I bought the X748SE, a new '08 model, last October. I got the 54" deck, and a Power Flow with MC519 cart. The Power Flow got a steady workout all the way through the end of the year, about 55-60 hrs worth. I did the initial break-in oil and tranny fluid changes myself, including filters. straightforward and no problems.
The cart mounts solidly to the rear of the tractor, meaning it stays directly behind you when you make turns. It will move up and down for uneven terrain and rolls on two castered wheels. The cover hinges at the front, and a latch keeps it closed until you're ready to empty it. Deere advertises that you can empty the cart without getting out of the seat. Well,.... my seat is the high back deluxe seat, and no way can you reach around to release the cart dump lock or release the cover latch without getting out of the seat. This is a minor point, though. When you do release the dump lock and the cover latch, and pull just a little with the handle on the front of the cart, a hydraulic cylinder under the cart takes over and the whole thing opens like a clamshell, dumping the contents. Closing and latching everything is also straightforward, and after a couple of cycles of filling and dumping, you get a rhythm going, and it beats the **** out of raking.
The Power Flow also needs addressing. It drives off the right-hand blade spindle; when you have it installed, there is an additional sheave which mounts on top of the blade drive sheave. There is a heavy steel bar that fits into a mount which bolts to the deck near the right front gauge wheel. This bar holds the front of the blower assembly, and the blower housing fits into the exit chute of the deck. The drive belt is fitted around the pulley on the deck, and then you pull and latch a lever that tensions the belt and holds the blower to the deck. Attach the chute to the blower after sliding it into the cart cover, and you're ready. With a couple of times practicing, the whole shebang (cart, blower and all hookups) can be done in 5 minutes, ready to use. The vacuum is outstanding, the system includes a couple of anti-blowout plates that bolt to the underside of the deck edges. I can pick up acorns, chestnuts, even black walnuts in the hull. Initially, I was worried that these nuts would damage the impellers, but I have been surprised and satisfied. Heavy, wet grass demands a slow ground speed, or you can clog up the chute. Normal grass is a breeze.
Now, the tractor. This is a BIG change from my previous mower, a JD GT235 I've had since 2002 (I kept it). I wanted something heavier duty, that I could garden with and push a bit harder than the GT. I sold a Yanmar 1810D and most of my implements to get the 748.
I bought the X748 SE without the 3-point hitch or rear PTO, figuring I would get them within the first year. I had debated over it or a 2305, but financing and incentives were a bit better at the time for the 748, and most of my use would be mowing. The SE comes with a very nice seat, fancy wheels, HDAP tires front and rear, front fenders, and a brush guard. The package is slightly more expensive than buying the seat separately alone, and the seat is by far the best thing about the SE package. Adjustable for driver weight, up to 250 pounds, it has adjustable lumbar support, the back will adjust for angle, and the armrests can be adjusted for height, or flipped up out of the way. I have some lower back problems ( rode hard and put up wet) and I'm very glad I got the seat.
The tractor cranks easily, just turn the key, you're supposed to wait until the glow heater light goes out, but even mid winter, it would fire off immediately, hardly a couple of turns with the starter. The little diesel just sips fuel. I can mow my yard and my rental yard next door (about 4 acres total) on just under two gallons. It has ample power to mow moderately heavy and tall grass at about 2/3 max speed and get a clean cut. The HDAP tires are great on hills, I have a couple that require 4WD as well to keep from slipping or spinning. Turning off the engine is an experience. The compression of the engine and the momentum makes it shake like a dog coming out of a pond for about 3 seconds.
The 54" deck is very nice, does a very smooth, even cut. It takes about2-3 minutes to either remove or mount the deck. The gauge wheels pivot sideways, and once disconnected, just rolls sideways out from under the tractor. The one downside to the brush guard is that it must be removed at the bottom from the weight rack so the front carrier for the deck can be removed. It adds all of 30 seconds to the task, so I wouldn't say it's a pain. There is a rod held with two cotter clips, and all you do is remove on clip and slide the rod out, then remove the brush guard.
I find that the deck is a bit more prone to buildup underneath than the 48" deck on my GT235. There are a couple of additional nooks from the deck stamping process that trap clippings. I clean my deck at least once a week anyway, so again, no reason to not get this deck.
