a contractor you'll have to kind of evaluate what sort of job sites you want to be able to get into with a machine of this caliber. Now another thing that's going to immediately stick out is the build quality.

Bryan (02:28):

Whether it's the ripper package, the final drives, the boom arms, the actual frame of the machine or the frame of the dozer package. This thing is built. I will say that I constantly was looking around and thinking about what a quality build this machine was. It is stout.

Bryan (02:46):

It is built to take the abuse that you're going to be dishing up by using this thing to push copious amounts of dirt. And let me tell you this thing pushes, we'll come back to that in a minute. Another thing that's going to stick out to you is the hydraulics package.

Bryan (03:00):

So this machine actually has kind of two hydraulic circuits, if you will, but one circuit, and this is common with its cousin machine the TV620, which is the largest skid steer Case released earlier this year, you do have one circuit that is dedicated to your standard flow, enhanced high flow and high flow hydraulics.

Bryan (03:18):

On the other side of your boom arms, you have a dedicated low flow circuit. This is limited to about eight gallons a minute. It's really there for some dozer functions, or if you had maybe a mulch head that you wanted to throw on and you wanted to operate the door hydraulically rather than putting on an electronic solenoid to control that door, you have the option of doing that.

Bryan (03:39):

It is a low enough flow circuit. You're never going to run any dedicated attachments off of that circuit. It's really there as an accessory circuit. Now that has its pluses and minuses. Again, we will come back to that, but overall, this machine is an absolute beast and it is very well built.

Bryan (03:57):

All of these things are going to be immediately apparent when you walk up to the machine. Now another thing you're going to notice is this is probably the first time in your life you've seen a skid steer, remember this is a new machine category that has steel tracks. This machine has the option to have steel single bar grouser tracks.

Bryan (04:16):

Similar to a dozer, if you don't know what single bar grousers are, you have the option for steel tracks with triple bar grousers which, again, if you're not familiar, that's like your excavator style tracks, or you can get a traditional skid steer rubber band style track.

Bryan (04:30):

And I will say, when you put the steel tracks on this machine, it looks mean. It is an awesome, awesome machine and you get a ton of power from this package. So let's get into the actual running of the machine. When it comes to the cab, I want to first approach this as a skid steer because we can all as operators wrap our heads around a familiar experience.

Bryan (04:51):

We'll dive into the dozer component here in a minute. When you get into the cab, one of the first things that's apparent to you is the controls. This doesn't have the skids to controls in it like you're used to in your B Series or Alpha Series skid. They actually have the T handles from the 1150 and up dozer line. The EH controls that you're familiar with, if you've ran a Case dozer.

Bryan (05:12):

That's what your controls are in this machine. My initial thought was that this was going to be weird and it was going to really mess with me. In reality, I didn't give it a second thought. It was natural. My hands fell right into place. It really wasn't a big deal. Now the second thing you're going to notice as you sit down in the machine is the commonality between the DL550 and the Case B Series skid steers.

Bryan (05:34):

A lot of your buttons, the monitor, a lot of it's going to be the same. And so you're going to be very familiar. You're going to feel very at home in this machine, but you are going to notice there's some additional buttons that have to do with the dozer coupling and uncoupling or switching from your regular dozer controls over to machine control.

Bryan (05:52):

You're also going to notice over on your right hand side that you have a ripper control and let's face it, we've never ran a skid steer with a ripper on it. So you've never seen that before. Lot of subtle changes, but at the same time, they're subtle enough that you don't feel totally overwhelmed if you've sat in a Case B Series skid before.

Bryan (06:10):

Now a third thing you're going to notice is when you shut the door to the machine, this is one of the small things that just really sticks out to me because I've ran Case for so long. They finally redesigned the front door so that you don't have that huge thick border around it that really limits your visibility.

Bryan (06:25):

They have redesigned the front door to look a lot more like the Caterpillar style door on skid steers. You have much better visibility. Now unfortunately this only applies to the regular glass. If you're a land clearing guy that needs that demo door, unfortunately, as of right now, you're still stuck with that big fat black border.

