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What happens when you want to gofast, but don’t want to stump up the cash for anX-Maxx,Maxxor even aSenton? Thankfully mid-tier manufacturers are here tosave your walletwith bargains likeBSD’s Marauder. We take a look at a fresh buggy from veteransFTX, a 6S-ready brushless buggy, theDR8.

At a glance

  • Ready to run ‘scale’ brushlessdesert racer buggy
  • 2.4Ghz GT2 Evo Radio transmitter/receiver
  • 2000kv4-polebrushless motorand150Amp ESC
  • 15kgmetal geared steering servo
  • Big bore aluminiumoil filled dampers,anti-roll bars
  • Aluminiumchassis plate,heavy dutysteel gears
  • 54cm long, 34cm wide, 22cm tall and weighing around3.75kg

Unboxing the desert racer

FTX ship the DR8 in a large ~35x26x67cm box with some rather dated looking artwork. Inside the model is retained in card (Traxxas, take note) alongside some plastic packets for the accessories.

FTX-DR8-6S-Desert-Racer-Review-in-the-box

Alongside the buggy, FTX include a couple antenna tubes with a rubber tip, a jumper for the receiver, the transmitter and a pair of XT90 battery connectors should you wish to re-terminate and re-purpose some existing cells for this model. The included manual isexcellentwith step by step instructions for getting the buggy running, adjusting the transmitter, re configuring the ESC, maintaining the model and even detailed exploded diagrams for servicing or repairing it.

FTX-DR8-6S-Desert-Racer-Review-in-the-box-contents

FTX DR8 in detail

Factory built, the buggy needs only some charged batteries installed (to both the model and the transmitter) to get driving.

Cage bodywork with accessories

Welovethe aesthetic of the DR8. Small wheels with big chunky tyres sit at each corner of the truck with a roll-cage style body sat in-board.

FTX-DR8-6S-Desert-Racer-Review-unboxed

That rear tyre sat up on the rear deck is afully functional spare, held on by a wingnut for quick removal. The body features plenty of little details such as the fire extinguishers and remote damper reservoirs, fantastic finishing touches that add to the scale feel.

The roof, side panels and even the driver/passenger mouldings can be unbolted from the truck if you would prefer a raw bare-cage feel as we opted for whenreviewing the Outlaw-4 last year.

The buggy has agreat stancewith a wide track and long wheelbase, it certainly looks like it means business. Whilst it has no rear bumper, there is a thick plastic ‘bull-bar’ piece that attaches to the front of the chassis plate.

FTX-DR8-6S-Desert-Racer-Review-unboxed-rear-three-quarter

Held to four thick posts, the body can beeasily removed(by releasing the four body pins and sliding it up) for fitting the batteries or repairs. We removed the spare wheel and isolated the body to give you a better idea of its structure. Flipped over you can see the bolts and fixing points for the lexan panels that cover up the internals. Said panels could easily be removed and repainted externally if you were not fond of the factory livery.

We have tested the blue edition with blue stickers, wheel trims and blue anodised components on the chassis, but a red version is also available.

Factory fitted light-bars

Lights on RC cars arecool. We are excited to see more and more manufacturers are including scale-style lighting solutions to thefactory-finished bodies. A desert buggy such as this would likely have two huge light bars front and rear of the cockpit and FTX have adorned the DR8 with such a setup.

The wide front bar features12 bright white LEDswhilst the rear consists of a narrower8 LED unit, four red, with four whitemounted centrally.

Should the light bars not be your thing, theycan be left unplugged, or completely removed from the buggy relatively easily. The light-bars don’t appear to be sealed units so we’d definitely avoid getting them submerged in water.

Powerful Electronics

Onto the chassis and the main reason that anyone will buy this buggy, thepowerfulandexpensive electronics. Split across the flat plate, the motor, receiver box and servo sit on the right whilst the ESC and batteries are mounted to the left.

FTX-DR8-6S-Desert-Racer-Review-chassis-from-above

That huge FTX branded 2000kv 4-pole brushless motor isworth £100 on its own! A metal-bodied unit, it mounts to a slotted, anodised motor mount for getting the perfect mesh to the pinon sat on the back of the central diff.

It is hooked up to the OEM Hobbywing 150Amp brushless ESC via three long (4mm diameter) bullet connector leads, held in place by a cable clamp over the rear differential. The unbranded ESC is likely the water/dustproof Hobbywing QUICRUN WP8 BL 150 unit (valued around £120) which will accept 3-6S Lipo cell. It has an integrated fan/heatsink permanently wired to it. FTX have fitted some nice thick-gauge cable and wired a pair of XT90 connectors in series to it.

