The XLF F16 is a Ready To Run (RTR) 1:14 scale 4WD off road Radio-controlled racing buggy. It notably includes a very large 550 sized brushless motor and a number of 'upgrade' metal components including suspension arms and knuckles. The brushed version as reviewed here retails for around $100 and has options with one or 2 batteries.
The F16 is the second RC car platform that XLF have released in recent times with the first being the 1/10 scale X03, X04, X05 which share the same underpinnings. The F16 as reviewed here is my first XLF product and I must admit it has more than a passing resemblance to the WL Toys 144001 both in scale, function and design.
In this article I'll look at the XLF F16 as a standalone review and then the inevitable comparison to the WL Toys 144001.
What is included?
You'll need 4 x AA batteries to get running. Just buy the cheapest, nastiest ones you can find as power usage is very low.
Because RC cars have so many moving parts I like to do a quick inspection before I run to make sure the manufacturer hasn't missed anything glaring. Pretty good in this case:
Front toe was out pretty badly so I adjusted via the tie rods to make it fairly neutral on toe. Camber looked good enough to start so no issues there. This is certainly no worse that other RTR cars I've received in this price bracket.
After power on I adjusted steering trim and am ready to go!
I charged my battery with a hobby grade charger (see this article for more details) but if you use the USB charger please allow plenty of time for the battery to full charge.
Immediately with this car you notice the powerful acceleration which is as a result of the oversized 550 brushless motor. Gearing is relatively short meaning pickup is strong although top speed is slightly limited (although still quick). This is my preference for this kind of car because it means that regardless of where you run it - road, dirt, clay, grass, mud that the electronics and going to run cooler, less stressed and have a longer life as a result. Driveline is smooth with no binding or poorly set gear mesh so far as I can tell.
Steering had minimal play so felt precise and I am happy enough with the servo speed. The range of steering is massive for a 4wd car so you'll need to be careful how much input you give it. ESC comes on smoothly and there was no delay I could notice. Braking is strong and reverse speed is appropriate. Suspension is fine but a little softer and bouncier than I'd like given the weight of the car so be prepared to bottom out over jumps. This can be fixed easily with a thicker shock oil (or maybe not).
Tyres look aggressive but need to wear a little to start gripping properly - they are much softer underneath the mould release agent than they first appear. Rear weight bias and non-staggered wheel width means handling is a little tail-happy. Update: Definitely softer and more grippy than 144001 tyres.
Oh lastly, don't run it down the the low voltage cutoff. It seems to be set to 3.0v per cell which is WAAAY to low for your lipo and will do it damage. When you notice the car drop on power it's time to stop otherwise get a cheap lipo buzzer.
A closer look at build quality (after the first few runs)
XLF have chosen to use brightly coloured metal parts on the suspension for this model, I believe to be eye catching. These are obviously more expensive to make that plastic products and it looks like as a result the quality of the casting has suffered. A closer look at XLFs own images shows the imperfections. I'm probably being fassy through as the imperfections seem to have not impact on function.
The wing of this car seems to be more flimsy than I'm used to which seems to be a result of thinnish polycarbonate and a fairly weak looking mount. This is not uncommon and for similar cars many upgrade to LC Racing 1/14 scale wings and mounts. The body is fine to to compactness but interesting choice to have such large cutaways at the front - presumably to help with cooling the large motor
The strong point of this car seems to be the driveline which I am pleased about - driveshafts (both 4xd AND all the dogbones/CVDs) are MUCH thicker than is typical of this size which means they should wear better and be less prone to damage and bending.
Shocks are metal with oil dampening which is good news but dampening out of the factory is very light, especially for such a heavy car. Sadly these shocks have a smaller diameter than those on the 144001 and LC racing cars but should still benefit from a thicker shock oil.
As is typical with RTR cars in this price bracket the ESC is integrated with the receiver and the servo is a 5 wire unit meaning all components are somewhat tied into each other - unless a directly replacement is used any upgrades requires all items to be replaced as I did with my 144001 brushless upgrade here. With that said the gear seems to be performing well and reliably (so far) so I see no reason to upgrade if you are happy with performance.
Lastly I'll note I was pleasantly surprised that the steering mechanism has very little play and as a result steering feels precise and consistent.
Summary, Recommendations and future upgrades
Overall the XLF F16 is a solid car although a little more attention to finish and build quality would have been nice. I think the gear ratio in this car is well suited to off roading in tough areas (like long grass) unlike the WL Toys 144001 which has more of a focus on top speed. It is well worth mentioning though that the included 550 motor is very large for this size of car and so power is not really an issue. On the downside though it does mean that battery life is limited to around 8 minutes (depending on how/where you drive) so do consider getting the kit with 2 batteries. Before you make a decision see my comparison to the 144001 below so you are well informed.
Very shortly I'll be releasing an article on some basic tuning to make this car perform at it's optimum, particularly around handling and will limit my budget for consumables to about $10. Like any RC car I'd recommend picking up a better charger (like one of these) if you plan on sticking around in the hobby
If there is interest I'll look at upgrading to brushless power because I think the gearing as setup in this car lends itself well to a simple bolt in brushless upgrade, certainly easier than the brushless upgrade for the 144001.
Comparison to the 144001
Given my broad experience with running and modifying the WL Toys 144001 I think and the similarities with the XLF F16 I think a comparison is well overdue so here we go:
Specification - both are very similar in spec on paper but you could say the XLF F16 is of a higher spec because of the metal arms, knuckles and stronger drivetrain
Build quality - The 144001 takes it here, as it seems to have a better fit and finish in general when you look at the body and moulding of parts, it just seems tidier in general
Performance - straight up the 144001 is faster which I believe is down to the taller gear ratio. This also means the 144001 will run hotter and is more suited to a top speed run build with brushless upgrade however the shorter gearing on the F16 will mean better acceleration and battery life plus it will run cooler and so be more suitable for driving on rougher terrain and long grass.
Suspension - the 144001 with it's well made large bore shocks are better - they perform better and will be more durable against damage and leaks. This has always been a strong point of the 144001.
Durability - Purely speculative but looking at the build quality, materials and weight (the F16 is much heavier) I would put my money on the 144001. If nothing else the plastic on the 144001 has proven relatively strong and flexible whereas the metal parts on the F16 while stiffer are more likely to transmit shock to more critical structures in the car.
Parts support - Although they look similar the parts on the F16 and the 144001 are simply not compatible which is a real shame. One of the biggest strengths is the availability of both replacement and upgrade parts for the 144001 whereas this doesn't yet exist for the F16 (at least for now). As an extension to parts support there is a huge community of 144001 modifiers of which I am a part of and so there is lots of information out there that similarly does not yet exist for the F16. With that said I will be writing an upgrade guide or 2 for the F16 so keep an eye out.
In summary the XLF F16 looks to be better suited to bashing off-road out of the box with it's lower gear ratio and stronger driveline whereas the 144001 is better suited to modifying with the parts and community support.
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