The TOV enthusiast knows all about the latest Honda automotive offerings from the 2004 TL to the 2004 S2000. However, do you know about Honda's latest non-automotive offerings? Can you name Honda's latest lawnmower line? If not, the TOV wants to change that. As part of a new TOV Lifestyles initiative, we will periodically be covering Honda's non-automotive products of significance. The subjects may include lawnmowers, generators, pumps, snowblowers, marine engines, outdoor equipment engines, tillers, trimmers, personal watercraft, offroad motorcycles and ATVs, or anything else that might wear a Honda badge.
All Honda Power Equipment engines are 4-stroke engines that are cleaner running, more efficient, quieter, and smoother than the competition, much like their automotive engines! And following the philosophy of building the product where it's sold, Honda has invested a huge amount of money in the US like the $30 million expansion at its Swepsonville, North Carolina factory. Swepsonville is expected to produce more than 1.5 million power equipment engines in 2004. Research, development, and testing of Honda power equipment are done both in the US and in Japan.
Depending on your lifestyle and geography, you may or may not own a lawnmower or give much thought to mowing the lawn yourself. Since I grew up cutting my family's (and others') lawns, I am a part of the population who continues to do so. When Honda called to ask if I wanted to try out their latest lawnmower, it definitely piqued my curiosity. Having owned many lawnmowers in the past, I felt semi-qualified to judge Honda's newest offering, the HRX. Doesn't that name sound like some sort of codename for a new racing engine? I think it's every bit intentional as the HRX lawnmower is very sleek and possess all of Honda's classic traits of excellent build quality and performance.
The benefits of mulching your grass by not bagging are well known. Grass clippings are left on the lawn to decompose which places vital nutrients back into the ground, while also minimizing the land fill of grass clippings. Leave it to Honda to make it as flexible and convenient as possible. On standard lawnmowers and even on Honda's own Harmony line of mowers, a plastic plug is placed into position when the owner wants to mulch. If the owner wants to bag the grass clippings for those times he wants a super clean lawn, he would have to remove the plug and have the bag in place. Honda has developed a system whereby a lever moves a plastic deflector and door. This Clip Director quickly allows the mower to be in full bagging mode, full mulching mode and anywhere in between. Honda has dubbed this the Versamow system.
Some mowers are very good at bagging grass, but not very good at mulching and vice-versa. Honda claims that the HRX mower is the best at both jobs and can also effectively vary the amount of mulching and bagging. This may be a common scenario: A customer likes a very clean lawn with no visible grass clippings on the lawn. He would have to bag the grass, but this requires lots of extra work emptying the bag and disposing the grass. By setting the Clip Director to 25% mulching or more, he can still have a clean lawn while still providing the lawn with nutrients from mulching part of the grass.
Conversely, a person who prefers to mulch all the time may have problems when the grass is very high or when the grass is wet. Mowers do not effectively mulch tall and/or wet grass, leaving large clumps of grass on the lawn which may not decompose as quickly. By setting the Versamow to 50-75% mulching, he can still mulch while bagging much of the excess tall or heavy wet grass. This is indeed the best of both worlds.
The HRX includes other advanced mowing features like the ability to stop the blade while the engine is running and a twin-blade design to finely cut the grass clippings. The user can now walk away from the mower without the engine stopping. The twin-blade provide 4 cutting edges per revolution to produce small grass clippings to provide excellent mulching and bagging capabilities.
I was able to make a couple of passes with the HRX mower on the tall fescue grass at the site and here are the things that stood out for me:
The Xenoy deck appears to be extremely stiff and strong, which then allows very tight tolerances between the blade and deck. This makes lining up the cutting path with the deck's sides very easy. Xenoy is the same material used in football helmets and inside the bumper of the '04 TL. The material will not rust or dent even in cold weather.
The hydrostatic transmission was great. I could smoothly adjust the speed of the mower's rear wheels from a slow crawl to almost a jogging pace. I was able to maneuver in tight spots, while speeding along on the straights! As the bag gets filled with grass, the weight bias shifts towards the rear of the lawnmower and the rear wheel drive becomes very beneficial especially if you are on hilly terrain. Funny how most Honda cars are front wheel drive while their lawnmowers are rear wheel drive.
The 6.5HP Honda GCV190 engine was remarkably smooth and quiet for a lawnmower. It would be nice if my neighbors would use this engine when they decide to mow their lawn at 8:30 Saturday morning. Compared to other mowers, a small amount of vibration was felt on the push handle. Perhaps a remedy would be to fit the grip with a cushioned material to dampen vibration even further and to prevent blisters when mowing very large yards.
A final nit is that I would like to see an easier way to change the oil on the HRX. The design still requires that you tip the lawnmower to its side to drain the oil. The weight is hefty enough to prevent people of small stature to easily change the oil and so chances are that maintenance goes neglected. Gasoline may also spill out if you are not careful. I think providing an easier way to change the oil would result in better maintained mowers. I have personally neglected changing the oil as often as I should on my own mowers because of the hassle in changing the oil.
The HRX217TDA 21" deck and 3-speed transmission has a retail price of $639. The HRX217HXA 21" and Hydrostatic variable transmission has a retail price of $759. I highly recommend spending the extra money on the hydrostatic tranny as it makes negotiating turns an absolute breeze. You'll be instantly addicted. Going back to my push mower at home feels like I'm "driving" an old Yugo. :-(
It's rather pricey, but the Honda HRX represents the pinnacle of lawn mowing technology. For someone who takes pride in their lawn and values superb engineering and reliability in their lawnmowers, you can do no better than the HRX.