The John Deere Tango E5 Series II is a powerful and robust robot lawnmower, and it looks fantastic. Performance in general is very good, with the robot able to handle grass-cutting duties no matter the weather. Minor issues include occasional problems with navigation and the lack of an app; everything is controlled via chunky onboard controls.
- Even grass cutting
- The traditional blade cuts neatly
- Curved path boundary approach
- Easy operation
- Built to last
- Not at its best on rough fields
- Small front wheels
- Manual cut height adjustment
- Difficult to see display
- Low grip in wet weather
- Review Price: £2,130
- 19-102mm cutting height
- Lawns up to 2200m2
- Up to 36% hill climb capability
- Automatic charging
- Safety sensor
- Durable blades
- Larger button interface
- Low noise
Meet the second generation of John Deere’s robot mower family, the John Deere Tango E5 Series II. This fully waterproof robot in signature JD livery (including yellow wheels) leverages the company’s agricultural-tech expertise into a domestic mower that’s capable of keeping lawns up to half an acre (2200m2) trim.
Throughout testing over the summer months, the Tango E5 Series II impressed with its set and forget operation, grass-cutting precision, 100% coverage, and decent hill climbing ability in the dry. However, a couple of obstacles caught out the Tango and the small front wheels fell foul to ground cracks and rabbit holes. For smoother, high-quality lawns, the Tango delivers an impeccable manicure and great finish whatever the weather.
John Deere Tango E5 Series II Robot Mower – What you need to know
- Grass cutting – The traditional one-piece mower blade provided a clean cut and is small enough to stop scalping, although adjusting cut-height is a bit of a faff
- Navigation – Random pattern navigation with specific start zones works well, with the Tango delivering perfect, tuft-free coverage
- Obstacle handling – Tracking the boundary wire and loops proved no problem, but the Tango did have some minor issues with a raised planter and rabbit holes.
- Slopes – Dry slopes up to 30 degrees are no issue for the Tango, but the wheels aren’t great in wet, muddy conditions
Related: Best lawnmower
John Deere’s Tango E5 Series II design – Looks as good as the company’s industrial products
Sporting traditional John Deere green and yellow colouring, the Tango E5 Series II is the company’s solo entry in the domestic robot mower market. Rather than build a range of models for different sized lawns, the company has opted for a compact, easy-to-use mower that will handle lawns from postage stamp size up to a serious half acre. Build quality is outstanding throughout; we’d certainly back the Tango in “garden robot wars”.
The mower operates using a traditional, single rotating steel blade with height adjustment controlled by grasping and rotating the circular cutter deck. Not exactly a sophisticated way of doing things, but it’s simple and effective. The same goes for the Tango’s setup. This model eschews wireless connectivity and app-based control in favour of a chunky keypad and menus on its LCD screen.
That makes setup relatively straightforward, with the usual working-hours scheduling, ability to programme the mower to start in different zones and a raft of safety features including a touch-sensitive emergency stop on grasping the rear carry handle. While the logic of the menu can’t be faulted, the same isn’t true of the actual LCD screen. It’s difficult to read when bright sunlight reflects from the surface.
There are some super-neat touches including a slight pressure on the wheels to ensure it remains docked and charging even in high winds, and an instant emergency stop if the power to the base station goes down. It mows in any weather according to the schedule, mulches in fine-cuts to save collecting, and takes itself back for charging as required. If it detects longer grass in faster-growing areas, it slows and goes into a spiral mowing pattern until the lawn is uniform.
The machine was installed by our local John Deere retailer and, since this was a temporary setup for review purposes, the team pegged down the boundary wire rather than machine dug it in. By the end of the summer, the wire had completely disappeared into the turf and was nicely invisible anyway. The Tango got a slightly challenging base station position too, with a small slope to one side creating an interesting test.
The John Deere team set up the machine and then spent a good hour talking us through the features and functions. While we do like a bit of DIY, we strongly recommend getting your local retailer to set up your robot mower unless you have the flattest, squarest lawn imaginable.
Out installer did much of the Tango’s setup, but diving into the menus is straightforward and logical, presenting a good selection of options. Unusually, cutting height isn’t among them. This is manually adjusted, requiring you to flip over the machine and turn the cutter deck, winding in or out from the body. A small scale on the side of the machine gives you a rough idea of cutting height. While basic, it’s functional, and the result is one of the widest cutting-height ranges – 19mm to 102mm – of any robot mower we’ve tested.
