Craftsman Zero Turn Mower Test Drive – Revolution Model 28933 Updated Review June 1, 2009
I had the opportunity to test drive the Craftsman Revolution Model 28933 on April 7th. The same day the Consumer Reports Mowers & Riders article hit the news stands. I was able to test drive the unit before my judgement was influenced by their report.
In general this riding lawn mower is exactly what I expect. A zero-turn mower that doubles as a simple, easy to use lawn tractor. The control layout is a little different than the new style Craftsman and you will find it is well laid out and intuitive. It has plenty of power for the size of the deck and will mow better than the old Craftsman you are replacing .
You can read about the specs in my original review here (Revolution)
Very smooth drive system. It is quick but not jerky. Most zero-turn mowers today have shock absorbers (dampeners) built into the drive linkage so you don’t move the steering levers too fast and cause the mower to jerk around. Some of the early zero-turns like the Gravely 100 that did not have dampeners were like riding a bucking horse. They were so jerky it was almost impossible to mow in a straight line. The Revolution is not like this at all. Because the innovative way the transmissions are designed the Yard Tractor is smooth and responsive at all speeds. When you press the foot control the lawn tractor moves very smoothly. I found the drive system very easy to use.
Very responsive drive system. Because the way the Infinitrak transmissions are designed FULL power is available to the rear wheels when starting. It doesn’t “slip” like a hydrostatic transmission. If you have ever parked your hydrostatic tractor or zero-turn on a hill and then went to move it farther up the hill you will understand what I mean. To illustrate this point I backed the Revolution up a 40 degree blacktop incline. As I transitioned from the flat parking lot to the hill I did not have to push farther down on the foot control to move up hill like I would have to with a hydro. I stopped the on the hill. Then I went to move it further up the hill. The transmission started immediately and proceeded to backup the hill without any slippage like a normal hydro would have. With a normal hydrostatic transmission on a steep hill like this you would have to move the foot control a lot farther than you normally would to overcome the hydraulic “slip” in the trans. Because of the way the Infinitrak is designed there is no slip.
It’s Actually a Zero Turn Mower. Consumer Reports reviewed the Revolution as a lawn tractor but in reality it is also a zero-turn-radius mower. The Infinitrak transmission and the unique steering allow this Craftsman lawn mower to turn inside it’s own length just like the zero-turn mowers other manufactures are advertising. But, it looks and drives like a lawn tractor. It has a steering wheel just like a conventional tractor. You can pull attachments just like your old Craftsman Yard Tractor. In fact you don’t realize it is a zero-tun mower until you turn the steering wheel all the way.
When you turn the steering wheel it acts like a regular lawn tractor for most of the turn. If you are doing normal yard work it acts just like a conventional tight turning radius tractor. But when you turn the steering wheel farther the inside rear wheel stops and then goes in reverse! This coupled with the unique steering allows the Revolution to “zero-turn” meaning it will turn inside it’s own length.
It is safer than a Zero-Turn Mower. Another unique feature of this mower is that it automatically slows down in the turns. What? Yes, when you are mowing and get ready to turn around just turn the wheel all the way. The mower slows down and zero-turns. Straighten the steering wheel out again and the Revolution returns to the speed you had set before the turn.
It is also safer on slopes and hills than a residential zero-turn mower (ZTR). With a residential zero-turn only the rear wheels control the steering and provide traction on slopes. With the Revolution the front wheels also provide traction and control. It will stay put on the slope just like your conventional lawn tractor. In addition the Craftsman Revolution has very wide stance. The front and rear wheels are as wide as the 42 inch deck which gives it the best possible stability for the size of the tractor.
You can duck under tree branches. The way you sit on most of the zero-turns confines you. By having to keep both hands on the steering levers it is sometimes difficult to mow under trees because you really can’t duck and get out of the way. With the Revolution you can steer with one hand and use your other to hold the limbs out of your way. It is much easier to move in the seat to miss low hanging branches.
Feels a lot more stable on slopes. Like a conventional lawn tractor you can shift your weight on the seat and feel more comfortable mowing on slopes than you can with the current residential zero-turns from the other manufactures.
Can drive it with one hand. A steering wheel instead of steering levers it is much easier to drive for long periods. Even the Country Clipper with it’s single joystick restricts your movements more than the Revolution which uses a steering wheel instead of control levers. You can scratch your nose without stopping the mower. (I know …….. with some of the twin-lever zero-turns the handles are close enough together that you can drive it in a straight line for a short period of time with one hand)
I like the Revolution better than the AWS (all-wheel-steer) tractors like the John Deere X304 and the Snapper LT 130. In my opinion the AWS units take some practice getting used to and have a lot of extra parts in the steerable rear end to wear out over time.
