The fever-dream of the field-cutting enthusiast, the ride-on lawn mower was once the sole preserve of landed gentry.
You know the type, the country-living, be-tweeded estate-owner with a broken shotgun draped neatly over the crook of one arm, while the hand of the other dealt deftly with the lid of a hipflask full of single malt mowing-motivation.
But times have changed, ride-on mowers have moved on and now anyone with a sizable piece of pasture to keep prim and proper, plus upwards of around £1500 in garden-investable income, can realise that former fever-dream and find their fundament firmly on any one of a range of ride-ons without – to massively misquote Top Gun for a moment – feeling the need, the need for tweed.
But what size blade do you need? Indeed, what size machine do you need? Do you mulch or collect? And is speed of the element?
So, having already covered lawn mowers specifically for small gardens and the world of convenience that comes with the coolest cordless options I now conclude my award-breaking lawn mower trilogy with the ultimate machine in the battle against overgrown grass, the ride-on mower or, as its sometimes known in more grandiose circles, the garden tractor.
Husqvarna TS 142T
Best for: mid-sized garden scything
Make no mistake, this big, orange beast from Husqvarna is every inch a garden tractor of some considerable repute. Featuring a 5.7-litre, two-cylinder Endurance Series V-Twin petrol engine and a splendidly big 107cm blade, the TS 142T (which may be the same designation as a Terminator) also utilises a pedal-driven hydrostatic transmission for easy speed and direction control, with separate pedals for forward and reverse.
So, it has all the oomph necessary to level your lawn with absolute efficiency, but it also facilitates the felling while keeping you sat in the lap of luxury. First up there’s an oversized, ergonomic steering wheel to keep your hands from cramping and, designed to do much the same for your poor posterior, a spacious 15-inch deluxe vinyl seat.
With a side-discharge to dispose freely of clippings and even a built-in beverage cup holder to keep you suitably quenched as you go about your business.
Buy now £3299.00, Husqvarna
Mountfield MTF 98M SD
Best for: powerful ride-on performance at a pleasing price
Another petrol-pushed performance powerhouse with a far less chest-tightening price tag, the MTF 98M SD comes from the UK’s very own Mountfield. It’s a dedicated side-discharge garden tractor that comes capable to cope with lawns up to two-acres in size, thanks to a sizable 6L tank and a 352cc OHV single cylinder electric key-start engine.
With light-touch steering, you don’t have to be blessed with the bulky build of a lifelong landworker to guide the Mountfield gently around any obstacles in your way. As you power through the pasture at up to 6mph, the 98cm rotary blade makes short work of what lies beneath at a choice of seven cutting heights, ranging from 25-80mm.
And it doesn’t skimp on the comfort side of the equation, either, with an adjustable seat that has its own suspension stopping you getting sore in the saddle over those two epic acres.
Okay, it cant quite turn on the spot like the John Deere Z335E, but with a turning circle of 140cm, it’s hardly going to drag out the job, and whilst it may be a side-discharge system by design, an optional mulch plug and tow hitch are available to let you gather up as you go.
Featuring a 5 +1 manual transmission (five forward gears + reverse), the Mountfield MTF 98M SD is a lot of ride-on lawn mower for considerably less cash than any of its contemporaries.
Finally, clinching the deal, not only does it also have twin headlights for mowing around midnight, out of all the options assembled here, it’s the only one with a smiley ‘face’, which is worth the initial outlay alone!
Buy now £1899.00, B&Q
Racing 62PR Compact
Best for: maximum manoeuvrability in smaller spaces
Starting with the obvious, yes there is the word ‘Racing’ in the name of this ride-on and I know you’re excited, but I need you to dismiss that for now, as the 62PR Compact actually tops out at around 2.9mph. So, there’ll be no Le Mans-style mower glory in your future, but this ride-on grass-grazed offers much more than mere speed.
What we have in the decidedly small footprint shape of the Racing 62PR Compact is a highly manoeuvrable ride-on that, unlike most others of its turf-trimming ilk, can fit through a standard-size 28-inch garden-gate without all the awkward and expensive scraping you’d get with other models. What this means is that this is a far more practical model for larger gardens with less access and, indeed, as a ride-on lawn mower for people with, perhaps, less personal mobility but still a fierce determination to deal with domestic drudgery independently.
Under the hood, you get a 196cc (6.5hp) petrol four-stroke overhead-valve engine, with electric-ignition, delivering dependable performance paired with fuel-efficiency – something worth seeking out in these times of over-inflated petrol prices.
With a 61cm rotary cutting blade, some five-steps of height adjustment running the gamut between 30- to 70mm and a five-speed gearbox (four forward, one reverse) keeping you in constant control, you’ll have lawns of up to 2000m2 in size slashed down to landscape architect acceptability in next to no time.
Plus, coming complete with a nicely capacious 150-litre grassbag, you’ll also have to spend less downtime emptying cuttings out and more time to test the Racing 62PR Compact’s manoeuvrability to the max.