Given a lawn area of around 500 square metres, we programmed the Tango to only mow in the daytime, five days per week. The scheduling assistant makes it all very logical and easy to use, even without an app.
You can set it to head to different zones when it first starts each day. This ensures that in instances where lawns are awkwardly shaped, the Tango won’t miss any areas over the week. There’s no rain sensor, so the Tango will go out in any weather and will run overnight. Both the drive motor and blade motor are super-quiet in operation, but the traditional single bar blade makes more actual cutting noise than razor-blade style robot mower cutters, so overall noise is low but this mower isn’t the most stealthy on the market.
John Deere Tango E5 Series II performance – Mostly faultless, but a few areas of concern
The Tango navigates the garden following a random mowing pattern bordered by a boundary wire. Unlike models that simply run-up to the wire, turn and head back out, the Tango “sees” the wire in advance and curves away, just clipping the perimeter of the lawn. This speeds up its mowing operation since there’s no reversing to do; arguably, it creates a smoother finish near the edge of the lawn.
In the summer months, the Tango performed well, even on our challenging field-like lawn complete with raised flower beds, random bushes and a selection of lumps, bumps and slopes.
Our rather muddy and rough lawn certainly didn’t help the Tango one bit, but it still managed to produce a seriously well-manicured lawn that went verdant green as the grass got used to the constant clipping and mulching. Mud, rabbit holes, torrential weather and extreme obstacles didn’t see the Tango at its best – but for those with a decent, flat lawn up to half an acre, the Tango is a simple to use, high-quality robot mower that feels like it will last a lifetime.
The plus side of the traditional blade is the Tango happily handles very long grass at the beginning of the mowing season. Unless your lawn has turned into a meadow over winter, there’s no need to pre-mow – although slowly dropping the height each day will aid mulching the long grass down into the soil.
Straight out from its dock on day one, our Tango was set at a 45mm cutting height and busied itself in its random navigational pattern, making wide sweeping turns as it approached the boundary wire. As soon as it found some longer grass it went into a spiral mowing pattern, very effectively ensuring high growth areas are trimmed as well as the rest of the lawn.
After a few weeks, general mowing performance was excellent, with the lawn becoming velvety and with zero missed areas. The boundary wire had been laid so that the Tango ran very close to a boundary wall, nicely reducing the need for any strimming or edge trimming. In terms of day-to-day mowing, particularly on open areas of lawn, the Tango was faultless.
It wasn’t until the wetter end of the summer season that the Tango had any issues. A raised planter was handled by the bump and reverse navigation well 99% of the time, but every so often the Tango would try to drive through when it touched the planter on an uphill slope. It would then be scuffing up the lawn with spinning wheels before reversing out.
We also had a problem with the small wheels falling foul of cracks and bigger rabbit dug-outs in the lawn, particularly if they coincided with a sharp turning manoeuvre or an uphill section. The tread on the rear wheels seemed prone to clogging with grass and mud, and we can’t help but think that slightly larger front trolley wheels would help avoid little dinks and dug-outs in the lawn.
All of which makes the Tango a bit Marmite, to confuse comestible based metaphors. On our rough ground filled with hazards, it rose to the challenge 99% of the time, delivering a great all-over cut. Yet we can’t ignore the 1% getting stuck in rabbit holes and trying to bull-doze our raised planter. On flatter lawns with good ground, and without mad rabbits, slippery-when-wet clay soil or ground that opens into chasms at the merest hint of two sunny days in a row, the Tango will be a faultless performer.
Should you buy the John Deere Tango E5 Series II Robot Mower?
A top choice for flatter, quality lawns, the Tango eschews app-based control and electronic height adjustment for solid, reliable performance and an (almost) idiot-proof programmer on board. Aside from the wireless connectivity, it gives little away in terms of features to competitors and adds a unique curved boundary path that keeps the lawn edges looking as fresh as the middle.
Tough obstacles such as rabbit holes and slippery wet conditions did see its navigation struggle a couple of times, but that won’t be an issue in neater, flatter lawns. The spiral spot cut for taller grass worked exceptionally well – and, by the end of the summer, we could only be super-impressed with the quality of the cut and the velvety texture of the lawn.