A riding lawn mower takes the toil out of cutting a lawn, but not all riding mowers are created equal. There are small mowers for low-acreage lawns, electric mowers for easy operation, and big mowers, like the Cub Cadet XT1 ST54 Lawn Tractor, for cutting acres and acres of grass. With a wide 54-inch mowing deck and an impressive 24-horsepower engine, the XT1 ST54 is one of the faster and larger-sized lawn tractors on the market. It’s also chock full of convenience and safety features. We put this Cub Cadet to the test, using it to cut our two-acre yard and to haul brush.
Design: Lots to like
Very few details were overlooked when Cub Cadet designed the XT1 ST54 riding lawn mower. Let’s start with the core components: The ST54 has a 24-horsepower Kohler V-Twin engine and a rugged fabricated 54-inch deck made with 11-gauge steel, meaning it can handle impacts from rocks, roots, and other hazards with minimal damage. It also has a self-charging electrical system that will charge the battery when the mower is in operation. As long as you are running the mower regularly you will power to electric start the engine
Around the edges of the deck, it boasts three blades and four anti-scuff wheels that adjust the deck to the terrain to keep a level cut. A single lever can raise or lower the deck into 12 different positions between 1 and 4 inches. There is no PTO lever to engage the cutting blades, as the Cub Cadet has an electric PTO that engages with the push/pull of a small yellow knob on the console.
Very few details were overlooked when Cub Cadet designed the XT1 ST54 riding lawn mower.
The Cub Cadet has a push-button electric start with electronic fuel injection, so there is no choke you need to set. Just press the button, and the engine fires right up. Press it again and the engine turns off. There also is a push-button, cruise control setting that maintains your speed over level terrain. Got a large area to mow and want an even cut? Push the button, sit back, and cruise.
Not only can you automatically engage the hydrostatic transmission and drivetrain, but you can also disengage it when needed. If you need to move the mower without engine power, a simple transmission bypass rod can be used to disconnect the transmission so you can push the mower right where you need it.
The Cub Cadet supports a variety of optional mowing attachments for mulching, snow plowing, and more. A quick wash adapter on the deck allows you to connect your garden hose for cleaning. If you are mowing at night, the Cub Cadet has an LED headlight that delivers a steady and bright beam of light. They won’t brighten and dim with engine output like traditional bulbs.
Performance: Fast and effective
Most people purchase a riding lawn mower to cut grass, and the XT1 ST54 excels in this area. We found that its mowing deck cuts a full swatch, allowing us to make fewer passes across the lawn. The 24HP Kohler engine starts and runs without a hitch and provides plenty of mowing power. The Cub Cadet cuts at a blazing 5.5 miles per hour in forward and an impressive 3.2 miles per hour in reverse, meaning we could cut even large areas quickly and efficiently.
If you have a smaller or slower lawn mower, you’ll be amazed at how fast the Cub Cadet mows. It cut our mowing time down by a third. It is also highly maneuverable, with a 16-inch turning radius that made us think we were driving a zero-turn mower. This handling means you can tackle lawns that have obstacles with ease.
If you have a smaller or slower lawn mower, you’ll be amazed at how fast the Cub Cadet mows. It cut our mowing time down by a third.
Our yard has a little bit of everything, from straight flat sections to hills and plenty of obstacles, and we had no problem using it to remove brush cuttings and mowing slightly to moderate inclines. The side discharge discards the cut grass close to the tractor so there is little to no dust. Unfortunately, the mower does not ship with a bagger, but you can purchase one as an optional accessory.
Still, this Cub Cadet is sold as a riding lawn mower and not a garden tractor, so don’t expect it to be able to pull heavy loads or mow on steep hills. When we tried to pull a railroad tie from an old garden bed, the mower struggled, and the wheels spun out more than once. We experienced similar slippage on a steep, grassy hill. But overall, we found the floating-style deck was easy to move from height to height, and it helped the ST54 deliver an even cut on uneven terrain.
The floating-style deck was easy to move from height to height, and it helped the ST54 deliver an even cut on uneven terrain.
Gas Mileage: Roomy tank lasts for hours
With a 24HP engine and three cutting blades, the Cub Cadet XT1 ST54 is a powerful lawn mower. It guzzles fuel faster than a smaller mower, especially at high speeds, but the three-gallon tank helps to offset consumption. We were able to mow several hours without a refill. A side-mounted gas spout and a transparent container made it easy to check the fuel level as we were mowing and refill the gas as needed.
We were able to mow several hours without a refill.
Noise Level: Ear protection advised
The noise level from the ST54 is on par with most gas-powered riding lawn mowers. It is loud enough that you cannot hear your surroundings and have to stop the mower to talk to someone. We recommend using some form of hearing protection while using the Cub Cadet lawn tractor.
Safety: Multiple levels of protection
The Cub Cadet XT1 ST54 has a wide variety of safety features to protect you in case of an accident. The seat has a sensor that detects when someone is sitting on it and will prevent the mower from starting if it is vacant. The mower will also turn off if the rider comes off the seat without engaging the parking brake. Another useful feature is the blade brake clutch, which turns off the blade but keeps the motor running so you can safely empty the bag of grass without having to turn off the engine.
The ST54 can both drive and mow in reverse, but it has safety features to prevent you from going backward by mistake. When driving backward, you have to press the reverse button on the console and depress the reverse pedal on the riding mower. Mowing in reverse requires an extra step. You first have to turn the key to the Reverse Caution Mode before you engage the reverse button and the reverse pedal.
Comfort: Could be better
Mowing takes time, and you will be sitting for hours in the seat, so it better be comfortable. The seat in the Cub Cadet XT1 ST54 has an ergonomically-shaped molded plastic frame with padding and a high back that provides extra support. The seat has springs that do a decent job offsetting the bumpy ride of the riding mower.
There are no armrests on this Cub Cadet model, which is disappointing. You’ll have to upgrade to the XT2 or XT3 models if you want this extra level of comfort. Next to the seat within easy reach is a cup holder and a holder for small tools.
The seat has springs that do a decent job offsetting the bumpy ride of the riding mower.
Maintenance: Quick and easy
Maintenance is a breeze thanks to the Bluetooth-enabled Cub Connect mobile app, which provides reminders and lets us log any work we’ve done on the riding mower. It was easy to do the essential maintenance, like changing the oil, ourselves; the oil dipstick is accessible underneath the hood.
Even the oil drain is right out in the open. Just attach the drain tube, which is included with the mower, twist to unlock the drain plug, and let it drain. Once the oil is completely removed, we were able to turn to close the plug and refill with clean oil. It takes 15 minutes tops.
The brand’s patented SmartJet high-pressure deck washing system helps to mitigate the buildup of grass clippings and other debris. If you happen to damage the blades, they are replaceable. Just makes sure you purchase the 54-inch blades. They are harder to find and a bit more expensive than the common 42-inch size.
Price: Get what you pay for
With a price tag just under $3,000, the Cub Cadet XT1 ST54 is pricey, but you get what you pay for. The lawn tractor has a wide mowing deck, a powerful engine, three blades for cutting, and a slew of convenient features that make mowing enjoyable.
A worthy investment.
The Cub Cadet XT1 ST54 Lawn Tractor cuts evenly and mows quickly, making short work of most household lawns. The seat could use some armrests, and the reverse could be easier to engage, but overall, this mower is a worthy investment for people with larger lawns.
Courtesy: The Spruce