A rattle on the test unit. Update 6/01/09. Quite a few Revolution owners wrote me and stated that their units did not have the rattle I observed in the demo model I drove. The rattle apparently was unique to that mower and is not a common issue so I am dropping this paragraph about the rattle from my review
Strange High Pitched Noise. All mowers have their own unique sound and the Revolution is no exception. I am listing this here as a con so you are aware that this mower sounds different than the mower you are retiring. The sound of the Infinitrak Transmission is unique to the Revolution and is different and normal for this zero-turn mower. In my opinion most if not all of the negative reviews I have read about the noise are because the test operator was not aware of the sound the Revolution should make. This seems to be a training issue and not an issue with the mower itself.
To take this a little further: If you have only driven a mower with a manual transmission a hydrostatic transmission will sound strange to you. Many of the hydros whine and make weird noises especially under load. It doesn’t matter if you are driving a $1200 dollar Craftsman Hydro, a $6000 dollar Great Dane or a $35,000 KutKwik the hydrostatic transmissions all make unique sounds and it will take some time to get used to them. The sound even varies from one unit of the same model to the next. For example, I owned 3 Jacobson TurfCats. On two of those units the transmissions were very noisy and the whine could be heard over the engine and deck running. The other one was very quiet and hardly made any sound at all.
The normal noise of the transmission on my 3303 Dixon mower sounds like you are sharpening a chisel with a bench grinder. To someone who has never heard a cone-drive Dixon like the one I own it sounds like the unit is grinding itself apart. But the sound is normal and there are thousands of Dixons still running that are 25 years or older.
So you have to test drive the Revolution and make the determination if the mower and it’s unique sounds are right for you. Don’t take the word of anyone else (including me)
Neutral Creep. YOU SHOULD NEVER GET OFF A ZERO TURN MOWER OR ANY TRACTOR EQUIPED WITH A HYDROSTATIC TRANSMISSION WITHOUT SETTING THE PARKING BRAKE!!! All commercial mower operators know this and it doesn’t matter if the engine is running or not. The Revolution is no exception. You must set the parking brake on the tractor before you get off the machine or it will creep.
The controversy here is: The Revolution operators manual specifically states: “NOTE:Your Revolution tractor is equipped with an innovative drive system. It is normal for some forward movement of the tractor to occur when the brake is released.” As with any infinitely variable transmission there will be some “neutral creep” when you release the parking brake with the engine running. Someone made a video and a couple of reviews are published on the Internet where the person moves the throttle on the mower to it’s highest position and then releases the parking brake. They claim resulting “jerk” is unsafe but in reality the jerk is normal for variable speed transmission. In reality it is just like “popping the clutch” on a manual trans; the unit will jerk. The video and the reviews should be listed under the category “stupid people tricks” and should be taken for what they are: People blatantly disregarding the safety rules and normal operating instructions for a mechanical device.
To take this a little further: In general infinitely variable transmissions are designed to seamlessly go from full forward to neutral and then to full reverse. The position of the foot control or hand control determines the neutral point and the transmission does not “disengage” like it does on a manual transmission. Because of this the neutral is more of an “adjustment” in the control linkage than a specific mode of the transmission operation. All of the infinitely variable transmissions that I know of do not use a “hard” neutral where the transmission completely disengages like it does with a manual transmission. Some manufactures put an indent in the control linkage to tell you where the neutral should be (My Ransomes 5000 has a mechanical indent in the control linkage) Most neutrals on infinitely variable transmissions have to be adjusted from time to time. (Hydros, zero-turns, etc.)
Parking Brake Lever. The parking brake button (lock) operates in reverse from all of the other Craftsman riding mowers. On the Revolution to set the parking brake you push the brake pedal with your foot and then push DOWN on the locking lever. I know this may sound like nit-picking but I watched more than 2 dozen test drivers try to pull it up. If you are used to a Craftsman riding mower, it will take a little while to get used to this change on this one machine.
The Craftsman Revolution is like Twitter, you will either get it or you won’t. This is a good Lawn Tractor. You will be very pleased at the way it mows, handles, and pulls your yard cart, fertilizer spreader and other attachments. BUT it is also the best zero-turn mower under $3000. Unfortunately Consumer Reports did not rate it as a zero-turn. They only rated it as a lawn tractor. I feel they should have rated it in both categories. They rated it as number two for lawn tractors and in my opinion it can easily rate number two or three against the other zero-turns they rated. For residential use you will not find another mower that will turn as well yet perform all the yard duties of a conventional lawn tractor. If you have a lot of landscaping and trees to mow around you will like this machine.
After you use your new mower for a while, come back and tell us how well you like your Craftsman Revolution!
You can read about the specs in my original review here (Revolution)