Buy now £1399.95, Mow Direct
Mountfield Freedom 30e
Best for: electrically powered ride-on results
Putting Mad Max-style petrol dependency aside for the moment, we turn now to what many believe to be the future of vehicular motion, electricity. Yep, fully powered by what you can gar from the grid, the Mountfield Freedom 30e comes packing one 30.0Ah Li-Ion battery that, fully charged in six-hours allows for round 45-minutes ride-on time, which may not seem like much, but should equate to ¾-acres (in old money).
With twin blade motors supplying 1.5kW of power per blade, an electric transmission and seven cutting height positions ranging from 25- to 80mm, the Freedom 30e features a nicely tight 90cm turning circle and allows for mulching or grass collection with the ability to empty the clipping box without leaving your seat thanks to a handy lever.
Comfortable and quiet (certainly by comparison with petrol models) to boot, if your grassy space is too big to tackle with a traditional mower but not quite needing full-on garden tractor overkill, then the Mountfield Freedom 30e is the perfect lawn cutting compromise.
Buy now £4149.00, Just Lawnmowers
John Deere Z335E
Best for: first class speed and manoeuvrability
A name that will be more than a little familiar to those who work in agricultural circles or, indeed, those who just know about these things, American manufacturer John Deere has been at the fore of farming equipment, specifically tractors, since the 1920s, so they know a thing or two about both sitting down and cutting crops.
Naturally, then, when it came to compiling this review round-up, Deere’s was the first door I knocked on and the model I chose to lead with is the, essentially entry level but still ineffably cool petrol-powered Ztrak Zero-Turn Z335E.
Offering comfort combined with incredibly agility and speed, the Z335E can propel you around your grassy grounds at speeds up to 9mph thanks to its 2.3kW 656cc engine, turn on a six-pence via to 360-degree manoeuvrability and slice those stems down to size from the comfort of your seat by simply selecting a cutting height between 25-104mm for the 107cm rotary blade.
With an exceptionally easy to operate lever-based steering system, a roll bar in case you flip the thing during an overly ambitious speed-mow, and the ability to convert from mulching to bagging with the addition of an optional collection system, the John Deere Z335E may come appear quite the, ahem, dear option. But if you’re looking to treat your groundsman to gear that really gets the job done (and leaves him plenty of time to sort out the drainage in the south field, milk the pigs and re-shoe the cows, or whatever it is that country-types do), the Z335E is a pure class with grass.
Buy now £4951.00, John Deere
STIHL RT 6127 ZL
Best for: Effortless grass mowing excellence
Upping the ante now in terms of price, power and performance, the German brand STIHL will be familiar to all those who know the difference between garden gear and pure garden grunt. Packing a 125cm rotary blade backed by a powerful 2-cylinder STIHL EVC 8000 engine, this stately grass-going galleon of the garden can take lawns of up to 8000m2 in its absolute stride while you just sit back and enjoy the ride in your spring-loaded, adjustable seat.
Featuring a cruise control function that sees to speed automatically, the single pedal drive also allows you to change direction of travel between forward and reverse gears using a hand lever for quick manoeuvring. This pressure-sensitive pedal allows for precise control of the speed between top speed and standstill, meaning that, should something go awry on your turf travels, you can just lift your foot off to stop the STIHL dead in its tracks.
With cutting heights running between 30-110mm, a turning circle of a mere 0.65m and a cutting box with a massive 350l capacity (which can be removed to utilise the mulching mode), plus an LCD display to monitor all of the mower’s functions as you go, this is ride-on lawn mowing in pure STIHL style.
Buy now £6010.00, Stihl
Husqvarna P 525DX
Best for: Money-no-object ride-on lawn mowing
Perhaps just to prove that there really is no upper limit to what some people are willing to spend on cutting-edge convenience and labour-saving lawn maintenance, behold the P 525DX from Husqvarna, a diesel-drive ride-on front mower that costs over a cool £21,000.
Designed for professional use (let’s get that in now), this magnificent mower comes blessed with unique articulated steering that allows the rear wheels to swing in underneath the machine for superior manoeuvrability and a minimum turning radius at full lock. This, combined with a top speed of nearly 12mph (9.3mph in reverse), hydrostatic transmission, cutting widths from 132- to 155cm and cutting heights from 30- to 112mm, makes what might otherwise be a massive meadow mowing task a simple matter of sitting back in the Husqvarna’s full-suspension supported and arm-rest imbued seat, letting the law roll by beneath you.
Adding to the extras, the Pâ¯525DX can also deal with up-close trimming thanks to the front-mounted cutting deck and comes packing AWD – or All Wheel Drive to the uninitiated – that allows you to mow like a pro up and down hillsides without fear of flipping over.
Finally, with an optional cabin also available for all-weather work, the Husqvarna P 525DX may seem a lot of money, but that’s only because it is. However, for epic country estate managers, nouveau riche lottery winners and those born into brass but who now find themselves having to layoff staff due to having frittered away the family fortune, why would you not?
Buy now £21419.00, HUSQVARNA
Let’s face it, most of us will probably never need to invest in a ride-on lawn mower as more modern gardens these days are designed with an eye for diminutive demands on the owners. However, for people with vast tracks of land that regularly need a good going over, the general consensus among country comrades is that the Husqvarna TS 142T was the best for price weighed up against performance and, of course, also factoring comfort into the all-important equation.