Cub Cadet RZT S 50 Zero-Turn Mower Review
Zero-turn lawnmowers are the top of the crop for residential duty. They cut mowing time roughly in half compared to similar lawn tractors. You have a big property and want to cut the grass like the professionals do?
You are probably considering to get a zero-turn lawnmower (a non-commercial one, because you don`t want to spend 10 grand on it like a on commercial one). Or you are looking to replace your old zero turn, and want to know if the Cub Cadet RZT S 50 is a worthy candidate. That`s what we`re going to find out in this review.
What is a zero-turn lawnmower?
Zero-turns are riding lawnmowers that can be turned around in their own footprint, eliminating the need for mowing in circles that waste time and fuel. You can just mow to one end of your lawn, turn 180 degrees, and mow the next line right besides the last one.
This is usually achieved with independent hydraulic speed control of each rear drive wheel, with the user input provided by lap bars. Steering such a lawnmower is not the easiest and most intuitive thing, since most vehicles average people drive are steered with a wheel, and not bars like an old tank.
Many manufacturers have tried to tackle this problem by installing steering wheels on their zero-turn mowers - and have failed. It is critical for the success of such a mower to make it reasonably priced, durable enough and to avoid making holes in the grass with the rear wheels while turning. Lap bar controlled zero turns do his well - steering wheel controlled ones on the other hand didn`t. Until the Cub Cadet RZT S series was introduced, that is.
Who is Cub Cadet?
Branched off from International Harvester in 1960 and sold to MTD in 1981, Cub Cadet has a long history of producing a wide array of tractors, lawnmowers, utility vehicles and garden tools.
RZT S 50
Ease of use
Bang for the buck
They have gained special merits in the realm of zero turn lawnmowers, having built the the first four-wheel steer zero-turn with steering wheel technology and the most advanced zero-turn riding mower with lap bar technology.
Where is the RZT S 50 positioned in Cub Cadets zero-turn lineup?
The RZT S series has not only independently controlled driven rear wheels that never turn on one spot and thus avoid damaging the lawn. The dual hydro transmissions always keep both wheels moving, no matter how narrow the turn.
Turns are assisted by the steerable front wheels, which are pointed slightly backwards in the zero-turn position. And all this is controlled by the operator from a simple steering wheel, avoiding the steep learning curve of the lap bar mowers and retaining their superior handling - even improving it going sideways on slopes, where lap bar mowers are hard to hold and will always want to go downhill.
The RZT S series was introduced in 2009 as triple blade riding mowers with said zero-turn steering wheel technology. There are mowers with 42 inch (MSRP $ 2699.99), 46 inch (MSRP $ 3199.99), 50 inch (MSRP $ 2699.99) and 54 inch wide decks (MSRP starting at $ 3399.99) available. The 46 and 54 inch models have welded decks, which are more durable and thus more expensive, but which have a worse airflow compared to the stamped decks featured by the 42 and 50 inch models.
Apart from deck width and deck type there are only minor differences between these mowers, like bluetooth connectivity for maintenance control, which only the 54 inch models have.
And there is even an electric model available with a 42 inch deck, for those willing to pay $ 4500 for a mower without engine sound or exhaust gasses, but with a heavy battery pack.
In our opinion, the RZT S 50 is the best choice for residential users, for whom welded decks are not worth the increased price. The Cub Cadet 50 inch mower offers a nice and large mowing deck at an extremely competitive price. That is why we review this model from Cub Cadets RZT S series.
It is positioned at the upper end of the market for residential zero-turns, which usually range from 2 - 4k $, have deck widths from 30 to 46 inches and engines that deliver between 16 and 21 HP. And it`s a product made in the USA!
What are the features of the Cub Cadet RZT S 50?
All Cub Cadet RZT S zero are powered by Kohlers 7000 Series V-twin OHV engines, with power outputs ranging from 22 to 25 HP. They were newly introduced in 2013 and already have gained a reputation for durability and professional grade built quality.
The S 50`s engine delivers 23 HP from a displacement of 725cc. All maintenance points like oil dipstick, oil filter and fuel filter are located at the same side of the engine for convenient access, and the top-mounted air filter can be changed without tools.
It offers all the convenience features that are pretty standard in this class, like an electric starter with keys and an hour meter with service reminder, and has great fuel economy.
Similar engines are the Intel Plus from Briggs & Stratton and the Craftsman Platinum engines.
The dual Hydro-Gear EZT 2200 hydrostatic transmissions are compact and operate efficiently over a wide range of torque-to-speed ratios, making it ideal for independently steering the rear wheels of zero-turn mowers.
They are very popular for residential zero-turns and well-suited for this task. It is not recommended to pull heavy loads with these though. The maximum tow weight is 500 lbs. - enough to pull carts, lawn stripers or similar things, if you install the hitch kit available from Cub Cadet.
If you intend to pull heavier things, we recommend to upgrade to a zero-turn mower with a ZT-2800 or ZT-3100 transmission.
The mowing deck
The RZT S series mowers feature Cub Cadets Signature Cut decks: triple high lift blades, in case of the S 50 with a mowing width of 50 inches, adjustability from 1,5" to 4" in 8 half-inch-steps and good blade overlap. The floating, 12-gauge stamped construction is well-suited for residential users and offers superior airflow and better price compared to the more rugged but heavier fabricated decks.
Many users praise the deck height adjustment of the RZT series compared to other mowers. The lever is located to the right of the driver`s seat, like all other controls. It is easy to use and sets firmly.
The PTO switch to engage the deck is electronic and doesn`t need any force, which makes constant use as pleasant as possible.
