My review, a year after switching to Scag

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing Equipment' started by dathorpe, Mar 17, 2014.

  1. dathorpe

    dathorpe LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 479

    Here in Northern Virginia this morning, we have 10 inches of snow. I'm sitting at my dining room table with my laptop and free time on my hands so I thought I'd write a review of the mowers I bought new last year. In March, 2013, I purchased three Scag Turf Tigers - a 61" Briggs 35hp and two 61" Kohler 29 efi. Maybe someone can use this to help them make a buying decision if they're considering owning one of these mowers.

    So, let's start with the Kohler 29 efi. The best thing about the 29 efi is the fuel efficiency. In heavy spring grass, during the first 100 hours, she was consuming approximately 1.4 gph. I say approximately because we were so busy that I can't honestly say that I have high confidence in the accuracy of those numbers. Plus, I was told fuel consumption numbers are higher in the first 100 hours. From summer to fall, I would say we were very accurate with our numbers and the 29's measured at just over 1.0 gph. Of course, summer and fall have a lot lighter cutting conditions and hence, the better gph numbers. The Turf Tiger has an 8.5 gallon tank. We'd fill the 29's in the morning and not have to fill again for the rest of the day. The 29 efi has been a great engine for us. 95% of the time, it's all the power you need. As for everyday mowing, in combination with the Velocity deck, it's probably about as perfect as you can get. The only thing is... there's that 5% of the time when you're in the thick stuff and you have to slow down a bit. Which really isn't a big deal. I wouldn't hesitate to buy another 29 efi. Some people on this site have mentioned having problems when the efi runs out of gas. We've run them dry a couple of times. It's not a big deal. A few cranks, maybe five minutes, and they fire right back up, ready to mow again. The only problem I had with one of the 29's, was it developed a knocking sound that appeared to be internal, right at about 325 hours of use. I took it back to the dealer and he hooked it up to their diagnostics computer. Literally, about 20 minutes later, he said the cam sensor wasn't in sync and that it was an easy adjustment. He said this was one of the things he loved about the Kohler efi engines. The fact that they can be hooked up to diagnostics software and the problem could be found in just a fraction of the time it would take for a tech to find an answer. Let me just say, I'm sold on the Kohler efi engine. Absolutely love them. When buying new, from here on out, I'm looking for efi.

    The 35 hp Briggs Vanguard. This engine has a great reputation and it lived up to the billing. Extremely powerful and a true workhorse. In the thick spring grass, she was consuming over 2.0 gph. Maybe even 2.2 gph. Again, my spring calculations have room for error. We were just very busy with little or no time to concern myself with making sure my gph numbers are spot on. I believe they're fairly accurate but I could be slightly off. From the summer through the fall, in lighter cutting conditions, she was consuming 1.57 gph. The 1.57 gph is a very accurate number using a chart and measured amounts of gasoline over the course of 100 hours. The only issue I had with the 35 was a "running rough" issue early on - maybe less than 50 hours on the clock. I don't remember what the problem turned out to be. Dealer had it back to me the next day and I haven't had a problem since. I would not hesitate to buy another 35 Vanguard. In fact, I'm always scanning Craigslist for used Tigers with 35's. If I come across a good deal, I'd pick it up. I know, I just previously stated my love for efi. And if I were buying new, yes, it would be efi over carb for sure but I'd pick up a used 35 Turf Tiger given the chance. I love that engine and especially in combo with a Turf Tiger. The overall feel of the 35 Turf Tiger is awesome - in my opinion, better than the 29 Turf Tiger. I guess it's just the raw power that makes me prefer it... I don't know. Some may be scared off by the fuel consumption but I believe you get quite a lot in return for the extra consumption. It's a beast. One negative about the 35 Briggs is when it runs out of gas, it takes awhile to get it up and running again. I think I'm going to add an inline primer to help with that.

    The Velocity Plus deck. This deck has made my mowing crews more efficient. In my opinion, this is the best deck in the industry... largely because of it's versatility. It cuts great but a lot of commercial decks cut great. The thing with the Velocity Plus is... it is more adaptable to your cutting conditions than other decks, in my opinion. When I first switched to Scag, I was running the oem standard lift blades. I was finally able to cut grass when it was wet - something I wasn't able to do with my Exmark Lazers or Toro Z Masters. Even in the thick spring grass, my mowing times improved. Not only was I getting the job done in wet conditions, but I was getting the job done faster than before. Everything seemed great but after a few cuttings I started to get the so called "carpet effect" from my Scags. There were no clumps but there was cut grass laying like a carpet on top of the lawn. You'd run over it again and the Velocity deck just moved it from one stripe to the other instead of chopping it up enough to make it disappear completely. I bought some Gator G5 blades and switched out the oem standard lift blades. That made all the difference. Using the Gator blades in combination with the Velocity Plus is amazing. There is no "carpet effect" when running Gators. It's the best of both worlds - I get the large discharge of the Velocity and the chopped clippings of the Exmark but without the clumps. And here's the kicker, when it has rained the night before or if there's heavy dew conditions, we switch the blades to standard lift blades that morning and that allows us to cut soaking wet grass without clumps and double cuts. I usually rotate between straight blades and Gators anyway - run sharp straights for a week then run sharp Gators for a week. By doing it this way, my lawns always look great and are free of clippings. There are only two negatives I have found with the Velocity Plus. One, it leaves a line of cut grass straight down the middle when cutting in reverse. My Toros and Exmark don't do this. Literally, if you're backing up while cutting, it'll leave a line of clippings in the center of the stripe. It only does this in reverse. Two, If you're cutting a "V" shaped ditch, you need to be very careful not to scalp the bottom of the ditch. Again, neither my Toros or Exmarks have this problem or if they do, it's minimal. I've never checked but I believe this happens because the blades under the Velocity are closer to the inside edge of the deck than the blades under the Toros / Exmarks. Those are the only negatives I've found on the Velocity and in my eyes, they are very insignifigant and easy to work around. I come from a decade of running Exmark Lazers and Toro Z Masters. It was just another part of my day to have to double cut in order to fan out clippings. And God forbid there was dew on the grass - we may have to triple cut. The Scag Velocity cured that for me.

