Category - Surface Review

Axial Wraith Spawn – Packed With Performance

AXIAL WRAITH SPAWN RTR

I’ve watched and helped as friends built full-scale jeeps and trucks to handle local attractions.  I’ve driven and been a passenger of many off-road adventures.  I’ve also watched off-road adventure shows and rock crawling competitions on tv.

 

1:1 off-roading is a world I know a little about, but not one I dove into head first.  It’s something I’ve enjoyed because of friends, not because I was putting my own money into it.  So while it’s interesting to me, it’s not something I’ve invested my time or money into in any meaningful way; it is a world I enjoy, however.

 

I first met the Axial Racing group at iHobby expo in Chicago several years ago, and have been following them ever since.  The company had everything that appealed to me as an off-road fan and r/c enthusiast– the product looked fantastic and it was obvious they knew what they were doing.  I had never seen anything like it.

 

As Axial Racing expanded their product line, the crawling community started to grow.  The next step for Axial Racing was to create Axialfest, a rock crawlers paradise event.  It seems the r/c crawler world has mimicked the full-scale world and the r/c enthusiasts are every bit as passionate; quite frankly, this looks like a lot of fun to me.  As quoted from their website:

 

As R/C offroad race tracks have become sugar coated and manicured into brown tarmac, We are put the rocks and ruff back into offroad racing! You do NOT stand on a driver stand! You are your own “helicopter-spotter” thus you are physically moving around a designated course while driving your rock racer!
    
Rock Racing is fast and ferocious and we test the limits of the machine as well as the man manning the machine! No computer timing systems; just line ‘em up and let ’em rip! 3-Lap qualifiers. Next group on deck!

 

Just like in real life however, I continue to live through the experiences of others and watched on the sidelines as the crawler niche exploded… largely at the hands of Axial Racing.  As the industry evolves so too does my interest in r/c– from flying airplanes, to helicopters, to racing buggies to flying drones.  It seems I always have something in front of me that keeps me from crawling.
Introducing the Axial Wraith Spawn.  Yes, I’m aware it’s been around for a couple years, but it’s new to me, so it feels like I should introduce it.  Since my first real hobby-grade r/c in 1986, I’ve been involved in nearly all aspects of this hobby– the one area I haven’t been involved is crawling… despite my obvious interest.  Enough is enough, it’s time to see why the crawler community has exploded, and the Axial Wraith Spawn is my entry ticket.
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AXIAL WRAITH SPAWN RTR

 

FRAME
Starting with the full tube frame and composite chassis, the Wraith Spawn is built with full-scale construction in mind.  This means whether crawling or going full throttle, the Wraith Spawn should be able handle what you dish out.

 

SUSPENSION
One of the most important parts of the crawler, next to the frame, is the suspension.  If you don’t have a suspension designed to take the articulation of crawling, you don’t have a very good crawler.

The Wraith Spawn utilizes as 4-link suspension design to reduce axle steer, while giving it the right amount of anti-squat and roll characteristics.   It also comes with oil filled shocks tuned with a softer spring rate which allows the Wraith Spawn to soak in the terrain.

 

BODY
Mounted to the frame is the body, which kind of reminds me of a 1980’s Jeep Wagoneer.  Axial Racing has kept the body simple, with only a few ‘sponsor’ graphics pre-applied.  You’ll note I added the AMAIN Performance Hobbies graphics.  The body is everything I would expect, and believe it will hold up to wheel rubs, scrapes and scratches.

 

WHEELS & TIRES
A rock crawler without the a good set of wheels and tires doesn’t make much sense.  Axial Racing ensures this isn’t a problem with the Wraith Spawn.  Included in the RTR package is a set of officially licensed METHOD IFD 12 spoke beadlock wheels with 2.2 RIPSAW TIRES.  It doesn’t get much more serious.

• Three piece beadlock design
• Utilizes new 2x11mm pins for added strength
• Updated plastic hub adapter to eliminate slop and capture the new 2x11mm pin
• Adjustable breather holes for fine tuning tire performance
• Compatible with most 2.2 tires
• Easy six screw disassembly

Turning those massive wheels and tires is a Tactic TSX45 metal gear servo.  Rated at 151 oz-in torque and with dual ball bearings, the servo provides strong holding and smooth movement.

DRIVETRAIN & ELECTRONICS

The Wraith Spawn does its job using a 20T brushed motor, controlled by the 3S capable AE-5 ESC.  The AE-5 keeps things simple with jumpers to easily switch between LiPo and NiMh batteries, leaving out the programming complications of many entry-level transmitters.  You can also set brake drag to 50 or 100 using a jumper.

The ESC states that it’s waterproof, however Axial still suggests caution on the website: “Do not run your product in water or snow or submerge it in water without fully waterproof gear.”  Axial Racing also links to a blog post on their site, but the recommendations are for the AR-2 rx and AE-2 ESC.  Perhaps it’s time for Axial Racing to update their website?

The axels Axial Racing uses are labeled AR60-Axle™ OCP (Off-Center Pumpkin).  Creating a true 4wd locked differential improves traction, and moving the housing (pumpkin) off-center means better clearance and driveshaft angles.  A locked differential provides the most positive wheel traction and requires less maintenance. They are also easily serviced by removing four screws to gain access for rebuilding and performance tuning as well.  Does it get any more like full-scale driving?

