Hands-on the Traxxas TRX-4 Land Rover Defender
Ever since the Nuremburg toy fair back in February, we have been excited about the prospect of a genuine scale Land Rover Defender. Previously to achieve such a look, you would have had to go for a custom body over a modified crawler chassis.
So we were hyped to hear Traxxas were officially licensing the Land Rover brand and bringing their usual eye for detail to this ready-to-run truck. Thankfully we haven’t been kept waiting long and this month the Traxxas TRX-4 Land Rover Defender arrived at RC Geeks. This blog is ‘pic heavy’ so if you prefer to look at pretty pictures rather than read a lot, this is for you.
Body style and detail
As an officially licensed Land Rover product the body has a great balance of contours and decals, faithfully capturing the iconic shape. It measures 586mm by 248mm by 291mm tall from tyre to roof-rack.
Thick plastic is used for the exterior roll cage, rugged arch extensions and wing-mirrors.
Whilst the fuel tank and jack mounted on the rear of the body are for show only, the spare wheel is actually fully functional and can be fitted to the chassis. The body comes pre-painted and stickered with windows, numberplate and defender badging.
Under the removable body, the chassis has thick moulded plastic bumpers and hard plastic rock sliders for rock riding. The body itself also has arch liners to protect the chassis from the elements.
Powertrain and Chassis
The model features the Traxxas XL-5 HV ESC, a waterproof unit that will accept a 7-cell NiMH or 2-3 cell (11.1v) battery packs for punchy performance. It has a selection of profiles programmed including crawl, offering hill-hold and instant reverse to get your out of trouble. The chassis features a dual-fit battery tray that accepts such big cells and requires no tooling to unlock when its time to swap out.
This ESC feeds the torquey Titan 21T 550 brushed motor that powers all four wheels of the truck along. It is front mounted to assist with the weight balance. Admittedly we would have liked to have seen a brushless motor at this price point, but in practice this unit is more than capable and is powerful enough to pull wheelies with the diffs locked correctly.
Lastly steering control is handled by a large waterproof, metal gear servo. This connect to the hubs via high-mounted steering arm linkages to maximise ground clearance. With the front diff unlocked the system allows for 45 degrees of steering angle.
Our happily dragged itself out of a many a muddy puddle as we subjected it to the sort of (scale) tasks you expect the full size defender to tackle.
We decided to really test the waterproof components by heading to a local stream and driving right in. Impressively the little truck wades in without issue, handling the stream admirably.
And even when the water is deep enough that the truck will float, it will still paddle along quite happily
Its waterproof credentials were repeated tested, the below mishap when crawling along a particularly steep part of the bank turned into a full on barrel roll into the river!
Thankfully this ability means that the TRX-4 is game for pretty much any terrain!
In Control – The TQi Transmitter
The TQi 4-Channel Radio System is a familiar trigger radio-controller with extra inputs to control the model specific features. The large red two-position toggle switch behind the trigger-pull, switches the transmission between high and low.
On the top of the controller is a metal three position toggle switch that remotely adjusts the differentials, unlocking both diffs in the rear position, lock just the front diff in centre and lock both diffs when toggled forward.
The red set button can also be used to lock the throttle position as a basic ‘cruise control‘ function which can be useful when demonstrating the car to friends.
Besides these features it also has the usual array of trim dials and neutral adjustments you would expect. It also features a slot for the Traxxas link wireless module, allowing you to access training mode or view real-time telemetry with the accompanying smartphone app. Underneath the handset is a panel covering the battery tray. The TQi requires four AA batteries that are not included with this model
Waterproof micro servos are employed to remotely actuate the front and rear lockable T-Lock differentials, as well as switch between the high/low setting on the transmission.
In use this system works fantastically. When the truck reaches its limit on clearing an object you can lock the entire transmission system, drop it into crawler speed and have it drag itself out of nearly any situation without any hands-on intervention.
Traxxas have gone to great lengths to give this as much articulation and clearance as possible. Using portal axles (two gears stacked on each hub) they have lifted the diff housing and drive shafts further away from the ground. This system also massively reduces torque twist, reducing the total axle gear force compared to a standard crawler.
Out of the box the chassis has a 56.49 degree front approach angle thanks to the short overhangs and high clearance. In real world terms the high bumper position allows it to attack steep rock faces without issue.
The big 1.9″ wheels not only look the part but come fitted with S1-compound Canyon trail tyres. These have deep tread blocks for gripping rocks and are fitted with foam inserts to flex and behave like the real thing. Since the chassis has a standard 12mm steel hex mount for the wheels, you can easily swap them out for your favourite crawling combination.
Whilst it is something we are yet to test, it is interesting to see that the TRX-4 has an adjustable wheelbase. This could have just been a design consideration for offering the chassis with different body styles, but it also effectively changes the performance.
Theoretically the standard longer layout would be better for climbing at the expense of turning circle and break-over angle; Whilst the shorter layout would offer the opposite.
As said the ECU does have hill braking, allowing the truck to hold itself on near vertical slopes (assuming you have traction)
The high/low speed also comes in use on the trail when conditions are ever changing. Traditionally crawlers can be quite dull when it comes to flat terrain, gearing for climbing control rather than out and out pace; Whilst I couldn’t put a number on the top speed, it certainly shifts!
Also impressively (considering is relatively high centre of gravity) is how well it can change direction at speed, we even managed to get it to powerslide!
In fact in all of our testing, the only thing that managed to stop the TRX-4 was of all things, grass! Whilst forging a path through a 2ft high field of grass the Defender did come to a halt, as the grass bound itself around the axle’s and differential housings.
No matter of rocking or diff unlocking was going to free it from this tangled mess!
Would I buy one?
In a word, yes! As the saying goes ‘you get what you pay for’ and whilst the Traxxas TRX-4 appears expensive, it certainly warrants the price tag. The rigid steel ladder frame, portal axles and are great but the remotely switchable differentials and hi-low transmission really are the icing on the cake.
It’s also rare that a model can make it through our nigh-on ‘destruction’ level testing relatively unscathed. Over the past few years i’ve tested a variety of cars but this is the first I’d be willing to buy without question, it really is that good.
Plus despite its relatively recent release, the modifications scene for the truck has already exploded, with people swapping out wheels, tyres, bumpers and adding winches or new bodies as can be seen on this facebook group.
Traxxas even have their own official accessories coming soon, include a LED lighting kit with a roof mounted light-bar, headlight kit and arch lighting kit to assist your driving even in the dark!
Order your Traxxas Land Rover Defender today
Remember that you will need a battery with the new Traxxas iD connector (or adapter). We tested it with the Traxxas Power Cell 11.1V 3S 5000mah LiPo Battery and the run time seemed almost eternal.
If you are new to the Traxxas iD charging system it is also probably worth investing in a rapid LiPo charger such as the Traxxas EZ Peak Plus 4 Amp NiMh/LiPo ID Fast Charger which will smart-charge the battery with just one press of the button.
Have you noticed any errors in this blog? Perhaps you have questions regarding the Traxxas Defender? Please leave your comments below!