The HBX 16889a Pro is a highly specced 1/16 scale 4wd offroad RC monster truck from Haiboxing (HBX). It is based on the same car released under the names SG 1601, SG 1602 and HBX 16889 that I reviewed over a year ago here which also won my basher of the year in 2020. This version has many upgrades which I'll cover in full in this article and will let you know how they all come together to make this car better.
Recently we've seen a lot of releases in the 1/14 and 1/16 scale off road bashing RC car class; some of them good like the HBX 16886 Spectre and some of them not so good like the Bonsai 141600. Before these we've had the excellent WL Toys 144001 for which I have written over 30 upgrade articles and of course the HBX 16889 which won my budget basher of the year for 2020. This year we are seeing a higher spec version for both of these models - announced but still some months away is the 144010 (a brushless version of the 144001) and the subject of this review is the 16889 Pro - still brushless but with upgrades across the board.
I've written this review in such a way so that people new to the HBX 16889 will be able to see all of its features while people who are familiar with the 16889 will be able to see the upgrades. First we'll start with a close up look at the specs and components followed by a review of the car as it actually drives. At the end I'll sum up with which I think is better for different consumers.
A close up look at the components and Specs
Size. This truck officially a 1/16 scale and I'd tend to agree, below is an image of it lined up against some of the other popular models in the 1/14 and 1/16 category:
From left to right: WL Toys 144001, HBX 16889a Pro, LC Racing EMB-MT, HBX 16886 Spectre, WL Toys 124018
Motor. The motor used in the HBX 16889a Pro is a brushless 2840 rated at 3800kv. This compares to the brushless 2435 3900kv in the regular 16889 or the 390 motor in the brushed 16889. 2840 is a very large motor for a car this small and light, so you can expect the power to match. Remember that brushless motors in cars of this price bracket are somewhat uncommon and are such an improvement. By comparison brushed motor counterparts are slow and inefficient. This means more battery life and more speed in the real world.
2840 sized motors have a larger 3.2mm diameter shaft than the 2435 and 390 motors so rather than a press-fit pinion as in the prior models, a proper grub screw M0.6 14t pinion has been used here.
Interesting that the new, larger motor has a very similar kV to the previous model here, 3800kv, which is fairly conservative. I'll talk more about what this means when I get to the performance section but in short, less top speed, more battery life and powerful acceleration.
ESC/Receiver. Like all budget ready to run RC cars the Electronic Speed Controller (ESC) is integrated with the receiver (available here as a replacement item). This helps keep the cost down but can often be detrimental because you are tied to the often lacklustre stock ESC unless you change the transmitter and receiver too. It's pleasing to see then that the brushless unit used here is actually very reliable. Although not stated I'd expect this to be rated at 30a. Regardless I've found this unit to run cool even without a fan with no noticeable cogging, which is due to the clever choice of gearing and kV chosen. I really like where the power switch is mounted too - attached to the side of the chassis away from harm's way but easy to access without removing the shell. It's the little extra details like this that make it really enjoyable to run.
Receiver range is good, noticeably better than the SG 1602 that this car was originally based on. As you can see in my original review of the SG 1602, I found the range to be disappointing so it's nice to see it has been improved here. I've been out to about 50m so far without any loss in signal, this is about as far as I wish to drive this car before I can't see it all that well.
Servo and steering. The servo is a 3 wire unit meaning if you wish to convert to discrete receiver and ESC further down the track, you can retain this servo (unlike cars that use a 5-wire servo). Better yet this servo is VERY quick, check it out below!! I can confirm this is definitely a 17g sized servo so it's good to know replacements are cheap and easy to find if needed, such as the excellent surpass hobby 17g metal gear digital servo
The steering mechanism itself is all plastic but has minimal slop and bump steer so I am happy. Servo saver is integrated into the servo horn. Steering links are not adjustable tierods so you can't adjust toe in or toe out. I don't mind having no camber adjustment but though having an adjustable tie rod here may have been beneficial.
Battery and Charger. The battery included with this car is a 2s 1000mah lipo unit. This replaces the 2s 1300mah LiIon unit as supplied with the regular 16889. Although it sounds inferior by way of lower capacity, the different chemistry used in the Lipo pack with this car allows greater discharge meaning more power is available to the motor when needed - not so much top speed but acceleration is where it really shows. The pack itself is quite small, measuring about 55mm long and 30mm wide. If you are looking for a replacement battery you can go up to 40mm wide and 60mm long if you remove the foam spacer. More on that in the upgrade section below.
