WL Toys 104009 review
The WL Toys 104009 is a recently released a 4WD RC monster truck. It is made by WL Toys, one of the lower cost RC Car manufacturers that tend to strike a good balance between performance and affordability. This particular car is stated as 1/10 scale but is about the size of a typical 1/12 scale, still big enough to perform off-road. In this review I'll cover what I like about this car and what I don't like so you can make a decision to see if it will suit you or not.
As I mentioned WL Toys have made some very popular cars based around a common 144001 platform which I have written EXTENSIVELY about here: All my WL Toys RC Car review and upgrade guides. This car however is not based on that platform, rather it is and upgraded version of a lesser-known WL toys car, the 12402. Upgrades include oil shocks instead of friction dampeners, metal suspension arms front and rear, a much better looking body heavily inspired <cough> by the traxxas Maxx and XMaxx plus a whole lot of LED lights. Let get straight into the review.
More about the Car - A Closer Look
Scale. I'm sick of every reviewer telling me how this isn't really a 1/10 scale that is actually a 1/12 scale. Just so you know scales are a rough guide and are only really relevant to scale models. Does this truck exist in real life 1:1 scale? Does a Traxxas Xmaxx? Does a XRay XB4? Of course they don't so let's move on. If you want to know the size just use the dimensions; it's easy to figure out of this is the right size for you or not.
Power Train and drive line. Predictably they have gone with the large and inexpensive brushed 550 motor that goes into practically all of their cars 1/14 scale and up. It is old and cheap technology but it runs pretty well in these cars.
Here you can see the big 550 brushed motor. The heatsink they've included along with a well-considered gear ratio helps keep heat in check
Gearing in this car is fairly spot on and offers a decent top speed and still enough torque to have a decent play off-road. Pitch for the pinion and spur is mod 0.8 which is more common than what WL Toys usually use but there is no adjustable motor mount. All the rotating parts are armed with ball bearings and metal gears are used for the pinion and diffs but not the spur which I believe is the right choice. Power is transferred directly from the spur to the rear diff and the front as well by a long dog bone style drive shaft. Overall the drive line is pretty good - quiet and reliable with not obvious weak points yet. Power is finally transferred to the wheels using metal CVDs on the front and metal dog bone drive shafts in the rear. Wheels use a 12mm hex drive.
Suspension. To me this is definitely the strong point in this car. WL toys seem to have learnt from their error on the 12402 and, rather than using friction dampeners (bloody awful), they have used a very nice set of very long oil dampeners front and rear. These allow excellent dampening, a very long throw and in my opinion a very well considered spring weight. Top marks here. They have also changed the plastic shock arms out for gold colour metal replacements which provide more rigidity. I'm wary of metal arms in general though for their propensity to transmit energy to hinge pins and mounts but on this car the pin and mount setup seems to be solid - so far so good.
Being designed as a basher, this car has fixed camber links which rules out camber adjustment but does allow for toe adjustment on the front with adjustable steering tierod links.
Electronics. The ESC they have used here is slightly bigger that the 144001 and 124019 series of car that uses the same motor - more like the true 1/10 scale 104001 buggy ESC but without the fan. Like all other WL Toys brushed cars this ESC is incorporated with the receiver which cuts manufacturing costs and simplifies things for the consumer. Unlike the product description the servo is not a 17g unit (like found in the 144401, 124019), rather a more appropriately sized 1/10 scale servo. The stock one is a 5 wire unit meaning you cannot upgrade unless you upgrade ESC and receiver as well. It's also pretty slow and not especially powerful but 'good enough' for this car. Transmitter is the standard WL Toys MR2 unit which are typically only good for around 40m of range which I feel is 'good enough' for a basher because you are typically in close.
Wheels, Body, Chassis Wheels seem fine and the colour coding suits the body, they use a fairly standard 12mm hex. Tyre compound I would call a medium and grips nicely on road and off. There is no inner sponge though but they seem to hold their shape well enough. Body is clearly copied from the Traxxas Maxx and Xmaxx cars in style and colour but if you can look past that it looks good. It's wired up like a Christmas tree with no less than 12 LEDs front and rear!!
