Cool extras don't improve the Raven hybrid mower

Mowing still a challenge for this speedy mower-ATV-generator combo

Published: May 15, 2015 04:15 PM
Photo: Kent Smith

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Denver Global Products’ Raven, a combination lawn tractor, ATV, and generator sold at Lowe’s, has had a spotty history considering myriad problems with the first version, which led to an eventual recall. But while we still can’t vouch for the $4,000 Raven MPV-7100’s cutting prowess, you might like what else it offers.

The Raven uses gas power for cutting and has a 46-inch deck you can remove if you want to putter around using the machine as an ATV. Whenever you’re not actually mowing, though, you can run on electric power at speeds up to 17 mph. The generator is 110-volt instead of 220V, so you can’t safely connect it to your home's transfer switch. But that’s not what it’s for; it’s meant to supply power for remote locations—in fact, anywhere beyond reach of a power cord.

Problems that plagued the earlier version, such as the surging over bumps seemingly caused by a switch that shuts the ignition off when you leave the seat, are gone. Judging from the few negative user reviews, we’ve seen, also fixed is a flaw in a faulty wire connection that allowed the blade to spin when it wasn't engaged.

Two peculiarities remain: Switching between cruising and mowing speeds requires you to step off the tractor, get on your hands and knees, and grope beneath the machine for a small lever you have to move from one detent to another. As with the earlier version, it might not budge unless you rock the tractor.

Moreover, the Raven’s brake is too close to the front panel for easy stopping. Even if you press the pedal with the ball of your foot, your toes might stop at the front panel. Braking, of course, is an action you need to be second-nature, nothing you actually need to think about, so we found this more than a little disturbing.

The Raven in our mowing tests.

The single-cylinder, Chinese-made Rato engine, automatic drive system, and electric power takeoff—along with a comfy high-back seat—made mowing easy. But the Raven MPV-7100 was the only lawn tractor we tested that we judged mediocre across the board. When side-discharging, the most common mode for riding mowers, it left noticeable windrows; in mulching mode, it left clumps (see photo). And in the machine’s bagging mode, we also saw lots of clumping where the chute from the deck makes a 90-degree turn on its way to the bag, with far fewer clippings in the bag than on the ground in the Raven’s wake.

In our tests, all of our recommended lawn tractors cut more cleanly in all modes than the Raven MPV-7100. Of these, top scores and high-quality features make the John Deere X300, $3,000, well worth its price. For $800 less, the Craftsman 20442, a CR Best Buy, has a larger deck, mulched more evenly, and can turn more tightly. You might also like its 6½-mph ground speed. While neither machine comes in camo like the Raven, you’ll be more pleased when you look back on what you just mowed.

If you haven’t shopped for a mower or tractor in a few years, be sure to check out our lawn mower buying guide before viewing our mower Ratings of more than 180 walk-behind and riding mowers.

—Ed Perratore (@EdPerratore on Twitter)

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