Connecting the transmission to the differentials are the  WB8 HD Wildboar Driveshaft’s, which are large in diameter and have an M4 Screw Shaft (2mm hex drive) for added strength. A center splined slider floats between each end and features added material which reduces flex and fatigue.

The Wraith Spawn takes advantage of a dual slipper design which uses a pad on each side of the spur gear.  Increasing the surface area allows for more precise tuning and holding power. The spur gear features strong, 32 pitch gearing for high torque applications.

 Keeping the AR-3 2.4 GHz rx safe is a waterproof receiver box with three different silicone seals: one for the antenna, one for the servo wires, and one acts as a gasket for the receiver box cover.  It’s a well protected system, contrary to the information on the website.

 

TRANSMITTER
The manual includes instructions for an AX-3 transmitter however, my Wraith Spawn came with a Tactic TTX300 transmitter.
This was a pleasant surprise as I’ve had one in my r/c garage for a few years and use it with my Dromida BX4.18.  It’s an extremely comfortable and well-balanced transmitter.

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DRIVING

Years of development along with trial and error all come down to this moment.  It’s time to plug in the Wraith Spawn, turn it on and crawl.  The location of the RX is fine, but it’s not always so easy to get to the on/off switch; I would like to see it located with more convenience in mind.

I also thought I would be able to change the battery without removing the body, and while it’s probably possible, it was just easier for me to take off the body.

Keeping up with scale appearance and design, the body doesn’t have traditional mounts and clips.  Instead, it’s held on with 4 very small allen screws.  I appreciate not having body mounts, but there must be a better way to secure the body than this.  It’s no problem on the workbench, but it’s not always easy to deal with in the wild when the truck is covered in dirt, sand, mud or snow.

Leave the street to the other cars and trucks– the Wraith Spawn is built for off-road and crawling.  Naturally, the backyard is the first point of interest with plenty of obstacles to learn about the Wraith Spawn.  Grass and leaves are normally a battery draining, heat inducing problem for many 1/10 rc vehicles, but the Wraith Spawn was built for bigger and tougher.  Even longer field grasses don’t really concern the Wraith Spawn, apart from occasionally getting tangled up.

There is definitely an art to off-road driving and even more so when crawling.  How you approach an obstacle and find a way over or around it is quite life-like, and the mental challenge of defeating whatever is in front of you is appealing.  Leaving the brake drag at 100% provides what you need to navigate difficult terrain, and I haven’t found a need to change it.

My limited experience in the crawling world has me wondering about other treads, but the included wheels and 2.2 Ripsaw tires are terrific at gripping all different material whether wet or dry.  And then of course the Method beadlock wheels also look incredible!

Cornering isn’t exactly the Wraith Spawn’s favorite thing to do, so those grippy Ripsaw tires will send your truck wheel-side up more often than not if you go all out.  I also wouldn’t consider this a vehicle that likes to jump, but the oil-filled suspension does it’s job pretty well.

I’ve learned  the Wraith Spawn can take quite a beating.  I’ve sent it head on into logs, creeks and other obstacles at speed without fail.  I’m sure it’s possible to break the Wraith Spawn, but it hasn’t happened yet and I don’t see where anything is ever going to break under normal crawling conditions.

 

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FINAL

I’m glad to have gotten into the crawling world.  I like the mental challenge of navigating and ultimately overcoming an obstacle or trail.  I also like knowing I can drive the Wraith Spawn in places I cannot drive my other r/c vehicles.  So far, crawling is everything I thought it would be and I’m glad to have the Wraith Spawn in my r/c garage.

Select FOUR 10SC – Serious Specs Serious Performance

DSC_52851:10 scale short course trucks continue their rise in popularity ever since the category was created.  There are several companies doing well in the category, while other companies that feel that have something to contribute.

Helion-RC is one such company, introducing their Select line of vehicles with the Four 10SC.  In Helion’s words, they describe the Select as “Serious Specs, Serious Performance”.

That’s coming right out in your face and screaming for your attention so you know exactly what the goal is with Select.  They are in it to be a contender, not just offering another backyard basher, but a track competitor too.  Helion-RC has done good things with the beginner and intermediate line of vehicles, several of which were reviewed right here, so the evolution continues.

What have they learned?  What can they bring to the track?  Can they build a competitive?  Can they compete with the marketing hype of some companies and the quality products of others?  Can they open wallets and draw people away from what they have come to know?  It’s certainly possible in the backyard and at the club track level, but is it possible in the racing circuits?  Time will tell.

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FEATURES & SPECS

Initial inspection is always enjoyable; discovering what Helion-RC believes makes up a great 1/10 short course truck.  The FOUR 10SC comes as an almost ready-to-run 4×4 short course truck; only transmitter and receiver batteries are required to start driving.

Built for the track and backyard, the FOUR 10SC boasts a high-ground-clearance chassis built for all-terrain driving.  The important shock towers and wheel hexes are a beautiful gold-colored, durable aluminum.  It’s also equipped with aluminum threaded, adjustable, oil-filled, coil-over, 4-wheel independent suspension.  And topping it off are front and rear anti-roll bars, a shaft-based 4×4 drivetrain and the ever more popular modular chassis design.