Stock 2s 1000mah battery uses a Deans T-plug connector which is the standard among cars this size and well suited to the power output on this car.
Metal gears. Of all the manufacturers, HBX have the smoothest gears I've come across and this 16889a Pro is no different. This was all the more pleasing when I opened up the gearboxes to find these are both smooth and all metal and I really mean ALL metal - Pinion, spur, diff pinion, diff crown gear and even the diff internals. By contrast the regular brushed and brushless HBX 16889 both use all plastic gears (other than the pinion of course).
Not just metal gear but decent quality metal gears. Just look at the quality of the diff pinion and crown gears above
I'm usually not a fan of metal spur gears because when done incorrectly they cause more problems that they solve. For example in the WL Toys 104001 the stock metal spur is very heavy and this causes poor motor sensitivity and more susceptibility to drive line damage through increased inertia. Further more when the gears aren't cut well they are noisy and unpleasant. The HBX 16889a pro however does have a metal spur gear that is made properly. It is well cut and meshes beautifully with the pinion so is quiet plus it is very lightweight, just check out the design below. Unlike the HBX 16886 Spectre there is no slipper clutch (see review here) here however given the size and weight of the car, it's not really missed
Good design choice for a metal spur gear here. Rather than just using the same die as a plastic unit, the spur is thinner with more cutouts to account for the extra strength and weight of the metal over the plastic. Nice oversized bearing should last well.
Strengthened driveshafts. The HBX 16889a Pro uses oversized metal drive shafts front (CVD) and rear (dogbone) plus oversized metal cups. Furthermore they use an oversized wheel stubs shared with larger 1/10 scale cars that results in using an M4 nuts rather than the M3 units typical of this scale.
Suspension. Oil shocks front and rear are standard on the pro version which is an obvious upgrade from the regular 16889. This was the very first mod I did to my original 16889 here and a massive improvement so good choice by HBX. Dampening is good out of the box but perhaps a little too heavy given the car is so light, I may look to reduce oil thickness down to 10wt further down the track. Shocks have not leaked so far which is promising. Shock towers are plastic but have a few adjustment options to change the leverage of your shocks
Nice the see double wishbone suspension front and rear. This lacks the camber adjustability of tierods but given this car is designed as a basher rather than a racer lends well to it prioritising strength over adjustability. Since the stock arm length is well set, adjustability isn't really missed here. Just a quick note that the front hub setup is quite cool in that it minimises the number of parts - rather than having a hub carrier and hub like LC racing and WL toys as I am used to, this has one integrated unit as below. Less pieces to break and more simple in the first place.
Chassis. The chassis and all main parts are made of plastic which is fairly common for basher type cars where extreme chassis stiffness is not required (stiff chassis are needed for racing). This makes for a lighter and more durable car since there is less weight to stop and the small amount of flex in the chassis can soften impacts. So far I've not come across a better plastic for this application than what HBX use. As mentioned in my original long term update for the HBX 16889, the chassis design and material makes the car practically indestructible, praise that is echoed by other users of their cars. This is obviously not just for the main chassis but all of the suspension arms and other plastic components.
Wheels and tyres. HBX makes uses a really hard compound rubber for their tyres and the 16889 and these are retained for the pro model here. Good for durability but not good for grip however like the other models they overcome this lack of grip by going big on size. This means tyres offer a reasonable level of grip on all surfaces and don't wear down quickly. Rims have a fairly large offset which helps give the car a fairly wide stance and overall dimensions are below:
Body, Wheelie Bar, Lights. The Body (available here) is the sames shape that has always been used on the 16889 however I do quite like the new colours given they match the orange in the wheels. It comes with a decal sheet you can use to decorate further if you wish. It's a fairly strong body which is good because it often lands on its roof!
I really like the body colour and the way it matches the wheels
This car wheelies a lot and so the wheelie bar is a useful addition but bear in mind you will need to install yourself. No problem it's only 6 screws and they even include the screwdriver!
LED headlights are also here but need to be installed. They included everything needed for this installation including double sided tape and cable ties. They are decently bright as you can see below.
How does the car run?
To make this section easier to follow I'll split it into (performance including speed and efficiency), handling and then durability. Lastly I will talk briefly about upgrades. But first of all, footage!
