2014 Zero-Turn Mower Preview

It appears as though manufacturers of commercial zero-turn riding mowers have had their engineers working overtime as of late. Many mower makers are offering numerous updates, improvements and brand-new models for this season. It's no wonder. With commercial riding mower shipments to distributors and dealers expected to see double-digit growth this year, new products sporting improved features and new technologies will be first to grab landscape contractors' attention in the lead-up to spring.

An overarching trend in the commercial riding mower category relates to fuel. Electronic fuel-injection engines (primarily from Kohler), which help to significantly reduce fuel consumption, have become common. Propane-powered mowers are also on the move. The Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) says 16 mower manufacturers now offer propane models. Kohler has even developed a double whammy: an EFI propane engine initially offered to Exmark and Toro but soon expanding to other manufacturers. And then there's John Deere, who collaborated with Kohler to develop a "flex fuel" zero-turn compatible with ethanol blends up to E85.

In addition to fuel efficiency and alternatives, mower manufacturers continue to emphasize productivity. Some of this year's new models feature larger drive systems (14cc or 16cc pumps and wheel motors) for faster speeds. A variety of suspension systems are designed to improve both operator comfort and cut quality.

Rear-discharge decks are also getting more attention. Several manufacturers—including Exmark, Toro, Hustler, Walker and Grasshopper—have expanded their offerings of rear-discharging mowers over the past couple of years.

Finally, "high-tech" is finding its way to commercial mowing equipment. For example, Husqvarna's SmartSwitch allows for key-less operation, while also offering real-time feedback on battery performance. Technology from Exmark (RED) and Toro (Horizon) also offer real-time feedback. These technologies constantly measure a host of mower vital signs to guard against catastrophic engine and equipment failure. RED and Horizon can also make important decisions for the operator, such as which performance mode to select depending on mowing conditions.

Here's a look at what some of today's leading brands of commercial zero-turn mowers have been up to.

Altoz Mowers

New for this year. The Altoz line of zero-turn mowers was first introduced at GIE+EXPO this past October. Thus, they'll be seeing their first season of action this spring. The mowers feature an Aero Deck cutting system with adjustable baffles for an enhanced cut quality. The TorqFlex suspension system, 26-inch tires, vibration and engine isolation systems, and 10-way adjustable seat with lumbar support help to provide greater rider comfort. The frame, I-beam front arms, drive system, deck spindles, fork casters and wheel bearings are all heavy-duty for durability. Dual-range Hydro-Gear transmissions and a large range of horsepower options allow for speed, while models with two 7-gallon gas tanks allow for greater productivity. The Altoz mowers also have a patent-pending design, in addition to a race car-inspired style.  Request more information

Country Clipper

New for this year. For the 2014 model year, the Challenger and Defender have remained largely unchanged. The Charger has been upgraded with larger hydraulic pumps and wheel motors, allowing the unit to run cooler while increasing the ground speed. These components have also been positioned for easier removal for service. The hydraulic belt system has been redesigned to increase belt life. Additionally, the 2014 Charger has an improved parking brake, along with improved weight and balance, giving operators a lower center of gravity.

What makes Country Clipper mowers different. Only Country Clipper offers a joystick steering option. This feature provides a unique operating experience, while leaving operators with a free hand for moving low-hanging limbs or enjoying their favorite beverage. Country Clipper's exclusive stand-up deck allows quick, easy access to the underside of the deck for routine maintenance and cleaning.  Request more information

Dixie Chopper

New for this year. Several new models are being introduced for 2014, specifically in the residential and entry-level commercial families. The Zee 2 welcomes two new "high-performance models" with bigger transaxles, better engines and an upgraded seat. The Magnum series has been divided between residential and entry-level commercial. The Residential Magnum series includes 44-, 50- and 60-inch models all powered by Kawasaki FS engines. The Magnum HP series includes a 50- and 60-inch model powered by a Kawasaki FX engine, and a 50-inch option with a Kohler EFI.