Rubber-sealed ball bearings are found throughout, behind which are metal-gear differentials, ring and pinion.  And of course it has all-weather electronics.

  • Motor: 4-Pole Sensorless Radient Reaktor4T 3500kV Brushless
  • LiPo Compatibility: 2S-3S (7.4V-11.1V), 45C+
  • Gearing: 32P (Pinion: 15, Spur: 52)
  • Wheels: 12mm Hex (24mm OS, TRX and KYO Compatible)
  • Length: 545mm (21.5in)
  • Height: 191mm (7.52in)
  • Width: 296mm (11.65in)
  • Wheelbase: 326mm (12.83in)
  • Weight: 2063g (4lb-9oz)
  • Internal Gear Ratio: 3.47:1

The FOUR 10SC is a familiar chassis setup, but immediately noticeable is the construction of the truck feels very solid.  It’s reinforced and beefed up in the high stress points, but it’s also clear this truck was made for corners around the track too.  The suspension components look strong and are nicely adjustable for a custom ride.

You cannot overlook the fact that it’s equipped with the high-end 4-pole Sensorless Radiant Reaktor4T 3500k Brushless motor.  This means going from NiMH to a 3S is possible and that gives this stadium truck a lot of power options for speed and run times.

The Reaktor “T” series ESC’s and Motors incorporate the Total System Protection (TSP) technology. The TSP system protects against the following failure modes.

  • Over-current: Operating your product in very tall grass or in environments that create a lot of drag in the drivetrain can cause the motor to draw more current than the ESC is rated to maintain. This incredibly advanced circuitry is calibrated to sense the current state and predicted state of the electronics and will shut down the power to the motor to prevent an over- load condition. The most common causes of an over-current condition are improper gearing or running in very high drag environments such as tall grass, wet heavy mud or in situations where damage has occurred to the drivetrain but gone un-noticed.
  • Over-temperature: Exclusive to the Radient Reaktor “T” Series is the integrated temperature monitoring of both the ESC and the motor. Never before has a sensorless brushless combo had the technology incorporated which allows the ESC to monitor the temperature of the motor and enables the cutting of power to prevent an over-heat melt down of the motor and the ESC.
  • 2 running modes suitable for different applications (“Forward with brake” mode, “Forward/Backward with brake” mode).
  • Proportional ABS brake function with 4 steps of maximum brake force adjustment, 8 steps of drag-brake force adjustment.
  • 4 start modes (“Punch”) from “Soft” to “Very aggressive” to be suitable for different chassis, tires and tracks.
  • Multiple protection features: Low voltage cut-off protection for LiPo or NiMH battery / Over-heat protection / Throttle signal loss protection / Motor blocked protection.
  • Easily programmed with the “SET” button on the ESC or with the LED Program Card.

The FOUR 10SC looks ready for business.

 

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TRANSMITTER

Helion-RC includes an Ikonnik ET4 2.4GHz transmitter to wheel the Select FOUR 10SC around, which is quite a bit more than an entry-level transmitter. For starters, it’s ergonomic, configurable and adjustable.

I’m not the biggest fan of the offset wheel configuration, so I moved the wheel higher up to suit my preferences.  The transmitter feels good in the hand, solid and well-balanced; it’s big but not overweight.  The adjustable grips is a nice touch, though I couldn’t find one that let my thumb rest comfortably– a personal preference.  I also took advantage of the wheel tensioner and tightened it up a bit.

Feeling good about making it comfortable to me, I set out to learn about the programing.  As you will see below in the stats, it’s got what you need to race: 10 model memory, proportional steering and throttle, digital steering and throttle trim, end point adjustment and dual rates for the steering.

Along the way it may be easy to miss, but the transmitter has a switch for beginner mode, dropping the throttle by 50%.  It doesn’t get much easier than that to safely hand over your prized truck to a beginner.

All of these adjustments are made simple enough without the need for a screen, however,  I still like having a screen for the visual reference even though the Ikonnik does it’s job well.  I guess that’s a lot to ask from a RTR vehicle.  In fact, I’m a little surprised with the included transmitter.  It makes getting to the track more cost effective without losing some of the advantages the other guys have with their setups.  I can nitpick, but I don’t really need to because I feel it’s above and beyond what’s expected in a RTR.

  • PRICE: $429.99
  • 10 model memory
  • 2.4GHz operation avoids conflicts with other users
  • Easily pairs with vehicles pre-equipped with Ikonnik Xenon technology
  • Ergonomic trigger and grip
  • Includes 3 grip sizes to suit all ages and a wide variety of hand sizes
  • Drop-down wheel with adjustable position
  • Left and right-hand compatible operation
  • Adjustable wheel tension
  • Proportional steering and throttle control
  • Digital steering trim
  • Digital throttle trim
  • End-Point Adjustment (EPA)
  • Steering Dual Rate (D/R)
  • Servo reversing
  • Proportional 3rd channel knob
  • 4th channel toggle
  • Beginner mode (50% throttle)
  • Feature lock
  • Factory reset (each model and full memory)
  • Folding antenna for storage
  • Uses 4 AA batteries and compatible with NiMH battery packs
  • Micro all-weather Xenon receiver included

 


 

ONE CONCERN: Finally, I did notice the driveshaft cover was bowing in the middle.  The result will obviously be dirt and debris in place I don’t necessarily want them, so I simply put a little tape over it to keep it down and the drive shaft protected.

