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Honda HRX 217HXA

Since the HRX made its debut in the autumn of 2003, we had to wait until the grass started growing again to begin our season test. So last spring, I wheeled our 2003 Element over to Honda Power Equipment's headquarters in Alpharetta, GA, signed some paperwork, and proceeded to load up the pride and joy of Marconi Drive. Luckily, I had the foresight to remove one of the Element's seats prior to leaving home, and the mower's crate fit perfectly (on its side) through the spot vacated by the seat.

First Start

I've always wanted to own a Honda mower, so I couldn't wait to get the HRX home and give it a spin. It comes fully assembled in the crate, so it was a simple operation to unpack it, flip the handlebars back into postion, pour the included oil into the crankcase, splash some gasoline in the tank, open the fuel line valve, and give the pullrope its first yank. I wasn't really expecting it to fire on its first pull out of the box, but sure enough after sputtering for a brief moment, the motor fired and settled into a nice purr. I noticed that unlike mowers I've owned previously, there's no need to prime the fuel system to get the motor started.


Prior to cutting the first blade of grass, I checked out the "handling" of the mower. First of all, I found that it was quite easy to maneuver once it was under its own power. The variable speed "cruise control" lever is easy to operate and the mower's drive system reacts instantly to operator input, making it a breeze to "floor it" and go whizzing down the straights (at a terminal velocity of 4mph) and then pull it back to a mere crawl to negotiate trickier areas. The only downside with the drive mechanism seems to be that when the clutch is released and you need to push or pull the mower without the assist of the drive system, there's a noticeable amount of driveline drag creating some rolling resistance. This makes it feel a little heavy in some cases when compared to a standard pushmower, particularly when you need to pull the mower backwards. Otherwise, the level of effort required to operate the mower is minimal, and the drive system has plenty of oomph to easily haul the mower and a full bag of clippings (rated at 2.5 Bushels capacity) up some fairly steep inclines. The natural engine braking is also handy when mowing downhill.

Ergonomics and General Design

Handlebar Adjustment Mechanism

Honda products are widely known for their superior ergonomics, and for the most part the HRX upholds tradition. The primary interface for the user of a lawnmower is the handlebar, and Honda has named their setup the "ErgoActive Handle". On the left side of the handlebar (as you stand behind it, in mowing position) you will find two cable actuated controls - one for controlling the engine speed (Stop, slow-fast, choke) and the other setting the "cruise control" speed (from so slow it's almost imperceptible to a brisk walk of 4.0mph). On the right side of the handlebar, you will find the starter pullrope. The remaining two interfaces control the clutches for the blade and the hydrostatic drive mechanism. The blade clutch lever has an added safety mechanism in the form of a button that must be depressed before engaging the blade clutch. This ensures that the clutch isn't accidentally or unintentionally engaged. Due to to the nested design of the clutch levers, any time the drive clutch lever is engaged, the blade clutch lever must move along with it, so this safety button design also allows you to drive the mower under self-propulsion without engaging the blade. This comes in handy during those times that you need to drive the mower over areas that may damage moving blades. In general these levers are easy to use, with no unnecessary fatigue involved in their operation.

The handlebar adjusts to several different positions to suit the preference of the user. This is a nice feature, but the adjusting mechanism requires a bit too much fiddling for my tastes - I expect more from a Honda design. It's a fairly typical design, which uses a knob to lock a pin into one of 5 hole positions. By loosening the knob sufficiently, you can pull the pin out of the hole and then move it to another hole, effectively changing the angle of the handlebar, and thus the height at the operator end. The design is fine if you don't need to frequently adjust the handlebars, but if you need to fold the handlebars down for storage or transportation, the mechanism is more cumbersome than I would expect from Honda. I also bring up this issue because with the handlebar in the normal operating position, the HRX consumes quite a bit of floor space in your garage. I immediately noticed that its overall length of about 68" makes is around 6" longer than two other pushmowers that I measured. If you fold the handle over and remove the bag, the length shrinks to around 43.5", but again it's a bit more of a hassle to release the handle than it should be.

One other design issue that I noted was that the opening to the 2.5 bushel clipping bag is quite large. This is great for ingress and egress of clippings, but this large opening can make it difficult to pour the clippings into a typical 30 gallon yard waste bag without spilling mounds of grass clippings everywhere. Other bag designs have smaller openings which better match the size of the typical yard waste bag.

Now let's start cutting some grass.

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Subject Thread Originator Replies Last Post
ff_ 1
  Great mower BUT clippings get stuck in chute
amagbanua 1
RSX2K3 0
  It's a Type R (red cover)
TonyEX 0
  Love my HRX217TDA
HondaSalesGuy 3
  Used the HRX commercially for over 1 year.
Qoheleth18 0
  Where's the Mugen header/exhaust?
tec-9-7 0
  put N2O on it
outersquare 3
  Put a Weapon-R sticker on it...
vduck 0
ck98vteC 0
  reliable, durable workhorse
garfield134 0
  Hey how bout a supercharger?
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