Financing available for online purchases* Learn More

Behind the Scenes — the Making of the Ultima Zero-Turn Lawn Mower

Behind the Scenes — the Making of the Ultima Zero-Turn Lawn Mower


The all-new Ultima Series will change the way you mow your lawn. And that isn’t hyperbole. This line of zero-turn lawn mowers combines next-level comfort and durability, superior speed and control, and best-in-class cut quality to create the ultimate mowing experience. But the perfect mower isn’t made overnight.

Hearing from real customers

It starts with design, and we don’t take that lightly. We convened focus groups. We hosted a design fair. We went to the homes of zero-turn owners. It all pointed to one thing: zero-turn lawn mowers are begging for a refresh.

In-home discussions especially led our industrial design team to better understand the likes and dislikes of current zero-turn users about competitor products, as well as our own. We heard a lot of feedback about ergonomics, overall usability and visual design. The industrial design team then drafted more than 40 unique renderings that ranged from traditional to sports-car-inspired and narrowed it down to a final seven designs to use in consumer focus groups. We delved into what the next generation of a zero-turn could look like and accomplish.

The input from the multiple focus groups showed a consistent favorite among the seven designs shown, and it closely resembles the Cub Cadet Ultima we know today. One participant noted, “The engineering behind the project definitely showed.” Another mentioned, “There is nothing typical about this mower.”

Bringing the Ultima Series to life

Our research highlighted a few key areas of consumer preference.

  • A high-quality cut is a must. The AeroForce™ cutting system outfitted on each Ultima delivers best-in-class cut quality, a claim we tested with The Ohio State University*. Cub Cadet scored best against five competitors in the side discharge and mulching modes, and second in bagging. As a result, you can expect fewer clumps and stragglers, finer clippings, and increased evenness from the Ultima.
  • A strong frame. Durability is nonnegotiable, so we opted for a tubular frame that delivers strength, durability and user protection.
  • A comfy ride. Comfort is critical, and we address that with a high-back, adjustable seat and unique, carefully contoured soft-touch lap bar grips. One focus group participant said, “it was as comfortable as my living room lounge chair.”
  • Cool design elements. A sporty, compelling design captures attention and showcases performance. That’s why we let the tubular frame structure come to the forefront, rather than hide behind excessive plastic covers.
  • Simple upkeep. Maintenance-free spindles, a high floor pan for easy deck access and a best-in-class warranty mean maintenance is easy. As in, really easy.

It was clear what people wanted—strength, durability and sleek style—so we developed a prototype and hosted a blind shopping experience for potential customers at a third-party research facility in Columbus, Ohio.

Our research paid off. The Ultima Series performed exceedingly well in a mock shopping environment, scoring the highest in just about every attribute under review, such as design, comfort, adjustability and ease of maintenance. Blind shoppers especially liked the design and strength of a unique tubular frame. Overall, consumers were impressed. “It brings things to the table I have never seen in other mowers, let alone other zero-turns,” one said. “[It’s] a night-and-day difference from my current mower.”

In all, the full journey of the Ultima Series took nearly a year and a half, included input from 1,300 consumers, and received more than 63,000 hours of engineering and testing. That’s equivalent to more than 2,600 days or slightly more than seven years.

From each bolt to the comfort of the seat, we created the Ultima Series with you in mind.

* Based on testing and evaluation conducted with The Ohio State University of cut appearance in side discharge, mulch and bagging modes of current model Cub Cadet ZT1 54, John Deere Z355 E, Toro TimeCutter SS 5000, Hustler RAPTOR 52, Ariens ICON X 52 and Husqvarna Z 254 conducted on June 5-7, 2018. The Ohio State University does not endorse or promote Cub Cadet or any of its products and services.