wow very detailed report, ashame initial experience so negative. i have been very pleased with my new ProStance. like you said, very smooth performance.
not sure how much mechanical experience you have, sounds like an engine oil leak, was smoke coming off muffler or out of it?
as to speed issue, I have yet to open my speed bar to full. just too fast for my guys. we run about 75 to 80%. you think leaking engine oil may have coated drive belt?
you never said what you decided to buy, but if you havn't spent ur 8k i suggest u look for another dealer and take a second look, this is great unit.
also foot lift you could not find; it has a bracket that holds it up for storage, just reach down on left side and release it.
hope this helps