The WL Toys 284131 is a mini 1/28 scale 4WD RC car that was released in the second half of 2021. It has fully proportional steering and throttle with independent suspension and is an updated and upgraded version of WL Toys own k969 and k989 cars. The body is based on Ken Block's Hoonitruck, made popular in the RC Scene by the Arrma Infraction. It not only looks the part but it's actually a great little performer in it's own right and hard to pass up at a price of between $55 and $65.
WL Toys are infamous for taking well designed cars and making much cheaper versions of them. You can either take offense because of the copying or embrace the fact that this opens up the category to a group of consumers that was never going to buy the full priced model. For example the 104001 copied the 2016 XRAY XB4, the 144001 copied the LC racing EMB-1 and here the K989 / 284131 copied the Kyosho Mini-Z. As much as I wanted one, I could never justify the $200 needed for a Kyosho mini-z but at around $60 the new 284131 is much easier to stomach. Clearly the price point puts in an entirely different market and for this reason I will aim to keep this review as a more stand alone rather than directly comparing to the mini-z range.
Discount code at bottom of review
A close look at the specs
Below I have looked at the published specs and I've broken these down to help you understand more clearly. I've also added some extra specs which I think should have been mentioned:
What is included?
Not much included, just the basics which helps them keep the costs down:
A closer look at the car
In this section I take a closer look at the car prior to running. If you prefer video format please see directly below otherwise the regular pics and text follows:
OMG those lights!!
Before we get in to the review you can see that WL Toys have absolutely doubled down on lighting here. The amount on the car is just crazy and they shine bright even in the day. A little too much? Probably but I really life them! They are easy to disconnect if you want.
Power on this car starts from a 2s 400mah battery pack that fits with a scaled down battery clip which is a little fiddly. Honestly with a battery this small and light some sort of rubber band mount would be fine. Power is fed to the all in one ESC and receiver unit by a red JST which is a good size connector for this application. The all in one unit has an unstated ESC current but never seems to get too hot. The ESC has proportional forward and brake. A double tap of the rear trigger gives you reverse. None of the parameters of this ESC are adjustable. Power is to a 130 sized motor which is common for cars this size meaning much in the way of upgrades and replacement are available. I cannot fin in any specs what the peak RPM is (this is the key measure for brushless motors of this size).
Power is fed to the transmission by a 17t brass pinion which pushes on. This is stuck on extremely tight, I'm surprised they didn't just go with a plastic one which would have been fine. This powers a 29t spur gear. Also included is a 19t plastic pinion and 27t spur if you need a slightly taller gear. The motor mount is not adjustable so these are you only real combinations. Power is then taken to front and rear diffs via solid propshaft. The diffs are fairly stiff but this helps with drifting. All gears other than pinion are plastic which is entirely appropriate for a car of this size. Unfortunately there is a significant amount of binding in the drivetrain but I'll talk about this more in the performance review and will offer a fix.
This car has full independent suspension which is impressive given the scale, this includes metal dogbone driveshafts and plastic drive cups in every corner. In short the same technology used in larger scale cars. There is of course only friction dampening due to the size but spring rate and tension is well adjusted for a car of this size and weight. There is little to no bind in the movement which is an improvement over the earlier K969 and K989.
Body and fit.
Yeah the lights are cool but I just love the way the body integrates with the bumper. The front bumper is flat and strong and mates very cleanly with the front of the body meaning the body should take minimal impact at the front. At the rear it integrates well with the chassis mounted diffuser. Looks great but don't expect it to actually do anything at these speeds! Otherwise in general the body fits cleanly and the stance and clearances are perfect from the factory, something the $600 1/7 scale EX-07 can't achieve.
Review - Performance, Handling, Battery, Life, Drift?
As you can see from the inset picture, I did manage to get the SKYRC GSM020 GPS unit on although it does look comically large. Good think the body is a pickup truck style (or Ute as we call them here). I managed to get a top speed of 22 km/h which doesn't sound like a lot if you are used to larger scale but on a car this size it is actually decently quick. Acceleration is good too, I think they got the gearing pretty well spot on. Bear in mind you can gear up from the 17t pinion / 29t spur on the car to the included 19t pinion / 27t spur to get another 1-2km/h but I think the loss in acceleration and battery life would be less desirable.