The deck mows and bags really well, and also mulches reasonably well with Cub Cadets mulching kit, which you have to buy extra - but mulching capabilities (along with the cut itself) can be greatly improved if you install Gator 3 Mulching Blades.
Some people complain that there is too much grass build-up under the deck and that grass clippings get through the gaps around the spindles and onto the deck while mowing. Build-up is still less than with the fabricated decks though.
And then there is Cub Cadets SmartJet deck washing system, which allows attaching a hose to the top of the deck and washing it with the power of the blades, without having to get under it. If you do this regularly, you won`t have problems with build-ups.
Front-to-rear and side-to-side adjustment of the deck is done via easily accessible hex screws and should be done while adjusting tire pressure and the little gauge wheels at the sides of the deck. This ensemble of adjustments ensures that the deck sits at exactly the right position for a great cut in every height setting. Check regularly, but readjustments should be only necessary is you hit something with the deck or the blades.
The driver`s seat has 6" seat travel and is adjustable in 11 positions at the tip of a finger. Together with the two available positions of the steering column it accommodates even very tall people up to 6" 3 and offers good back support so you won`t feel uncomfortable sitting on it for extended periods.
It has a safety switch that stops you from sending the mower off with cruise control without someone present in the driver`s seat - and even a cup holder for beverages to stay hydrated during hot summer mowing sessions and a small compartment for sunglasses and other such things.
The fuel tank can take 2.8 gallons of gas. It has no fuel meter, but those 2.8 gallons will last you long enough that you won`t miss it too bad!
The foot-pedal-operated cruise control allows you to mow at constant speeds to achieve better cut uniformity. If you try to engage it at top speed with the blades turned on, it will revert to the top mowing speed of 5 mph.
Is it easy to set up?
The RZT S weighs 775 lb. and is 84.5 inches long and 60.75 inches wide. It comes in a solid crate which requires a crowbar or similar tools to open. Once it is taken off the delivery vehicle and uncrated you have to engage two transmission bypass rods if you want to roll it around.
Then you have to put the adjustable steering wheel column in the desired position, fix the column with two hex screws and mount the steering wheel itself to align it with the front wheels.
After that mount the seat with the safety shut-off that prevents the engine from running when no operator is present, adjust the anti-scalping gauge wheels (they prevent you from cutting the grass too short on the outsides of the deck on uneven terrain, together with the rear striping roller), connect the battery and fuel up. That sounds more complicated than it is, actually.
But we recommend you let a dealer do all these things, and give you a quick tour how to use your new mower, if you are new to all this zero-turn business.
And we recommend making sure that the delivery company places the crate where you want it, if you make use of the delivery options that for example Home Depot offers - the crate weighs close to a ton!
After that, the fun part starts - getting the first driving practice with your new mower. And remember to change the engine break-in oil after 5 hours (yes, good old engines like the Kohler 7000 still have break-in oil).
How does the RZT S perform?
Maximum forward speed is rated at 7 mph, max reverse speed at 3 mph. Average mowing speed is 5 mph, at which you can mow approximately 2 acres per hour - you really shouldn`t mow faster than 4 - 5 mph for best results. On a regular lawn with obstacles and slopes it will take you about an hour and 15 minutes to mow 1 acre.
Cub Cadet recommends to use the RZT S on slopes no steeper than 15°, and even provides a slope gauge sheet in the user manual. They recommend to traverse slopes sideways, and not up and down. The mower does this really well, and we absolutely recommend the RZT S for hilly properties (within reason), even though the territory of zero-turns are generally level lawns with lots of obstacles.
Maneuvering around these is amazing with the RZT S, especially for beginners or people who make the change from lawn tractors. You can move around trees, flower beds and the likes as if it is nothing, and even get underneath brushes while holding them up with one hand (which you have free, because: no lap bars!). There will be very little work left for your trimmer.
The RZT delivers a great cut and reasonable speed for residential applications and is a pleasure to handle.
Some features that people might miss are headlights for continued mowing when the evening turns into night, and a sun roof, which is not available from Cub Cadet (or any aftermarket manufacturer as far as we know).
The most annoying thing while operating it is probably the automatic blade shutoff when you put the mower into reverse (it continues to mow while zero-turning though). So you can`t mow in reverse gear and have to re-engage the PTO switch every time you put it in forward again - which is done by pushing the respective pedals. Hydro transmissions don`t have gear levers or anything similar.
The RZT offers great reliability if you make sure to service it regularly, which includes greasing all lubrication points every 10 hours and changing oil and all filters every 50 hours. There are hardly any complaints about the durability and reliablity - the RZT S series is among the best of all residential zero turns in this regard.
What accessories are available?
You can buy various accessories from Cub Cadet, and also from other manufacturers.
There is a bagger, a mulching kit and a cart available from cub Cadet, and even a front-mounted snow plow. Other accessories like aerators, sweepers, rollers and various other implements will fit also. Some can even be plugged to the PTO switch to make use of the engine power.
There are some complaints regarding the bagger though. It is not very easy to attach, and its bagging capability is less than stellar.
What is the warranty situation?
Cub Cadet offers a 3-year warranty for this mower that is limited to 120 hours of use and excludes commercial use.
What are the cross-shops?
Cross-shops would be Toro`s TimeCutter SW5000 with its SmartPark parking brake that lets you hop off the mower without having to switch off the blades while in park, and John Deere`s ZTrak series, offering residential zero turn mowers with deck sizes ranging from 42 to 54 inches (but no steering wheels!).
We really recommend the overall package of the Cub Cadet RZT S 50 for homeowners with properties ranging from 0.5 to 2.5 acres, with its ease of operation, great reliability and sensible features.
There are residential some zero turns that can mow faster or bag better, but none that can mow on slopes so well. Cub Cadet has a real winner here!