FTX-DR8-6S-Desert-Racer-Review-chassis-hobbywing-electronic-speed-control-ESC-and-button

You will note that the power switch comes off on a short flylead and has been mounted to the outer edge of the chassis. This means you can reach up and into the car topower on/off the model without removing the body, a small sticker has even been added to the chassis lip to help identify its location.

This ESC is programmable via the set button sat alongside the rubber covered power button. Page 9 of the instruction manual directs you on using this to alter the running mode, drag brake force, low-voltage cutoff, start mode/punch and the maximum brake force. If this is too fiddly, an LED programming card (not included) can be attached to the port on the side instead.

Lastly the ESC is wired with a low-voltage output for the front/rear LED light bars, female servo plug connectors are leashed to the rear of the chassis. These plug into the male connectors on the body with enough slack on the loom to comfortably refit it to the body without disconnecting them. These wires are ‘live’ with the ESC, thus the lights only fire up when the car is powered up.

Steering system

Employing a bellcrank mechanism,with an integrated servo saver, the steering mechanism is sandwiched to the chassis with ananodised metal plate.

FTX-DR8-6S-Desert-Racer-Review-chassis-steering-servo-angle

The 15kg ‘high torque’ unit isn’t the strongest but it is a waterproof metal gear unit which should have some longevity. Frustratingly our DR8 arrived with the steering a good few splines out of alignment, way beyond what is correctable via the trim on the transmitter, thankfully it only took a 2.5mm hex driver and couple of minutes to correct.

FTX-DR8-6S-Desert-Racer-Review-chassis-steering-servo-and-saver

As you can see from the above photo, there isn’t a huge amount of ‘throw’ to the design before the tie-rod hits the steering brace.

Metal gear transmission

From the pinon to the wheel axles, the DR8 featuresmetal drivetrain components. The central metal-geared diff/spur gears feed two metal dogbones that transmit power to the front and rear ‘open’ (in terms of locking, but sealed and oil filled) differentials. These are hooked up to the hub through a spiral toothed output gear with more metal dogbones and metal cupped driveshafts (CVD at the front). This thing is built to last.

Chassis and suspension components

The buggy is built up off of a3mm heavy-duty aluminium baseplatewith5mm thickfront and rear aluminium shock towers. A mix of composite thick plastic lower arms and bulkheads make up the meat of the inner components.

FTX-DR8-6S-Desert-Racer-Review-buggy-side-on-with-wheels-removed

Oil filled dampers are common at this price point but these (height) adjustable units seemhigher quality than most. Note the proper aluminium shock caps sat under protective plastic buffers, as well as the rubber rod sheaths down to the lower spring cup. FTX have addedmetal sway/anti-roll barsto the front and rear setups to improve cornering control.

FTX-DR8-6S-Desert-Racer-Review-chassis-front-bumper-shock-caps-springs

We were surprised to see a complexpivot ball setupto the front suspension which will aide in control as well as put up with some big hits.

The rear setup is equally impressive with adjustable turnbuckles for modifying the camber and multiple bolt patterns offering new suspension angles.

Block tread tyres

The small multispoke wheels feature a colour-codedfaux beadlockappearance, but the tyres are actually glued onto the rim over soft-foam inserts. The wheels are retained to the metal axle with a 17mm hex nutanodised to matchthe colour-scheme of the vehicle, in our case blue.

The‘Speedline’ branded tyreshave deep side walls and wide tread blocks that work well on a variety of terrain, not just on the loose sand that a desert racer would frequent.

GT2 Transmitter

The suppliedGT2 EVO transmitteris another OEM part that we have seen pop up on other models. Despite its dated appearance the ergonomics of it aresoundwith hard rubber around the pistol grip and a softer band around the steering wheel. 4x AA batteries are required to power it, installed by sliding the panel off of the bottom of the unit.

FTX-DR8-6S-Desert-Racer-Review-transmitter-GT2-EVO

Under the translucent flip lid is the power button, reverse switches for the throttle and steering channels, a bind button, trims for the throttle and steering and lastly a steering dual rate adjustment. We are not fond of digital adjustments for trims/dual rates over potentiometers as you cannot see the current position or the end points in the range. These buttonsmake adjustments fiddlyas you inevitably end up tapping until you find the mid point (flashing LED) and then adjusting from there.

Lastly the GT2 3-channel receiver sits in a box on the chassis alongside the servo. Some waterproofing has been attempted with the foam seal under the lid, but in our opinion it reallyisn’t up to much, consider adding some grease (at a bare minimum) around the cables and lip, plus some washers to tension the position of the lid circlip if you do intend to go puddle jumping.

