Kubota ZD331 / 72" review after 150 hours (extensive).

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by LwnmwrMan22, Jun 24, 2007.

  1. LwnmwrMan22

    LwnmwrMan22 LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,373

    Okay, I've got 5-10 minutes before my 5 year old finishes eating so we can go fishing so here goes.

    This is my 19th year running my lawn service. I've had as many as 7 guys working for me, however now I'm back to running as a solo op.

    I run 80-100 hours / week, mostly from the first of May until the end of October, or whenever the snow falls. I've been done as early as October 15th, and done cleanups on New Year's day.

    I've run Toro 252 / 62" Z's, Ferris IS4000 / 61" zero turns, Snapper front mount / 61" deck and (2) Kubota ZD28's / 60" deck.

    This is the first 72" deck that I've run.

    A little background, so you all know what I'm comparing against.


    1) The new seat is WONDERFUL. It's a suspension seat, with adjustable arm rests, as well as the back will angle forward or back.

    2) The zero flat tires in the front, because I no longer have to worry about catching the utility marking flags or such in them any more, or popping the bead on a curb.

    3) The fuel efficiency is good. I mow mostly commercial, 2-3 residential houses mixed in. On Wednesday, I mow a senior high for the local school district. I run through 1 full tank, and then about another hour's worth of mowing on the second tank, roughly 8 gallons in +/- 9 hours.

    Around here, I can get off road diesel for $2.45 / gallon, so with running at a little less than a gallon / hour, for a 31 hp diesel motor, I'm happy with that.

    4) The cut is decent. The last two mowers that I had were the ZD28's with the 60" cut. I was VERY happy with the cut from those mowers. The two biggest issues that I have with the cut of this mower are as follows:

    a) It's odd, because with the offset for the 72", you have to run the gauge wheel fairly low, or that side wants to dip in on a hill. Well with that running low, you have a little extra line in your stripe. Also, the weight of the mower is such, that your tires are pressing the grass down a little more than the ZD28s.

    b) IF you're in heavy, slightly wet grass, it doesn't disperse it as well as the ZD28 / 60" deck did. I don't know if it's because this is a 72" deck (I'm thinking that this is the main reason), or if the fact that the deck is now an extra 1/2" deeper at 6.5" deep, that this is causing some of the issue as well.

    Also, it doesn't see to spread out the grass as well if you go back over a property to double cut it, if you have a heavier growth and want to spread the clumps out.

    5) It's fast. I've had my GPS on it, and the GPS has said I'm mowing between 11 and 12 mph when I'm mowing full speed. I've also clocked the GPS against the speedo in the truck, and it's pretty much dead on, as well as clocked the speedo in the truck against those portable radars that city cops set up in different parts of town, and that was on, so I'd have to say that I've got to be mowing around 11 mph, even though literature for the mower states 10 mph (I believe).

    Those are my top 5 reasons that I like it.

    Here's my top 5 concerns....

    1) It's almost too fast. Even after 150 hours, I still cannot turn the thing without tearing turf. As I stated in the beginning, I've been doing this for almost 20 years now.

    I didn't have a zero turn until '95, so I've been on those for 12 years now, and this is by FAR the hardest to get to turn without tearing turf. Even stopping at the end of a run, especially when I'm mowing a school or a park, the rear tires want to slide to a stop, instead of stopping the machine, which causes turf tear.

    I'm sure there's a fine line to when the hydros are too quick, and the jury is still out on whether or not that line has been crossed.

    2) The castor wheels on the deck need to be steel. I've already burned off 4 castors on the left side of the deck, since that's the side that gets run along a curb. If you have properties where you have curblines, and the turf is too low, so you're running the edge of the deck on the curb, even if you're running the wheel in the turf, as soon as you get a slight flat spot on that wheel, you're going to flatten it right out, then each time you catch a slight uphill in the turf, the wheel will just dig in, instead of rolling the deck / mower up the hill.

    3) There should be a fuel gauge on the right hand tank as well. They've just got a light that goes on when the tank is about 1/2 empty. It would be nice to know when it's truely empty, instead of running and running, especially when you're on properties for 5-6-7 hours at a time, and no fuel station around. 1 hour into it and the light comes on, you don't want to pack up and go to the station.

    4) The machine is VERY hard to keep on a hill. The best machine that I've had for hills was the Ferris IS4000. MY ZD28's were close, but this one wants to slide ALL the time. Again, there's a line there where I think this machine has crossed. I've got properties where I had no problems whatsoever taking zero turns on to do hills, and now with this machine, I will not take it on those hills. I get one of the old ZDs or use my walkbehind.