 

 

 

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DRIVING

I’ve spent many hours driving short course trucks over the years and am pleased to tell you the FOUR 10SC holds it’s own on the local track.  It took a few battery packs to dial in the suspension, and I’m not sure it’s all the way there yet, but it’s driving pretty well at the moment.

LiPo is definitely the way to go here and to get the most out of the package and the 4000mah 11.1v MaxAmps pack performed like a champ.

Charge after charge, this pack allowed the FOUR10SC to put down a lot of power with very strong run times.  Both my son and I each ran multiple laps and pushed past the ~20min mark with very little sign of slowing down.  It proved to be a fantastic combination.

I can appreciate this RTR isn’t a custom setup developed to suit my driving technique over hundreds of runs; with a little tuning, however, the suspension is soaking up the take-offs and landings consistent with the other trucks in this RTR category I’ve come to enjoy.  It’s to the point now where I feel I’m starting to sync up with the truck.

The steering is incredibly quick, responsive and accurate.  Using power, traction, and steering to make your way around corners is an expected part of driving a 4×4 short course truck, and the FOUR 10SC doesn’t disappoint.  I can attest to this in part because the indoor track I’m forced to use due to winter weather is small and tight. I can’t wait to get it on the outdoor track where I can open up the throttle and truly let it rip.

In the yard, where the FOUR 10SC also claims to be comfortable, was fun.  Given the continued snow in my area, testing the all-weather electronics was given.  Where other stadium trucks tend to have trouble, the 4×4, higher ground clearance, and tires made snow doable.  In fact, it was running on the road and driveway in fresh powder 2-3″ deep.

The tagline for the FOUR 10SC could also be, “drifting made fun”.  Throttle management and that excellent steering response made sliding down the road sideways as doable as it is in the full-scale car.  Yet, the FOUR 10SC will get up to full speed with a little control of the throttle finger.

I’ve had a lot of fun in the snow with this one.

 

 

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FINAL LAP

I believe you’re getting a complete package with this RTR Select FOUR 10SC.  It’s hard to find fault with most of the r/c offerings out there today without really nitpicking, and most of the time that ends up being personal preference and opinion.  The same is true in this case; the FOUR 10SC is a good, quality built truck.

In some cases, it simply boils down to what appeals to your senses and how much you can afford.  Marketing will do an incredible about of work to get their vehicle in your hands, but what moves the soul is really what matters.  Ok, that and whether you can easily get parts.

I happen to have a Hobby Town within a few miles from the track I drive, so this really becomes a contender for me.  And even if you don’t have a Hobby Town nearby, with the proliferation and speed of online ordering, spare parts are only a click and a few days away.

It’s a tough decision where to plunk down your cash and there’s something to be said for the tried and true.  However, if you’re anything like me, there’s something to be said for driving something new and different; something nobody else at your track or in your neighborhood is driving.

The Select FOUR 10SC can be just that truck.

 

You Don’t Want To Miss This! 60+ mph Traxxas Stampede 4×4 VXL w/ TSM

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TRAXXAS STAMPEDE VXL

Traxxas has a lot of choices, and it can be difficult to choose just one (no one says you have to); this is especially true since they continue to innovate and improve existing models, like the Stampede.  Equipping it with a Velineon 3500 Brushless motor and VXL-3S, Traxxas Stability Management, Auto Battery Identification, with the ability (when paired with the right pinion/spur and battery) to exceed 60 mph is what makes this Stampede special and worth talking about today.

60+ mph isn’t of particular importance in many circles, and it’s not new to surface r/c, but to proudly and boldly advertise it on the front of a box in a Ready-To-Drive 4×4 off-road monster truck is a big deal to me.  It wasn’t too long ago you had to work to get 60+ out of an r/c vehicle, it usually cost you more than a few bucks to get there, and reliability was a bit of a pipe-dream.  As technology develops and costs’s come down, companies like Traxxas can go to work to provide an incredible Ready-To-Drive experience.

Per usual with Traxxas, you get a bag of tools and equipment to help you work on and tune your Stampede.  There’s also a quick start guide to get the wheels turning as soon as possible.  The manual is incredibly detailed, with excellent illustrations.

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THE TRUCK

There is so much packed into this Stampede it’s difficult to know where to begin, but I think TSM (Traxxas Stability Management) is good place to start.  With a simple dial on the transmitter, the driver can decide how much computer assist they want.  I find it interesting to put this feature on the Stampede, which will spend most of it’s time bashing.

The idea is to help the driver control the truck on surfaces where traction is tough to come by and wheel-spin is a real challenge; surfaces like dirt, ice, snow, water, wet concrete.  The more you dial in and ask for the TSM to assist, the more control you have while shooting off the line, coming out of a corner, or making a stop.  It’s not perfect, but it works and you can absolutely tell when it’s off.