FTX-DR8-6S-Desert-Racer-Review-chassis-radio-box-GT2-receiver

What battery and charger should I get?

The battery tray measures around 154mm x 51mm (with the end foam insert removed) which will somewhat limit your choice of battery. Slots have been cut in the tray and two long velcro straps are included to secure the cells in place.

FTX-DR8-6S-Desert-Racer-Review-chassis-with-two-3S-batteries

We recommend picking up a pair ofOverlander Supersport 11.1V 5000mAh 35C LiPo‘s from our webstore for this car. They come terminated with the XT90 plugs required andfit nicelybetween the factory foam insert and the ESC. You will need to stack them on-top of each other as the tray is slightly too narrow to accept them stood on their sides.

Arrma Senton 6S review recommended 3S batteries XT90

Driving the DR8

Armed with a pair of these Overlander batteries, we headed down our local pump track to test the DR8 out.

Out of the studio with some dirt highlighting the tread on the tyres, the buggy reallylooks the business!

How fast is it?

Frighteningly fast. We see so many models come through our warehouse with fantasy top speed numbers splashed in huge typefaces along the sides of the retail packaging. In reality few ever get within 70% of the promised top speed,the DR8 is certainly an exception. Running 6S power we clocked this buggy atwell over 50mphon our first outing!

Our circuit is relatively technical but features some longer dirt and tarmac stretches for beginners. It’s here where we could actually open the buggy up, tentatively squeezing the throttle all the way up to 100%. The acceleration isrelentless, the buggy building in speed till we lost our nerve and jumped on the brakes, before throwing the vehicle into the banked track corners. Put it this way, you can spend alotmore money on a carmuchslower! This is one of the few models we’ve tested where we felt it genuinelyfelt too fast, pleasedo not buy this buggy for children, it really wouldn’t be suitable.

Going loud

Under power, the metal drive-trainreally sings. There are no two ways about it, it is one of the loudest cars we have had on test. At full throttle the gears scream way louder than even the big X-Maxx. This is a buggy that has the potential to really annoy people or pets so please drive it responsibly.

FTX-DR8-Review-Beach-sand-driving-fast-pan-right-1

Will it jump?

Yes,yes it will. Despite weighing 4.45kg with batteries, with this much power on tap its easy to get the buggy to take off. Even small hops like the one seen below become fully fledged launch ramps when accelerating hard on the way up.

Think of the buggy as more of amissile, here we got a good two feet (vertical) of air from a standing start just a couple of meters before the jump!

FTX-DR8-6S-Desert-Racer-Review-jump-side-pan-in-air

Hitting any sort of lip or kicker will send the buggy into orbit and as long as you don’t back out of the power too quickly it will hold its trim in the air admirably considering that bulky spare tyre sat over the rear axle. Thankfully that tyre also acts as a crash damper when landing on its bum.

Superb Suspension

Coming back to earth really tested the chassis and suspension setup on this buggy. This is no monster truck and whilst it hasreasonable ground clearancea some throw to the damper action, our requests to absorb a landing from over a meter in the air resulted in lots of bottoming out.

FTX-DR8-6S-Desert-Racer-Review-jump-landing-heavy-compression

Generally on the move the damping matches the weight of the buggy nicely, if lacking the smooth body control of Traxxas’ 8-damper UDR.

FTX-DR8-6S-Desert-Racer-Review-jump-heaving-landing

Thankfully even big landings like those shown above areshrugged offthanks to that thick, solid chassis plate. The shot below illustrates the limit to the droop as a result of the sway bar setup.

The setup is more at home on a flatter surface such as the beach where the DR8 will do its best to soak up stones, even if larger pebbles will have it skipping and hopping across the sand.

FTX-DR8-Review-Beach-sand-driving-skipping-right

Rear weight bias

Despite the AWD setup, there does seem to be somebias to the rearof the vehicle, perhaps more due to the weight shifting over the rear wheels. It does mean that you can power-slide and donut the buggy to your hearts content.

FTX-DR8-Review-Beach-gravel-rear-wheel-spin

The only downside to those open differentials is that you can still get the buggy beached when the terrain is really uneven.

Minimal steering lock

Due to the design of the system, the steering lock on this model is pretty pitiful, the shot below is shown at full left lock. Tight turns on grippy surfaces such as tarmac are a struggle, forcing you to over-power the tyres and slide the car around. It isn’t ideal on a technical stage of a dirt course.

