My experience with zero turn mowers and lawn equipment in general started over 15 years ago when I worked as the head of the service department for lawn & garden at Ag Pro, a local outdoor power equipment (OPE) dealer. Around 2003, while working for a local non-profit ministry, I started my own professional lawn business, hiring ex-cons and giving them much-needed employment. While I had a lot of experience with zero turn mowers in the past, I really started taking an interest in them once I was the one actually purchasing and maintaining them. If you want to see intense use of tools, take guys who just got out of prison who can’t find work, and give them a break. They’ll work hard…but at the expense of your mowers, trimmers, and blowers. It didn’t take long to learn what tools held up and which ones couldn’t take the constant use and abuse. The Husqvarna M-ZT 52 Zero Turn Mower looked promising.
Fast forward to today, and I’m fortunate enough to be the Executive Director of Parker Street Ministries , which happens to own and/or maintain around 20 lots in the local neighborhood where I also live. During the growing season we cut these properties twice a week, mostly on residential homes that we want to keep looking nice and also the commercial ministry property which has lots of alcoves, trees and complex landscaping. While I’ve got a team of great people working with me, I often find it relaxing to do a lot of the mowing myself.
Husqvarna M-ZT 52 Zero Turn Mower Features
When Husqvarna sent me one of their brand new M-ZT 52 zero turn tractors to try out, I was excited to see what it could do. This is the company’s entry level commercial zero turn mower, and it’s priced right around $5500, which makes it a fairly inexpensive commercial-quality zero turn mower. We picked it up at the loading dock and hauled it back on a trailer to begin our testing.
The first thing I noticed about the M-ZT 52 was the size. It looked like a true commercial product, and it sat up pretty high, giving you a better view around where you’re cutting. There is also a ton of steel on this mower. In particular, I noticed that the wheels are attached to the main frame chassis that runs along the entire side of the mower. This just comes across as being more structurally sound and durable—like you can hit something hard and not damage the frame. For comparison, the Hustler Mini Z I’ve been using for years, which I’d consider a well-built machine, attaches the wheels to a steel cross bar along the front of the mower. On another mower I’ve seen, the wheels are actually attached to arms that are bolted onto the main frame. The M-ZT 52 uses a much smarter design than either of those mowers. I’m not planning to play bumper cars, but I don’t want a product that I have to baby, and the Husqvarna seems to be designed and built to take some serious abuse.
Jam Up and Jelly Tight
Having used several zero turns over the course of many years, one of the issues I’ve come across is items that tend to stick up and get in the way during cutting. On one mower we have, the air filter is elevated—and has been beaten, broken and replaced several times as a result. On the Husqvarna M-ZT 52, the filter is seamlessly integrated right to the back of the Briggs & Stratton motor. It’s out of the way, and there’s really no conceivable way for it to be damaged. The muffler is also located inside the chassis frame, so it’s virtually impossible to bump into it or burn yourself. If this sounds trivial to you, realize that I live in Florida where its not uncommon to wear shorts for over three quarters of the year. Even the gas caps are nicely set well into the plastic shroud on the left side which contains the gas tank. They aren’t hanging up or out to get damaged or broken off. Basically, if you drag a branch all the way across this mower, there’s not a whole lot of damage you can do to it—and that’s just good engineering and design. About the only notable exception to this was the return fuel line which tended to pop off the top of the plastic tank if it got bumped.
The Husqvarna M-ZT 52 zero turn mower is what I’d call a really “accurate” zero turn, particular with features like the foot pedal, which lets you easily lift over high spots. And when it says “2 inches” it really means it—and that’s important for consistency of cut. We can’t cut grass too short around here or we’ll quickly burn it out in the heat of summer. The cutting deck height has some real options. You can adjust from 1.5″ to 4.5″ in 1/4″ increments. The pin adjustment system is a bit more difficult to use because you have to push it through two holes instead of just one, but it’s something that you acquire a skill for as you get more acquainted with it. Having a thicker piece of steel with a singular hole for the pin would have been preferred.
I really like the turn radius of the Husqvarna M-ZT 52. It’s tight, and the added height gives you an excellent birds-eye view of what you’re cutting or about to cut. I found it simple to get around the myriad of crepe myrtles we have in the neighborhood, and even cutting along curvy beds was easy. The mower also felt well-balanced, so on inclines and declines (I actually managed to find a few, even here in Florida,), you don’t feel as if you’re slipping or losing traction. The 13 inch tall by 6-1/2 inch wide front tires are also surprisingly big. They don’t dig in or get rutted up, even in soggy or wet grass. The weight definitely gets dispersed a lot better than with mowers that have smaller and thinner front wheels.
