Traxxas Slash VXL with TSM and On-Board Audio

 

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TRAXXAS SLASH VXL

In June, I tested and wrote about the Traxxas Slash w/ OBA and how much I enjoyed what the Slash offers.  It’s been a go-to vehicle in my arsenal for all around fun, however, the Slash VXL with On-Board Audio (OBA) and Traxxas Stability Management (TSM) is starting to take its place as a favorite.

Understanding these differences is the first thing to do when unboxing this VXL.  The first thing to consider is the difference in power– the Slash VXL also includes a NiMH battery but offers the Velineon brushless motor and ESC power system.  The speed out of the box will be noticeably faster as a result.

Next, I flipped through the manual to start learning more about the Traxxas Stability Management system.  TSM is supposed to allow the driver to experience the power, speed, and acceleration by making it much easier to control the vehicle on loose or slippery surfaces.  I’m concerned it’s going to be intrusive and have a numbing effect on the limited senses with which we already drive r/c.

And then there’s the On-Board Audio, which was met with mixed reaction in the last review.  In general, I’m not a fan of battery draining accessories, but I have found I run the truck with OBA on more often than not… I just don’t turn it up all the way.  As one person commented, it sounds cooler in the video than it does in person.  Initially, I agreed, but I’ve started to come around to the OBA in moderation.  So naturally, I expect the same things from the OBA on this Slash.

I also have a LiPo to push the speeds and run times, so I’ll discuss that in the test drive section below.  It’s safe to say a test drive with LiPo is always better than a drive with NiHM; what’s not to like about longer run times and better performance?  Exactly.

And finally, this Slash is 2wd with a lower CG than previously reviewed.  Previously an option is not factory equipped for the first time.  That should equal better handling and higher speed.

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THE TRUCK

CHASSIS: Starting with the low-CG chassis and 13″ wheelbase, it’s obvious the VXL Slash is built for speed performance.  Putting the battery rearward in the middle, with ESC and receiver on either side put a priority on balance.  The OBA is also relocated to the front middle of the vehicle, providing easy access.  It’s a simple design to work on, and doesn’t add any unnecessary weight to an already solid Slash; the VXL comes in around 90 oz (~5.5lbs).

Of course it’s equipped with a bell crank steering servo with integrated servo saver.  It’s got the SCT off-road tires, planetary differential, oil-filled shocks and a torque-control slipper clutch.  A moment on the slipper-clutch; I had to adjust the slipper clutch as the truck was moving forward when revving the OBA in neutral.  It’s normal and a simple adjustment.

BRUSHLESS SYSTEM:  The Velinion Brushless Power System is a key difference in the Traxxas Slash lineup, identified by the VXL tag after the model name.  Included with the 3500 Brushless motor is the Velineon VXL-3s ESC, which includes 3 drive profiles: Sport, Race, and Training Mode.  Having the 3 profiles allow you or any new drivers to safely work on their driving skills before unleashing the full-throttle capability of the Velineon system.

TRAXXAS STABILITY MANAGEMENT is a major feature on the Slash VXL.  The whole point of the TSM is to try and help the driver go faster with less effort.  Adjustable from 0-100% at the transmitter, it’s function is to limit or prevent fishtailing and spinouts, allowing for faster cornering, improved braking and ultimately more control at higher speeds.  According to Traxxas, it’s designed to work invisibly to the point you may not even notice it’s working until you turn it off.

I like that it’s ready to go without setup or configuration.  It simply works as soon as you start driving.  It’s interesting to note that if you like to pull the throttle trigger hard, Traxxas identifies premature wear of the tires is a real problem and will offer for sale TSM rated replacement tires as a result.

The reason is simple: if you have 100% control of everything the vehicle does you will naturally lay off the throttle to prevent wheelspin.  However, TSM allows the driver to floor it and keep things under control despite any wheel’s breaking free of traction.  On pavement, this is a recipe for wearing out tires very quickly.

ON-BOARD AUDIO isn’t my favorite Slash feature, but it is growing on me.  My son loves it and runs at max volume almost all the time.  I, on the other hand, have started enjoying it with a little less volume.  I’m finding the realism factor improves for me when I have the OBA volume slightly louder than the vehicle’s motor.  And I can’t say I notice a difference in run time with it on versus leaving it off, so I tend to leave it on.

OVERALL: You can see in the pictures the different components and how they combine to make up the construction of the Slash VXL.  In similar fashion to other Slashes in the lineup, changing out the Spur and Pinion is simple and can help turn this Slash from a beast to a monster in a hurry.