Bryan (06:43):

But overall, this is a very comfortable and easy machine to get into and really be familiar with assuming you're in skid steer mode and you're looking at it as a skid steer. Now they did do away with the H pattern. And I hate to break that to some of you guys, but in this machine, it doesn't really make sense to continue to have the H pattern.

Bryan (07:02):

And so your pattern selector now is where you switch between skid steer mode and dozer mode. Now as we talk about running the machine, I'm just going to be honest with you guys. It's going to be very difficult to cover everything. There's just so much to take in with this machine, but I do want to hit some of the highlights.

Bryan (07:19):

The first thing you're going to notice is you have the option to run your left hand control like a skid steer, where you are using that for speed, you have the flexibility to be able to move that joystick along the whole axis. Or if you push it all the way forward or pull it all the way back, you actually go into a dent and it locks in more like a dozer.

Bryan (07:40):

This is really awesome because it also gives you the option through the menu system to change your foot pedal to an accelerator pedal, like a traditional skid steer. A diesel pedal, like a dozer or transmission mode. Which again like a dozer, you can run the engine at full RPM, and now you're just controlling the track speed with your foot pedal.

Bryan (07:58):

So you can legitimately run this thing like a dozer even when you are in skid steer mode, you just are using a bucket and boom arms instead of having a blade out in front of you. It's really nice. And I actually found myself using this feature way more than I thought I would when I was doing my cleanup work, where I just wanted to kind of go through and smooth everything off.

Bryan (08:17):

Instead of really having to hold that joystick back, I would just click it back into its D10 position and really control my track speed with my foot pedal while I continued to feather my bucket however I needed to. That wasn't something I thought would be that handy and yet it turned out to be really handy.

Bryan (08:33):

Similarly, and this one blew my mind the first time they mentioned it. If you think about it, when you're in a skid steering you back up and you turn it to the right, your butt end of the machine is going to go one direction. If you're in a dozer and you turn it to the right in reverse, your butt end is going to go a different direction.

Bryan (08:50):

I had to really think about that because it's one of those things as operators we never think about. The cool thing is through your menu system on the screen, you can change the way the machine reacts. If you want it to react like a dozer, even when you're in skid steer mode, you can do that.

Bryan (09:06):

If you want it to always act like a skid steer, even when you're in dozer mode, you can do that. If you want to have the skid steerer act like a dozer and the dozer act like a skid steer, you can do that. You can totally customize the way this machine moves so that it makes sense to your brain. So that in real time when you're operating, and I did this a couple times where my hands would get backwards, no sweat.

Bryan (09:27):

Take it out of operate mode, go into your menus. It's very quick to get in there. Change that option over, hit your operate button. And now you're live with the new movements. It's very well thought out. It's very well planned and it's very quickly to navigate through, to get to these options in the menus. It's really, really nice.

Bryan (09:45):

Now another thing you're going to notice on your controls is instead of having a one button rabbit turtle mode, you actually have a turtle button and a rabbit button. Case has done something very interesting here. Traditionally, on a skid steer, you have high range or you have low range, you have rabbit mode or turtle mode.

Bryan (10:02):

What Case has done is they've actually split both of those. So you have high mode, H1 and H2, or you have low mode, L1 and L2. Again, this is one of those functions that when I was initially told about it was like, "Cool guys. I don't think I'll ever use that." And then I found that I was using it all the time.

Bryan (10:20):

And I'll tell you again, when I was going through doing all of my slick off, the way I typically do things is I'll load up about three quarters of a bucket and then I will use it like a land plane to just kind of clean everything up, shave everything and slick it off. Well, if I'm going around in H2 or a traditional high range, sometimes you just don't quite have enough torque.

Bryan (10:40):

The machine starts to bog, when you kind of get a little buildup of material on your bucket. Instead of having to drop all the way down to full on turtle mode, where you feel like you're coming to a crawl, I would just bump it down by one. And now I've dropped into H1. And most of the time, I would say probably 90% of the time, that would give me just enough torque that I could get my speed back up.

Bryan (11:01):

And once that kind of pressure alleviated off the system, I would bump it back up and we're back in H2, but there were a couple times where H1 still wasn't quite there. And so I could very quickly bump into L2, which is the top range of your low range. And still we're not at a crawl. It's just dropping enough speed that I can keep up with the material that's building up on my bucket.