One key issue that is holding the car back here though is the tightness in the drive train. This mean roll on (off throttle rolling) is pretty limited as is low speed fine control. More importantly though it places a bit of stress on the motor meaning at the end of the battery it is very hot. You can keep running like this but I think freeing up the drive train will give you a little extra top speed and improve performance a little across the board. I'll cover this off more in the "Fixes Needed" section. Update: After about 15-20 batteries in, it is freeing up a lot. I think by the time it's been through 25+ batteries the bind should have resolved itself
Handling is really good, a lot better than I was expecting. It's not because of anything extra new or special but more because a great balance meaning all of the tyres, suspension, weight and weight distribution work well together.
The suspension moves freely unlike the transmission and the spring rates and tensioner clips are just right given the weight distribution for this car. Other than changing the looks with aftermarket shocks you'd be hard pressed improving these unless you wanted to change a very specific characteristic.
You'll notice the tyres are really narrow and provide a really good level of grip on concrete and sealed surfaces. Enough grip for good take off and cornering but not so much that traction rolls are a thing. Power slides are still easy too.
The excellent weight distribution (front and rear and side to side) make this all come together too. It is predictable and a lot of fun. For this reason I think a change of wheels (or change of surface with stock wheels) would actually make this a good little drifter. I've ordered these ones to try.
Battery life is actually really good, I got about 12 minutes of hooning around which felt about right. Since this is a common micro quadcopter size it should be easy to get good replacement batteries that have a much higher c-rating that the stock one - not that the stock battery is holding it back.
Fixes I recommend
Drive line binding
I love this car but the binding in the drivetrain is really annoying. It doesn't have much impact on actual performance but I don't like the way that it makes the motor really hot. Before doing any real research I started tearing the car down and first identified the gearmesh as being too tight and thought this was the issues. since the motor mount is plastic I heated one of the screws to slightly slot one of the through holes for the motor screws and ease off the mesh but this only made a small improvement, it was clear there is more tightness in the diff area.
At was at this point I found Beaver Hobby's video on solving this in the WL Toys K989 - the predecessor of this car with the same chassis and the same issues. The guide is practically faultless so I stopped further work and have embedded his video below on solving this. I have since found that many recognise Beaver Hobby as the bible for these little cars and the Kyosho Mini-Z cars they are based on. Please enjoy his fantastic video below. Note I'm not interested in loosening the diffs, I like the stiffness for drifting and power slides.
Note: at time of writing I am working through these improvements and will update my performance review with new details when I'm finished with testing. Update: After about 15-20 batteries in, it is freeing up a lot. I think by the time it's been through 25+ batteries the bind should have resolved itself
Improving the steering
For some odd reason the manufacturer of this car mounted the steering drive on the inner arm instead of the outer arm which has result in pretty average steering lock. It seemed almost too good to be true that a perfectly good hole further out was there and not being used. I tried and and although the steering is much better now the outer hole for some utterly infuriating reason is slightly too large. In order to fix this I discarded the original screw, drilled the pillow ball mount out to 2mm using a 2mm bit and than used a m2 x 6mm screw to screw into the out steering hole. A bit of work but steering is much better now and very secure.
To summarise I really like this little car - the WL toys 1/28 scale 124131. Before you even run it the looks is great with the infraction/hoonitruck styled body and the plethora of lights. Once you get it running you'll appreciate the performance too with the strong acceleration and a very respectable 22km/h top speed. Handling is probably my favourite point - it has all of the suspension features of a larger car and the choice of tyres, suspension spring rates and weight balance in harmony mean that handling is predicable and accurate. To top it off the car has proven to be very durable so far thanks the the clever way they have married the body to the bumpers.
It's of course not without fault and the tight drive train is a real frustration. It doesn't heavily hinder performance but I don't like the way the motor gets hot during running. I've included a guide here for fixing this issue although it can be fiddly. You can of course run it as it and still get a healthy 12 minute run time although if you are a little OCD like me then you probably won't be happy until you make these repairs.
In conclusion I can heartily recommend this model. The low price and durability make it a good beginner option and the performance puts a smile on even the most cynical RC stalwart's face. Although it's very small it's quick so is not that suitable inside a small house or apartment but you have an area about the size of a double garage or larger (inside or out) then you can make a decent track for these cars.
If you are looking for a discount on this car, I will post any coupon codes or flash sales for it over here on my coupons and discounts page. Remember buying from any of these links supports my page without any cost to you and is appreciated especially since I don't ask for money via patreon and the like. If you want to get involved in this discussion, feel free to join the QuadifyRC Facebook Group Here or like my page below.