    5) This one isn't really the mower's fault, more my own preference, but the new setup for the jack in the front, combined with the streching of the foot pad/plate has made it more difficult to use a 36" garbage grabber while you're using the mower to pick up garbage from the seat of the mower. There's a bigger shield work around, plus with the new hydro deck lift controls for your feet, as well as moving the parking break there, it's somewhat cluttered the area if you keep a 5 gallon bucket between your feet for garbage.

    All in all, it's a mower that has its place. If you're doing wide open areas, it's wonderful. I had a Toro 4100 last year (11' WAM / 55 hp diesel) and I can mow faster with this Kubota than I could with the 11' WAM, because the WAM didn't have enough hydraulics under it to mow faster than about 5-6 mph.

    I DO use it on turf areas under 5k. I have to be VERY careful on turns, and usually only use it on areas that I know the customer isn't overly picky, they just care that it looks mowed from the road type deal. Again, I'm 99% commercial, so I can get away with that.

    If you're looking to run this mower as your only mower, I would shy away. If you're looking to add some bigger accounts, I would absolutely look at adding this mower.

    I've been trying to find the time to demo a ZD326 / 60" mower, since that would be much more comparable to my ZD28 / 60" that I've run since 2004, but it's just not working out yet. If I get the chance, I'll post another review.

    If there's anything that you've got concerning your current mower, or a question about this one, ask away, I'll answer as best I can.
  2. Grass Man

    Grass Man LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 272

    .... Thanks for the update LwnmwrMan22 :).

  3. coobie

    coobie LawnSite Member
    Messages: 113

    I bought the Kubota 326 pro 60 inch deck about 4 weeks ago and love it.I do agree it needs a fuel gauge instead of the blinking light,this is one fast ZTR as you state.This biggest complaint I have my ferris/simplicty I sold soaked up the rough terrian better than the kubota.All in all I am very happy so far.coobie:)
  4. greenscapes inc.

    greenscapes inc. LawnSite Member
    from Utah
    Messages: 137

    I just picked up a new ZD326 on friday. So far so good, other than my hour meter not working. It mowes great and is fast. Ill keep you informed as the days go on.
  5. LwnmwrMan22

    LwnmwrMan22 LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,373

    2 more things.

    For those that didn't see the post a couple weeks ago, and already own one of these machines, check with your dealer, there's an update with the motor mounts. At least on the 331 there is.

    Also, one other thing that I HATE, is that you cannot remove the uprights for the ROPS. You can only fold the top back, which means that you can still catch the uprights on tree limbs, low signs, etc.
  6. kpc007

    kpc007 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 9

    I have the ZD326P with a 60" deck and cutting 14 acres with mostly hills. This is one tough grass eating machine:weightlifter: . I had no problems cutting 4 ft field grass on a 30 degree slope at half throttle. The engine kept going like the energizer bunny..:) I must add that we have been very dry here the last couple months so the ground is very solid. I don't know how the machine handles wet grass on slopes.

    As mentioned previously, the seat is great. It still rattles me a bit when going over the ruts made by the tractors that cut hay for a hundred years but going with the ruts it flys with little jarring. And, yes, I would love to have a fuel gauge for the second tank! Thats about all that's missing from this machine.

    I cut the 14 acres (8 sloped with 4' field grass; 6 mostly flat and 6" grass) in 6 hours on 4 gal of fuel. With my old JD lawn tractor (48" cut) it took 2 days on 10 gal of gas. I swear, that poor thing moaned and wimpered when I took it out of the barn.:rolleyes:

    I'm very happy with the performance of the 326, at this time, and its a lot of fun to drive and it sure is easy on fuel usage. That engine will pay for itself many times over in fuel savings alone.

    I'll advise if things change!
  7. LwnmwrMan22

    LwnmwrMan22 LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,373

    One more thing.....

    To cut down on the wear of the gauge wheel on the deck, I ran the mower with the front axle fixed for a while. One thing that I noticed, is that it's no different than any other Z with a suspension seat, obviously.

    However, there would be times that you would "get stuck" on flat ground. If you would turn, there would be times when the right or left wheel would just spin, not allowing you to go forward, until you "rocked" the mower some.

    Now I've gone back to having the front axle pivot, as I didn't notice any less wear with the gauge wheel.
  8. kpc007

    kpc007 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 9

    Yeah, I have mine pivoting also. Too many ruts for a fixed axle.
  9. 2 clowns mowing

    2 clowns mowing LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 566

    i demoed the same mower it was great but bumpy ride thinking of ferris 5001 instead
  10. razor1

    razor1 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,985

    LwnmwrMan22 Thanks for the info. How does the redesigned trans. perform compared to the old ZD's? What did you pay for the new Kubota?

    "i demoed the same mower it was great but bumpy ride thinking of ferris 5001 instead" 2 clowns

    Funny, we used to call our orange ZD 21 the basketball, because it looked and rode like one.

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