Husqvarna has a long history that is rich in tradition. The first Husqvarna plant was established in 1689 as a weapons foundry. In the course of the centuries, Husqvarna has produced a large range of different products, including sewing machines, bicycles, motorcycles and kitchen equipment. When Electrolux acquired Husqvarna in 1978 the outdoor product range comprised mainly of chainsaws. In the 1980s operation expanded strongly through acquisitions. In subsequent years, consistent organic growth gradually gave Husqvarna leading positions in the global market. Once upon a time, as a kid in the late 70s – early 80s, I dreamed of having a Husqvarna 500 CR motocross bike. The growl that their 2-stroke engines put out was unlike any other 2-strokes of that day. The Japanese 2-strokes of that era were very high-pitched, and you needed to be in the upper RPM range to build any horsepower (in the “power-band”), with very little to no torque on the low-end. On the contrary, the Husky bikes had a mean-low growl when you rolled on the throttle, with power coming on much earlier in the RPM range. I’m not sure that they won any “titles”, but boy did they sound nasty.
I’m not sure that little excerpt had any meaning for this article, other than pointing out that Husqvarna has been around combustion-engine products for decades, as well as had the attention of this reviewer way back then. I was pretty excited to get to review this mower, even if it is a 4-stroke engine, made by Briggs and Stratton, with not much growl, and no real “power-band” to notice.
Husqvarna RZ54i Testing and Use
The Husqvarna RZ54i mower was delivered to me on a trailer, on a beautiful-rainy-typical Florida Spring afternoon. I lowered the ramp, jumped in the seat, ready to hit the key and back her down….key…key…what the…NO KEY?! Nope, not on this model. Husqvarna has now released a few new models with their new SmartSwitch. Instead of the typical key to turn, you now have a series of buttons to push in a pre-determined sequence before you can use the push-button to start the mower. After a quick read of the SmartSwitch pamphlet supplied, I delivered the correct sequence and vroooom, it’s alive. The motor fired to life almost immediately after pushing the button. Grab the zero turn sticks, pull them back, and back the mower down the trailer ramps. That beautiful, somewhat-overgrown bahia-grass lawn was begging to be cut down in rapid succession. Move the throttle up to full-rabbit, engage the blades and off I went, for about a strip and a half…when the mower ran out of gas. Shame on me, for not checking the vitals before I ever started it for the first time. After a fill of the tank, I was off again on the maiden voyage of the new Husqvarna RZ 54i.
I quickly gathered that the SmartSwitch technology was not so much a theft deterrent as it was for safety. Some kid (like my kids) can’t just jump on the mower, hit the key, and have very dangerous blades rotating beneath their feet. Let’s face it, where do the majority of us keep our keys for our riding mowers??…in the ignition!! Husqvarna realized this liability and made a pretty good step to circumvent any unintentional mishaps. In addition to the security of “key-less” starting and operator feedback on safety systems, the SmartSwitch also offers one touch battery charge status and headlight operation. Along with the SmartSwitch are other safety triggers that must happen in the correct sequence or you no-mow. I know, that was pretty cheesy, but stay with me. The Husqvarna RZ54i only starts (even with the correct button sequence) if the parking brake is set and the blades are disengaged (not engaged). Once the mower is started, you must first release the park-brake, then pull your sticks in (the throttle/steering sticks are spread wide to offer easy ingress and egress of the vehicle), then you can move the sticks fore and aft to move forward or reverse. If you bring the sticks in before releasing the brake, the mower shuts off, etc. It did take a bit to get used to the sequence, but after just a few times on and off the mower, it’s very easy to remember, and it makes good sense.
Grass, Here I come
Gas…check, Oil…check, glass of Iced-Sweet-Tea in the handy-dandy cupholder…check, Smart sequence remembered…check, all engines GO!! Now it’s time for the real fun. A quick release of the park brake, pull the sticks in; oh yea, need to set the deck height. Husqvarna calls their deck height adjustment “Feather light deck lift”, and they’re right on the money. Grab the handle, press the release button, and you can easily lift or lower the deck; also included is a pin to set your favorite deck height (or so your son doesn’t lower the deck so far that it scalps your beautiful lawn)…drop the deck handle down to the pin and release the lock-button. With this pin in place, you don’t even have to look down to see which setting to select.
So the Husqvarna RZ54i motor’s running, your deck is set, your tea is perfect with a good test gulp; now, let’s get those blades spinning. This next step is so simple, yet makes me giddy as a school-girl (maybe that’s not the best choice of words, but I’ll go with it). Point is, we need to engage these blades with the awesome power of 24 horses raging to come out of that V-twin powered Briggs & Stratton. Sure, Husqvarna could have placed another ordinary lever (like on most lawn tractors) to engage/disengage the blades, but NO, “we’ll take Electric Clutch Engagement for $500 Alex”. That’s right, that big-red button that pulls out and pushes in. You know, the type of button that you look at and think: What is this? Does it apply air brakes like on a big rig or school bus? Will it light the rockets to launch me into outer-space? Is it the purge button for the Nitrous Oxide? Go ahead punk, pull it…all that power in your fingertips has now set the blade-tips to the whirr of 18,500 fpm. Is that fast??…I don’t know, but it sure does sound it. Now, for real, just push the sticks forward, and we’re cutting like a champ. At first feel, it seems to pull a little to the left. A quick few twists of the steering-trim adjustment on the left stick, and it’s running straight and true. To set the picture for you, I have about 2 acres of open pasture in front of my house consisting of good ol’ Florida Bahia grass. Before I knew it, I’d made several laps around the pasture. Time to take a look at the trimmings. The cut is very true, and the undulations in my not-level-at-all-lawn didn’t seem to bother the deck or the cut. Even through some thicker patches, the power stayed strong, without a whimper from the 24HP bullet. Each lap around continued to offer level cutting, with no step between the cuts.
