Axial's SCX10 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon RTR: The Review
A tried-and-true radio-controlled trail rig for any skill level.
If you’ve ever looked up and down the aisle of your local hobby shop, you’ll see rows of vehicles. Endless stacks upon endless stacks of boxes, all containing different vehicles that are designed to do just about anything you can dream up. It’s magical. It’s wonderful. It can make your head spin. The options that are available in the R/C hobby rival no other hobby that I can think of, at least off the top of my head. That could be seen as a downside, but if you’re looking to get into the scaler/crawler end of the hobby, you might call it heaven.
I kicked off the year with a goal. After admiring the SCX10 rigs of a few fine folks, I decided to take the plunge myself and enter the real world of scale R/C vehicles. While the Redcat Racing RS10 that I have was nice, it left quite a bit to be desired when it came to looking like an actual, 1:1 scale vehicle. What’s more, if I bought a rig for myself, my oldest son could take the RS10 and we’d have the opportunity to get out and hit the trails…or at the very least, the backyard, for a little fun. Up until that point, our “fast” vehicles had brought us nothing but broken parts and pain. Mainly broken parts. It was time to slow down a bit and try to enjoy the hobby.
Sparing the intricate details and tools that I used to narrow down the model of scaler I wanted to get (it involved a spreadsheet and more than a handful of hobby shop searches), I was ready to put down my money from my just-sold Traxxas Slash 4x4 to get an Axial SCX10 Trail Honcho RTR. I was in the midst of a Pinewood Derby car build for my oldest son, and figured a kit wouldn’t be the best project to undertake at the time, although I did consider it in my spreadsheet research.
I had a Trail Honcho in my cart, in fact, until I decided to check the homepage of Tower Hobbies and noticed they had an amazing deal on the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon RTR variant of the SCX10, one that included a NiMH battery in the package, all for under $300. Decision made, deal done.
Christmas in January (My initial thoughts)
Waiting for a new R/C vehicle is tough, and sometimes it leads to a bit of buyer’s remorse. You think it’s a great idea until you actually get it, and you end up feeling let down. Maybe. Nah, what am I saying, this is R/C stuff. I could barely contain my excitement when a rather large box showed up on my doorstep with bright green packing tape wrapped around it, emblazoned with the Axial logo. It was time to see what all of the fuss was about. Taking a quick stroll down memory lane, these were a few of my early impressions.
I’m a fan of design, specifically good design. This has no real boundaries and I appreciate a well-packaged and presented product as much as I appreciate a well-crafted logo or typeface. For those like me, Axial hits the nail on the head when it comes to presentation of their products while still in the package. The box itself, the actual SCX10 box, is a thing to behold. I still have mine stored in my shop and find myself looking at it from time to time. Nerdy? I suppose, but I’m wired like that.
After freeing the rig from it’s confines and pulling out all of the appropriate documentation, radio, and other bagged goodies, I started inspecting the overall build quality of the machine. Having only the Traxxas Slash and the Redcat Racing RS10 Rockslide to compare it to, I was both thrilled and a bit let down by some of the material choices used on the RTR version. To be fair, all of the areas where I felt slight disappointment are easily remedied by either purchasing upgrade parts or fabricating your own.
The specific areas of my initial concern were the steering links and suspension linkage (upper and lower). These are all made of plastic on the RTR version of the SCX10. If you purchase the kit version of the Jeep (or any other SCX10 model), you will receive aluminum links that you can use during your build. While plastic isn’t the worst material, the stock links do flex more than you’d like them to, both during initial takeoff (the torque on this rig is impressive) and while navigating obstacles. Since we were in the middle of one of many Polar Vortexes at the time, I didn’t venture outside with my new machine, opting rather to stay indoors and traverse the wasteland of toys that my boys had created during Winter vacation.
Flexing plastic proved to make the vehicle quite unstable when climbing over obstacles, so a list of upgrades was quickly being written in my head. However, aside from upgrading the linkage and adding lights, I didn’t find much else that needed immediate attention. Overall, this is one well-built machine.
Axial has recently done quite a bit with the SCX10, turning it from a two or three vehicle product line into a virtual fleet. This can be viewed a few ways, and some may see it as taking the easy way out, not innovating, resting on past successes. I’ve chosen to view it as a company building a great product, and fine-tuning it to make it even better with each iteration.
From the ground up, the SCX10 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon RTR is an impressive machine. The Maxxis Trepador tires provide ample grip, which is noticeable when “mashing the gas” on your radio and witness the chassis launch and thrash due to the torque from the standard 27-turn brushed motor. Not that a quick burst off the line from a standing start is a necessity for an off-road vehicle, but it illustrates how much get up and go the stock motor, gearing, and grip package has. Trust me, it’s impressive.
