WL TOYS 104002 REVIEW
The WL Toys 104002 is a 1/10 scale ready to run (RTR) 4WD off road buggy powered by a fast and efficient brushless power train. It is a follow up to the cheaper WL Toys 104001 which is the same car but powered by a slower brushed setup. In this article I will complete a full review and recommend some cheap or free mods to improve performance.
Last year the WL Toys 104001 was released with a basic brushed power train which I reviewed thoroughly here. I've since modified it with a high spec brushless setup and guide here and a more budget brushless setup and guide here. Now WL toys have launched the 104002 which is brushless out of the factory. I'll try to keep this review as standalone as possible for those not familiar with the earlier model.
What's included in the box?
As an RTR model this car includes everything you need to get running except the 4 x AA batteries for the remote:
A closer look at the car
Lets look at the systems of the car in a little more detail before we get it all dirty
Power Train (Motor, ESC and Battery) I know this is what you are probably here for so let's get straight to it. The ESC is stated as 45a and is an early surpass hobby design with cooling fan capable of 2-3s. This is the same unit as used on the 144010 as reviewed here. These have been reliable on 2 and 3s albeit on a smaller 2845 motor in the 144010. Although they seem to reliably handle this power, their downside is that they add a significant amount of delay to throttle which to be fair, not everyone can pick up. The motor is a 3650 4500kv unit, also made by Surpass Hobby. These are generally fairly reliable units and the mid-high 4500kv rating should be well suited to this car on 2 or even 3s given the available gearing options. It also has a large passive heatsink to keep things cool.
Radio Gear (Transmitter and Receiver). The 104002 uses the newer blue wheeled transmitter which gives decent range for most line of sight driving in combination with the lightweight 2 channel receiver. The transmitter is adjustable for steering trim but not dual rate i.e. maximum steering angle is fixed. Throttle trim is not available but dual rate is meaning you can limit and scale top speed which is really useful for learners or even when driving in smaller spots.
The receiver comes prebound but if you need to rebind for whatever reason then hold down the bind button on the receiver when powering up and then turn on your transmitter. You are now bound! I'll also mention that the two unused servo ports on the receiver are simply reversed versions of the steering and throttle channels since there is no channel reversing switches on the transmitter.
Drivetrain. The 104002 (like the 104001) uses all metal gears - pinion, spur, diff pinion and crown plus all internals. In addition all drive shafts are metal too - floating 4wd prop shafts, front CVDs and read dogbones. At first glance this should be tough but based on experience with the 104001 we know that the spur gear spool is too heavy which makes for a lot of rotating mass and momentum.
A lot of rotating mass on the heavy metal spur spool can dampen throttle response
Just a quick note on the diffs, I think the tolerances between bevel pinion and diff crown gear are tighter than the 104001 which was a real issue with that car. This should mean less wear or risk of damage when I pulled them apart as below:
Steering. Steering is powered by a new 3 wire servo that has a decent speed and so is a big improvement over the horribly slow 5 wire servo used in the 104001 brushed model. The steering geometry is very clean and work well with very little play as it is copied from the excellent LC10B5 and XRAY XB4. All adjustable turnbuckles are used so you can tune to meet your needs
Check out the steering speed for yourself above
Suspension. Large bore aluminium oil-filled shocks are used front and rear. They have adjustable threaded collars to adjust ride height. Springs I feel are a little on the long side meaning it is hard to make the car lower if you want to run exclusively on road. This issue is exacerbated by the lack of droop screws. Probably being nitpicky because overall the suspension is nice. Suspension arms have proven to be strong as have shock towers which is important for a buggy because they are exposed in crashes. Like the steering adjustable turnbuckles are used to give you precise control over camber. Suspension arm 'pins' are actually long screws which keeps things strong.
Chassis and body. The 104002 uses a solid aluminium baseplate which all the key components attached to. As a direct copy from the LC10B5 / XB4 it uses torsion bars rather than a top deck to reduce chassis flex. Unlike these premium cars however the 104002 like the 104001 uses cheaper and less effective materials here making the chassis more flexible than it should be. This is easily solved with a top plate (carbon fibre or even 3d printed options are available) but it's a shame they haven't made this key improvement here because outside of that the chassis is actually rather good.
The body is polycarbonate and prepainted with decals applied. The rear wing is also polycarbonate. The design is cab forward and fits all of the components with ease whilst still being low profile. The colour design of the 104002 is new.
