2018 John Deere X330 Review

A beefy, mowing tractor that is built to last

By Geof Fowler, Photography by John Deere, Jan 11, 2018
The John Deere X300 series is a seven-tractor lineup with 11 possibilities when you factor in the mower deck size options. The X300 series is exclusively found at John Deere dealers, and is not available to box stores who also sell the entry-level E and D series tractors. Further complicating tractor hunter’s choices is the S240 Sport we tested in 2015, a tractor with some X300 niceties, but based on the D series underpinnings. The main points to consider are that X300 series tractors come with heavier-duty frames, heavier-duty transmissions, better engines (the S240 does come with Kawasaki power), beefier and easier to use deck lift mechanisms, and for most, a more comfortable hydrostatic control pedal arrangement.

2018 John Deere X330 Close

John Deere X300 series tractors currently have MSRPs that range from $2999 (X330) all the way to $6099 (X394). At the upper end of the series, a prospective purchaser would find an overlap with the X500 series that they would have to consider. We’ve reviewed tractors from both series, but with springtime mowing season (for most) a few months away, we wanted to review the X330 that the X300 series begins with.

COMPARISON: Read our review of the 2017 John Deere X730

As mentioned above, X300 tractors come with a heavier-duty frame (12 gauge) that is significantly heavier than the frame on E and D series tractors. That degree of added metal and heft carries throughout and yields a machine that is 77 to 115 lbs heavier. Engines used in X300 tractors include those made by Briggs & Stratton and Kawasaki. And while E and D series tractors also utilize Briggs & Stratton powerplants, the engines are not as heavy-duty as the Intek Cyclonic series, such as used in the X330. Given the code 44J6, the 2-cylinder 44.2 cubic inch mill makes 20 horsepower, has electronic ignition, and a Cyclonic air filter that keeps fine dust particles from entering the engine and leading to premature wear. Engine RPM and cold weather choke are by dash-mounted levers, with the choke spring loaded so it returns to off position as soon as the engine starts. Onboard fuel is 3.3 gallons and is accessed by a wide-mouth cap/fill tube conveniently located on the left fender.

2018 John Deere X330 Mowing

The X330 transmission is a Tuff Torq K46 hydrostatic (automatic) unit which is a non-serviceable transmission. This means the transmission has an internal (non-accessible) oil filter, no fill or drain for the hydrostatic fluid meant to last the duty life of the tractor, and is therefore not suited for heavy ground-engaging tasks. That said, many K46-equipped tractors are out there with many hours on them with their homeowners correspondingly happy. We’ll also note some K46 owners have come up with clever methods of draining and replacing the hydraulic fluid, but generally those so inclined have been those using their tractors for more extreme tasks than they were intended for. The K46 has approximately 25% greater torque rating than the TLT transmissions used on E and D series tractors.

COMPARISON: Read our review of the 2018 Snapper Pro S200xt Professional

Control over the infinitely variable 0-5.5 forward and 0-4 mph reverse speed range is by twin side-by-side pedals located on the right footwell, a setup that gets high praise for modulation, comfort, and intuitive feel. Above the hydrostatic controls is a brake pedal that is basically used to set the park brake, with the tractor coming to a halt just by taking one’s foot off the forward or reverse pedal.

2018 John Deere X330 Profile

Steering is manual, using a fixed 14” diameter wheel, but John Deere has figured how to get near-power steering effortlessness into its heavy-duty sector and pinion system. Front steering spindles are greaseable and there are ball joints of the tie rod ends. Turn radius is 16”, and with the 42” deck the X330 comes with, equates to an uncut circle of just 26”.

Slipping into the two-piece seat with coil spring suspension, 15” mid-height back, 7” of travel, the operator is treated to an uncluttered control arrangement with color-coded levers and a useful digital readout. The right footwell houses the abovementioned hydrostatic control and brake pedals, the left footwell carries the pedal used to raise/lower the mower deck (more on this below). Both are rubber isolated for comfort. The dash includes controls for throttle/choke, deck height lock, reverse implement option (RIO), cruise control, park brake, ignition and lights, and digital readout for functions such as fuel level, park brake engagement, engine hours, system voltage, and power take-off (PTO) engagement. The display even blinks when the fuel level is low. A cupholder and storage tray on the right fender round things out. There are no handgrip rails on either fender.

2018 John Deere X330 Front

The 2018 John Deere X330 is matched to the Accel 42” Deep mower deck. This is a 12-gauge, 2-blade side-discharge deck that is mulch compatible with an optional single-lever baffle-control mulch kit. The abovementioned raise/lower pedal is low-effort, which can further be improved with an optional spring-assist kit. Cut height is set by a rotary knob with (13) 0.25” adjustments from 1” to 4”. There is also the ability to lock the deck at a raised transport position. Owing that mower decks sometimes encounter rigid, fixed objects and can get knocked out of whack, the decks used on X300 series tractors can be adjusted (leveled) for side-by-side and front-to-back height from the operator seat, using a tool stored underneath the seat. A wash port is included to help keep underside grass build-up to a minimum. Spindles are greaseable, with flip up shields protecting componentry. Three different blades are offered for bagging, mulching and side discharge mowing. We should point out that with the mulch kit installed and the baffle open to side discharge, approximately 1/3 of the material is still mulched, so if mowing in heavy, wet grass is an only option, the mulch kit might not be the best choice.

COMPARISON: Read our review of the 2017 Cub Cadet XT2 LX42" EFI

Ease of maintenance is built into X300 tractors, with the one-piece hood lifting high to access the battery, Cyclonic air filter, fuel filter, oil fill, and for oil changes, a flexible drain tube with sealer cap and spin-on oil filter.

2018 John Deere X330 Beauty

The 542 lb. John Deere X330 comes with 15x6-6 front and 20x10-8 rear turf tires, is 72” long by 50.5” wide (38” with mower deck removed), and is 47” high. The 49.4” wheelbase aids the tight turn radius and tractor stability. John Deere warrants the X330 with 4-year/300-hour coverage. Implements matched to the X330 include a bagger, front-mount thatcher, 44” snow/light grading blade, 44” two-stage snowblower, several tow-behind or rear mount sprayers and spreaders, soft side weather enclosure, several utility carts (metal and poly), and a 40” tractor shovel that operates in a clamshell motion and emulating that of a grapple. Current offers include $500 savings and 4.9% interest, with zero interest if paid off in 12 months.

For a homeowner looking for a mowing tractor that is something more than offered by the box stores, the John Deere X330 would be well worth consideration, and would make for a good opportunity to stop by and meet that local dealer who might just become a best friend.


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