The HBX 16886 Spectre is an all-new 1/14 scale 4WD desert buggy from the company that bought you my favourite car of 2020; the brushless HBX 16889. This package comes with the car, transmitter, battery and charger - everything you need to get running. In this review we'll take a close look at the car with the hood off and then see how it performs and I'll give you my thoughts on how this compares to other cars in the category,
Haiboxing - better known as HBX have been coming out with some really good value cars recently. As I mentioned above the 16889 was my favourite budget basher of 2020 with its durability, speed and battery life and the little HBX 2098B devastator crawler is probably the most capable micro crawler out. So you can understand why I was so keen to get my hands on this all new car. Let's first take a closer look at the specs and what they mean as they relate to the car
A closer look at the specs
Dimensions - 305mm long x 180mm wide. You can see that this is roughly the same size as the incumbent leader of the size category - the WL toys 144001.
Ball bearings throughout. Ball bearing on rotating parts keep friction and wear to a minimum ensuring your run time and speed will be maximised compared to regular bushings. In reality this is more common now as bearing prices have come back but good to be sure nonetheless
Six bright LEDs. There are 2 LED headlights and an extra 4 on the deer hunter lights. They are actually suprisingly bright on this car and I've been using them to rip around on the driveway at night time well after the family has gone to sleep
Front independent suspension, rear axle link. Nothing exciting about front independent suspension, this is expected on hobby grade cars in this class. Rear solid axle is a really interesting choice though. This means that the rear axle is a solid piece and moves as one unlike independent rear suspension. On a race car this is detrimental since it is less tune-able but on a basher like this it is much more durable since there are less moving parts in both the drive line and suspension and it requires minimal to no tuning. I haven't seen one of these on a budget car since the WL toys 12427 (and the 12428 before it). That was the one part of that car I actually liked. The solid rear line axle has been well executed on this car and the driveshaft that leads to it - although plastic - is strong and durable with minimal play. Definitely a bonus for a car of this type
Oil filled shocks. I've checked, they really are oil filled! The friction dampened shocks was the one letdown on the otherwise excellent HBX 16889 the I reviewed here so I'm very pleased to see they have stepped it up on this new car. Units are smooth and seem to be leak-free so far. While we are talking front shocks you'll notice the front units are inboard and setup via control link as used in F1 and other race cars. I was worried about this at first based on my experience with the poor implementation in the WL Toys 12427 but the way they have done it with the HBX car is excellent - they links are very strong torsionally and the rotating link is made very smooth with ball bearings. All in all a well executed suspension setup that enjoys excellent protection from damage.
Metal gears. All of the internal diff gears, the crown and diff pinion gears plus of course the pinion are all metal. Even the spur gear is metal which I usually don't like but the quality of the mesh and the fact that they have rightly lubricated these has changed my mind. Better yet the drive line in typical HBX style has minimal play and is super quiet and efficient. In my opinion HBX have the BEST drivelines I've come across at this point - quiet, efficient and strong.
While we are in here, the pinion and spur is mod 0.6 like the 104001. Pinion is a press on 14t on a 2.3mm shaft. The mount is designed for a 14t or 16t pinion so a small amount of room for tuning.
Slipper clutch. Wait, slipper clutch?! Now this really is an unexpected an pleasant surprise. I don't have a single basher RC at anything near this price point that has a slipper clutch. The closest is the LC racing EMB range which is around triple the price. Slippler clutches allow you to take some of the shock out of the driveline during rapid changes in wheel speed such as landing a jump when at full throttle - the friction pads slip rather than transmitting damaging force to your gears - typically the crown gears on the diff.
Waterproof ESC/receiver and brushless 390 motor. First up I would never trust this being waterproof. Maybe water resistant but not waterproof. As is typical in this price point. the ESC and receiver are integrated into one unit and power a 5-wire servo. This makes wiring simple but if you want to upgrade you'll need radio gear, a new servo, esc and motor all at once (assuming you go brushless). Again, this is typical of ALL cars in this price bracket. The brushed motor in this car is a 390 sized unit which I think is appropriate for a car like this size, unlike the massive 550 motor used in the WL Toys 144001 which is admittedly fast but makes for terrible battery life. Nice to see a simple heatsink on the motor.
Battery and USB cable. Battery is a simple 2 cell (2s) lithium Ion pack rated at 1100mah. It also includes the common USB charger which is enough to get started. Not particularly flashy but allows them to keep the price point and it get the job done. Unfortunately the battery uses a connector I've never used before although it is easy to change if you can solder. If you can't solder you need to learn or else buy the kit with 2 batteries.
