The WL Toys 104001 is an all new 1/10 scale 4wd ready to run RC car from WL toys. This is a follow up to the tremendously popular 1/14 scale 144001 and 1/12 scale 124019 (review here) cars. Unlike those two cars (which were essentially the same) this one is new from the ground up. It is more expensive at around $140-150 but is it worth it? Read on to find out. My car was ordered from Banggood and was received early April 2021 and if you get as far as the end of the article you'll find an exclusive QuadifyRC voucher for 14% off limited to 50 units
If you have not come across my site before then welcome! I feel I am well qualified to review this car because after stepping away from RC racing over 20 years ago I have gotten back into RC cars by way of the WL toys 144001 and 124019 for which I have written reviews and over 20 upgrade guides to, all of which can be found here. Compared to youtube reviews which focus on entertainment, I'd like to think I can go more in depth as the format of traditional blogs like mine tend to suit a technical deep dive better. But if you want quick feedback then feel free to jump to the conclusions below.
Just as the WL toys 144001 is based heavily on the more expensive LC racing EMB-1; the larger 104001 reviewed here is based on the XRAY XB4 (2016 model). If you are not familiar with the XB4, it is an unapologetic race car that has been refined over years of racing with the single purpose of getting fast lap times through incremental performance and reliability improvements. With this no-compromise approach it has a price tag of over US$500 which does not include radio, esc, motor, servo, battery nor charger. The WL Toys includes all of these things and is around $150. So, other than design inspiration you can see the comparison is unfair, particularly as materials are concerned. This mostly works out well but does present some compromises as you'll find out further below.
For this review I'll look at each system in more detail - suspension, steering, radio, esc, motor, drive train etc. and then I'll look at how it drives in the performance review later on.
Firstly shock absorbers are oil filled aluminium units that are threaded for full adjustable ride height. The body of the shock is of a larger diameter than the earlier WL cars - 13mm on the 124019 and 144001 vs 14mm here on the 144001. Fronts are 76mm long eye to eye and rears are 87mm long eye to eye. Design is essentially a larger version of the 144001 units which is a good thing as they worked well and were reasonably robust for the price.
Shock towers are pressed out of fairly soft aluminium but the reinforced design means that they should hold up well and if you do happen to bend them, they will bend back easily. There is full adjustment for camber front and rear by way of turnbuckle style tie rods. If you need help with this than check out this 104001 tuning guide which covers this in detail. Suspension arms and hub carriers look solid but sadly there are no droop screws to limit extension of the suspension arms. Suspension travel is excellent due to the simple and tidy design copied from the XB4
I was a little disappointed with the springs at first as the front seemed too stiff with no sag. What I later found out was that on one side of the car the front springs were installed on the rear and the rears on the fronts. Disappointing from an assembly point of view but once corrected the car was much better balanced with well chosen rates front and rear.
Seems pretty obvious which should be on the front right? Not on the left side of my car 🤦♂️
The suspension geometry on this car is probably the best I've ever come across. There is absolutely no bump-steer i.e. the steering angle remains fixed regardless of the angle of the suspension arm (doesn't change direction over bumps). There is no binding and even with cheaper materials, this clever design means there is only a negligible amount of play. There is a lot of steering angle available to which is useful if you plan to give this car track duty.
Hubs and hub carriers look to be well designed and at the time of writing I've seen no mention of breakages so fingers crossed this remains. The steering servo is proportional and of course turns the wheels in either direction but that is the only positives I have to say. Sadly they have stuck with a 5 wire unit which means that any upgrades to electronics will require a new servo. That may be a blessing in disguise because the unit in here is horribly slow and is crying out for a replacement.
Motor & ESC/radio
WL Toys have stuck with practically the same electronics they have always used - a basic 2.4GHz transmitter and integrated ESC/receiver unit. They have however addressed the issue of ESC heat which was an issue on past models by using a bigger heatsink and adding a tidy fan unit that is ramped up and down by the ESC based on temperature - a welcome addition that should improve performance and more importantly reliability. The integrated ESC/receiver is a pain in that practically any upgrade means you need a new radio, receiver, servo and ESC but the reality is this unit is one of the main reasons the price is as low as it is.
The motor is the same 550 brushed unit from the 124019 except in this larger car the size and weight is more appropriate. Brushed motors are power hungry and not especially fast but they have fine control and are very inexpensive. It's nice to see a fairly decent heatsink on the motor which will further help keep heat under control for this car. This heatsink can also be transferred to a 3650 sized brushless motor if an upgrade is on the plans in future.
