All-wheel-drive mower from Toro is a winner

Tops competing models in Consumer Reports' mowing tests

Published: April 07, 2015 02:00 PM
Toro 20353

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The way a self-propelled mower handles depends on which wheels are being powered by the transmission. If you’re bagging clippings with a front-wheel-drive mower, the weight of the bag in the rear can cause the front wheels to lift, especially on a slope—meaning you end up doing all the pushing. Rear-wheel-drive mowers solve this problem, but steep hills can still pose a challenge, as can thick grasses such as St. Augustine and other southern varieties. These tricky situations are where all-wheel-drive mowers work best, and Toro has announced its first AWD mower, the $400 Toro 20353. The company joins Husqvarna and Craftsman, the only other brands with AWD models, but overall theToro performed the best.

The Toro's best cutting is in mulching mode, the most common for walk-behind mowers, but we found it impressive for bagging and side-discharge modes as well. We liked its premium, overhead-valve engine, which runs more efficiently and is easier to start than engines with side-valve designs, and there’s no-prime starting, too. This mower is one of seven we’ve seen with the Briggs & Stratton EXi engine, that we recently wrote about, whose oil should never need changing—though the manufacturer says you’ll still occasionally need to top it off.

Perhaps to keep the price lower in a machine that's sold at Home Depot, there’s no electric start. And because all four wheels are connected to the transmission, pushing the mower is easiest while the engine is running. Switch it off, and pushing it to your shed or garage can be a hard slog. We’ve seen this on every AWD mower we’ve tested.

There’s plenty more to talk about from our latest mower tests, so watch our news pages for further reviews. Be sure to check out our lawn mower buying guide for mowers and riders before viewing our lawn mower Ratings of 185 walk-behind models, lawn tractors, zero-turn-radius riders, and rear-engine riders. Our Ratings include survey-based brand-reliability scores.

—Ed Perratore (@EdPerratore on Twitter)

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