they can be tough on hills due to the weight, i know as i am a hill master with them. the steering does get smoother, but takes a couple hundred hours. they are ultra responsive being a transaxel not hydros.
i would not get a rear discharge unless doing gov work alot with the machine, they will not handle thick or even close to taller grass well at all, none do.
our dealer support is impecable here and one of the reasons why(of course we love the brand) we have kept with them. find a better dealer if you can, we drive an hour to ours vs one 20 min away for the support, always the support!