Different from the other mowers in the test, not least in price, we look at the Viking first. The unit delivered to us is a pre-production machine and has spent the past three months under test with a contractor. But that has no effect on the results. This is a beast of a machine, capable of demolishing dense vegetation yet equally at home giving a quality cut to a high-standard lawn.
Added to the Viking 7 Series this month, the MB 756 YC is robustly built. The housing comprises a replaceable polymer liner and a metallic outer chassis made of magnesium. Weighing significantly less than conventional metal, the use of magnesium keeps the weight of this mower down to 59kg without compromising stability.
The deck, which has a 10-year guarantee, also has replaceable steel side impact protectors and a solid rubber front bumper. Stihl clearly has confidence in it and we reckon it should not mind the occasional crash into a lamppost. "You can feel the strength in this machine. It's solid, built like a tank," Baldwin confirms.
The mower starts first time and we find it extremely manoeuvrable, despite the usual-looking torsion-resistant mono-handle - the point of which is quickly appreciated when we need to remove the grass catcher. There is nothing to get in the way and the box can be slid out and refitted with ease. Furthermore, blade brake clutch means there is no need to restart the engine while emptying the clippings.
With its 3.9hp air-cooled, vertical shaft four-stroke engine, the Viking is powerful, and the high-torque hydrostatic gearbox provides variable speed to suit conditions. Baldwin drives the mower up a bank and into the woodland edge. Thick rubber tyres with a "grippy" traction pattern see him safely over the rough ground. The wheels have aluminium rims and double, sealed bearings to protect against moisture and dirt.
Then Baldwin admits the extent his test drive. "It's an animal. There's loads of power. We took it through the undergrowth, up the bank, dropped it on a stump - it just kept going," he reports. "I like the fact you can alter the height of cut on all four wheels, so you can up the front if you are going through tall material."
But what is the quality of cut like? Baldwin looks back across the lawn. "The cut, when set down low, is beautiful," he says. "The uniformity is phenomenal - and that's after a contractor has been using it. This really is an all-rounder. It copes with the rough and enjoys the smooth."
If you do not want to collect, a mulching kit is available comprising mulch insert and special blade that shreds the grass finely to aid decomposition in the sward.
It looks as though servicing will be easy on the MB 576 YC. Air filter and oil filter are certainly accessible. With low vibrations and generous guarantees, we find it hard to fault. It is a machine that ticks all the boxes and therefore the price must be viewed as an investment.
Engine: Kawasaki K FJ 180 V KAI OHV
Output at working speed: 2.9kW/3.9hp - 2,800rpm
Drive: Hydrostatic variable speed + blade brake clutch
Cutting width: 54cm (21in)
Cutting height: 25-90mm adjustable (seven stages on each wheel)
Cutting type: Cut, collect, mulch
Housing: Magnesium with polymer lining
Grass catcher box: 75 litres
Fuel tank capacity: Three litres
Measured sound power level: 88dB
Guaranteed sound power level: 98dB
Vibration value ahw: 2.4m/s2
Warranty: One-year commercial use, five-year on mono handlebar, 10-year
on mowing deck
List price: £1,475 + VAT
Tel: Stihl - 01276 20202
Tested This Issue
Viking MB 756 YC
Cub Cadet CC53SPBE-V
The Reviewer - Mike Baldwin, director of learning, Broomfield Campus, Derby College
The walk-behind wheeled rotary mower is the backbone of many machinery fleets and often a first choice for anyone with small or awkward areas of amenity grass. Lightweight and easy to pop into a van, these mowers are loved by garden contractors and in municipal spheres they are used for trimming up after the ride-ons have flown past.
With plenty of options, such as collect, side or rear discharge or mulch, wheeled rotaries find work in locations as different as cemeteries, highway roundabouts, newly germinating sports pitches and back lawns. At the Broomfield Campus of Derby College, where we held our test, walk-behind rotary mowers are used around beds and borders, along verges and in between trees.
We look at new models from four firms. Viking, the mowing side of Stihl, is an increasingly recognised name in professional grounds care circles as well as providing a wide range of domestic lawnmowers. We test the company's latest premium mower for commercial use. It is the most powerful and most expensive of the bunch, but what will our tester make of it?
We also look at a self-propelled and push mowers from Makita. Joining us for the first time we have Masport and Cub Cadet. While all three brands submit what appear very normal lawnmowers, we find each has something to set it apart from the others.
In the test, we were assisted by horticulture students undertaking an assessment of machinery for ease-of-use and health and safety considerations. Conditions on the day were cloudy but dry.