I'm very pleased with the driveline in general although there are a few caveats. First up WL Toys has inexplicably gone with mod 0.6 gearing after using mod 0.7 on the 124019 and 144001, This is great news because there are a lot more pinion options compared to the 4 we were limited to previously. The finer pitch is well suited for a car this size and should make for smooth operation. Perhaps more important is the wide range of gearing options available from pinion gears which is a very welcome addition. The spur is a very solid, very heavy metal unit. On this upside this should make it very durable but on the downside the weight makes motor speed change more dull - just like comparing a heavy flywheel on a car with a lightweight racing one. This metal on metal contact can also make the driveline a little noisy. The unit overall though is well built and I will look into options to modify in future. As you'll see there is no slipper nor a centre diff here, presumably to keep costs down. I personally think this was a good choice to keep costs down but as a community we will no doubt come up with some modding options in future.
The fixed 4wd propshaft was a weak point on the 124019 which makes the floating unit on the 104001 very nice to see. This protects the drive-line against chassis flex in crashes and operation and makes servicing so much easier. Drive cups and dog-bones front and rear look very solid and I'd expect them to last well. If you wish to have this setup in a 144001 or 124018/9 then this article on upgrading the driveshaft will be a big help.
I'm really loving the diffs. They are much larger and stronger than the 124019 diffs but my favourite feature is that they are fully sealed with gaskets on the housings and o-rings on the drive output shafts. This means that rather than relying on grease to stay in place and not leak out on the 124019, we can use fit-for-purpose diff fluid in whatever thickness we want. This means we can tune our car precisely to the driving surface and our personal driving style. I covered exactly this in my 104001 tuning guide here. The good news is that diffs are shimmed and work really nicely, a very big improvement they have carried over from the 124019 cars. Read this tuning guide on how to remove and fill the 104001 diffs
Diff outdrives are large and look to be robust. There are CVDs in front and dogbones/cups in rear which are certainly appropriate for a 4wd car. There is not enough feedback yet on strength although I have seen reports of front CVDs snapping in extreme bashing and racing conditions. Time will tell before a strong conclusion can be made. Wheels are held on with a 12mm (plastic) hex and M4 nylock nut. There is very little play in this setup
Body and chassis
Say what you will about the decals on the body but this design offers plenty more room the WL Toys' earlier models. The body material feels thick and should stand up well to crashes. There are 2 body mounts that feel sturdy although it does hinge on them a lot. I'd recommend using velcro between body and chassis side guards to have any hope of keeping dirt or dust out. The spoiler mount is pretty sturdy but the spoiler itself is not their best work. The rear down force element is much too vertical and will do little more than create drag when this car gets moving faster when upgraded.
The biggest drawback I see on this car is the chassis. XRay went to great lengths in choosing materials so that they could eliminate the top deck to make servicing easier between 2015 and 2016 models as you can see below
With that history lesson out the way, The 104001 uses a 3mm thick aluminium chassis which at first glance looks pretty bash-proof but without the top deck it actually flexes quite badly - especially in the front section. It's possibly something you may not even notice but even with floating driveshafts there is the possibility to damage the drive train in a decent collision. Also it does detract from the suspension where the chassis may flex instead of letting the suspension do its job. Less than a month after release we are already starting to see some clever fixes though like this one from Jorge Miguel Guerreiro on the 104001 Facebook group below. I'm sure it won't be long till we see something commercialised and readily available
This handmade fix from Jorge Miguel Guerreiro is perfect and carbon fibre is exactly the right material to make it out of. This is a handmade unit but hopefully we see one of the retailers make and sell something like this at a fair price soon.
One big upside that I haven't mentioned yet is the serviceability of this car which is practically second to none due to design being taken from a well refined race car where serviceability is key. Diffs, spur gears, suspension, steering can all be serviced independently of one another - this is so easy to service and replace parts when needed.
Wheels and Tyres
Wheels are made from solid white plastic but have that annoying writing on them again. Who writes this stuff??!! From past experience with the cars these wheels are really durable and robust.
Interesting choice for the tyres - compound is much soft which does great things for grip but will wear pretty quick. Tread pattern is very specific for fine dirt offroad tracks or carpet. The should run ok on coarser surfaces but I will look at other options in future.
Battery and Charger
The included battery is a 2s 2200mah unit that is also used on the 124019. I think this battery is well suited to the the 124019 and 144001. Although this 104001 has the same power system I think they missed a trick in not going for a larger battery. To be fair it does the job admirably and you get a 10 minute or so run time but I would have liked it if they had used the extra space available to go with one of greater capacity. I'm sure that they'll consider a larger battery in future releases but for not I'll be looking at other options that will fit with no or minimal upgrades.
