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Cub Cadet's zippy ZTR mower cuts like a champ

Cub Cadet’s zippy ZTR mower cuts like a champ

Over Consumer Reports years of testing hundreds of mowers and tractors, our engineers have developed certain expectations. One is that a lawn tractor or zero-turn-radius rider with three blades won’t cut as evenly as a smaller machine with only two. Another is that a so-called “stamped” mowing deck, with its sleek curves, has smoother airflow—and thus better cutting—than a box-like fabricated deck of welded plates. But in our latest tests, the zero-turn Cub Cadet RZT L54, $3,300, upset both those expectations. And that’s a good thing.

The 54-inch Cub Cadet RZT L54, like most of the zero-turn-radius machines in our mower Ratings, cut more evenly than any of the wide-deck lawn tractors we tested on our mowing fields in Fort Myers, Florida. And among zero-turn riders, it also matched the performance of a machine with one of the best decks we’ve seen, the top-rated Troy-Bilt Mustang 42″ 17WFCACS, $2,300, for the most commonly used mode, side-discharge cutting. MTD manufacturers both brands.

Three-bladed riding machines typically leave a ridge of slightly higher grass in the area cut by the middle blade, but the three-bladed Cub Cadet avoided this tendency. Fabricated decks, considered more durable and found mostly on commercial tractors, typically don’t perform as well aerodynamically because the squarish angles impede airflow. Nevertheless, the Cub Cadet RZT L54 defied the odds—largely because of a raised section of the deck that guides clippings higher for broader dispersal.

In addition to its performance in side-discharge mode, this rider also packed its bag to the brim in our tests in bagging mode. Fewer people tend to use a zero-turn-radius rider in bagging mode, but you might appreciate this capability if you bag either clippings or leaves. For bagging, it even outperformed the 42-inch John Deere X300, $3,000, one of the best baggers among lawn tractors.

Unfortunately, in our brand-repair survey, we lacked enough information to include Cub Cadet among brands of zero-turn-radius riders, but the data we do have suggest that the brand may be repair-prone. As a result, we did not include the Cub Cadet RZT L54 among our top mower picks.

Whatever machine you’re looking for, be sure to read our buying guide before viewing our Ratings of almost 170 walk-behind mowers, lawn tractors, and riders.

—Ed Perratore
(follow me on Twitter)

Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2006-2014 Consumers Union of U.S.

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