This article has kindly been written by Geoffrey Chan one of the original members of the QuadifyRC facebook group. This first article is of the review and the top 10 tuning tips for this car will follow shortly.
Rlaarlo is a new kid on the block in the market of affordable ready-to-run (RTR) Chinese RC’s. Having only been on the market for about a year, they have launched several models in the 1/18, 1/16, 1/14 and now their latest 1/12 scale AM-X12 buggy. Their cars are attractive and are heavily inspired by some of the very well known Arrma vehicles like the Typhon and Kraton, which is not a bad thing. The new AM-X12 has generated a lot of buzz and I purchased mine as a part of their pre-sale promotion for USD$149 delivered during November 2022. It is also available as a roller without electronics, but you don’t get all the spare parts and the nice carrying case. It is a nice option, but for the slight cost difference the RTR with all the extras is a better deal, even if you remove the electronics and use it in another project later.
Frankly, I did not need another 1/12 scale buggy in my collection, but I was curious to see if the attention this new model was getting on the social channels would live up to the hype or not. Also, at the pre-sale price of USD$149, it was probably the RC bargain of 2022 in my opinion. It was also communicated by their sales rep that this price is unlikely to ever be seen again and was a pre-sale special only. Regular price is $249, but there are occasionally 10-20% off promotions available to bring down the pricing.
When Rlaarlo launched one of its earlier models as 1/14 off-road buggy, it was very reminiscent of a certain WLToys 144001 released in 2019 that was a clone of the highly capable LC Racing EMB1. I initially looked at it and simply assumed it was a rebranded 144001 with a new body shell, wing, and wheels. I purchased the 1/12 scale AM-X12 with the same expectations that it was simply a rebranded and upgraded 1/12 WLToys 124017 with a different body, wing and electronics, seeing as how the dimensions and size was the exact same. I have to say, I am glad I was quite wrong about that. This Rlaarlo is not simply a rebranded WLToys nor is it rebranded LC Racing, but a model that sits nicely in between these two brands, which makes it an interesting proposition.
What’s in the box?
With most RTR (ready-to-run) RCs, you get the bare minimum to get it up and running to hit a price point. Rlaarlo really went above and beyond and I have to say the kit they put together is quite exceptional not only for the price point that it was sold at, but for any brand large or small.
First off, the car comes nicely packaged in a PU+EVA material carrying case. This makes it very useful to store and carry it to wherever you may want to run your car. However, once you open that really nice case, below is the extensive list of what you get inside:
Check out all the extras. Even has a big warning card for beginners to put on the floppy front bumper or risk the car bursting into flames as soon as they take it for a drive.
A Closer Look at the Car
Let’s take a look at what makes this car so special. I’ll also provide some insight on how the car’s setup impacts performance and overall reliability
Electronics: Rlaarlo has spec’d in an appropriately sized 2847 sized motor in lowish 3200KV. It includes a passive heatsink to keep things cool. The 3200KV is considered low but is necessary to turn the massive 27t pinion smoothly. The overall driving feel in this configuration is that there is sufficient power to get the car up to speed and it is fast once moving, but it does take a bit of time to get up there.
The AM-X12 uses a 45A independent 2S and 3S capable ESC. This is great because if you ever want to upgrade, you don’t need to change out any other electronics like the transmitter and receiver like some of the all-in-one units that come on RTR cars. The ESC has an always-on cooling fan and a passive heatsink under it to keep things relatively cool. There is even a thermal shut-off feature in the event it gets too hot to protect it from burning out. This ESC is not a Surpass Hobby rebrand as far as I have been able to tell as the standard programming card does not work on it like it does on the WLToys ESCs, which is unfortunate as there isn’t a known way to program the ESC’s settings.
The included 2S 2800mAh battery doesn’t specify the C-Rating, but it is decent enough to get going. The WLToys 2200mAh battery is the same size and fits perfectly in the battery tray area.
As I had indicated, the transmitter is made by DumboRC, one of the best and most popular budget transmitter brands on the market. If the styling wasn’t a giveaway, the printing underneath the battery tray confirms it. It features much of the same buttons and capabilities of the DumboRC X6 transmitter, but rebranded and with some differences in the appearance, but the user interface is very familiar. Steering dual rate and trim adjustments are on the left side and throttle dual rate and trim are on the right side of the flip up flap. Instead of a sliding on/off switch, this one uses a push button. The wheel is also styled differently and overall, it is an attractive look.
The shape and profile are very much DumboRC. Even the position of the throttle and steering trim and dual rate adjustment knobs are very familiar. There are dip switches to allow for reversing of the channels as needed. The label on the bottom of the transmitter clearly states Dumo Model Co, LTD.
