Meet the Tesla of mowers, the Cub Cadet RZT S42

This battery-powered mower is quiet and cuts like a champ

Published: April 02, 2014 02:00 PM

Cub Cadet RZT-S42 Zero

Trying to save the planet while taking care of the lawn has been a challenge. Green-minded homeowners have typically had to give up some cutting power or pay a lot more to avoid gas-powered mowing gear. But the battery-powered Cub Cadet RZT-S42 Zero not only was among the best-performing zero-turn-radius riders tested by Consumer Reports, but it also sells for $4,000—a premium over gas-powered machines, but well within the range of a good riding mower.

The 48-volt rider went through years of fine-tuning before its production version, which we first covered when it was selling in limited markets last year. But the latest model has old as well as new features. For starters, it has the same 42-inch deck as the top-rated Troy-Bilt Mustang 17WFCACS rider, at $2,300 a CR Best Buy. You’ll also see a steering wheel instead of levers for easier maneuvering and more control, especially on slopes. That’s an increasingly common feature on Cub Cadet zero-turn riders.

When you’re cutting, the deck’s design comes through with impressive evenness in side-discharge mode. Should you prefer to mulch or bag clippings, this isn’t the machine for you—it has one cutting mode—but most owners of lawn tractors and riding mowers send clippings out the side anyway. We also judged it superb for handling and ease of use.

And even when you’re cutting, this machine is quiet. How quiet? You don’t have to take our word for it. In the accompanying video, you’ll see chief tester Peter Sawchuk ride breezily past a few of the cattle egrets and white ibis that frequent our test site in Fort Myers, Florida. But that’s when he’s riding the electric rider. Just try to find a bird when he’s riding a gas machine.

Being a battery-powered unit, it needs none of the maintenance of gas-powered models. And with motors driving both the deck and the infinitely variable transmission, there are no belts to wear out. But after about six years, you might need to replace those four batteries for a cost (before labor) of $200 apiece. MTD, Cub Cadet’s maker, believes you’ll still come out ahead.

One concern: Cub Cadet has been among the more repair-prone of zero-turn-radius riders in our brand-repair history surveys. Nevertheless, MTD brands dominate the top ranks of our Ratings for zero-turn-radius riders. Besides the number-one Troy-Bilt Mustang 17WFCACS rider, a 42-inch model, the 50-inch Troy-Bilt Mustang 50" 17WFCACP, $2,800, scored only a bit lower for side-discharge evenness but was also top-notch for mulching.

Whenever you plan to shop, be sure to check out our buying guide for walk-behind mowers, tractors, and riders before checking our Ratings of almost 170 machines.

—Ed Perratore

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