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RC Off Road Trucks - Big Fun In A Small Package

Posted in Features on July 1, 2009 Comment (0)
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Contributors: Scott G.

Before you groan and wonder why the heck we would be reporting on radio-controlled trucks in the pages of OFF-ROAD, then take a second to remember your roots. We're guessing that a lot of you out there started learning vehicle dynamics with some type of R/C car. Are we wrong? If so, then just skip this entire section. But if we're right, then read on to see the advances the radio-controlled industry has taken.

Over the last 15 years the R/C Industry has grown leaps and bounds in terms of technology and popularity. High tech materials, along with state-of-the-art design and engineering practices are leading to some of the most impressive handling vehicles on earth. The strength and tune-ability of the average hobby-grade R/C racing truck is mind blowing. This adjustability is invaluable to anyone of any age looking to get their head wrapped around basic off-road dynamics. Key elements in tuning of full sized racing machines can be learned and fully understood through making changes to your R/C truck. Many of the vehicles will offer adjustability in camber, caster, shock oils, spring rates, and suspension geometry. Tire compounds, tread patterns, and a slew of aftermarket components are commonly available to best prepare the vehicle for the desired environment. The changes can make drastic differences in the handling of the vehicle and help the driver better tune the car for his or her driving style and track condition. It is not uncommon to hear people who are not of legal driving age discussing camber and shock oil suggestions at local R/C racetracks. Imagine what the future of off-road will be like when these youngsters are out in the desert tuning their full-size rigs.

Traxxas Slash 2WD Short Course Racing Truck RTR

Specifications
Scale: 1/10
Length: 22.36 inches
Weight: 76.2 ounces
Height: 8.425 inches
Wheelbase: 13.2 inches
Track width: 11.65 inches
Motor: Titan 12-turn 550
Speed control: Waterproof XL-5 ESC
Gear ratio: 2.72 (final drive: 12.58)
Gear pitch: 48-pitch
Chassis type: Modified Tube
Chassis material: Composite Nylon
Top Speed: 30+ mph
Average retail price: $189.99

Features
This truck put short-course style R/C on the map. This car is hugely popular at the track and Slash racing is usually run as a "box stock" class. With enclosed wheels, big bumpers and nerf bars, you can bang doors all day long. Waterproof components are a Traxxas-only feature, which cover the servos and speed control. The receiver is held in a watertight, o-ring sealed box keeping the elements out. Steel transmission and differential gears make it "brushless ready". You can drop in a high power brushless motor to increase speed to 65-plus mph without fear of tearing up gears. Other features include a heavy-duty slipper clutch, oil-filled shocks, adjustable camber and toe, rubber-sealed ball bearings, and much more.

View Slideshow

Drive Review
The first thing we noticed about the Slash is that it is perfectly balanced front and rear. This quickly translated in the dirt to controlled driving and perfect high-speed cornering. We ran the Slash side-by-side the other cars bumping our way along to the front of the pack on many laps. We felt the stock shock setup was a bit soft, so we added additional spacers to increase spring rate and the ride was perfect, no more bottoming out. The car is 1/10th scale but the body width makes it look and feel much larger. Acceleration was very quick off the line and through turns. If you want to get into spec class racing, Slash racing is the way to go and don't be alarmed if an OFF-ROAD Magazine staffer happens to be trackside.

Losi Mini Desert Truck RTR

Specifications
Scale: 1/18
Length: 9.875 inches
Weight: 1.24 pounds
Wheelbase: 6.44 inches
Drivetrain: 2WD with gear differential and slipper clutch
Motor: Mini-280 electric
Speed control: Losi MRX-R14 with forward and reverse
Gear pitch: 48-pitch
Chassis: Molded composite
Suspension: 4-wheel independent long-travel
Shock type: Composite coilover, oil-filled
Average retail price: $129.99

Features
Just like its big brother, the Mini Desert truck comes with a front skid plate, front and rear bumpers and a rear roll cage. Chrome desert wheels and all-terrain tires allow the truck to transition between on-road and off-road driving. The extended long chassis offers increased stability. The installed Mini-280 motor provides plenty of power for the little lightweight. Oil-filled shocks and true to life long-travel suspension keeps the whoops at bay.

