Makita XML08 Self-Propelled Lawn Mower Steps Up to the Big Leagues
When we first saw the Makita XML08 self-propelled lawn mower at GIE, it was clear the product team was targeting a different user. Moving into the realm of professional battery-powered lawn mowers to compete with names like Stihl and Husqvarna takes something special, though. And Makita delivered.
- Excellent power
- Holds 4 batteries
- Well-built, stiff frame with commercial-grade steel deck
- Quiet mode extends runtime and reduces noise
- Drive bar design makes it easy to stop the drive without turning off the blades
- True 21-inch blade
- Mulch, bag, or side discharge
- Rubber tires instead of hard plastic
- You have to manually hit the battery switch when one set is depleted
- Near the top of the price scale for battery-powered lawn mowers
Makita XML08 18V X2 Self-Propelled Lawn Mower Testing
If you’re familiar with earlier Makita battery-powered lawn mowers, this is something completely different.
It holds four batteries, though it only needs two to run. With four 5Ah batteries, you’re running the equivalent capacity of a 36V, 10Ah battery.
We tested using 6.0Ah batteries and we didn’t take it easy. We cut a combination of Bermuda, Bahia, and St. Augustine grasses. About 2/3 of our cutting area was cut to an even 5 inches and the other 1/3 had not been cut at all in two weeks.
Setting the deck height to 3 inches and cutting in the miserable heat and humidity of Central Florida, we got a total of 47 minutes of cutting out of our battery set.
On a regular maintenance cut, we would have easily cut over an hour.
You need to manually switch between batteries with a switch near the battery door. We prefer having automatic switching, but the silver lining is you know when you’re halfway through your fuel.
The blade spent plenty of time at a higher RPM level as it cut through with more confidence than we expected from a 36V/40V max mower. We normally have to drop to half swaths when we cut the tall part of our test area, but the Makita XML08 just kept muscling through to keep its RPMs up at a full cutting width.
Here in Florida, we typically mulch our grass and that’s how we spent the majority of time testing. Makita’s lift does a nice job cutting grass into small enough pieces to drop back into the grass without leaving much in the way of trails and clumps.
It’s a decent bagger as well. The same airflow that helps it mulch effectively also creates a good velocity into the bag.
That said, it’s not as effective as some of the higher-end commercial gas self-propelled mowers, particularly stacked blade systems like Honda’s HRC line.
The cut evenness is pretty consistent. There were some blades still standing, particularly around the areas that started taller, but overall, it was good.
All bets are off when the grass is wet, though. With Florida’s heat and humidity, the grass is staying wet longer into the morning and the rains are moving in by early afternoon, giving us only a few hours of hitting the sweet spot for mowing.
Like other Makita battery-powered OPE, you need to press the power button to activate the mower. From there, it’s a standard process of pushing in a safety button and engaging the blade.
When you pull the self-propel drive bar up, the mower travels between 1.5 and 3.0 MPH. The speed control is on the left side as an infinite setting dial. It has just the right balance of movement and stiffness, letting you dial in the speed you want without being loose enough to easily bump out of position.
You’ll notice the drive bar cuts in on the left side. That’s so you can easily release it without letting go of the blade engagement bar while you turn. It took a little bit to get used to it. Once the muscle memory set in, we didn’t have to think about it at all and it’s a highly effective design.
The whisper button activates the mower’s Quiet Mode. With it engaged, the blade spins at a constant 2300 RPM, running quieter and extending your runtime. It’s appropriate for lighter cutting scenarios.
The first thing we did after taking the mower out of the box and going through the minor assembly process was to give it a shake and a wiggle.
Many residential mowers have a lot of movement throughout their frames. However, the Makita XML08 is solid, moving to the kind of rigidity we expect from a mower designed for Pros.
The deck is commercial-grade steel, covering the mower’s 21-inch blade. Makita doesn’t play games by talking about the deck size and dropping a smaller blade in it. When they say it’s a 21-inch mower, they mean it actually cuts 21 inches at a time.
One thing that’s different from many professional mowers is that Makita sticks with single-point height adjustments. With 10 positions between 1 1/4 inches to 4 inches, you just need to use one adjustment lever.
Having separate adjustments can increase the rigidity and strength of heavier mowers. Makita’s adjustment is certainly more convenient and we’re not seeing any ill effects on the frame strength so far.
One significant difference between Makita and other battery-powered mowers is the lack of a folding handle for vertical storage. However, Pros typically roll their walk-behind mowers on the trailer and go without taking extra time to fold the handle.
The upside to forgoing is it eliminates another point of movement, helping keep the entire frame stiffer.
Wheels tend to be an afterthought with a hard plastic construction and acceptable rolling resistance. The Makita XML08 has a pretty nice set, though. They have a softer rubber tire that absorbs shock better, but more importantly, has better grip on slopes.
Just keep in mind the Pro focus here. Commercial self-propelled gas mowers easily run over $1000. Sticking with battery competitors, Stihl’s self-propelled model with a similar battery loadout is $879.
Sure, it’s expensive compared to residential models, but those aren’t packing the higher-quality components that Makita chose to meet the needs of professional lawn care crews.
The Bottom Line
The Makita XML08 self-propelled lawn mower has the power and build quality to step in where gas mowers are unwanted or unwelcome for professional crews.
Aside from perhaps making the battery switch automatic, there’s not much to complain about.
It’s a night and day difference between this and Makita’s earlier residential-focused models, giving Pros a reason to consider Makita as a primary option.