The included USB charger will charge the batteries to get you started but if you plan on staying in the hobby for more than 5 minutes I STRONGLY urge you to upgrade. Please see this article on chargers for more detail.
Performance Review - how does it actually run?
I must say that straight out of the box this car needs a bit of help with the setup / tuning and I prepared a 104001 tuning guide here to cover exactly that. I made these fixes before I even turned it on.
With the basics done the car actually handles really well. Turning is slow due to the servo as expected but otherwise precise. This is helped a lot by the diffs - since I run mostly off-road, the heavy diff fluid I used made the car super predictable in low traction conditions. In short, very easy to hold a good drift! I like the suspension a lot although I find the front springs a little stiff and long but this is a fairly minor complaint (update: WL toys put swapped the springs by accident on assembly and I have fixed. SO much better). The ground clearance is much better than the 124019 as a result of bigger wheels and larger suspension, typical of the larger 1/10 scale size. This means it is able to handle rougher areas and grass more competently. Speaking of larger wheels, the tyres tend to grip pretty well on and off road although the finer tread pattern starts to struggle a little in the rougher stuff and longer grass. The soft compound means they grip pretty well on tarmac and I'd expect the performance on fine dirt or carpet to actually be very good.
Just quickly... I do have a plan to make this quicker with a <$10 spend - aiming to match the speed of the 124019 on stock battery. At time of writing I plan to complete this article by end May 2021 and will link here when done. Once I've proven this works (or not) I'll be straight into the big power and efficiency with some angry brushless upgrades.
This is the hardest on to test as everyone has different driving styles and drives in different locations and different surfaces. I've been running my car several times a week since I got the car early in April to give the best, most experienced feedback I can, rather than just a "first look" that I see a lot of. I've also driven on lots of different surfaces including short grass, long grass, freshly cut grass, tarmac, gravel, dirt and even on the beach! I've driven in the dry and in the wet.
Over this time I haven't done any physical damage other than cosmetic scratches to the bottom of the chassis, a split in the rear wing, scratches on the body and the tyres are looking a bit worn. I must say driving on the beach was a lot of fun but not a great idea. I had salt water go into my ESC/receiver and killed it - you can usually get away with fresh water by powering down and drying but with salt water if the conductive ions don't get you then the corrosion will. Sand was not a lot of fun cleaning either but the bearings seem to be holding for now. All in all it's held up pretty well - the ESC was my fault for sure! Under normal conditions I'd expect the stock motor and ESC to hold up really well as a result of more conservative gearing and a clever temperature controlled fan plus of course the larger heatsink on the motor.
No damage to report as a result of that flexy chassis but I will report back here if anything pops up.
Let's cut to the chase - why would you buy this car when it is more expensive, slower than the 124019 with seemingly less parts options and an uncomfortable flexible chassis? Even with these negative aspects there is actually still a lot to like. The drive train is very robust and has features that cars in the same price range would kill for - adjustable motor mounts, floating drive shafts, sealed diffs and more. The stock electronics are enough to get you started but if you do wish to upgrade then motors, ESCs, servos, pinions and other parts in the size range are really common. There is plenty or room to play under the body and this includes fitting high capacity 2s batteries or even going up to 4s batteries without an issue.
Handling is great thanks to the excellent design copied from the XB4 and a good set of shocks. Stock wheels and tyres are surprisingly grippy but the sof compound means they do wear at a faster rate although not unreasonable rate for a buggy. The larger size as seen below gives this car a lot more presence and offers more stability and predictable behaviour.
144001 on the left, 124018 in the middle and 104001 on the right.
The Bottom Line
This is a well designed car that is based on a proven racing machine. There are obvious shortcomings in this model, most notably the chassis flex as a result of costing a fraction of the price of the car it is based on. These are only small issues though on a car that is generally over-engineered for the power system it is supplied with. This means that it should be super-durable if you wish to keep it stock but should easily handle a lot more power if you choose to upgrade - a great car to start and grow with.
Who is this car for?
I see two disctinct markets for this car:
What next for this car?
I have lots planned for this guy. After I squeeze all of the performance I can get out of the stock setup I will move on to brushless where I have 4 motors and 2 ESC waiting for me. I will also be looking a faster digital servos, coreless motor servos and brushless motor servos. I definitely plan to address the chassis flex issue. I really want to look at other wheel options as well. But as always I do plan to take my time and obtain and present the best information as clearly as possible so you can replicate or improve on what I am doing in these guides.
All the parts are now listed listed and the prices (for now) actually look good:
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