Both experts and owners agree that the John Deere X304 is one of the best lawn tractors on the market. With great performance and easy handling, users say the X304 mows "flawlessly" and is "fun to drive." As part of John Deere's deluxe line, the X304 includes a high-backed seat, electric power takeoff, cruise control and a large gas tank. With a wide variety of attachments available, many owners use it for much more than just mowing.
Two-cylinder engine. The X304 performs well in comparison tests, and excels at mulching and bagging clippings. With the mulching blades "I've turned a 75 leaf-bagging exercise into pure mulching for the yard," says one owner at Deere.com. The Telegraph's Jean Vernon says this tractor mulches both short and long grass "admirably."
The 18.5-horsepower, two-cylinder Kawasaki engine is an upgrade for 2013, and experts say it lasts longer, provides more power and vibrates less than one-cylinder engines. The X304 comes with cruise control and a choke, which is essential for cold-weather use. Separate from the speed control, the choke lever is spring-loaded to prevent users from accidentally leaving it on.
The X304's ability to mow up to 2 acres with a maximum forward speed of 5.5 mph is pretty standard, but its 4.0 mph reverse speed is the fastest of all the lawn tractors in our report. A few users warn that when they go too fast, the tires can leave marks on the lawn.
Packed with features. Both experts and users praise the X304's unique four-wheel steering, which engages all the tires to get a close cut around obstacles. In a comparison of five lawn tractors, Vernon says the X304 "offers exceptional maneuverability, mowing tightly and easily around trees, beds and borders." Its 15-inch turning radius is one of the smallest available.
Adding to the X304's comfort and usability are a high-back seat, cup holder, tool tray, headlights and location for an optional 12-volt outlet. Although it lacks a dash-mounted fuel gauge, the tractor has a 3.3-gallon gas tank and a number of users say the X304 uses very little gas. On the downside, this model has no washout port to clean clippings from the deck. Still, many reviewers say the convenience features make the X304 fun to drive.
John Deere offers a variety of attachments for this lawn tractor, and many owners say it's powerful enough for much more than just mowing. Optional implements include a front blade, snow blower and leaf bagger. John Deere has one of the best records for durability, according to a brand survey by a leading consumer organization. The X304 is backed by a four-year or 300-hour limited warranty, one of the longest on the market.
Easy adjustments. The X304 meets all riding mower standards from the American National Standards Institute, including a higher seat back and blade shut-off if you dismount. For reverse mowing, the X304 must be brought to a complete stop before you can select the reverse option.
The X304 uses a centralized knob to change mower height, adjustments to level the deck from side to side and a deck-leveling gauge. All settings can be accessed from the driver's seat, so there's no need to reach under the fender deck where the blades are.
Quieter than most. Paul Sikkema, a landscape professional and author of TodaysMower.com, says the X304 has a quiet engine that's similar to more expensive estate tractors. Vernon adds, "The engine is designed to surpass the latest worldwide noise and emission regulations." Numerous owners praise the X304's low engine noise, as well.
Safety experts caution to always wear hearing protection when mowing, even for quieter models like the X304.
This review compares the John Deere X304 to 29 other lawn tractors, and includes details on how the X304 disperses clippings, mulches grass and maneuvers around obstacles. About 60 owners also post comments here.
Review: Lawn Mowers & Tractors, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, Not dated
This professional landscaper gives the X304 high scores for its four-wheel steering, internal wet brakes, foot pedal lift system for attachments and preset cut heights on the mower adjustment. "These tractors are designed to mow well, drive well, and last much longer" than the 100 series, says Sikkema. He especially likes their "heavy-duty frames, heavy-duty steering, on-board deck leveling, good motors, and good transmissions." Although the X304 is strong enough for many tasks, Sikkema says it's underpowered for mulching.
Review: 2012 John Deere 42 in 18.5 hp X304 4WS Review, Paul Sikkema, 2011
3. The Telegraph (U.K.)
In a field test with four other lawn tractors, Vernon gives the John Deere X304 a very good/excellent rating for performance and very good ratings for convenience and value. She recommends the lawn tractor for "most garden lawns and small estates where maneuverability and a mulching facility are important."
Review: Best Ride-On Mowers (To Help the Llama), Jean Vernon, April 20, 2007
About 20 consumers give the John Deere X304 good marks for quality, value and ease of use at the manufacturer's website. Most recommend the lawn tractor, giving it an average rating of 4.7 stars out of 5. In addition to mowing, many owners use attachments with the X304. The bulk of the compliments are for the X304's four-wheel steering and easy maneuverability.
Review: X304, Contributors to Deere.com, As of May 2013
This older forum discussion compares the John Deere X304 to a zero-turn lawn tractor by Cub Cadet, especially for mowing around obstacles. Most comments favor the John Deere for proven quality and durability, with several owners saying it maneuvers around trees extremely well and is stable on hillsides.
Review: John Deere X304 Tractor or Cub ZTT 46, Contributors to GardenWeb.com, As of May 2013