There are two questions to ask yourself: How fast do you want to go?  How much do you want to spend?  The Slash VXL will take a beginner (Skill 1) driver and grow with them to an expert driver (Skill 5).  The only factors are your budget and skill as you can take this from 35mph to 60+mph with nothing more than a bigger LiPo and different Spur/Pinion gears.

Making the changes in gears is as simple as removing the rear wheel and gear cover.

 

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TEST DRIVE

I covered the key differences between this Slash and the one previously reviewed, and those differences make this an entirely different animal.  I have become accustom to how the brushed Titan powered Slash drives, so stepping into the VXL took a change in mindset and driving technique.

My first exposure to the VXL was up and down my street, per usual.  With zero assist activated, I will tell you to hang on when you grab full throttle and anticipate how to keep things under control.  One of two things will happen, it will wheelie or it will shred the tires.  Same goes for braking; slam on the brakes and watch it skid all over the place.  I know that’s extreme driving, but I need to know what I’m dealing with if I’m going to understand the difference between 0% and 100% TSM.

Off-road performance is dynamite.  It glides through the water without fear, flicks dirt and stones in it’s wake as it leaves a trail of dust behind it’s blistering speed.  I definitely have more fun with the Slash VXL than I do with the previous test subject.  It’s even more capable.

I now have a baseline and it’s clear the Slash VXL demands your attention and requires smooth inputs to get the most out of it’s performance capabilities.  I was eager to hit the track, so that’s where we took it next.  Reality struck me hard very quickly when I flew the first jump with an overly aggressive trigger finger and subsequently way too much speed.  Not only did I clear the jump, I cleared the preferred landing area and crashed right into the piping 15ft past the landing zone, sending the Slash VXL into a gnarly series of never ending flips and rolls.

With shoulders up around my ears and a cringed look on my face I watched helplessly as it crashed in slow motion before my eyes.  Once it finally came to a stop, I went to check out the damage.  Fortunately I just lost a little fluid from a blown rear shock.  I had more 30w in my box, so I was back in business a few minutes later.  I truly was caught off guard with how quickly the Slash VXL accelerates in the straight, and was determined to not let that happen again.  Battle Front RC is setup tight and technical at the moment and I really had to manage the throttle carefully.

Once I made it through the learning curve, I began to enjoy the advantages of the Brushless system and lowered CG of the chassis.  As much as I enjoyed the previous Slash, the VXL does a better job through the jumps.  It has good balance making it nicely predictable with a little practice.  And despite having tried the TSM, I was getting a handle on this beast.

The burning questions I have is surrounding the TSM were about to be answered.  I cranked it up from 0% to 100%.  I noticed the difference and could have driven it this way.  However, I dialed it down a bit and ended up just under 50% on the transmitter dial.

Remarkably, it felt as though I just spent hours setting up a programmable transmitter.  Ok, maybe not hours, but you get the point.  The TSM was working and within a few short laps, I felt I had a nice performing and well balanced Slash VXL.  I was able to strike a balance with the TSM that made it drive quicker around the track, yet wasn’t noticeably interfering.

I would like to see dual rate adjustment’s make their way to Traxxas transmitters, but otherwise I have little complaint with the Slash VXL.  It’s up for debate whether I want my son using TSM to drive as he’s still developing his skills, but it definitely makes it easier for him to control the truck around the track and off-road; most of the driving in the video is him.

The rear shock proved to be more problematic than the initial blow out and broke again, this time requiring a more serious repair and replacement parts.  This is of course part of owning r/c vehicles, but I didn’t feel it received significant enough punishment to break the second time.  Maybe I did more damage to it than I thought during the first repair?  I don’t know, but it was disappointing as I had no such issues with the previous Slash.  Fortunately, my LHS has plenty of replacement parts hanging on the wall, but it did end racing for the day.

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FINAL LAP

Thinking in terms of full-scale applications, driver assist’s are everywhere in racing and all the way down to the cars we drive every day.  Does it make us better driver’s?  Probably not, but it allows us to achieve higher speeds, controlled cornering and stable braking.  It helps us bring a car closer to it’s limits.

I don’t know if the Traxxas Stability Management system makes me a better driver, but it does help me drive the Slash VXL better.  When my son and I are trying to improve our lap times around the track, it helps.  When we’re trying to get the most out of the truck, it helps.  When we’re bashing and turn it off, the truck is more fun.

The adjustment is as quick as turning a dial; my son likes it about 70%, I like it at about 40% and we both like it at 0% for bashing.  I love it’s simplicity.  I love it’s unobtrusive nature.  I’m sure there’s room for improvement with the algorithms and technology contained in this system, but it’s good.  It’s really good.

The Slash VXL w/ OBA is a mean machine, bold in stance and aggressive in appearance and performance.  It’s got attitude and I can’t get enough.

 

See for yourself:

 

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