View Slideshow

Drive Review
The Mini didn't last 10 minutes in the box once it showed up in our office. Not only did we find this car a ton of fun off-road, we found it to be great as an in-office carpet-racer that can thoroughly annoy your co-workers. Both on and off the road, the Mini has plenty of power, but unfortunately because of its 1/18th scale size, anything but hard-packed dirt quickly became a problem. The small tires don't move it well in sand or loose gravel. Hard-packed dirt, grass and pavement are where this car shines and left all of us with ear-to-ear grins. We got a good 15 minutes of runtime out of each battery. This is the perfect R/C car for a younger child looking to break into bigger R/C models.

Traxxas Summit Extreme Terrain Monster Truck RTR

Specifications
Scale: 1/10
Length: 22.17 inches
Weight: 175 ounces
Height: 12.6 inches
Wheelbase: 14.84 inches
Track width: 18.48 inches
Motor: Titan 775 High-Torque, Fan cooled 10-turn
Speed control: Waterproof EVX-2 Forward/Reverse/Brake
Transmission: High-Low Two-Speed
Differential Type: Remote operated T-lock, limited slip, sealed
Gear pitch: 32-pitch
Chassis type: Modified Tube
Chassis material: Composite Nylon
Top Speed: 20+ mph
Average retail price: $499.99

Features
Although the Summit is capable of doing its fair share of rock crawling, it is capable of so much more. The Summit can shift from a stump-pulling 70:1 low ratio to a speedy 25:1 high range for over 20-plus mph fun. Combine that with remote-locking differentials and you have an industry first. The Traxxas T-Lock system lets you select open front and rear diffs, front-only locked, or front and rear locked - all with a flick of a switch on the radio, no stopping required. Other features include waterproof electronics, a Titan 775 motor, dual high torque steering servos, a 10-LED light system, soft-compound Canyon AT tires, and a state-of-the-art cantilever suspension that puts 120mm of travel at each corner.

View Slideshow

Drive Review
The Summit combines go-anywhere and go-fast in one package. At 22-inches long with a track width of 18.48-inches, it's a big car. Looking at the exoskeleton cage formed to the outside of the body and the massively huge tires, the vehicle looks to be aching to climb over boulders and up walls. Dual batteries, 4WD and a powerful motor kept the car conquering everything in its path. The ability to change from high to low range by flicking a switch on the controller is something we had never tried before. Crossing through streams is usually a big no-no in the R/C world, but our waterproof components left us with no worries. When slow time was over, we flipped car into high and set it off railing corners and jumping over the rocks. Out of the box the suspension is setup soft for crawling but after only a few quick adjustments to the shocks, we dialed in a solid smooth high-speed ride. Where would we choose to drive the Summit on a daily basis? We had a hard time trying to find a place we wouldn't want to take it. You decide.

HPI Racing Baja 5T RTR

Specifications
Scale: 1/5
Length: 900 mm
Weight: 27.9 pounds
Drivetrain: 2WD with gear differential and slipper clutch
Motor: Fuelie 26cc gasoline engine
Chassis: 4mm aluminum alloy chassis
Suspension: Double wishbone suspension with front and rear sway bars
Shock type: VVC/HD long-travel coilover, oil-filled
Differential: Aluminum alloy case
Transmission: 19T drive ratio
Clutch: 8000-RPM lightweight clutch
Brakes: Steel/Aluminum disc brakes
Average retail price: $1299.99

Features
If you haven't driven a fifth-scale-size R/C car, get your hands on one now. The HPI Racing Baja 5T comes either ready-to-run or you can assemble it yourself. As if you couldn't tell by looking at it, the car was inspired by the trucks that compete in the Baja 1000 race in Mexico. Power comes from a 26cc gasoline-powered engine with runtimes stretching over 45 minutes on a single tank. The high-performance clutch and new high flow muffler send the truck over 40 mph. Just like a Trophy Truck, the body of the 5T comes with a front bumper and skid plate, dirt guards, and extended roll cage. The oil filled coilovers help bring realistic travel numbers to scale.