Next is the fact this Stampede is decked out and equipped with their Brushless Velineon and VXL-3S, making it LiPo compatible with speeds north of 60 mph.  This Stampede is an animal out of the box with the included NiMH, but with a different pinion/spur gear and LiPO it’s an all out beast.

The chassis is a shaft-driven 4WD system with a modular design.  It’s got high ground clearance, improving it’s offroad “monster truck” capabilities.  Despite that, the Stampede is designed to handle very well and corner like a smaller, lower center of gravity vehicle.

To top if off, Traxxas has included the TQi 2.4GHz radio should you want to get into remote tuning and telemetry from your android or apple device.

Of course, the guts of this Stampede 4×4 VXL with TSM are everything you’d expect from Traxxas for long-term durability:

  • Heavy-duty 4mm steel turnbuckles and captured rod ends
  • Single-screw motor access
  • Modular simplicity, fiber-composite monocoque chassis
  • Speed control and receiver are securely fastened to chassis
  • Digital high-torque Traxxas #2075 waterproof steering servo
  • Waterproof, o-ring sealed receiver box
  • Sealed, silicone-filled differentials
  • Revo®-Spec Torque-Control™ slipper clutch system
  • Fully adjustable oil-filled Ultra Shocks™ with X-ring technology
  • White powder coated shock springs feature a responsive spring rate
  • Telescoping universal-joint driveshafts
  • Rubber-sealed ball bearings
  • Black-chrome All-Star™ 2.8″ wheels
  • Talon™ multi-terrain tires with high-performance foam inserts
  • ProGraphix® painted body

 

 

 

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TEST DRIVE

 

My son and I have now been driving the Stampede for several weeks, in multiple locations, and on several different surfaces.  Traxxas putting together TQi, TSM, 4×4, Velineon brushless and LiPO is an amazing combination in the Stampede.  It really does make it an all around weapon for whatever r/c itch you’re trying to scratch that day.

The tires have enough traction in them to get the front wheels up no problem in the grass, yet at full speed still allow the truck to turn pretty well without traction rolling.  It is a little more difficult to wheelie on the pavement, but it will happen and the tires do well overall here too.  And of course, the Stampede is at home in the dirt and sand.

I stressed this truck out more than I usually do but truly believed it could take it.  And it has.  The truck will wheelie, traction flip with aggressive braking, and jump as high and far as you are comfortable.  And while I notice it likes to jump nose high, it’s very correctable in the air.

I could tell the TSM was working when I had it dialed up, but I never felt like it got in the way.  If I wanted to have a little more drift capability or loose traction, a quick turn down of the dial on the transmitter to 0% and away I went, sliding around all over the place.

Having recently succumbed to a few inches of snow, I was also able to test the TSM in wet and icy conditions.  I wasn’t initially sure why TSM would be of particular value to this basher, and it still wasn’t clear bashing around.  However, on a wet and icy surface, it was starting to become more clear.

I turned up the TSM to 100%, and it wobbled back and forth the faster I went, so I wasn’t all that impressed.  However, that just taught me the limits of the system, and I probably wasn’t being all that fair considering the conditions (think ice skating rink) for the TSM to be effective.  That said when I backed it off to 75% or even 50% and it was noticeably more stable than at 0%.  I could really see and feel it working.

I was able to slam on the brakes and watch the Stampede dance it’s way to a stop under relative control, making it very easy to control.  It also manages aggressive acceleration well to keep the truck moving forward in a straight line.  Again, the ice was a formidable opponent, but it was obvious in these condition’s the TSM was working and making it easier to drive.

The only thing I ran across that interfered with uninterrupted fun was the wheelie bar.  On hard landings or aggressive wheelies in the grass, I found it would come loose more often than I like.  I’m concerned if I don’t stop to secure it, and it’s left dangling, that it will get damaged.  Because I’ve been paying attention, it hasn’t been damaged yet, but I fear it’s only a matter of time.

 

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FINAL LAP


I had a hard time thinking TSM was of particular value on the Stampede.  This is not my first Traxxas to be equipped with TSM. but it’s probably the first to receive as much attention as I’ve given it.

I’ve found that I dial it up and down more frequently on the Stampede than I have on the other Traxxas vehicles.

Without a doubt, I was excited about the equipped powertrain, and it’s worth every penny.  As they say, there’s no replacement for displacement (does that make sense here?).  Anyway, just because you CAN drive it 60+ mph, doesn’t mean you have to– but it sure is nice to have the power there when you want to go like a bat out of.. well, when you want to go fast.

This Traxxas Stampede 4×4 VXL with TSM and TQi is a beast, and it deserves the attention it’s getting.

ARRMA 1/10 2WD FURY MEGA – Appetite For Adventure You Just Might Want To See

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ARRMA FURY MEGA

What do you know about ARRMA?  I’ve been watching them for the last couple years, Jonathan Fox did a review on the incredible Senton 6S recently, and I finally have a chance to put myself at the wheel of an ARRMA vehicle with the Fury MEGA.  ARRMA doesn’t have a long history, but it’s one that is tied with Team Durango and now also Hobbico, so it’s obvious the engineering and support behind the brand is excellent and the company should have a long future.

