Makita XML08 self-propelled lawn mower enters the big leagues
When we first saw the Makita XML08 self-propelled lawnmower at GIE, it was clear that the product team was targeting a different audience. Entering the professional battery-powered mower space to compete with the likes of Stihl and Husqvarna, though, takes something special. Makita delivered.
- excellent drive
- Holds 4 batteries
- Well-built, sturdy frame with commercial-grade steel deck
- Quiet mode for longer run time and reduced noise
- Drive lever design makes it easy to stop drive without closing the blade
- True 21" Blade
- Covers, bags or side discharges
- Rubber tires instead of hard plastics
- When one set is depleted, you have to manually press the battery switch
- Near the top of the battery-operated lawn mower price list
Makita XML08 18V X2 Self-Propelled Lawn Mower Test
If you're familiar with early Makita battery-operated lawn mowers, this is something else entirely.
It holds four batteries, but only needs two to run. With four 5Ah batteries, you're running the equivalent of a 36V, 10Ah battery.
We used a 6.0Ah battery for testing, but we didn't take it easy. We felled a combination of Bermuda, Bahia and St. Augustine grasses. About 2/3 of our cut area was cut down to even 5 inches, and the other 1/3 was not cut at all in 2 weeks.
With the deck height set to 3 inches and less heat and humidity in central Florida, we had a total of 47 minutes with the battery pack cut off.
We could easily shave over an hour out of scheduled maintenance cuts.
You need to manually switch between batteries using the switch near the battery door. We'd prefer an automatic switch, but the silver lining is that you know when you're halfway down on fuel.
The blade spends a lot of time at the higher RPM levels as it cuts more confidently than we expect from a 36V/40V max mower. When we cut the high sections of our test area, we usually had to drop down to half the strip, but the Makita XML08 kept pushing through to keep its RPM at the full cut width.
In Florida we usually cover grass and that's how we spend most of our time testing. The Makita's lift does a good job of cutting grass into pieces small enough to fall back into the grass without leaving too many trails and clumps.
It's also a decent bagger. The same airflow that helps it cover effectively also creates good velocity in the bag.
That said, it's not as effective as some high-end commercial gas self-propelled lawn mowers, especially those with stacked blade systems like the Honda HRC series.
Cut evenness is very consistent. There are some blades still standing, especially around the area where it starts to get taller, but overall, it's good.
When the grass is wet, though, all bets are off. Due to the heat and humidity in Florida, the grass stays wetter longer in the morning and we only have a few hours to get to the sweet spot for mowing when it rains in the early afternoon.
As with other Makita battery powered OPEs, you need to press the power button to activate the mower. From there, it's the standard process of pressing the safety button and engaging the blade.
When you pull the self-propelled drive lever up, the mower travels between 1.5 and 3.0 MPH. The speed control is located on the left as an infinite setting dial. It strikes just the right balance of movement and stiffness, allowing you to dial in the speed you want without being too loose and easily misplaced.
You'll notice the drive rod cut in on the left. This allows you to easily release it while turning without having to loosen the blade engagement lever. It took a little getting used to it. Once muscle memory is built, we don't need to think about it at all, which is a very effective design.
The whisper button activates the mower's quiet mode. Once engaged, the blades spin at a constant 2300 RPM for quieter operation and extended your run time. For lighter cutting scenes.
After unboxing the mower and going through the small assembly process, the first thing we did was shake and wiggle it.
Many residential lawn mowers have a lot of movement throughout the frame. However, the Makita XML08 is solid, turning to the kind of rigidity we expect from a mower designed for professionals.
The deck is commercial grade steel and covers the mower's 21 inch blade. Makita doesn't play a game by talking deck size and putting smaller blades in there. When they say it's a 21" mower, they mean it can actually cut 21" at a time.
One thing that differs from many professional mowers is that the Makita insists on a single-point height adjustment. With 10 positions from 1 1/4" to 4", you only need to use one adjustment lever.
Individual adjustments can add stiffness and strength to heavier mowers. The Makita's adjustments are certainly more convenient, and we haven't seen any ill effects on frame strength so far.
One notable difference between the Makita and other battery-operated lawn mowers is the absence of a fold-down handle for vertical storage. However, pros often roll their walk-behind mowers on a trailer without spending the extra time folding the handles.
The benefit of waiving is that it removes another point of motion, helping to keep the overall frame stiffer.
The wheels tend to be an afterthought, with hard plastic construction and acceptable rolling resistance. However, the Makita XML08's package is pretty good. They have a softer rubber tire for better shock absorption, but more importantly, better grip on slopes.
The Makita's price tag has been a constant source of conversation. At $719 for the mower alone, or $849 for a kit with four batteries, it's certainly not cheap.
Remember the professional emphasis here. Commercial self-propelled gas lawn mowers can easily cost over $1,000. Compared to battery competitors, Stihl's self-propelled model with a similar battery load costs $879.
Sure, it's expensive compared to residential models, but those models don't pack the higher-quality components that Makita has chosen to meet the needs of professional lawn caregivers.
the bottom line
The Makita XML08 Self-Propelled Lawn Mower has the power and build quality to step in where professional workers don't need or welcome a gas mower.
There's nothing to complain about, other than maybe making the battery switch automatic.
It's a stark difference from Makita's earlier residential-focused models, giving Pros reason to consider the Makita their primary choice.
Makita XML08 Self-Propelled Lawn Mower Specifications
- Model: Makita XML08
- No-load speed: 2,800 RPM
- Deck Width: 22"
- Cutting width: 21 inches
- Cutting height range: 1-1/4" – 4"
- Bag Capacity: 2 Bushels
- Net Weight: 94 lbs. (with battery)
- Dimensions: 67-1/2 x 23-1/4 x 43 inches
- Warranty: 3 years
- Price: $719 bare metal, $849 with four 5.0Ah batteries