View Slideshow

Drive Review
This truck is big, fun and fast! The size and weight keep the vehicles suspension and maneuverability on par with that of a real race truck. Flat-out or coming out of turns, this truck moves and will shoot a good roost in your direction, so heads up! Even at top speeds the coilovers and tires never left us yearning for more traction. Running on gasoline was a blessing compared to Nitro fuel headaches. The 5T would best be suited for big open spaces where you can really let the dirt fly. With the option to purchase paddle tires for the 5T, places like Glamis and Pismo Beach would be non-stop fun.

Axial Racing AX10 Scorpion RTR

Specifications
Scale: 1/10
Height: 6.125 inches
Length: 17.25 inches
Weight: 3.5 pounds
Wheelbase: 12.6 inches
Articulation: 70 degrees
Ground clearance: 3.125 inches
Drivetrain: 2WD with gear differential and slipper clutch
Motor: 27-turn Electric
Speed control: Electronic speed control with forward and reverse
Gear pitch: 48-pitch
Chassis: Composite plastic and metal
Gear ratio: 15:1 to 17:4
Differentials: Front - gear differential; Rear- locked (spool)
Transmission: Single-speed 2.6:1 center mounted
Average retail price: $249.99

Features
If you like comptetion R/C crawling, then this Axial car may be your ticket. Eighty to 125mm titanium nitride coated shocks offer extreme levels of articulation. A hi-torque servo up front is capable of handling larger tires and helps hold your line while rock crawling. The wheels are true bead lock wheels that require no messy glue to setup. Tires are 2.2 Rock Lizard's with an aggressive all-terrain tread. A fully locked differential gives a true 4WD feel to the Axial car. Aluminum 12mm hex hubs help reduce wheel hub stripping. Rear axle lockouts improve ground clearance over the rocks where you need it most.

View Slideshow

Drive Review
Looking for a car that will emulate fullsize solid-axle crawling? After a day in the creek beds, the Scorpion AX10 proved to be something built by a rock crawler for a rock crawler. We threw it into rocks, gravel and sand and it kept on going. At only 3.5 pounds the car didn't have any trouble getting up and over obstacles in its way. We did find the car steered a bit head heavy, which we felt was due to the poor battery location sitting atop the chassis. A lower center of gravity would have been nice, especially during high speeds or off-camber situations. The articulation moved wonderfully over rocks and the tires had plenty of grip even in loose gravel.

Losi Desert Truck

Specifications
Scale: 1/10
Length: 17.5 inches
Weight: 3.8 pounds
Wheelbase: 11.825 inches
Drivetrain: 2WD with gear differential and slipper clutch
Motor: Losi LM-32K performance motor
Speed control: Losi 12RB with forward and reverse
Gear pitch: 48-pitch
Chassis: Molded composite
Suspension: 4-wheel independent long-travel
Shock type: Aluminum long-travel coilover, oil-filled
Average retail price: $229.99

Features
If you want to topple the competition on the racetrack, then this is the car you need to be looking at. This 1/10th scale truck is packed with features like a desert truck body, molded front and rear tube racing bumpers, front skid plate, roll cage, blue anodized oil-filled shocks and working headlights and taillights. The Losi car also comes with a Spektrum 2.4GHz DSM radio that uses no crystals or channels so you can run your car anywhere, anytime, with anyone. It also features CV-style long rear dog bones, and a low-maintenance spider-gear differential, captured rod ends (for less ball pops).