The ARRMA vehicle selection options are offered in three categories: MEGA, BLS, BLX.  The MEGA vehicles are the entry level brushed, NiHM 2wd 1/10 scale vehicles.  The BLS are the next step and introduce a brushless setup and larger NiHM battery.  The BLX is the top of the line and fastest setup ARRMA offers and includes both 1/10 and 1/8 scale models.

With the FURY MEGA, you’re getting an entry-level stadium truck, with an entry level price tag ($189.99 retail), that’s ready to run.  Out of the box, it feels focused and determined to become a beginner’s favorite as the chassis build quality appears excellent.  And the everything from the wheels to the heatsink on the esc makes me feel good about my purchase.

 

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TRUCK

DRIVETRAIN & CHASSIS: Taking a different approach to the chassis, ARRMA built this truck using a composite boxed chassis design that encloses the steering servo and battery quite nicely in the centerline of the vehicle, which optimally lowers the center of gravity.  The RX box and ESC are also centered and positioned for good balance.  And should you choose, you can upgrade to ARRMA’s aluminum TVP Chassis Rails for more stiffness and strength.

It comes standard with oil-filled shock absorbers, which can be tuned easily in different mounting positions and with different weight silicone oils.  They are very good quality on this entry-level machine and gives beginner’s everything they need to tune the ride as they learn what that means.

The differentials are a combination of composite and steel, standard equipment for a vehicle like the Fury MEGA.  The pinion/spur and slipper clutch are easily accessible behind a cover and couple screws, making adjustments, maintenance and cleaning simple and effective.  It’s clear the design, while complex, is designed with the understanding that r/c enthusiast’s need and want to clean, maintain, and upgrade their vehicles.

MOTOR, ESC & ELECTRONICSThe ARRMA MEGA has a waterproof 35A ESC with large red aluminum heat sink fins, combined with the 15T MEGA Brushed Motor.  It’s designed to be used with a NiMH battery, which is supplied as a 6 Cell 2000mAh 7.2 volt NiMh pack but is also compatible with a 2S LiPo’s.

The charger is fine and will charge the 2000mAh battery in roughly 3 hours.  However, I don’t like that it doesn’t have an indicator light to let you know when the charge is complete.  It’s a simple feature that could easily be remedied, especially since beginners won’t likely have a more advanced charger.

If you’re looking for more speed or longer run-times, you’ll want to upgrade to the 7 cell 3000mAh 8.4v NiMH battery pack.  It is possible to upgrade to 2S LiPo’s, but you’re better off buying the Fury BLS from the start if you think you will want to go that route in the future.

 

TRANSMITTER: The ATX100 2.4GHZ transmitter comes equipped with the basic features nice to have on this type of vehicle.  Under the cover on top of the transmitter, you’ll find servo reversing for both steering and throttle.  There is a button to bind the transmitter (bound from the factory), which is surrounded by two LED indicators for power and battery status.  Below that are the trim settings for steering and throttle as well as steering dual rates.

The on/off switch is found on the side just below the settings cover, and the rigid antenna folds down and away for easy storage and transport.

The transmitter is big and bulky with a squared-off design that I don’t find all that comfortable.  The cover on top is difficult to open as it slides first to unlock it, then hinges up and out of the way.  It’s necessary to have this open before driving if you expect to make adjustments on the fly.

The throttle and steering tension is a matter of preference, but I find the throttle spring to be smooth and not too light; it has a nice feel.  The steering, however, feels a little light and the foam wheel grip slides around everywhere, including off the wheel.  That said, steering is smooth and the wheel does well snapping back to center.

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TEST DRIVE

Like all my beginner reviews, the true test of a beginner vehicle is to put it in the hands of a novice or three.  Being willing to take one for the team, my son agrees to be the test subject and is ready to work.  He loves his “job” and takes it seriously, so he’s rip-roaring and ready; off to Battle Front RC we go.  I can only wonder how much longer I will be able to test his skills as a beginner, he’s getting quite good.

The indoor track is small for this vehicle, so we spent all our time outside.  The Fury Mega gets around the track fine, but my son became increasingly frustrated that it couldn’t power itself all the way over the jumps, landing short nearly every time.  Blame it on the track if you want, but I believe it’s more about the setup so I helped him understand the limitations of a brushed motor with a 7.2v 2000mAh battery.

He was able to settle into a groove, so I introduced the Traxxas Slash into the mix.  It’s a direct competitor of the ARRMA Fury MEGA, so it’s perfect for comparison.  The Slash has a slightly larger battery pack, and it was noticeable as it was slightly faster than the Fury MEGA and had longer run-times.  I would recommend upgrading to the 3000mAh pack or a 2S LiPo with upgraded pinions and spurs.

The trucks are vastly different in setup and design, but eerily similar driving around the track.  However, the Fury has a better suspension and soaks up the landings very well.  I also like how it corners and how the dBoots tires are good at balancing power and traction with the supplied setup.

The body has a fair amount of rattle, which I’m looking at solving with the addition of body mount foam dampers.  There are only faint tire rub marks where they wiped away the dirt on the underside of the body after only the harshest of landings.  Otherwise, the body rides perfectly along with the rest of the truck and is as durable as anything else out there of good quality.  The truck is no worse off other than a few scuffs and scratches; it’s held up well through weeks’ worth of frequent driving.