FTX DR8 Review Beach posed on a log

The only time that it makes sense is at full speed, where a tight steering angle will result in an accident or flip. If we were to keep the buggy, we would look into adjusting the throw of the steering by modifying the servo saver to run the linkage bar at an angle on the neutral position.

FTX DR8 Review Beach sand driving pan right steering

No stability control

Another issue with a car with this much power is the drive-ability. Once you have had your first huge speed-related crash, you realise theDR8 demands you pay attention. It really is you vs the buggy, there is none of the hand-holding found in the high powered Traxxas models.

In this sense the DR8 is much more of an ‘old school‘ model, requiring the driver to actively operate the buggy. Its a lot more hands-on than some of the newer big-boys toys we have seen come to market and whilst the learning curve for mastering it is steeper than some, it isvery rewarding.

FTX DR8 Review Beach sand driving fast pan right

Average transmitter

Whilst we had no range issues with the GT2 radio (important when your car is ripping 50mph across the beach) we werenot fans of its overall performance. Like many cheap radios it suffers with poorlag, especially when engaging brakes and then switching to reverse. In terms of upgrade path, after swapping out the servo for something stronger, we’d be swapping out the transmitter/receiver for a more upmarket Sanwa orSpektrummodel.

High quality tyres

The profile and colour options, and even the tread pattern are very reminiscent of the UDR’s pricey boots and at just £30 a pair, theyperform excellentlywith good traction.

Fancy light bars

The addition of a lighting kit is always welcome and driving the buggy on the beach as the sun went down felt pretty epic. The output of the front light is impressive, we’d be interested to fit an FPV camera to the cockpit and see how effective a headlight it would make on a dark night.

FTX DR8 Review Beach gravel lightbar

The difference in colour on the light bars is surprisingly useful. When your RC buggy has tumbled back onto its wheels after another high speed rollover, you easily tell which way it is pointing!

FTX DR8 Review Beach sand driving rear sand fast

What are the alternatives?

Its most obvious competitor (if for the name alone) isTraxxas’ Unlimited Desert Racer, our model of the month back in June 2018. It is larger, heavier, a lot more (scale) detailed and has more advanced steering and suspension setups. However you could have two DR8’s for the price of one UDR.

Whilst not strictly a desert buggy setup,Arrma’s Senton 6Sis comparable in terms of powertrain and layout, but again, with an RRP of £450 it goes to show the fantastic value that the DR8 offers!

Should I buy the DR8?

It feels like FTX have re-engineered an older chassis design to fit the desires of modern customers and they have really succeeded. The DR8 offers an awful lot for its price and as such it comes highly recommended.

We love

  • Raw pace: It is hard to go faster than this at this price point.
  • Aesthetics: Whilst subjective, the rollcage body and functional spare wheel/tyre combo was a winner with everyone we showed it to.
  • Light bars: Front and rear factory fitted, look fantastic, plus they are easy to disconnect when you don’t want them running.

We dislike

  • Factory finish: If you are used to Traxxas cars prepare to adjust your expectations, these models will need some finessing to get the most out of the setup, but you will be rewarded for doing so.
  • Steering throw: Limited steering lock requires you to turn the car on the throttle which can be difficult in fast turns or on grippy surfaces.
FTX DR8 Review Beach rock rear left

Where can I buy it?

FTX’s DR8 is available on our webstore today. It can be purchasedwith the blue liveryshown, or witha red one(complete with red wheel nuts and red wheel lips). As mentioned, this is not a toy, its incredibly fast and not suitable for unsupervised children!

Remember that you will need a couple of XT90 terminated 3S LiPo batteries to make the most of that powertrain, we recommend theOverlander supersport cells.

FTX DR8 Review Beach rock front right

If you haven’t use XT90 connectors before you are likely going to need the charge cable,we sell one here. New to RC? Then you will probably need to buy a smart charger too,Overlander’s RC6is a good choice. Lastly don’t forget those 4xAA batteries for the transmitter, once againOverlander have your back.

RC Geeks : Buggy fans

Here at RC Geeks we love buggies/truggies and this blog site isrammed full of RC buggy articles. Check out our recent review of theArrma Typhon Mega, our cheapest large scale buggy to date. Read our reviews of theFTX Colt,BSD Racing’s Prime Bajaand theirFlux Storm, peruse thebrushed vs brushless battleof FTX Carnage’s and check out our MOTM in Oct 2019, theOutlaw Ultra 4. TLDR? Just check out ourtop 10 RC buggiesfrom late 2019.

Do you have any questions about the FTX DR8? Perhaps you have spotted an error in this article? Please leave us a comment below!

Written by

Tom Begglesworth

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