When Consumer Reports' mower testers heard about the speedy Raven MPV-710 lawn tractor with a built-in generator, they were excited to put it through its mowing paces. But it's been a bumpy ride for the $3,000 hybrid tractor. Shortly after our tests Lowe's, the exclusive retailer, halted sales when the manufacturer, Denver Global Products, found a flaw that allowed the blade to spin when it wasn't engaged. More problems followed and with the Consumer Product Safety Commission possibly looking into its safety issues, the Raven's future is uncertain.
At first, the notion of a hybrid, 46-inch tractor with a 17-mile-per-hour top speed and a built-in 7,100-watt generator seemed promising. Electric motors powered the blades without the usual drive belts that eventually need replacing. Unfortunately, it fell short as a mower and has drawbacks as a generator. In mowing mode, the low-angled side-discharge chute left rows of clippings. And while the Raven's generator delivered enough wattage to power our test appliances, handled surges well and provided consistent voltage, the receptacle for making the connection to the transfer switch was an impractical 120- rather than 240-volt.
Lowe's said it believes Denver Global is talking to the CPSC but did not elaborate. In our mower tests we found issues with the switch that shuts the ignition off when you leave the seat. And we've seen, but not confirmed, online user reviews that claim the tractor has battery and acceleration issues as well. But a recall hasn't been announced and the CPSC hasn't confirmed that it's evaluating the Raven.
Apparently, the Raven isn't the only problem at Denver Global. The president and nine other executives have reportedly left the company in a dispute with the manufacturer's Chinese owners. And Tuesday the website email@example.com reported that the company has laid off most its workers and that manufacturing has stopped.
To help owners of the Raven MPV-710, Lowe's has hired the service company Altaquip to make repairs. The retailer will also accept returns and can be contacted at 800-445-6937.
While the Raven was a disappointment, we found plenty of other models to choose from in our lawn-tractor Ratings. Top picks include the Snapper NXT2346, $2,800, and the John Deere D110, $1,700. We also especially liked two zero-turn-radius riders from MTD, the Troy-Bilt Mustang 17WFCACS, $2,300, and the larger Troy-Bilt Mustang 17WFCACP, $2,800.