So you’re done with the lawn, do you just drive the Husqvarna RZ54i into your workshop, nasty and dirty? Heck no!! You have to hose it down, so that beautiful orange shines through again. It’s easy to blast away the dust, dirt and grass on the outside, but what a pain it is to remove the caked-on clumps of grass under the deck. Not now, Husqvarna has thought of cleanup as well. On the deck is a quick-connect fitting to clip on the hose and turn on the pressure…under-deck, now cleaned. In addition, the powder-coated paint adds durability of the fit-n-finish and enabling the grime to just wash away with little effort.
After a Few Uses
I know you are saying: Sure, it cuts great on its first outing, but what about after it has a few hours on her…what about then?! I’m so glad you asked. Now, there are quite a few hours on the RZ 54i, and many lawn cuts are history (including my brother, neighbors, and other relatives I didn’t know I had). I have to be honest when I say that I (as well as the few others that have borrowed this machine) have not had any issues. The cut has stayed true and level, the motor strong, and the steering stayed true as well. The blades have yet to be sharpened either, but they’re probably due (bahia is torture to any mower blade). The efficiency of this mower and motor seems to be pretty good. I can get multiple cuts from my 2 acre field on one 3 ½ gallon tank of gasoline.
Let me set the record straight here; Husqvarna RZ54i is not the mower that the landscape company is going to purchase in order to mow eleven-teen (that means a lot) lawns each day. This is not the mower for that, and Husqvarna hasn’t claimed or marketed it this way. At the same time, I CAN see that any Professional (like those of us that visit PTR) would purchase the RZ 54i to cut his or her own lawn, and be very pleased and proud. This is a great mower for the money (good value). It can be purchased at several of your favorite box stores at a “street-price” of less than $2,700. I don’t know of any other zero-turn mower, with the features and functionality only previously seen on the lawn-professional-industry models. Performance of this mower is impressive, from engine power, to ease-of-use, to the cutting finish, to cleanup and even fuel efficiency. There are a couple of changes that I might make if I were the manufacturer, but they should be taken as just my $.02 (it’s worth less than that). I would make the floorboard (foot pan as they call it) a little longer; I’m 6’3” and all legs, so the sticks are just before hitting my knees when pushed fully forward (full-rabbit speed). The second would be to power this thing with that Husqvarna 500 CR motocross motor…sure, there would be ruts and berms in the yard from the rear wheels constantly throwing a good rooster-tail (this is slang for the dirt shower thrown behind a dirt-bike from the knobby-tire going faster than the land beneath…like the shape of a rooster’s tail feathers), but who cares? You will be the talk of the town, with all of the neighbors lined up along your fence watching you drift the corners and wheelie down the straight-away. I have goose-bumps just thinking about it. OK, back to reality. This is a really good mower, with a great manufacturer and warranty behind it. I don’t see how any homeowner can go wrong with this purchase; whether they’re a professional tradesman, doctor, lawyer, CPA, or any other acronym.
Husqvarna RZ54i Key Features
- Zero-turn steering system
- Endurance V-Twin Engine
- Rugged frame and casters
- Removable foot pan
- Comfortable steering
- Water hose connection
- Reinforced steel cutting deck
- Feather light deck lift
- Hour meter with service minder
- Comfortable operation
- Adjustable tracking
Husqvarna RZ54i Specifications
- Engine manufacturer: Briggs & Stratton
- Power: 24 hp
- Cylinder displacement: 724 cc
- Cylinders: 2
- Fuel tank volume (with reserve): 3.5 gal. (Gasoline)
- Oil capacity: 64 fl oz
- Transmission type: Hydrostatic
- Pump displacement: 10 cc
- Fan-cooled pumps: Included
- Speed forward: min-max 0-6.5 mph
- Speed reverse: min-max 0-3.5 mph
- Cutting width: 54 inch
- Cutting deck type: Stamped, Reinforced
- Cutting methods: Collect/Mulch/Side ejection
- Cutting deck material: Steel
- Deck thickness: 12 gauge
- Cutting height: min-max (approximate) 1.5 – 4 inch
- Cutting height steps: 6
- Blade engagement: Electric clutch
- Blades: 3
- Blade-tip speed: 18500 fpm
- Anti-scalp wheels: 4
- Powder-coated cutting deck: Included
- Productivity: 2.8 acres/hr
- Homeowner Warranty: 3 Year Limited
- Commercial Warranty: N/A