Around the house is where this will likely spend most of its time, and it’s well suited for the task.  Grass will eat up the battery charge in short order, but it’s plenty capable should you choose.  It’s fine around gravel, dirt, sand and even around ramps.  There’s fun to be had right outside your front door as it’s an everyday r/c truck that I believe will last for quite some time.

 

 

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FINAL LAP

Similar to its competition, the Fury MEGA does a nice all-around job of putting fun in the driver’s hands, doing so while being durable and affordable.  Because of Hobbico as a parent company, parts can be found at your hobby shop in some cases or at the very least a quick online order away.

There is a lot to like about this offering from ARRMA.  It really appeals to me because it’s different, looks great, and deliver’s the performance it promises.

Take a look for yourself

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:

 

LaTrax Teton – Is It Better Than Before?

 

L A T R A X  T E T O N

It was in 2015 I reviewed the LaTrax SST. Modeled after the full-scale version of the Traxxas-sponsored Super Stadium Truck, it was quite a pleasant surprise to me then and keeps its place in my rc garage today. However, it’s not without its quirks.  And the previous version of this Teton had the same, what I will also call, quirks.

If you bought a Teton before now, you were treated with a standard battery connection and DC charger.  So no longer do you need a converter, but can use an ac outlet with the included charger or the same chargers you’d otherwise use for Traxxas vehicles.  This is because LaTrax now includes the more common Traxxas TRX plug, which of course makes it compatible with the Traxxas iD system chargers.

Finally, this updated Teton now includes full metal front and rear differentials to improve strength and durability.

Since my SST is getting some miles on it, I decided to see how the new Teton compares.  I’m curious to see the differences and whether I’ll enjoy the Teton as much as I do the SST.  Even though one is a stadium truck and the other is a monster truck, the difference seems to be in the wheels, tires, and track.

obviously, the first thing you notice is the ProGraphix® painted body, which looks great with the pre-applied decals (4 color options).  The wheels in black add to the aggressive vibe and the tire tread looks good for multi-terrain driving.  I dig the look.

 

T E T O N  E L E C T R O N I C S

Let’s start by taking a look at the electronics and esc, which has a lifetime warranty from Traxxas.  It’s a waterproof all-weather casing that allows for 3 driving profiles: sport, race, training.  This immediately puts the Teton on my list for beginner r/c vehicles as the training mode puts the throttle at 50% until a new driver can be trusted to control more power.  The esc also has low-voltage detection and thermal shutdown to protect LiPo’s.

BATTERY: A new addition to this version Teton is that it now comes with an iD-equipped 7.2v NiMH battery and AC charger.  This is definitely a plus as the old charging method left a lot to be desired.  If you have a Traxxas iD charger, it will auto-detect the battery then set and optimize charge settings for you.  More on that later in this review.

RECIEVER: LaTrax’s 3-channel micro receiver uses 2.4GHz technology, which is protected from all-weather driving by their patent-pending receiver box.  It’s also protected with the same lifetime warranty as the esc.  That’s a pretty notable promise in an r/c at this price range.

TRANSMITTER: Included with the Teton is Traxxas’ standard 2.4GHz Wheel Radio.  It offers limited functionality with steering trim only.  What you do get is reliability and consistent connectivity performance.  I’ve yet to experience loss of signal or glitching with Traxxas’ transmitters.  I don’t really think you need much more than this offers for this grip it and rip it vehicle.

T E T O N  C O N S T R U C T I O N

Looking at the bones of the Teton, I see very similar construction to my SST.  Upgraded with metal differentials will help improve strength and durability, otherwise, it looks very similar to the previous version.

CHASSIS: The front and rear bumpers are designed to take an impact, and my experience tells me they will be just fine for the long-haul because there’s not a lot of weight to the Teton and these are every bit as robust as I’m used to on the SST.  Ground clearance is a little more than 1″  and careful consideration has been given to the approach angle so the larger wheels and tires can clear more obstacles.

SUSPENSION: The independent suspension makes for a more stable and balanced vehicle, soaking up uneven terrain and allowing each wheel the ability to maintain contact.  They are also damped, which is helpful to soften the blows of large jumps and maintain control in high speed turning.  The oil-filled shocks are also adjustable with different mounting options to dial in the Teton to your liking.

DRIVETRAIN: What would a monster truck be if it wasn’t 4×4?  In this size, having four-wheel drive makes it easier to handle taller grass or field driving.  It also helps to power through sand and dirt in a way 2×4 cannot.  I expect durability and the metal differentials combined with an aluminum driveshaft should deliver nicely.

STEERING: The servo doing all the work keeping the Teton under control is Traxxas’ 2065 waterproof steering servo, offering 32 oz-in of torque.  Protecting the gears in the servo is the bellcrank steering system and integrated servo saver.  The design here eliminates annoying bump steer that often makes it difficult to keep the truck on its intended path.

D R I V I N G

Now that we’re done talking about what makes up the Teton, let’s get to the fun part, driving.  It’s not a secret that I love to drive the SST and find it quite enjoyable to work it around my local track.  So where does the Teton fit into this as I have no plans to track it?  Well, the answer is rather simple.  I’m going to drive it everywhere else.  The SST is at home on more solid surfaces and loves to jump, but it’s lower 1/18 scale clearance doesn’t love grass.

