Replacement for 12 hp Craftsman Riding Mower

Over the years, I've been using an old 12 hp Sears Craftsman tractor that is now ready for the junk heap. I used it to cut grass on a gently sloping 1/2 acre open lawn. I want to buy a replacement riding mower, but would like to frame my choice in terms of stating the problems I had with the Craftsman design so that I can avoid having these problems with my new tractor. Here it goes:
1. my old Craftsman had belt drive problems: loose belts, slipping belts, mis-aligned pulleys, non-engaging clutch, etc.
2. my old Craftsman had muffler problems: no matter how hard I tightened the muffler, it would always fall off or fall apart.
3. my old Craftsman had grass bagger problems: the chute would always get clogged after every 10 feet even if the cuttings were bone dry.
4. my old Craftsman had mulching problems; the mulched grass would clump up and the deck plug would always end up being blown away.
Based on the above problems, I am looking for recommendations for a riding mower good for 1/2 acre that has:
1. direct shaft drive, probably automatic transmission to eliminate the belt problems 2. either a reliable grass bagging system or a clean mulching blade kit which does not leave trimmings behind in clumps; 3. robust exhaust system. 4. I'd like to pull a small cart loaded with mulch.
I an aware that "Nothing runs like a Deere" but I'm open to other brands if they offer better cost and performance benefits versus Jogn Deere. Oh, I also want good dealer service and parts availability, so I would steer clear of Home Depot.
Thanks much.
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