Wheels and tyres. Wheels are a standard 1/10 scale size meaning you have many options available from Tamiya to race sets. The stock wheels are a tough solid disc and staggered front and rear They use a 12mm hex which is typical of this size. Front tyres are very soft and use a foam insert. The rears are harder and use a mini pin design. There are no foam inserts in the rear.
All of the above features were evalauted before driving and from here on in it is based on after having run this for around 10-15 packs to form an opinion.
Top speed on 3s (using a CNHL 3s 2200mah 30c battery) I was able to achieve a top speed of 74km/h. This is a good speed and still has great acceleration. The motor of course runs a little warmer but in my testing it was nothing to be concerned with. Given the ESC is only rated to 45A I wouldn't put a larger pinion on if running 3s nor would I run larger wheels for fear of stressing the ESC.
Handling is excellent, the large shocks easily lap up bumps and jumps although I'm not all that fond of the tyres. Their design is well suited to hard packed smooth dirt but I think they missed a trick in not taking a more aggressive pattern. I also feel the fronts are a little too soft although the foam inserts help them keep their shape. Both front and rear offer pretty average grip on seal and wear quickly on this surface. I've found some cheap tyres from Banggood below that are an improvement and you can read more about them in my improvement section below.
Durability is ok but not much more. There are 2 genuine weakpoints although I had issues with neither in this review, more a something to look out for. Both are easily fixed
In general this is a really good car. It reasonably quick on the stock 2s battery and offers good acceleration and efficiency. On 3s it genuinely feels fast but that is at the limits of the ESC. Handling is very good thanks to suspension and steering geometry directly copied from bonafide race cars. Stock tyres aren't the greatest in my opinion but are easily and cheaply upgraded and customised to your preferred driving surface.
So, like many of the WL Toys cars there is a lot to like but also some issues that need addressing and I have done exactly this below so you can cheaply (or for free!) improve your car.
I won't comment on price at this stage because between launch and maturity these can vary a lot - check here for the latest: WL Toys 104002 on Banggood. I'll post any voucher codes I can find below
Improvements and Tuning I recommend for the 104002
Add fluid/grease to the diffs. The diffs have a small amount of grease in them from the factory which is enough to keep them lubed. You only need to pack them with grease (or 50k+ weight diff fluid) if don't want them to "open diff". Doing this will stop them spinning so easily and as a result offers more traction. These diffs are supposedly sealed so should hold the fluid ok. Remember this is only needed if you want more traction on loose surfaces. You can see the full guide on how to do this guide: WL TOYS 104001 BEGINNERS GUIDE: 4 THINGS YOU MUST DO
Fill the shocks to the correct level. As mentioned mine were a little light on shock fluid. I'd recommend topping up with 30wt oil as a start point. You can follow this guide on how to remove, disassemble and top up to the correctly level. You can see the full guide on how to do this guide: WL TOYS 104001 BEGINNERS GUIDE: 4 THINGS YOU MUST DO
Adjust all the tierods correctly. I love that WL toys cars have adjustable tierods to be able to tune how it suits me but hate how they are never adjusted correctly out of the factory!! Follow this guide on how to adjust correctly. This will give you the right toe angle on the front wheels for best turning performance and best camber angle for maximum grip and even tyre wear. You can see the full guide on how to do this guide: WL TOYS 104001 BEGINNERS GUIDE: 4 THINGS YOU MUST DO
Get a range of pinions. Surpass hobby make good quality cheap M0.6 pinions that fit this car perfectly, in fact I wrote and article about them specifically for the 104001 here. I strongly recommend getting these for this car to tune it to suit the locations you run at. In general if you are just running 2s, you can happily increase the pinion size from the stock 22t pinion for more top speed, for example the 29t pinion is a direct fit and should take you to over 70km/h on 2s.
Install a top plate. Definitely 3d print or purchase a top plate to vastly minimise your chance of bending the chassis if you bash hard. Personally I think they should have done this from the factory but it's not an expensive improvement
Upgrade to a larger capacity battery. although the 3000mah battery is a definite improvement over the 2200mah battery in the 104001, this car still deserves something bigger. I've proven you can easily mod the battery mounts to accept a 2s shorty hard pack as below to give you more run time without an unreasonable amount of extra weight. You can still fit the stock battery as well. See this article to do the mod yourself: WL TOYS 104001 BUDGET BRUSHLESS UPGRADE