What makes Dixie Chopper mowers different. Dixie Chopper mowers feature stainless steel fenders which cover the fuel tanks. Dixie Chopper has patented several other features including the exclusive Turf Boss Tires and Operator Controlled Discharge Chute (OCDC). Springer Forks and suspension seats found on some models are designed to greatly improve operator comfort.  Request more information

Exmark

New for this year. Exmark has introduced a number of innovations for 2014, highlighted by the expansion of the company’s exclusive RED technology (introduced in 2013) to 52-inch Lazer Z X-Series models. The company has also made its new UltraCut Rear-Discharge cutting deck available as an option on its popular Lazer Z S-Series zero-turn rider. Exmark has also introduced a powered dump option to the Navigator dedicated bagging mower, and a new Air Ride seat option for Lazer Z and Navigator models. The Air Ride seat allows easy, from-the-seat adjustments of pneumatic pressure for operators of varying weights.

What makes Exmark mowers different. The Exmark Lazer Z is the number one zero-turn rider with landscape professionals. In fact, it’s preferred more than two-to-one over its nearest competitor, Exmark says—and that's because Exmark mowers are designed to cut better and last longer than other options. Exmark mowers feature innovations that make contractors more productive and profitable, including exclusive RED Technology, patented operator comfort technologies, and "industry-leading" EFI-propane zero-turn and wide-area walk-behind models. Exmark says that innovation is obsessively tested to deliver the performance, cut quality and durability landscape professionals demand.  Request more information

Ferris

New for this year. Ferris introduced its new six-model IS 2100Z lineup at GIE+EXPO 2013 in October. “The IS 2100Z offers commercial cutters great flexibility in terms of engine and mowing deck options so they can easily add units that fit in with their existing fleets,” says Bill Shea, vice president of commercial sales, Briggs & Stratton Power Products Group. The six models are:

  • 26 gross-hp Vanguard V-twin with 52-inch deck
  • 25.5 gross-hp Kawasaki FX801V with 52-inch deck
  • 26 gross-hp Vanguard V-twin with 61-inch deck
  • 25.5 gross-hp Kawasaki FX801V with 61-inch deck
  • 32 gross-hp Vanguard Big Block with 61-inch deck
  • 29 gross-hp Kohler Command Pro EFI with 61-inch deck

All six models feature:

  • Ferris iCD cutting system for improved airflow, discharge and quality of cut
  • Patented Ferris independent suspension with rear-coil-over shocks and front, adjustable shocks
  • Hydro-Gear ZT-5400 powertrain
  • Easily removable floor pan
  • Heavy-duty bumper
  • Ergonomic control panel
  • Adjustable seat
  • Foldable ROPS  Request more information

Grasshopper

New for this year. Grasshopper will offer a new PowerVac collector for select Front-Mount power units—Model 15B HighLift—which allows operators to raise the collector and empty clippings from the seat with ease, putting clippings precisely where they want them: into the center of a pickup bed or trailer. Grasshopper has also expanded its fuel-efficient mower line with the addition of two electronic fuel injection models: 327EFI and 727TEFI powered by second-generation, Delphi-based 747cc Kohler Command Pro EFI engines. EFI enhances fuel efficiency by monitoring and adjusting for external and internal engine factors, and speeds resolution of service issues with plug-in, automotive-style diagnostics.

What makes Grasshopper mowers different. Grasshopper says its True ZeroTurn mowers are designed with the operator in mind, providing the lowest center of gravity, easiest control and most comfortable ride while delivering the finest quality of cut. Cutting-edge design and manufacturing processes combine to create machines that are lighter on turf, heavier on power and easier on the environment. Design-matched transmissions with "best-in-class" fluid change intervals, commercial components and service-friendly designs make Grasshopper mowers "built to last" while reducing overall cost of ownership and operation, season after season. Grasshopper also offers a range of all-season implements for increased productivity and profitability all year long.  Request more information

Husqvarna

New for this year. SmartSwitch is bringing the convenience of one-touch starting, real-time feedback and “key-less” security to Husqvarna riding mowers. SmartSwitch is a microprocessor-enabled electronic interface designed for use with Husqvarna’s exclusive Endurance Series engines featuring ReadyStart automatic choke systems. SmartSwitch will initially be available on select RZ series zero-turn and GT series garden tractors starting in February 2014. Other features include:

  • Key-less operation eliminates potential for lost keys or dead batteries when keys are left on (since the system automatically shuts down after a period of inactivity)
  • Button shows current battery status and/or charging system malfunctioning
  • Microprocessor-controlled display indicates if parking brake, cutting deck or steering levers need to be corrected prior to a start attempt

What makes Husqvarna mowers different. Husqvarna says its new M-ZT series zero-turn mower takes performance, productivity and comfort to a whole new entry-commercial level. The intuitive operator interface, heavy-duty steel frame and commercial-rated hydraulic system are packaged to create the ultimate mowing experience. With a rugged fabricated steel deck that is mulch- and collection-capable, the M-ZT is practical for all of your property maintenance needs. Plus, the high-back seat with armrests and adjustable ergonomic steering levers will provide a more comfortable ride.  Request more information

Hustler

New for this year. Hustler has introduced the Raptor SD for 2014. This is a residential mower that features a Kawasaki V-twin engine, heavy-duty fabricated frame, fully welded steel deep decks, and large 20-inch rear and 13” x 6.5” front tires. Deck sizes include 48, 54 and 60 inches. The Raptor SD is backed by a three-year limited warranty.

What makes Hustler mowers different. All Hustler mowers have fabricated steel frames and fabricated steel decks. All mowers feature a patented automatic park brake system built into the steering levers. Hustler says its mowers are built with simplicity and ease of maintenance designed in, and all offer industry-leading warranties.  Request more information

John Deere

New for this year. The Z950 joins the M Series of ZTrak commercial mowers. With a 27-hp engine, the Z950M has a top speed of 10 mph. The model is offered in 60-inch, 60-inch Mulch On Demand, and 72-inch widths, and comes equipped with a 7-Iron deck for maximum durability. To enhance operator comfort, the new model offers the option of an isolation seat or a fully adjustable suspension seat. For easier cleanup on the jobsite, an optional, integrated material collection system provides a Dump-From-Seat option to increase ease of use. The Z950M comes with a three-year/1,200-hour warranty.

What makes John Deere mowers different. The industry-exclusive Mulch On Demand option puts the power to choose mulching or side-discharge at the operator’s fingertips. This saves time, increases efficiency and keeps every surface—from driveways to sidewalks to flowerbeds—looking neat and clean. With a handy lever, operators can switch from side discharge to mulching without ever leaving their seat. Additionally, John Deere’s 7-Iron decks are stamped from a single sheet; there are no welds or corners on the underside, and no place for clippings to collect and clump. The deep deck provides enhanced airflow so material can be processed quickly and efficiently.  Request more information

Kubota

New for this year. As Kubota’s fastest zero-turn mower, the Z700-Series is designed for easy operation and increased productivity to deliver professional-grade results. New features include a wide operator platform for more legroom; a padded, high-back, adjustable seat for added comfort; and a convenient storage box and cup holder to help keep operators hydrated and productive.

Additionally, Kubota's line of revamped front-mounts includes the F3990 with the highest-ever horsepower among all Kubota front-mount mowers. All models are designed to offer powerful yet more economical and cleaner performance, greater safety, easier maintenance, superior operator comfort, as well as a higher level of productivity and reliability.

What makes Kubota mowers different. Kubota’s Z700-Series features powerful Kohler Command V-twin engines and integrated Parker 14cc pump and wheel motors. Mowers also feature a convenient deck height adjustment dial.

The F90-Series offers multiple innovations for enhanced comfort, power, traction and versatility with cleaner emissions. Each model has a 16.1-gallon fuel tank and single speed-pedal hydrostatic transmission for quicker response and increased working speed, while the auto-assist 4WD forward/reverse ensures greater efficiency with appropriate traction while preventing landscape damage. Heavy-duty implement options include a snowblower, debris blower, front blade, grass catcher, 100-inch flexdeck and rotary sweeper.  Request more information

Land Pride

New for this year. The ZT3 was introduced mid-year in 2013. For 2014, the seat has been upgraded to one of the most comfortable in the industry, according to Land Pride. Beyond those cosmetic changes, the unit will remain unchanged in 2014.