    Scag as a brand. I absolutely love Scag. My dealer has been first class all the way. These guys have gone out of their way to make sure I'm pleased. The Turf Tigers have performed very well for me, the build of the machine is excellent, and the overall experience this past year has been excellent. Like I said, I was all red - Toro, Exmark - for a long time. I know there's a long standing argument on this board between Exmark owners and Scag owners. Let me just say I still run Exmark walk behinds - I believe they're superior for reasons other than cut (love ECS handles) - but in riders, I believe Scag is the superior machine. I'm just stating my opinion based on my experiences. I'm not making this statement to offend Exmark owners. I still believe the Exmark Lazer is a fine product. I just prefer Scag for the reasons listed above.

    Kohler 34 efi 72" Cheetah. I ordered this machine about 8-10 days ago. The dealer called to say it's in and has been completely set up, ready for pick up. I've needed a 72" mower for some time and the Turf Tiger isn't available in 34 efi, plus I'm anxious to try a Cheetah. My dealer said he'snever even seen a 72" Cheetah so this should be interesting. Maybe next year I'll be writing about my opinions on the 72" Cheetah with a Kohler 34 efi engine. I'm looking forward to it. Now, if we can just get rid of this snow and get some warm temps in here.
  2. baileylawnservice

    baileylawnservice LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 530

    Good write up. I am getting ready to pull the trigger on a turf tiger and I am torn between those two motors. How is the response from the efi when you get in thick grass? I heard efi reacts much quicker then a carb.
  3. GMLC

    GMLC LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,345

    Great review! I ran Scag for 15 years. Great machines and company!
    Posted via Mobile Device
  4. dathorpe

    dathorpe LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 479

    The efi definitely has a quicker reaction than a carb. It's a very smooth engine. Overall, there's no doubt in my mind that efi is the future.

    Both the 29 TT and the 35 TT are fine machines. I'm very pleased with both but for different reasons. Obviously, the 29 is more fuel efficient but I love the feel and power of the 35. The 35 is probably the better overall value because you can get a 35 for about the same price as the 29 but you get a lot more power plus the 35 has fans mounted on the pumps which I really like. The 35 is also more versatile - the extra power is really nice for leaf clean up. If I were buying a TT strictly for mowing and fuel efficiency was very important to me, I'd probably buy a 29 efi... especially if it's a 52" deck. But if I'm buying the best value and I'm thinking of running baggers or other attachments, I'm buying the 35. What Scag needs to do is slap a 34 efi on a Tiger and you'd have a machine that is about as close as you can get to perfection.

    BTW, I just picked up a new 72" Cheetah with the 34 efi - I'm already impressed and I haven't even put it in the grass yet.
  5. dathorpe

    dathorpe LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 479

    Well, thanks but c'mon, it's not on your level of reviewing, that's for sure. Your review of the Pro Stance made me want to demo one at some point - maybe late '14.
  6. GMLC

    GMLC LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,345

    This review is great, post some pics this season and it will be one of the best!
  7. Ridin' Green

    Ridin' Green LawnSite Fanatic
    Male, from Michigan
    Messages: 17,468

    I agree- one of the best reviews I've read in a long time. Only thing that is lacking about it is the fact that there are no pics of either the machines, or the lawns/cut. We all know what cut grass looks like, but pics go a long way in helping visualize the story line.

    As you know, the only Kohler I would ever consider these days would be their EFI models. I would really like to see the 38 EFI that Exmark offers on a TT. That would be something!

    puppypaws has said that Vanguard is supposed to have a closed loop efi out by years end, so I am waiting to see for sure if they do before considering a new mower. Mmmm..... A Gravely 460 with a BB Vanguard EFI. Oh yea.....................
  8. baileylawnservice

    baileylawnservice LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 530

    So does the 35 hp come with bigger pumps ?
  9. baileylawnservice

    baileylawnservice LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 530

    I just pulled the trigger on a turf tiger 61" with the kohler efi. I have soccer fields to mow Friday. I can't wait to see it in action
  10. Church2224

    Church2224 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 556

    Great Review! I use Exmark Walk Behinds as well, and thinking about using the Scag Turf Tigers when I finally need a ZTR. Nice Work!

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