As you can see in the video, the Teton can be driven in the grass but it doesn’t love it and you’re likely sending your motor to a premature grave.  It just doesn’t have quite enough clearance for the wheels to find a solid grip and the motor is working extra hard to keep the truck moving forward.  In all fairness, even when recently mowed, my grass stands 2-3″ tall, so the 1/18 scale Teton’s struggle is understandable.

Rolling around on pavement is where you really see the full capabilities of the traction, suspension, and speed.  The radar gun clocks the Teton at 26mph on the pavement with the wind at its back, which is pretty decent given the 370 brushed motor and 7.2v 1200mah pack.  It’s also spot on with the SST I reviewed.  On the pavement, there are some noticeable driving characteristics different from looser surfaces.  Remember the oil-filled, damped independent suspension? They allow the chassis to pitch and roll through turns, have significant travel on uneven surfaces while still keeping the 3 other wheels on traction, and smooth out less than perfect landings pretty well.  All of that is good, but it’s not all good news.

The suspension travel and damping also allow for some torque steer under full acceleration from a stand still.  The big front tires certainly don’t help, but when combined with the softer suspension it becomes noticeable.  Because we’re not talking about blistering fast speed, it’s not a problem, but if you’re lined up to a jump 5′,10′, or 15′ away it is something that will get your attention so you hit the ramp solid.

Staying on the pavement for just a second, traction roll is real with some speed.  I had thought the suspension would soak it up, but the wide tires and wheels overpower the suspension and allow for some wheels up action.  What’s interesting is doing J-Turns are really simple and quite fun in the Teton.  So while the tires grip well on the pavement, there’s still enough slide in the tires to have some fun without traction rolling every time.  The pavement’s a good place for the Teton to play, but I would appreciate dual rates to slow the steering while driving on the pavement.

If the pavement is good, so too is a dirt road and hard-packed sand; this is where the Teton will likely live its life, as it should.  The fat tires float over dirt and sand, yet the tread pattern will allow you to get stuck; the wheels will still dig in if you’re too aggressive on the throttle.  Speaking of throttle, the Teton would benefit from a little exponential around neutral as it’s just a bit punchy.  I found while working some obstacles that throttle management was a little difficult around neutral.  I’m nit-picking here, but it was noticeable.

When it comes to jumping, the Teton handles the ramp with no problem.  It is controllable in the air but needs throttle input to keep it level.  Let off the throttle and the nose will dip slightly. Hit the brakes and you’ll land it on that beautifully painted body.  And those wide wheels mean you can also steer it in the air.  Hitting my jump at full throttle means you will land on the chassis as the suspension doesn’t fully handle the weight on landing.  This is exactly as it is with my SST and never has it been a problem.  I suspect the same will be true for the Teton.

 

 

S T E E R I N G  S E R V O  F A I L

Over 2 years and countless battery cycles, I’ve only just now had to replace a part on the SST.  I noticed the motor was slowing down and not able to reach the same top speed it once had and it became very clear when running next to the Teton.  A quick trip to the hobby shop with $10 and a few minutes later the problem was solved. The motor might have failed a bit prematurely, but it does have many hours of abuse on the clock, so I think of it as normal wear and tear replacement.

The Teton, on the other hand, wasn’t so lucky as the steering servo stripped during testing.  This is the same servo used in the SST and the Teton has a servo saver, so I’m quite surprised.  This is a more expensive component to replace on this vehicle at $32 retail and is not covered under the electronics warranty.

This would normally put a bad taste in my mouth in regards to the Teton, but my experience with Traxxas and the SST, in general, has been so great over the years.   Why did this servo fail when my SST’s servo continues to go strong with not so much as a hint of failure?  I have no clue.  Considering I wasn’t launching the Teton off anything major, I am going to call this one an anomaly.  In other words, I’m not sure I could replicate whatever it was that stripped the servo even if I tried over and over again.

Traxxas’ customer support… [insert return/replacement process here]

 

 

F I N A L  L A P

Traxxas took a familiar platform, upgraded it for durability, made it easier to use with their charging systems and batteries, then lowered the price. The LaTrax Teton once retailed for $159.99, is now offered for $139.99 and can be found at online retailers for less.  The Teton is fast enough to keep a more seasoned r/c hobbiest entertained for a bit, but will keep the younger among us entertained for quite a while.

If parent and child are running these together as my son and I often do, the fun factor increases significantly.  For less than $300, my son and I can be entertained through several packs as we challenge each other’s skills, both in racing and obstacle challenges.  I would consider that money well spent.  And should something happen to break, like the servo, my local hobby store has all the parts I need at a price that won’t break the bank.  Yet another reason why I love 1/18 scale.

Is it better than before?  Definitely.  I can’t really explain the servo thing as I’ve never stripped any Traxxas steering servo in all my years, so I’m calling it an anomaly and moving on.  I recommended the SST in 2015 and will recommend the Teton now in 2017.  It’s every bit a value proposition from Traxxas that I believe will be in my r/c garage for a long time.