Cutting the grass in slow mow produces better results

Consumer Reports News

Promising mowers that "turn on a dime and save time," Toro is touting claims that its Timecutter SS zero-turn radius mowers can reduce mowing time by 45 percent. In an online demonstration a Timecutter, which can can reach ground speeds of seven miles per hour, makes quick work of a field of grass, cutting around several obstacles along the way. But the mowing testers at Consumer Reports say, not so fast. Mowing at a slower speed typically gets better results.

The claim made in the Time Savings video on Toro's website shows a TimeCutter SS racing a "comparably equipped Toro tractor, both traveling at their maximum speed." The results, based on a 2011 survey of Timecutter owners, show the owner of the TimeCutter SS hopping off his mower and walking away while the other man is still hard at work.

We've tested the Toro TimeCutter SS4235 74627, $2,600, and the Toro TimeCutter SS5000 $3,300, and both mowed impressively whether we were mulching, bagging, or side-discharging clippings. We liked the Toro TimeCutter SS4235 74627 well enough to recommend. But we conduct our mowing tests at about 3.5 mph, the optimal speed for achieving the most even cut. (Depending on grass density and height, you might need to go even slower.) Mow at twice that speed and you'll finish more quickly, but we don't think you'll be satisfied with the results.

Another reason to take it slow is safety. Take the time to inspect your yard for rocks, sprinkler heads, and other obstructions. And as you mow watch for children, animals and debris you may have missed. Be especially careful on slopes. If the incline is more than 15 degrees, use a walk-behind mower instead of a riding mower for that part of the job.

See which other lawn tractors, zero-turn radius mowers, and rear-engine riders did well in our tests and to see our mowing testers in action view the video of our tough mowing tests.

—Ed Perratore

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