The receiver is a DumboRC XF6 6-channel receiver. Again, this is clearly printed on the casing. I am also happy to say that this receiver is fully compatible with other DumboRC transmitters as it uses the same protocol and can be bound using the standard binding method.
Drivetrain: This is the one area that the AM-X12 really shines compared to WLToys for a multitude of reasons. Starting from the motor, Rlaarlo has include a nicely made adjustable motor mount to enable more tuning options with different sized pinons, like the included 17t. Rlaarlo has maintained the use of M0.7 gear pitch on this model. I see this as a missed opportunity to change to a more commonly available pitch such as 48p that would allow for many more pinion choices that are easily accessible.
Motor position is adjustable via two Allen screws. It can accommodate as low as 15t.
Rlaarlo has decided to install a 27t M0.7 pinion along with a 44t spur gear as the out of the box setup. My first thought when I saw this was, “Oh no, not another WLToys Brushless V1”. I was immediately expecting a poor driving experience with this setup with a lot of cogging. First off, I understand why manufacturers would do this. The objective is to hit a marketable top speed that impresses the buyer. The 27t pinion favors top speed over torque and battery life. For this reason, the included 17t pinion is the better choice if you aren’t looking for the fastest speed but want better acceleration and run time.
The bright side is the pinion drives a 44t metal spur that is a part of Rlaarlo’s newly designed slipper clutch assembly. This is a big upgrade to the solid plastic spur on WLToys and even Rlaarlo’s earlier 1/14 buggies. A slipper clutch in an RC is very common on more expensive RCs and seeing one included at this price point is impressive. The slipper provides both as a traction control and driveline protections. For sudden shocks due to sudden acceleration of motor, the clutch absorbs that sudden jolt, and the spur will “slip” between the two friction pads to help dampen the force applied through the driveline and to the tires. Similarly, when the car is in the air with the wheels spinning, the clutch will slip and take the bite off the impact from the rotational inertia of the wheels suddenly slowing down upon landing. The slipper assembly supports an aluminum floating driveshaft that connects to the front diff bevel. Great to see this being incorporated to allow for chassis flex without bending a driveshaft or breaking diff gears. I should mention that the driveshaft is shorter than the one used by LC Racing, therefore the two brands are not quite directly compatible replacements for each other. Overall, it is a well-designed piece and yes, it is compatible with the WLToys 12401x models and can be used as an upgrade part.
Power being sent to the full metal diffs on the AM-X12 are reminiscent of WLToys, to the point that they are interchangeable between the two brands. However, Rlaarlo has used hardened metal gears (crown, internal and bevel gears) that are like an aftermarket upgrade instead of the zinc-based alloy that WLToys employs on their cars. This gives a more durable driveline that can handle more use before needing to be replaced. Diffs are unsealed therefore using silicone oil to tune for traction requirements is not possible.
The metal diff cups drive CVD driveshafts in front and dog bones in the rear with metal outdrives. Rlaarlo has really spent a lot of time improving one of the most common complaint areas for WLToys and LC Racing. The CVDs and dog bones are made of carbon steel and feature a beefier midsection to better withstand bending. Time will tell if they are more durable, but they certainly look the part. The CVDs and rear outdrive mate to full ball bearings that use a larger inner and outer diameter than WLToys and LC Racing. The 5x9x3mm metal shielded bearings should last longer and be less likely to blow given the larger surface area. I was not expecting this welcome improvement. The downside is you need to purchase a set of their hubs if you need to replace any broken parts. The metal hexes that attach to the CVDs and rear outdrives are also a proprietary design that does away with hex pins. Instead, the CVDs and outdrives have two machined flat sections that meet the hexes and allows for power to be transferred to the wheels this way.
Left to Right: WLToys 124019, Rlaarlo AM-X12, LC Racing EMB Bearings
Hardened carbon steel CVD and dog bone. Rlaarlo proprietary hex and CVD mating system
On all four corners are oil filled shocks and overall, they are excellent for the price. The shock towers for front and rear are carbon fibre which is a nice touch. However, on a hard enough hit, these do tend to break, which is likely why an alloy front tower was included with the spare parts. The suspension linkages are all the adjustable tie-rod type like WLToys and LC Racing for being able to fully tune and refine your setup. The links have been quite tough but will pop off the ball joint on a hard enough hit, which luckily is an easy fix. Suspension arms are reminiscent of WLToys and LC Racing. They also come with droop screws included to allow for ride height adjustments. I should mention that the plastic of the arms feel is closer to LC Racing’s. Looking closely at all the plastics, it seems like they have a custom mold as there are Rlaarlo part numbers stamped on several plastic parts. Another thing to note is the AM-X12 uses the M2.5mm through bolt design with a nylock nut that WLToys have moved to on their later models. Noteworthy as well are the hinge pin holders are made of carbon fibre, which looks nice but not a major upgrade. Overall, they have cloned the setup quite well, but with what I feel are better quality metals and plastics than WLToys.