I think where I did run into some difficulty was with the higher seating position. You do get the better view of what you’re cutting, but it also puts you closer to any brush or tree limbs you might be cutting under or around. If you’re trying to get underneath a tree line, for example, you may whack your head on a branch if you’re not used to the height and are not being particularly careful.
This mower comes with a parking brake, which is a feature I don’t have on some of the older models of zero turns that I use or that I have used in the past. This could be an advantage for those who would find the need to have better security for the mower when stopping it temporarily on inclines, but it also means that, as a safety device, it’s one more item that needs to be engaged when the mower starts up.
To access the top of the deck, where you blow off the belts and pulleys, you have to unscrew the locking bolt (which incidentally has a plastic top that I’m certain I’ll kick with my boot and break one of these days). Any time I see a small losable part like this I just know it’s bound to be misplaced. In either case, once the bolt is out you can lift up the deck and access the parts below. Looking within, I felt that the belts and pulleys are much better shielded from grass than on some other mowers I’ve used. They’re just enclosed a lot more, and you end up getting less debris in the mechanisms, which will result in less wear and tear on those parts. Husqvarna also used cast iron spindle housings for the blades, which is a nice feature that you want to see on commercial-quality mowers.
Details, Details, Details
There are a lot of small details with the Husqvarna M-ZT 52 zero turn mower that I really like. While there’s only a single 5 gallon fuel tank with reserve (You don’t typically get dual tanks at this price point on any zero turns that I’ve seen.), they made great use of the opposite plastic shroud, giving you a large holding compartment to store things. The seat, which is easy to adjust, is incredibly comfortable as well, and I could sit in it for hours without getting sore or feeling too much vibration from the cutting deck or motor. There’s also a seat belt, butI didn’t need to use it, since I cut mostly on flat surfaces. When you flip the seat up to access the battery and other components, Husqvarna also included a steel cable to keep it from tipping all the way forward. It’s just a small feature, but that’s the kind of thing I found over and over again on this mower:they paid attention to the small details.
The front and rear grease points are super-easy to access, which is a nice feature—particularly for those of us who maintain our own equipment. The tension for the drive arms is easy to adjust as is the height they are set at, so you can move them up or down to get a perfect feel. And when you step into the mower, Husqvarna provided an ample amount of grip tape for your feet in all the right places.
On the back of the mower I couldn’t help but notice a basic tow hitch point. Given the available torque, I’d expect it to be able to pull a small cart with no difficulty at all. The anti-roll bar that comes with the Husqvarna mower rattled when I first used it, but I took a 15/16″ socket to tighten it down at the point where it folds over, and it didn’t bother me again. If you’re planning to fold it back and forth a lot, I could see the rattling being an issue. Once we snugged that up, it was actually apparent that the M-ZT 52 is a rather tight product. I’ve had other mowers that I’d lovingly describe as “rattle boxes”, and this one doesn’t have a ton of vibration as I used it.
Summing It Up
If there are features you absolutely have to have that the Husqvarna M-ZT 52 zero turn mower doesn’t deliver, chances are you just need to step up to a bigger or more feature-rich model. But in terms of value, Husqvarna has provided an incredible amount of features and performance at a really incredible price point. It also seemed that everywhere I looked there was some small feature or function that was geared towards making this a great mower. While each individual item may not be remarkable in itself, the sum of the whole made it clear that the M-ZT 52 is a well thought-out product that was obviously designed by folks who know a lot about operating zero turns.
Performance-wise, I really had no complaints about the product. It cut fast, and even when I encountered some areas with lots of new-growth oak trees sprouting up all over, the Husqvarna M-ZT 52 zero turn mower just took it all in stride. When cutting close on the right side it was easy to flip up the exhaust flap and get in tight. Acceleration on this mower was also quite good. With a top speed of 10 mph, it’s not the fastest zero turn I’ve used, but it’s faster than anything else I’ve found at this price, and it definitely feels snappy. The blades don’t get outrun by the speed of the mower, either. It seems to be able to cut pretty quickly and keep up with itself.
The biggest “problem” with the Husqvarna M-ZT 52 mower is that it looks, rides and operates like a commercial zero turn should—so much so that you’ll forget it only costs $5,500 and start thinking that it should have features like dual gas tanks or have a top speed of 13 mph. Don’t. Because it’s already got a bigger gas tank and higher top speed than most mowers in this price range. It’s also got build quality that far surpasses many other comparable products on the market. My takeaway is that this is an incredible value, delivering commercial quality and features at a price that will appeal to a lot of smaller commercial users looking to add a quality zero turn to their arsenal. For that, I can’t help but recommend the M-ZT series mowers.