Performance. Looking straight to the top speed, I've measured a 39km/h when running offroad using the SKYRC GSM020 GPS speed meter. This feels like a decent turn of pace for this little 1/16 scale truck. Funnily enough it's almost identical to the original HBX Brushless as mentioned by Perth West Oz RC in his video where he got 38.8km/h. At first glance is would seem strange that the top speed is the same given the new 2840 motor is over 50% bigger than the 2435. The truth lies in the KV, where the 2435 is rated at 3900kV and the 2840 at 3800kV. This conservative kV choice and the relatively short gearing limits the top speed. Because of this though, this little car hits top speed very fast and in most conditions. As I alluded to, I hit my top speed off road as well as on - the low kv and short gearing makes it super torque-ey and pickup is rapid. The other thing this means is that this car wheelies on demand at practically any speed and on most surfaces, the wheelie bar we installed is not just there for decoration!
The other benefit you gain from this efficient setup is massive run time. Even with the little 1000mah battery I got between 15 and 20 minutes from a full charge which is simply class leading in this size. And to think, if you could find even a 1500mah pack that would fit (looks like I've found one, check out the upgrade section) you could probably run for nearly half an hour. It something that we overlook but this efficiency is such a strong point of this car and was one of the underrated features of the original HBX 16889 brushless car as well. I should note that the final benefit to an efficient system like this is that it runs very cool. After 15 minutes of hard driving with the kids the motor, ESC and battery were barely warm.
Handling. This car is made to be a basher and that is clear in the handling. The weight tends to be rear biased as a result of the light chassis and having the two heaviest components (motor and battery) rear mounted. The means copious amounts of wheelies which are a lot of fun but on the downside it does tend to understeer a little on less grippy surfaces so you'll need to use your throttle to help balance this. Certainly it wouldn't be suited for racing but then again this car has never pretended to be a race car.
Although the oil filled shocks are really a nice addition here, I found the dampening from the factory a little too heavy because the car is just so light. In future I will probably drop to a 10 or 15wt shock oil but don't mind putting up with a bit of bounciness for now. On the flipside they are well set up for landing jumps and that to be fair is more where this car is targeted. Certainly bounciness over rough surfaces is nothing new to the small 1/16 and 1/14 scale cars which is why we tend to look at larger vehicles for very rough terrain.
Durability. This car is an absolute tank. Due to it's wide stance it is almost square in stature so it loves to roll which I have done a lot of! If you refer back to my long term follow up article from the SG1602 here, you'll see the only thing I damaged was the rear spoiler. The HBX 16889a Pro does not have a rear spoiler to break, With out trying to put to finer point on it, I have never come across a car that is more durable than this. While all my other cars end up on the bench for repairs and waiting for parts (including crawlers), this one just keeps going.
Upgradeability. This section will be short, I don't believe there is anything that needs upgrading on this car. It is strong, plenty fast for it's size which pushes the limits of it's handling and runs for a long time. If you really pushed yourself there would be scope to go to a slightly higher kV motor although this would put the stock ESC under more stress and I thing would push the car faster than the handling really allows for. I wouldn't mind being able to go up a tooth or two in the pinion gear but the motor mount is not adjustable and so would take a lot of work that I don't think is worth the effort. The only factor you may want to consider is a slightly larger battery but the size of the battery tray makes it tricky. I cannot confirm any battery that is an improvement over stock that fits in this space. Update! The WL Toys 144001 2s 1500mah lipo battery just fits but it is a bit heavier, see below
The WL TOys 144001 2s 1500mah battery just fits if you remove the foam padding in the car but is a bit heavier so will make the car wheelie even more
Conclusions and Recommendations
The HBX 16889a Pro is a simply fantastic small scale RC truck that falls squarely in the "basher" category. It improves in so many ways over the original 16889 brushless which itself was an excellent car. The improvements are mainly focussed on handling, durability and acceleration. The result is a little truck that is quick off the mark, handles like a true basher, runs for ages and is super strong. If you are looking for a car that you can get meaningful upgrades for then this is not the car for you, consider instead the WL Toys 144001 which has shortcomings but is an excellent base for upgrading. However, if you are looking for a well priced basher that performs really well at a fair price then I can happily recommend this car. Thanks for reading and please feel free to join my facebook group and discuss if you wish.
Here are the upgrade parts that are included on the Pro model and not the original. These come to a total cost of $150 retail so you can see there is value in choosing the pro over the regular model. Obviously you need to take into account that if you upgrade a regular model you will end up with base model spares but this should help you understand the value of the pro model vs upgrading the standard model even for just a few of the key parts.
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