What makes Land Pride mowers different. Land Pride says this ZT3 incorporates a heavy-duty frame into a zero-turn mower that’s easy on the operator. The floating front axle and Tele-Caster suspension, both standard features, allow the wheel forks to absorb the rough terrain, helping to keep the deck level. The Land Pride ZT3 also features a 27-hp, air-cooled Kawasaki engine for lasting performance. The blades spindles are 1-3/8-inch Stressproof shafts with cast iron housing. The drive system is manufactured by Hydro-Gear. Drive belts are Gates. The ZT3 comes with a three-year, 750-hour limited warranty.  Request more information

Toro

New for this year. The 8000 Series Direct Collect Z is designed to provide a manicured cut thanks to a powerful blower that moves more air, allowing large volumes of material to be thrown into the hopper. The rear-discharge deck lets operators trim on either side. Toro is also offering the new Z Master Professional 5000 Series EFI rear-discharge models, which provide for higher fuel efficiency and the ability to handle taller grass and maintain clippings.

Select Z Master Professional 6000 EFI models now feature Horizon Technology, an onboard intelligence platform that improves fuel efficiency and productivity. This new feature allows communication between key systems on the machine to enhance performance in a wide range of conditions.

What makes Toro mowers different. Select Z Master models feature the patented adjustable discharge baffle on the Turbo Force deck which modifies the cutting chamber for a "superior" cut. The fully welded, high-strength steel construction and bull-nose front bumper help resist impact damage. On EFI models, closed-loop EFI technology improves fuel efficiency by up to 25% and offers easier starting, lower emissions and longer run time. Deluxe suspension seats feature thick cushions, large bolsters and 3-D isolator mounts that absorb bumps and vibrations.  Request more information

Walker

New for this year. The MT25i uses an OHV V-twin, air-cooled Kohler engine with Delphi EFI technology that delivers responsive, fuel-efficient performance—and a savings of over 30% compared to similar engines with a carburetor, Walker data shows. Designed for powerful acceleration and quick throttle response, the mower also features built-in diagnostics and a service light on the instrument panel to simplify troubleshooting. The tilt-open body and tilt-up deck allow easy access to the engine compartment and under the deck. The 10-bushel catcher and 10.5-inch grass-handling blower simplify leaf and debris collection. The MT25i is compatible with all Walker collection decks and most side-discharge and mulching decks. A number of implements and attachments are available.

What makes Walker mowers different. The compact size of the Walker allows it to get in and out of compact spaces. Plus, Walker says the unique steering configuration makes its mowers more agile than its competitors' machines. An internal grass-handling system collects grass through the center of the mower and delivers it into a catcher box in the rear of the mower. Walker’s trademark beautiful cut and a variety of versatile year-round attachments help make the Walker "different for the right reasons," the company says.  Request more information

Worldlawn Power Equipment

What makes Worldlawn mowers different. Worldlawn Power Equipment says reliability and value are the cornerstones of its mowers. Engineers strive to combine new and emerging technologies with world-class components to create a highly dependable product with a surprisingly affordable price point, the company says. Honda and Kawasaki FX engines are combined with Hydro-Gear powertrains. Triple-laminate cutter housing mounts, double-row sealed bearings, 11-gauge steel floating decks and maintenance-free spindles are just a few of the many "cutting-edge" features found in the Worldlawn product lineup. With a proud workforce in Beatrice, NE, Worldlawn Power Equipment says it will continue to deliver exceptional value with world-proven performance.  Request more information

Wright

What makes Wright mowers different. While Wright is not offering anything new this year in the sit-down zero-turn riding mower category, the company says its existing mowers do have an advantage. According to Wright, the engines in all of its commercial mid-mount, zero-turn mowers are nearly 3 inches lower than most mid-mounts. The hydro drive pulley is mounted on the bottom of the engine drive shaft, which allows the hydro pumps to be mounted 6 inches lower than most mid-mounts, significantly lowering the center of gravity. An undercarriage cage protects the transmissions and their filters, and an exclusive transmission interlock is built into the controls, eliminating the need for a separate parking brake. The rear wheel motors can be moved fore and aft through three different settings. This keeps the proper weight balance with collection systems.  Request more information

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