Bryan (11:22):

And as soon as I shed some of that material, boom, I step back up to H1, boom, step back up to H2 and we're again, grading at full speed. A really, really handy feature. Absolutely loved it and used the snot out of it despite my initial remark about not really wanting to use it.

Bryan (11:39):

Now we start to get into dozer mode. The initial knee-jerk when you get into the cab with the dozer package is I'll never be able to grade with this. I can't see anything.

Bryan (11:49):

So when you get into the machine with the dozer package hooked up, if you think about it as a traditional operator operating a traditional dozer, your visible areas, the areas that we use to grade are generally going to be your blade corners or the area directly behind the blade because we're monitoring what our cuttings are doing.

Bryan (12:09):

When do we run out all of the material on our blade so that we can start to reverse and make our next pass? We're looking behind the blade. Because the blade is tucked up so close to this machine, you can't see either one of those areas. If you angle your blade way off, you can start to see your blade corners.

Bryan (12:25):

If you want to see your blade corners while you are grading with the blade flush against the machine, you're going to be leaned all the way forward in the cab. It's just, there's no getting around it.

Bryan (12:41):

That is where you're getting your feedback. You totally have to get into this machine, and I'm just going to fair warn all of you guys. You have to get into this machine as an operator. Not as someone who is thinking you're running a dozer and you're going to be able to pick this up again in five minutes.

Bryan (12:57):

You have to get into this machine as an operator, recognizing that this is a brand new machine category. You've never ran this before. You've never ran anything like this before. And so you can't go into this thinking, you're going to run it like a dozer because you will fall on your face.

Bryan (13:13):

The biggest analogy I can give you to try to prepare you for what you were in for is go from a D8 dozer that you can do a fine grade that is just smooth as glass. And now I want you to jump into a D3 and try to grade. You're going to spend three or four days miserable, fallen on your butt with all the Hoopties you're putting into your grade, because you're not used to the short track base.

Bryan (13:38):

Not only do you have an ultra short track base, but now you've lost all of your visual indicators as to when you are starting your cut in the ground. That is one of the first things I noticed. It's very difficult initially to figure out when you've even engaged the ground with your blade, because you don't have the visibility that you do with a traditional dozer.

Bryan (13:58):

And so again, for the first four or five hours, you're totally leaned forward in that cab, looking at your blade, trying to figure out when you're engaging.

Bryan (14:07):

Now that being said, if you go into this as an operator and don't try to get into this comparing it to everything you've ever known, you will actually start to be able to grade with this machine after about four to six hours of seat time.

Bryan (14:21):

In the beginning, it's going to be miserable. You're going to dive that blade into the ground. You're going to be making Hoopties left and right. And it's going to be, go back to day one of operating a dozer. Remember that frustration. Remember the anger you felt as you made a motocross track on that beautiful finished grade you were trying to create.

Bryan (14:38):

You're going to go back through that whole learning process. It is a difficult machine to grade with because of all of the things we've discussed. Now that being said, in this review, one of the most important things to me me was to spend enough seat time that I could confidently walk away and say, yes, you can do finished grades in this machine without machine control.

Bryan (14:59):

And I can confidently sit here and tell, you as an operator, it will take you probably a good, let's see, three to five days, comfortably three to five days in this machine before you'll be able to finish grade, but you can 100% finish grade in this machine. By about six hours in the cab, I was able to get a good 50 foot long run that was nice and smooth.

Bryan (15:25):

It looked like I had thrown it down with a dozer. It was work and it was a very frustrating six-ish hours to get there, but at the same time, I can confidently sit here and tell you, yes, you can indeed finish grade with this machine. Now I do want to start to talk about the actual coupling and decoupling process.

Bryan (16:55):

This is so well implemented. I cannot stress this enough. It is intimidating. The first time you look at that sea frame sitting on the ground and the actual skid coupler that you get into it is intimidating. It is. I don't know how I'm going to be able to get into this and hook it up without breaking something.