Another nice addition is the inclusion of sway bars to reduce body roll in corners. They only offer them in one thickness, so if you want more options, picking up a set of LC Racing or GEMRC sway bar kits will give you three different stiffness options to better tune. It’s still nice that Rlaarlo included them with the car although they may be a bit on the soft side relative to the stiff spring rate of the stock shocks.
Carbon shock towers, oil filled shocks, sway bars and droop screws from the factory. They really gave us what we wanted!
Chassis and Body
Rlaarlo has promoted the chassis as a carbon fibre piece and when you look at it, you do see that it is indeed a carbon weave on the chassis. It is also notable that there is a 9-degree kick-up on the front and back to help with clearance over different terrain. The chassis is a bit of an area of controversy for me because as I needed to modify the battery tray location (more on this detail later), when I drilled through the chassis, I hit what appeared to be a composite core. Carbon when you drill through normally turns to a fine dust, but hitting the composite, you can clearly see swirls of material. It doesn’t bother me that it’s a composite core as it is still quite stiff, but it shouldn’t be marketed as a full carbon chassis when it’s really a carbon top sheet used over the surface. I don’t doubt that the chassis will be durable and take a beating, but I felt it was important to point this out to any would-be buyers.
This is not the carbon fibre that you are looking for…
The body of the AM-X12 is a nicely designed Mini Arrma Typhon style and it is a really a good-looking car. The color options available are orange/teal or a blue/red and frankly both look great in pictures and in person. Only downside is that they are made of PVC rather than Lexan, which may be less durable over time and especially if crashing in colder weather.
The included rear wing is also a nice design and made of nylon, which should prove to be quite durable. My experience with these wings is they usually take a beating, but it is the wing mount that it’s attached to that tends to strip out after a few hard enough impacts.
Good job Rlaarlo, this is one nice looking buggy!
Wheels and Tires
The wheels are tires on the AM-X12 much like the original tires that came with the brushed 144001, 124018 and 124019. Essentially, they are a disc style wheel with an off-road tire and sponge inserts. The grip is decent for all around driving considering the fine tread pattern, but once things get bumpy or traction is less than ideal, they tend to pack with dirt and start slipping.
Fast and Furious Wheels
I’ve spent the last 5 weeks driving the car on a mix of terrain, but it being January in Canada at the time of writing, I have spent more time driving it on my winter backyard snow track. I’ll be going through a few areas such as power, speed, handling, durability, and battery life to give you a sense of what you can expect if you decide to pick up an AM-X12. I think it’s important to take enough time to figure out the pros and cons of the car and you can only do so after driving it for a long enough period.
Power and Speed
I must mention that this car is really quick with the out of the box setup, especially on a dry, smooth surface. I did not measure myself how fast the AM-X12 can run on 2S with the 27t pinion installed, but there are already countless YouTube reviews that have confirmed hitting over 40mph (65kph) on the stock battery and getting close to 60mph (95kph) on 3S. Much like QuadifyRC’s review of the 144010, I will say that this is not a car for beginners. It is much too fast at 100% for someone new to driving fast RC’s, so restraint and throttle dual rate reduction is highly recommended for the uninitiated.
I should also mention, the speed pinion should be reserved for smooth surface driving and not rough off road where there will be a lot of loose or hard to drive through terrain like grass. If you anticipate using your car offroad more, then swapping to the included 17t pinion will keep the electronics happy and give you much more acceleration and torque in comparison at the cost of top speed.
This shouldn’t be too surprising, but the AM-X12 is a great handling car. It has amazing DNA to start with and the brushless motor setup makes the car well weighted for the scale. Weight distribution out of the box was not ideal as the battery was mounted very far rearward on the chassis. WLToys and LC Racing mount the battery tray closer to the front of the vehicle, which gives a much better front/rear balance. This is the reason why I opted to drill new holes and shift the battery tray to the front. Now, Rlaarlo may have gone with a running production change as I have seen some receive their cars with the battery mounted forward in their Facebook group. In some of the pre-production samples sent out, the battery was getting caught in the centre driveshaft grub screw. I believe on newer orders; this is a no longer an issue.