The radiator on the X7xx models is between the driver and engine, a "backwards" arrangement from traditional radiator-up-front layout. JD does this for a couple of reasons, one being that the fan is pulling cool air from in front of the driver, rather than blowing hot air AT the driver. There are three screens for the air to pass through, one on each side and one below the instrument panel. The side screens remove easily for cleaning, and there is another removable screen directly over the radiator and oil cooler. When mowing in high, dry grass or if there is a lot of thatch blowing around, these screens will fill quickly. It's a good idea to watch the temp gauge, and when it starts to climb to the halfway mark, it's a good time to shut down and clean the screens, which can be done in a couple of minutes. The hood has to be raised to remove the side screens. The brush guard has a spring-loaded handle that unlatches it and allows it to tip forward, the hood cannot open with the guard in place.
At full throttle, fan noise is what you hear the most, even over the pleasant "thrum" of the diesel. It seems less intrusive, though, when the deck is engaged, and you get a sound that is a symphony of the business of cutting. I find full throttle only needed for mowing, most of my other tasks are done at 1/2 to 3/4 power, and the fan noise is much less.
At about 85 hrs, I had the rear PTO and limited Cat 1 3-point lift installed. I bought a Land Pride RTR 0550 tiller and the 748 handles it just fine. The PTO has a selector lever on the frame down by the left rear tire. You can select the rear PTO by itself, or both rear and mid-PTO, or just the mid PTO. There is also a cover for the rear splined shaft, to keep it clean when not in use. The cover snap fits over a couple of screws.
The lift is awesome. The lower arms remove in less than a minute if needed. There is also a screw lock that can be used to lock the lift in the raised position so it doesn't go up and down when using the mid mower. The same lever on the control panel is used for both mid lift and rear lift. The mower deck height adjustment is used to lock the mid lift in the up position when using the rear lift. The tiller weighs just over 300 pounds, and the tractor will lift it without having to have weights up front, but you can tell there's not much weight on the front wheels. I generally use 84 pounds (two suitcase weights) when tilling, and they are sufficient to give the front tires plenty of traction in tilled dirt. The front weight rack will hold 4 weights if needed.
I can till in 2WD, using the diff lock. That's how good the HDAP's are. With the diff locked and in 4WD, this tractor will pull like you won't believe.
Maintenance is a breeze on this tractor. The hood tips forward, and removes in about 30 seconds. Getting to the battery requires removing the hood, you can get to the air cleaner with hood in place, but it's easier with it off. There is a flowsensor on the intake tube between the air filter and manifold. When the filter starts getting clogged, it triggers an amber caution light on the instrument panel, warning you to clean or replace the filter, which is a two-part filter. there is an inner and outer. Together, they cost about $45. I replaced mine at 150 hours, after blowing it out once at 120 hrs when the sensor said it was getting clogged. The oil filter sticks out the left side of the engine, just above the oil pan, and next to the dipstick. It's a good idea to stuff a rag under the filter when removing it, to catch the oil that runs out. The oil drain is on the other side, and has a fitting that allows a plastic tube to fasten to it, so you can drain the oil into a pan on the ground and not get oil on the frame or front driveshaft. The fuel filter is on the front of the engine, you have to remove the hood to get to it. It helps to fill the bowl before replacing it, but if you get air in the fuel line, it will self-bleed with several tries on the starter. For those who have had diesels and know what a PITA it is to have to bleed the air and reprime the injectors, this self bleed and prime is really nice.
The tranny drains through a single bolt at the rear bottom of the housing. The trans filter is under the tractor on the bottom front of the tranny, easy to get to if you're lying on your back, reaching under just in front of the rear tire. The tranny fill is behind and slightly under the seat, which if tilted forward, is out of the way. The fill cap has a dipstick to check the tranny fluid level.
All in all, I can't praise this machine enough. It does everything I've needed it to do, and will do a lot more yet. I have had NO mechanical issues. I'd recommend this tractor to anyone who plans to mow commercially, or has more than 4-5 acres to care for and wants something that will do much more than mow if needed.