Test: Maximal all-terrain forklifts

Deals on Wheels checks out the range of Maximal all terrain forklifts – the CWE series in particular of which Telelift is the importer, distributer and dealer.

Stu McLean started up Telelift six years ago after seeing a gap in the market. Telelift has 70 telehandlers in its hire fleet (which is the largest in New Zealand) with an additional 32 forklifts, while 20 Bobcat mini excavators are in a sister company called Al’s Diggers. The telehandler fleet consists of 60 JCB machines and 10 Merlo for the larger lift capacity of six tonnes or more.

The market for all-terrain forklifts is limited across New Zealand. However if you are venturing off metal even two-wheel drive (2wd) all-terrain forklifts are not bulletproof which usually leads to telehandlers carrying out these jobs. Maximal have brought out a four-wheel drive (4wd) version of its M 3.5T which is due in the country at the end of March.

The test

After a play in the yard we visited Oakley’s Premium Fresh Vegetables which is owned by Robyn Oakley in Southbridge and is one of Canterbury’s largest pack houses where they have the Maximal 2.5T all-terrain forklift as part of its fleet moving the hundreds of bins of potatoes, and crates of broccoli, beetroot and squash around the pack house and cool stores.

Phil is the main driver and operates the Maximal for the best part of each day and loves the larger wheels for the gravel area where the bins are stacked when not in use. You can’t get a conventional forklift to navigate its way around these areas without getting stuck in the loose gravel and the Maximal is performing better than the other machines in the fleet for yard work so much so they could justify an additional machine.

Maximal history

This machine is made in China. Established in 2006, Maximal Forklift Co employs 650 people with over 60 employees working in R&D.

Maximal make forklifts with lifting capacity from one to 32 tonne which covers a wide range of industries including large container forklifts for port applications and come with either gas, electric or diesel engines (depending on size). Present production sits around 30,000 forklifts per year from the 130,000m2 plant that are then exported to over 100 countries around the world.

Interestingly enough, Maximal have established a long-term relationship with the Chinese military and is now the largest supplier of material handling equipment to the largest army in the world with just shy of 2.3 million personal (the equivalent of half of New Zealand’s population).

Telelift _1

Machine features


Both the 2.5T and 3.5T machines are equipped with a Yanmar 3.3L four-cylinder diesel engine which develops 56.5hp and 200Nm of torque.


Essentially these machines have a torque converter transmission with two pedals that act as a brake and allow you to inch in to objects. The forward to reverse ratio is 1:1 allowing much faster cycle times as you can hoon backwards as quickly as you can go forwards.

Speaking of hooning around, the top speed of just over 20km/hr would be more than adequate for yard work. The Maximal range also has an automatic locking diff which helps bite in to increase traction which is particularly useful on loose, uncompacted gravel.


The operator station on the Maximal range is not as plush as many air conditioned cabs that many will be used to on larger machines. To be fair these machines are basic – simple and mechanical rather than fancy electronic fly by wire proportional controls.

In terms of operation the ROPS is on rubber mounts which takes the shock out but doesn’t wallow about and make you nauseous. The seat is comfortable and the three levers (lift, tilt and side shift) are all well placed. The left-hand shuttle is mounted on the tilting steering column and makes changing direction a breeze while operating the mast with your right hand.

The handbrake is very well located and can easily be applied as you are hopping off the machine. There is only one step to get up onto the seat although this is well positioned and the flat floor aids accessibility.

Telelift _6


This is the main point of difference between the conventional forklift and the all-terrain version. The bigger tyres help ground clearance obviously but it is the mast height from the ground (2.5T is 250mm, 3.5T is 284.5mm) which significantly reduces the risk of bellying which quite simply means they can go to more places.

The steering angle is 70 degrees with a 2.8m turning circle, making these machines very nimble even in tight spaces.

Mast and forks

The 2.5T machine has a mast width of 1.525m with a 4.2m max height while the lowered mast height measures just under 2.3m and tilt of 10 degrees with 1.1m forks. The big brother, the 3.5T, has a mast width is 1.6m, max height of 4.3m, the lowered mast height of 2.33m and has a maximum tilt angle of 12 degrees with 1.2m forks. All machines brought into New Zealand are equipped with side shift and have manual fork width adjustment.

Maximal 3.5T 4WD

As I mentioned earlier Maximal will soon be releasing the 3.5T 4WD rough-terrain forklift and should be in New Zealand from April. This machine is designed to take up roles in which telehandlers play in some vegetable growing operations.

The four-wheel-drive model has been beefed up to cope with the extra demands this will place on the machine with an advanced four wheel drive system, both the front drive and rear steering axle will be manufactured by DANA while Sauer Danfoss supply a hydrostatic transmission will take the torque converters place and wet brakes will take over from the drum brakes on the 2wd models.

The engine will still be the same 3.3L 4 pot Yanmar diesel and just looking at the machine you can tell it is built for some serious off roading.

The verdict

Keeping the affordable price in mind, the build quality actually looks pretty good. The mast particularly appears very well made. Don’t get me wrong, it will not be mistaken for some of its German engineered counterparts, but for an all-terrain forklift, the Maximal seems to tick all the right boxes.

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