Testing The Most Awesome Holiday Gifts Ever
Let's face it; there is a lot of downtime in off-roading and with Jeeps in general.
We all know true enthusiasts spend more time bench-racing or wrenching on their Jeeps than actually driving them. There are the unexpected trail repairs of others (it's never your Jeep that breaks right?) that slow your day down and of course there's hanging around camp bored with nothing to do. We have the solution. Now you can back up those superior-driving skill bragging rights by out-wheeling your buddy on the trail, in the garage, in the driveway, in the middle of camp, or even in the house. And these aren't those silly-slow toy RC cars you find at Big Box Mart, but they are ready to run right out of the box with little-to-no assembly required. Some of these cars can reach speeds of 30-plus mph and others can literally climb trees, making them perfect for chasing the neighbor's cat or crashing into your buddy's ankle.
Anyway, we packed up a hobby-store worth of RC cars and headed out to our secret test facility near San Diego, California, to have some experienced RC fanatics give us the scoop.
Plus, if the significant other is looking for the perfect holiday gift for you, be sure to leave this story out in the open with your favorite RTR (Ready-To-Run) RC vehicle circled in red and back it up with a nice note to Santa.
Bit About Batteries
Most of the RTR cars we tested require a 7.2-volt six-cell Ni-MH (Nickel-Metal) rechargeable battery pack and charger. Not all 7.2-volt battery packs are created equal though. A $20 1500mAh pack has about as much punch as a 2.5L engine in an 8,000-pound Jeep. Cheap batteries will provide poor performance and eventually lose their ability to hold a charge more quickly than the quality name-brand packs. And the surefire easy way to smoke your buddy with the same RC car as you is to upgrade your battery. At the very least look for a battery pack with a 3600mAh rating, and more if you can swing the additional cost. We prefer 4600mAh and higher packs. A quality 4600mAh pack will run $55-$65. You will get longer run times, more speed for your fast car, and more torque for your crawler from these packs. However, they are heavier than the budget packs so some prefer the cheapie batteries in their crawlers. Even more performance can be had from Li-Po (Lithium Polymer) battery packs. These typically run $100 or more and require a special charger that can accommodate them. On the plus side, the Li-Po batteries can be 1/2 the weight of a comparable Ni-MH pack and they can cycle many times more than a Ni-MH pack so they don't need to be replaced as often.
Some RTR RC cars come with a slow plug-in wall charger, but it's just that, slow to charge. For best Ni-MH battery life and performance look for a peak-sensing charger.
Also, most RTR cars come with a Molex-style plug. The design is old and causes a lot of resistance that can create heat. If you're running 3600mAh or better batteries, these plugs will often melt and fuse together during hard use. Upgrade to Deans Ultra Plugs or Traxxas High-Current Connectors to avoid electrical meltdown.