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Cub Cadet lawn mowers get full makeover for 2015

Comfy seats and Bluetooth app mark redesigned machines

Published: September 19, 2014 02:45 PM
Photo: Michael Voorhees

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MTD, maker of Cub Cadet, Troy-Bilt and other outdoor-gear brands, seems to be going all-out to woo anyone considering a lawn tractor in the coming year. Consumer Reports got a preview of the company’s Cub Cadet XT 1 and Cub Cadet XT2 Enduro Series tractors, which show numerous upgrades from the previous line and some competitive pricing. We plan to buy them for our mower tests this winter in Florida.

The Cub Cadet XT1 Enduro Series starts with the LT 42, a $1,500 machine with a 42-inch stamped deck, an 18-horsepower Kohler Courage engine, a premium Tuff Torq hydrostatic transmission, and manual power takeoff (PTO). At the high end of the seven-model lineup is the GT 54 FAB, $3,000, which has a 26-hp, twin-cylinder Kohler 7000 engine, a higher-end Tuff Torq hydrostatic transmission, and electric PTO. It has a 54-inch, fabricated deck.

For $1,800, the XT2 Enduro Series LX 42 has the same 42-inch deck, Tuff Torq hydrostatic transmission, and manual PTO as the XT1 LT 42, but for the extra $300 you get an 18-hp, twin-cylinder Kawasaki FR Series engine. The six-model XT2 lineup ranges up to the $3,300 GX 54 FAB, which shares the 54-inch decks, transmission, and PTO of the XT1 GT 54 FAB but offers a 26-hp Kawasaki FR engine.

What impressed us at first blush, however, goes beyond the specs: These machines offer improved steering, better transmissions, and a more durable drive system. “I’m impressed with two things,” said Peter Sawchuk, who directs our outdoor power equipment tests. “First, there’s the ergonomic design—they paid a lot of attention to how you fit in the tractor—plus the contoured, high-back seat and position of the wheel. And for both the brake and engagement pedals, both are angled in a certain position that makes it comfortable for your foot to reach them with your foot.”

Ease of maintenance also stood out for Sawchuk. “The parts you need to get to, such as the oil, fuel and air filters, and how accessible they are shows a lot of forethought about the need for service,” he said. Both lines come with a five-year warranty on the chassis and front axle, and three years on the powertrain.

We’ve seen these decks before. The 42-inch, stamped deck is also found in MTD’s Troy-Bilt Mustang 42" 17WFCACS, $2,300, a zero-turn-radius rider that was among a select few machines to offer superb evenness in side-discharge mode, the most commonly used for riding machines. And the 54-inch deck, also found in the $3,000 Cub Cadet RZT L54, offered top-notch evenness in the same mode despite having three blades and a fabricated deck, two design factors that usually compromise cutting evenness.

Cub Connect app for Bluetooth
Photo: Geoff Teehan,Nelson Leung,Geoff Teehan,Nelson Leung,Geoff Teehan,Nelson Leung

Another innovation these machines offer was inevitable in this age of connected gear and appliances. The Cub Connect app for Bluetooth connects with the machines’ dashboards and gives you alerts for changing the oil and filters and performing other maintenance. You can also view the operator manual you misplaced, find your nearest dealer, and order parts.

As the industry readies outdoor power gear for the 2015 season, we’ll be following more announcements from MTD and several other manufacturers. And in late October we'll be reporting from the Green Industry Equipment + Expo in Louisville. If you’re looking for a late-season bargain, though, check out our mower buying guide and our Ratings of almost 170 mowers, lawn tractors, and riders.

—Ed Perratore (@EdPerratore on Twitter)

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