View Slideshow

Drive Review
We nicknamed this car Rip and Roar. On a fresh battery this car moved quicker than most of the rest. With more than 3-inches of travel, suspension is the big ticket for this car as we felt the most confident over rough terrain at high speeds compared to our other electric choices. Jumping high and far is easy to achieve due to a powerful 12T motor but keep a sharp eye on your driving skill, as the car is a little rear heavy. This car is built for the track, sharp turns, tabletop jumps, whoop sections and backside straightaway's.

Our thoughts
What car was the most fun to drive?
Jerrod:

I thought it was going to be a slam-dunk to answer this question, but my top choice wasn't one I figured I'd choose. I thought the Traxxas Summit was the most fun to drive. It had selectable lockers that you could engage, had high- and low-range speeds, badass cantilever suspension, and giant tires. It was also slung low so the all-independent suspension truck was really stable. The only things I would have changed are the shock valving and the spring rates.

Jordan:
As a long time R/C fan and former racer, this answer is a tough one. The realistic feeling I got from driving the HPI Baja 5T made me yearn for more time with gas-powered R/C. The stability of the Traxxas Slash took me back to weekends at the track, clogging turns and gluing wheels together. The Summit's ability to go anywhere (and fast) also made it pure fun to drive. Can I choose all three?

Jeff:
Controlling the HPI Baja 5T almost made me feel like I was behind the wheel driving it. Hearing the gas engine revving, kicking up big rooster tails as it zoomed by at incredible speeds through bumps -- it was the most fun I've had driving any kind of R/C vehicle. I only wanted to jump it once -- to try it out -- but then I got greedy and aired it repeatedly until I broke a coilover shock rod end.

What car do you think is the best bang for the buck?
Jerrod:

The best deal for my money would have to be the Losi Desert Truck. It was built very similarly to the R/C cars I used to have (100 years ago). All the parts were top quality, and in a package that costs about $200. It went fast, handled well, and was simple and easy to work on.

Jordan:
For me this has to be the Traxxas Slash. At a price of $189.99 you have a solid race ready car without breaking the bank. The spec classes at the racetrack make it even more appealing. A steel gear transmission allows you to drop-in a brushless ready motor and tackle speeds over 65-plus mph. `Can't wait to try that!

Jeff:
I hadn't realized the Traxxas Slash was so inexpensive! I could tell right away that it was a solid short track truck, with excellent control over smoother dirt. I can't discount the little Losi Mini Desert truck though -- the scale speeds are so high, and it launches off curbs like nobody's business.What car would you want to take home?

Jerrod:
Take Home? No question: The HPI Baja 5T, and not just because it was the most expensive car. The new 5T was a weed whacker with wheels on it (literally). For the ultimate power monger (yes, hello?), there is nothing even close to the massiveness and force that comes from the Baja 5T. The 1/5-scale vehicle would break your leg if it hit you, and having Jeff fly it over my head only a few feet away made quite an impression as well.

Jordan:
At the end of the day I have to choose the HPI Racing Baja 5T. This is my first experience with a gasoline-powered R/C car and it will not be my last. Runtimes of more than 45 minutes assures all-day fun with the 5T. Pitching the car in corners reminds me of a few lucky trips I have had riding shotgun in Trophy Trucks.

Jeff:
All things considered, I like the Losi Desert Truck. Good price, lots of speed, and the larger tires helped it stay in control over rougher patches of dirt. The Traxxas Summit is great, too -- crawled great, had a surprisingly fast high-speed setting, and the larger scale increased the fun factor. But it's just too expensive (due to all the stuff it has on it). Of course, if money was no object, I'd be launching the HPI Baja 5T over head-high tabletops every weekend.

Thank you
Thanks go out to 1-800-Battery, which quickly supplied us with enough AA batteries to power all of our R/C transmitters.





Sources

HPI Racing
888-349-4474
http://www.hpiracing.com
Traxxas
Plano, TX 75074
888-TRAXXAS
http://www.traxxas.com
1-800-Battery
www.1800battery.com
Axial Racing
www.axialracing.com

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