Bryan (17:12):

It's actually really well implemented and it's very simple. It's very similar to hooking up a skid steer attachment. Now there are a few extra steps, but overall I can confidently tell you as well, once you've done this a handful of times, I could easily switch out the bucket to the blade in about two minutes, just a hair longer than doing a traditional skid steer attachment.

Bryan (17:33):

It basically involves going in with your skid steer plate and coupling to the dozer. And then what you're going to do is you are actually going to curl your bucket all the way back tight to the machine. You're going to push your operate button. You're going to switch over to dozer mode.

Bryan (17:49):

And in dozer mode, you will then raise up the blade until the C frame falls into, and I'm just going to try to give you a hand gesture so you understand, there is actually a little pocket that the C frame will sit down into, and it is then perfectly aligned with your pens. And then just like you would couple a bucket, you have a second button that is for your C frame pens.

Bryan (18:14):

You will pop your C frame pins out, and you are now mounted to the machine with the dozer blade. You take it out of operate mode. You jump out of the cab. You have four hydraulic lines to hook up and boom, you're totally hooked up. You're ready to go. Dozer mode, engage. That's all there is to it.

Bryan (18:29):

I wish it were more complicated so that this machine would require more skill to hook into and I could claim to be the world's greatest operator because I mastered it so well, but again, Case implemented this so well, I could take anyone watching. I could take my six year old son out there and within five minutes, I could have him hooking and unhooking that attachment with no problem whatsoever.

Bryan (18:52):

Very, very great design. Again, when it comes to your movement mode, what happens to the machine when you put it in reverse and angle one way or another, totally customizable in the options. It's great. You actually have a series of, I believe it is six. I can't remember. Please don't quote me on this, but I believe it is six different virtual gears, if you will, because again, this is a hydrostatic transmission.

Bryan (19:15):

But you actually have the ability to step up and down through gears as you would in a traditional dozer. You've, again, as we discussed in skid steer mode, you have the dent, you can change your pedal over to accelerator decelerator or transmission mode.

Bryan (19:31):

It's so intuitive that really the difficulty in running this machine is not wrapping your head around the fact that you're in a skid steer that's acting like a dozer. When you couple this dozer package onto the machine, you're mentally just flip over into dozer mode and you just go run it like any other dozer.

Bryan (19:48):

It really doesn't require any great transition of your brain or any specialized training. You just already know what to do in a dozer. The challenge is the lack of visibility of the bottom of the blade in your corners and the short track base. It makes it extremely difficult to grade just right out of the shoot.

Bryan (20:07):

You are going to have to spend time learning this machine. Now another thing that I love about Case on their dozers that has carried over to the Minotaur is you do have a fine grade button. So you have your traditional blade shake button too, which I've always been a big fan of, but you also have a fine grade button.

Bryan (20:22):

And essentially what that does is it take your slowest settings, which by the way, that's another aspect I haven't covered. All of your hydraulic settings are customizable in the menu system for speed and that is tilt, angle, your boom up and bucket curl functions. Everything is individually adjustable for your needs, for whatever you want it to be.

Bryan (20:46):

And by the way, you can store profiles in this machine as well. That's for hydraulic flow, for attachments, it's all of your settings for your blade control. It's all of your settings for your boom and bucket control. You can store all of those independent.

Bryan (21:00):

And I can have my own user code so that whenever my buddy Rick gets in the machine, he can put in his code, boom, the machine is all set to his preferences. When I get back in the machine, I put in my code, boom, all of my preferences are back, but you do have the adjustability to customize all of these functions.

Bryan (21:18):

But in addition to the customization within the menu system, Case offers fine grade mode, which takes your hydraulic controls for your blade and ultra slows them down. So when you're doing those last couple of passes that you really want to look like glass, assuming you've learned how to grade in this machine, you can hit that fine grade mode and it's beautiful.

Bryan (21:37):

I've always loved this about the Case dozer line. I love the fact that they've carried that over to the Minotaur. Now let's talk about the actual pushability of this machine. I cannot stress enough how impressed I was with the amount of material this machine pushed. This thing is a beast.

Bryan (21:57):

I cannot tell you, I probably went into three to four different piles and thought, there's no way this thing's even going to be able to move this pile. I'm just going to bog it, or we're going to sit here and spin the tracks. I was wrong over and over and over again.