Torque aside, the chassis used on the SCX10 is an impressive hybrid of 1:1 scale replication and R/C vehicle design prowess. The C-channel-based frame is incredibly sturdy and provides a great amount of stability when attacking a trail or uneven terrain. Keeping things “scale” the visual effect that you get when driving this rig over rocks or logs is as close to what you’d expect to see out of a 1:1 street machine. This is a different effect than what the RS10, which has more of a “comp crawler”-style chassis, give off.
Adding lights to ramp up the realistic value is very easy. While some variations of the SCX10 line offer LED lights out of the box, the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon RTR does not. That said, there are mounting holes available in the front and rear bumper that will allow you to easily insert lights for an ultra-scale appearance and to help you navigate barriers at night. Having added lights to my rig, I can attest to not only how cool it looks when lit up, but how much fun nighttime driving can be when you have a little extra visibility.
The battery tray is positioned in the back of the vehicle out of the box, but you can easily move this to the front of your rig for better weight distribution and front-end grip. I haven’t performed this mod yet, but there are details included with the instructions for this SCX10 model that should make the task a painless process.
Outside of the chassis details, the suspension components can be modified and configured to better-suit the terrain that you’ll be driving on along with your driving style. As with any R/C vehicle, there are countless upgrade parts and pieces that you can add on to improve the performance and durability of your machine, but you won’t need to install many of them if you’re looking to have a fun time right away.
The tires, as I’ve mentioned earlier, provide ample grip for a variety of terrain-types, but you may want to add a bit of front weight or overall weight to the chassis or wheels if you’re going to encounter any gravel mounds. That is one material that has given my machine fits from time-to-time, but it’s nothing that a little extra head of steam won’t fix.
Ready to run
Getting this machine up and running takes almost no effort. Since it’s a ready-to-run model, all you’ll need to do is make sure you have a battery charged for the vehicle and batteries on hand for your transmitter. Turn it on and go. It’s that simple. One great thing that I’ve grown to love about crawlers and scalers is, with their slower speed, they can easily be operated indoors without the risk of causing major damage to furniture or other household items. The winter death-grip that Wisconsin was stuck in for most of last Winter meant that I wasn’t going to get my rig outside to play, so I did quite a bit of indoor running in our basement and main level. This also gives you a great opportunity to work on your throttle control and teaches you to become less of a “mash and go” driver.
When the weather did warm up enough to not risk losing fingers due to the cold, I immediately began putting the SCX10 through it's paces. Every run, each longer than the previous, impressed me more than I can put into words. This thing is a tank. While I was a bit more careful at first, my oldest son immediately put it to the test by jumping it, Dukes of Hazzard-style, over a pile of wood. It held up (and stuck the landing). Since those early runs, I've had more opportunities to take it through a variety of situations and it has held up quite well.
The 1.9" tires are great for stock appearance but can make the drive a bit challenging when driving through taller wild grass or reeds. While the immediate reaction may be to upgrade to 2.2" wheels & tires, I've found this challenge to be a great way to hone my driving skills for these types of situations. Aside from that, the 2.2 look doesn't appeal to me on this rig.
The beauty in the SCX10 line is not that there are many vehicle types (body-wise) for many tastes, although that is a nice byproduct. The true beauty that I’ve found is that it is more of a platform than a product. Bear with me for a minute as we’re going to get a little hippy-dippy, but this needs to be said. The SCX10 is an amazing vehicle that anyone, at any age, can pick up and drive with ease. I’ve seen this first-hand with two of my children and my Dad. Give them the radio and watch them go. The gears begin turning, both in the vehicle and in the mind of the driver. My son wants to build a trailer for our rigs so we can “haul stuff” when we’re tooling around the yard. My Dad, after driving my Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon model for only a few minutes, began talking about making hills, obstacles, and trails on their property. Beyond that, there is my own rejuvenation with the hobby that I have felt since playing around with, I mean, carefully examining, this vehicle.
The SCX10, any variation you choose, is a great machine. Just like the hobby, it is made for anyone and everyone. Whether you’re into realistic looks or just want something to beat on and rebuild, you’ll find that in this model. If you’re happy with bone-stock, that’s cool, this lineup will support you, but if you want to tinker around and build your own custom creation, you’ll find an excellent canvas to do just that. The true beauty in this specific model, and the entire SCX10 lineup is the transformative power that it holds. While you may not start out in the hobby wanting to modify and perfect your machine, nine times out of ten, you’ll find yourself doing just that. And that is where the magic lies, both in this hobby and in this vehicle.