The chassis and all structural material other than the aforementioned suspension arms are plastic. This works out well for the HBX cars like the 16886 Spectre, the 16889a pro and the larger 901a because of good design and a good plastic compound that is flexible enough to deform and return in heavy crashers. The 104009 has neither of these. The design looks very haphazard for the chassis and structural parts. The lower chassis is made of very stiff plastic and the top deck and suspension towers and other parts seem to be very soft and flexible. Screws are largely coarse threaded which makes me worry for longevity and there is not enough of them that are structural, especially in the top deck which as a result doesn't offer the stiffness and support it should.
Review of the car
Now that we've talked about the components and how it's been built, we'll now cover off the actual review - performance, handling and durability.
Performance. This car feels fast. I recorded a top speed of 43km/h which I think is a good speed for this setup. This same motor makes almost 55km/h in the 124019 but that feels overgeared and compromises battery life, heat and torque. With this gearing the top speed is more appropriate and allows a decent pickup and good battery life for a brushed 550 motor - around 10-12 minutes for me. Overall I think this is a pretty well executed setup and gives you the speed to launch a jump and the acceleration and power for a decent bit of offroading.
The battery I got with my car was a 2s 1500mah li ion pack. These are known to be energy dense but don't allow for as higher current output as a lipo battery. I can confirm that the 2s 2200mah lipo from the 124019 is an excellent upgrade that fits well and bumps up run time to 15 minutes but perhaps more importantly allows for greater current output which results in much better acceleration and wheelies!!!
Handling. I think this may be the best handling monster truck I've driven. For me the weight balance, tyre grip, power and suspension come together in such a way that is it just so well predictable. Make no mistake it's not a race buggy with super precise handling but is a well balanced basher rig that is hugely predictable that gives you plenty of warning when it will let go. Even over jumps it seems well balanced and the stiffness of the shocks means that it never bottoms out too badly.
Durability. The review sounds pretty glowing so far right? Well here is the chink in the armour and it is a big one. The chassis is weak, particularly the main lower chassis in the front, in line with the rear screws that hold the diff in. Don't get me wrong, the kids and I were bashing it hard on a tarmac car park with lots of curbs but it should have broken here in what seems such an obvious weak spot.
If it is any consolation the replacement chassis are cheap at just $6 here but it did take me around 40 minutes to replace, not something I want to be doing all of the time. I've not seen any damage yet but I do not have a huge amount of confidence in the rest of the chassis holding up to heavy bashing but time will tell and I'll report back if there are any other obvious issues.
Summary and recommendations
The WL Toys 104009 1/10 scale 4wd monster truck as reviewed here is a relatively low cost ready to run RC car which includes everything (other than the remote AA batteries) that you need to run. In my experience it performs really well with a good balance between top end speed and acceleration. Handling is also excellent thanks the tyres that grip well. a good weight splits front and rear and some very plush oil-filled dampeners' front and rear. The let down is the (lack of) durability of this car when bashed hard, specifically in the front end of the chassis. This is of course a real disappointment because everything about this car design and execution screams basher and when it isn't broken it does this job admirably.
Is this car for you if you are a hard basher? In short no, unless you have the time to replace the (admittedly cheap) chassis on a regular basis. If your driving is less about big jumps and heavy crashes into hard objects then this may well be for you. If you are looking for a very durable truck in approximately the same size that is faster with better battery life then I strongly recommend the HBX Brushless 901a as an option or if you want to stick with WL toys then consider the brand new 144002 which is based on the proven 144001 chassis
For upgrades my strongest recommendation is for the 2s 2200mah lipo pack from the WL Toys 124019. You could of course upgrade this to a brushless setup but any weaknesses like the one i mentioned are of course amplified with extra speed.
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