Bryan (22:11):

This machine continued to impress me with the amount it could push. By far and away, as to be expected, the single bar grousers were the absolute winner when it came to the amount of material the machine could push. Now what shocked me is that the rubber band tracks were a close second.

Bryan (22:28):

I know a lot of guys are really struggling with whether they should go with the single bar grousers and really limit their ability to get into some job sites, but they really want that push power. Or should we go with the rubber band tracks and we're going to lose on some of the push power, but it gives me more availability to get into different jobs.

Bryan (22:46):

I'm going to tell you guys right now, the difference between the single bar grousers and the rubber band tracks was not nearly as big as I thought it was going to be. There is, I don't know if it's just the low ground or I'm sorry, the high ground pressure, because it's a narrow track.

Bryan (22:59):

I don't know if it's the weight of the machine or if it's just the design of the tread on the rubber bands, but those suckers would push almost as well as the single bar grousers. Don't get me wrong, single bar grousers were a clear winner, but it was not by nearly the margin that I thought it was going to be.

Bryan (23:17):

Now when it comes to the triple bar grousers, I'm going to be totally honest here, I think that's going to be a pretty limited market for Case's customer base. It's really going to be for those guys that for the most part are doing land clearing projects, ride of way clearing, stuff like that where the rubber band tracks get torn up, but you don't really need the full on steel single bar grousers.

Bryan (23:38):

The problem that you face with the triple bar grousers is exactly what you see in excavators. As soon as you get into some sticky clay, as soon as you get into some wet conditions, those triple bar grousers load up with material. And now you're just sitting on a bunch of drag slicks and you don't really have any traction.

Bryan (23:56):

Of the three track packages, the triple bar grousers push the least amount of material. Now again, in a land clearing application, I would absolutely choose the triple bar grousers and it would be a great track option. But overall, I think you're going to see a lot more contractors going with either the single bar grousers or the rubber bands.

Bryan (24:15):

This has been a blitz of covering this machine, and I would love to spend more time going into detail. But unfortunately when you only get about eight hours with a machine, and you're trying to recap all of this in a reasonable amount of time, there's only so much we can do.

Bryan (30:41):

It's really going to take a contractor taking this machine out for a week and spending all week with one operator really learning that machine to learn the capabilities of it. So all of that to say, that's kind of my overall thoughts on the Minotaur. Overall, I think it's a fantastic machine.

Bryan (31:01):

I think Case did a phenomenal job in delivering exactly what they said they would. Is it going to take some time for the industry to learn it? Absolutely. This is not, and I said it in the beginning, this is not a beginner's machine. This is not a machine that you can get into.

Bryan (31:17):

If you don't have any machine experience and you want to start your business, I would not encourage you to get this machine. If you have a rag tag banded crew that sort of knows how to run some equipment, this machine is not for you.

Bryan (31:32):

This machine is for companies that have some dedicated operators with a high skill set that has an open mind. You have to have an open mind with this machine. Assuming you have those things, this machine will 100% deliver on all of those promises.

Bryan (31:47):

Because the other aspect that I haven't mentioned is even if you never get to a point where you really get the Hoopties totally out of your system, the beauty is it still turns back into a skid steer. So you can get your grade 80 to 90% of the way there and it still looks a little rough, but then you drop your dozer package.

Bryan (32:05):

You flip over to your Harley rake or your bucket, and you do your finish passes. And within 15 minutes, you've got a beautiful grade that you were able to get all of your bulking done four times faster with the dozer package equipped.

Bryan (32:17):

I mean, this machine has a lot of capability and a lot of versatility, but it's going to take educating those contractors on how to properly use this thing. So all of that to say, fantastic machine. Thank you again for Case for having me out to actually spend some seat time in this thing.

Bryan (32:35):

Absolutely. Absolutely. I would encourage you guys to check out this machine. It is going to be a game changer for a lot of contractors. And when you really talk about killing mobilization fees, increasing efficiency, if you can get past that education standpoint, this will do those things and you will be much more competitive than all of your competitors.

Bryan (32:56):

So as always, I hope this has been helpful. Thank you guys for watching and we'll catch you guys on the next episode of The Dirt.