With the battery location sorted, I started looking more closely at shock performance, especially on landing jumps. I noticed that there was always a bounce on landing, which confirmed my suspicion that the stock springs are too stiff. Luckily a spring swap with a set from LC Racing can easily resolve this. I think for my running conditions on a bumpy surface it was more pronounced. If you’re on a smooth dirt or carpet track, it may be more ideally setup for that. Overall, the car still handles very well, but will get tossed around a bit with the stiff springs as it doesn’t allow the suspension to fully work. The great thing is that the car is based on a highly tunable platform for any application and capable anywhere you would want to run the car in.
I drive my cars, but I don’t beat my cars to death. I run a lot of offroad and asphalt mainly and I can say that this car shines in these areas. Forget about skatepark bashing as nothing survives that unscathed. Even then, due to how fast this car goes, a good clip into something hard will inevitably break something. The nice thing is that spare parts are included with the kit for commonly broken parts. If it isn’t there, then you can purchase directly from the manufacturer with direct support and on Amazon depending on where you are in the world. This is not a car for a newbie to get into unless you are willing to learn to work on your car. Things will break or will need to be maintained and this car will take effort to see its full potential. Not just in setup, but also in driving it.
After running 20-30 packs through the car, my CVDs and dog bones are still very straight after landing jumps, getting bumped and cartwheeling a few times. The shocks have not leaked, and nothing is broken so I’m quite content.
One area that could use improvement is the screw quality. Yes, Rlaarlo gave us what we’ve been crying for WLToys to do, which is to put hex head screws on the car, but unfortunately, they are made of cheese metal and are very soft. Any screw going into metal needs to be heated to prevent stripping or breaking. If you’re careful, it’s manageable, but it isn’t ideal.
I typically got between 15-20 minutes of run time off the fully charged 2800mAh. Now this depends a lot of how much wheelspin I was experiencing while driving and also how cold it was outdoors. The ESC does have a battery cut-off once it gets low, but my experience with these out of the box setups is that it is usually lower than what I would consider ideal. Sticking a battery voltage buzzer will certainly allow you to better manage battery use and protect it from dumping out.
There was very little cogging with the out of the box 27t pinion/44t spur setup. The 45A ESC is very good at low throttle control and had very little hesitation, which made for a decent driving experience. However, I did encounter a lack of modulation once on throttle and it felt a peaky once I was further into the trigger range. The other area that felt very touchy was on braking as it was very much on or off regardless of how much or how little I applied the brakes. The lack of modulation made it hard to drive smoothly, despite the car being able to start off smoothly. If there is a way to reprogram the settings, this would be a much better ESC in my books. The 27t pinion gives the most top speed excitement, but it takes some time to get up there. The 17t pinon is much better for acceleration and battery life, but it feels lacking on the top end once the throttle is fully pinned.
The Rlaarlo AM-X12 is a WLToys Killer. Priced just slightly higher than the 124017 or the “new” 124007, it is absolutely worth the extra $30-40 for what you get out of the box. There’s likely $30-$40 worth of spare parts that come with the RTR alone. I would call this a low-budget LC Racing more than an expensive WLToys as a comparison due to the added driveline features, materials and overall fit and finish. They have addressed many of the shortcomings on the WLToys platform. It still lacks the overall refinement and tight tolerances of an LC Racing. The lack of sealed differentials for better tuning with different weight silicone fluid will hold this buggy back in terms of being a top racer at the upper limits, but in its current form it is more than good enough for 95% of the potential target buyers out there that want a fun 1/12 scale RC to race some friends or just to rip around.
This is not a hardcore basher RC. It is a buggy that is designed to run on smooth and mildly bumpy terrain, and it is rewarding to drive in those conditions when you show restraint on throttle inputs. Take this to a smooth off-road track or take it to an indoor carpet track and you will have a blast. Because this car is a close clone of the WLToys and LC Racing, there are plenty of interchangeable parts from the other two platforms. Spare parts availability is plentiful from Rlaarlo direct or WLToys parts are also compatible. There was probably no other car more competitively priced in 2022 than the AM-X12 at presale launch, but even at $200 it is still a relatively good deal. Above that, I would recommend looking at the LC Racing EMB-T or the LC12B1 if you want another leap in quality.
Left to Right: WLToys 144001, Rlaarlo AM-X12, LC Racing LC12B1
There are still some quality control issues that Rlaarlo needs to work out as any new model launch isn’t 100% smooth all the time, so I highly recommend doing a screw and diff check much like any WLToys model. There have been other assembly issues seen in the Facebook groups and that can be attributed to this being a new product going through growing pains. I ran into some issues where my spur was rubbing the gear cover and they promptly sent me replacement parts. This shows that their customer focus is there, and they want their customers to be happy. If you put in the time to set up the car mechanically, you will be able to get the most out of the platform and be rewarded with a much smooth driving car.
Check back soon for the Top 10 Tuning Tips for this car, thanks for reading
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