Metal drive shafts and cups. all driveshafts (other than the rear prop-shaft) and drive cups are metal which is fairly common but pleasing at this basic hobby level. These should be durable and wear well. Front drive shaft are CVD units which are much more are typically the best option. Rears of course are all sealed as part of the solid rear axle assembly.
Ok so that'll do for the specs and parts included, check out some of my footage of this car running below and I'll let you know what I think of how it drives and handles crashes. If you want to see more footage, check out the review on the My RC Family Youtube channel.
My boys and I (9, 7 and 2) have now put about a dozen battery packs through this car and my thoughts are pretty clear.
So what does it go like?
I split my thought after driving into the following: performance, battery life, handling, grip and durability so you can get a really clear view of this car.
Performance. Because of it's small fast this car feels pretty quick but if you take it into a large area it does start to feel a little slow. This car is most at home offroading and bumping and bouncing around though and so the 27kph top speed I recorded feels about right. Gearing feels a little on the conservative side even though it is reasonably fast for a 390 sized motor and so it mean acceleration is brisk too.
Battery life. Due to the smaller 390 sized motor and conservative gearing, the battery life is surprisingly good for a brushed motor - we got around 15-20 minutes which compared to the 6 or so minutes the WL toys 144001 gets it a vast improvement. I feel a decent battery life is especially important for cars destined for kids as you seem to be forever charging batteries. Speaking of batteries, the case used to house it is fairly small meaning you have very little options for replacement which is a shame. This means that getting the 2 battery option for this car makes a lot of sense.
Handling. This car handles suprisingly well and I feel this comes down to the well executed suspension geometry, the rear anti-roll bar but most importantly the oil-filled shocks. This system is tough and soaks up the bumps and lumps as good as anything this size although the nature of small cars is to bounce around a bit. You can make an improvement to handling by adding a heavier weight oil in the front only in order to make it less bouncy - see below for detail on how to do this but it isn't critical.
Grip. One thing HBX is NOT good at is tyres because of the hard rubber compound they use and the Spectre is no exception. A hard compound means they wear well at the cost of grip. The good news is that this car uses a relatively large wheel for the car's size (75mm diameter and 30mm wide) and so this makes up for the lack of grip. The style of wheel/tyre which is typically associated with desert buggies and short course truck as we have here grip moderately well on all surface including grass, dirt and concrete meaning it is very much a go anywhere set. On the balance I'm actually keen how this is setup.
Durability. I think I may have saved the best for last here. One of the reasons a HBX car made my favourite basher of 2020 was because it was so durable - it took everything my then 5 year old could throw at it. This was a combination of it being super light (the Spectre 16886 is also very light) and made of a slightly flexible but extremely resilient plastic - the same as used here. I'm pleased to say that we get a highly durable car here as a result as well; as I said with around a dozen packs through it has never looked closed to braking even with all the drops, tumbles and crashes it has had. I was told it had accidently been driven off my garage green roof on to the concrete below - no damage apparent.
Picture of garage drop.
What about the brushless option? I've purposely skipped this till now. The release of this car in a brushless version will happen but I'm yet to see it announced. Based on what I've seen with other HBX brushed vs brushless models it will be faster and have better battery life. It will of course be more expensive too; if other models are anything to go buy I'm guessing around $20 to $30 more. It's hard to say if this is worth your while, all I can say is that for a brushed model, the version I've tested and reviewed here is pretty good and we are yet to find out the specs of the brushless model.
My key out-take from the the brushless option is that other than the motor and ESC, the brushed version already has all of the upgrades including metal gears, oil shocks and everything that makes it tough. This means it is very much over-engineered for the brushed power system and gives us the extreme durability.
The 1/14 scale 4wd HBX 16886 Spectre is a well made off road buggy that is well suited to bashing around the backyard, park or practically any area thanks to the large wheels and good suspension setup. The design of the car and materials they have chosen means this is extremely durable and in my case having even survived a 10 foot drop onto concrete. The motor is a brushed 390 which is fast enough at 27kph but will feel slower in large open areas. The upside to this though is that it runs cool and relatively efficiently and so battery life of 15 or even 20 minutes is achievable. Some features like the slipper clutch was totally unexpected and you don't usually see these on cars less than about $200. The transmitter offers decent range and you can drive the car about as far away as vision will allow but in this small scale you tend to drive closely.
I'd recommend this car as a casual basher and think it would be well suited for kids of any age as a step up from a toy-grade car. The main reason being because of the extreme durability (this thing can take a beating) and predictable handling. The scale looks make it a lot of fun and the LED lighting adds to this. If you are after something really quick, consider waiting for the brushless option which I will look to review too. I think this will be a popular model which at the time of writing is US$85
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