Off- and on-road, breaking stuff and conclusion.
The only displays on the basic radio controller, but it does the job.
In the dirt, the studded tyres are some help, but as anyone who watches the World Rally Championship will know, going fast on dirt involves scrabbling for grip, a lot of controlled sliding and turning into a corner early to at least have a vague hope of coming out of it pointing the right way. It is actually quite controllable in the dirt, once you get the hang of drifting and tail-out cornering. It's taking me some getting used to, realising just how much of the time the car isn't pointed exactly in the direction it's travelling. The 4wd system and knobbly tires give it good grip in almost all off-road surfaces, although as expected you'll spend much of your time spinning the wheels in gravel and dust if you're eager with the throttle.
On the road is a different story. Yes, yes, I know I wasn't supposed to drive with knobbly tires on the road, but I wanted to see how fast the darned thing could go in a straight line. All I can say is, trust me, it hauls butt.
A neighbour had his car out and claims he was doing 80-85kph with the buggy beside him and from all reports this isn't an unrealistic assessment of its speed capabilities. Sure, there are way faster RC cars, but for $360? I think not!
Driving in a straight line displayed another of the buggy's features - its second gear. It's operated by a centrifugal clutch and gives the buggy a far better top speed than a single geared model, and gives the engine a break from not wringing its own neck, trying to hit top speed with only one gear. Unfortunately, it's only really useable when on a straight, and in the dirt, you really don't reach top speed all that much. I believe the change point *is* adjustable, but at the moment, it suits me fine.
Below is a video of the buggy on the road - you can hear the gear change as it goes past. Agg mentioned from the video it looks like it's running a little rich (slightly too much smoke), so leaning it out a smidge more could wring even more speed from it.
click for 600kb AVI
In addition to the extra speed, the extra traction of the bitumen gave it far superior handling than in the dirt, although hard-turning and braking would put the car into a short slide, with appropriate rubber-shredding noises which made me squeal in terror like a small child.
Unfortunately, not all is wine and roses with the buggy. To be honest, I did give it a good belting. I wasn't stupid, dropping it off high ramps or running it into a brick wall or anything, but I definitely wasn't polite about what I wanted it to do. I think that's pretty typical of how most people would approach these things, though.
During my spirited testing, the engine worked slightly loose on its mounts, which moved its driveshaft cog's teeth slightly out of the teeth of the plastic gears. Unfortunately, when I gave it full throttle, the metal teeth totally chomped the top millimeter of the plastic gearing. Repositioning the engine fixed the problem, but of course, there is now less allowances for the engine to be bumped out of alignment before it chomps teeth or just doesn't engage the gearing at all.
Within 3 days of running in the model, the suspension pretty much completely gave out. Each corner refuses to rebound or give any resistance, which is a real problem when you're trying to keep the buggy's butt out of the dirt. The suspension units can be replaced by aftermarket parts, but I would have expected the stock units to survive longer.
Finally, the buggy is now only front wheel drive. A grub screw from the rear drive shaft collar worked its way out, and even though I got a replacement from my local hobby shop, it still hangs loose, so I suspect something is loose inside. One day, I will investigate further. That issue really isn't a factory fault as such, but it happened very easily, from fairly average-to-rough usage. You can check out ToyRange's Smartech Buggy Forum if you want to get an idea of other people's experiences with this car.
Speaking of factory faults, the build quality isn't super-high, but considering you're paying $360 for the car AND radio gear, it's not too bad. Most of the parts on the car itself do feel solid and chunky and fairly tolerant of some dirt-based abuse, but the radio controller itself is a bit on the cheap and nasty side of things. However, it does work perfectly fine.
This buggy kit, at the end of the day, is a bargain. You're getting a fully-fleged 10:1 nitro powered RC buggy, with radio, disc brake, four wheel drive, and with two gears that altogether, can fling itself along at roughly 80kph. There's a large spare parts market for this model, so broken bits are easily replaced or upgraded to something better and that isn't a bad thing.
I will say that bits did seem to break more readily than I expected, but replacement are cheap and plentiful. Besides, most RC enthusiants are aware that each decent run of your favourite model - be it car, plane or chopper - will cost you something in parts. Nature of the beast, I suspect. As is trying to get the damn thing running, but don't just grab the tuning knob and start twisting, like me.
Overall, lots of fun and quite a bargain.
I give you video of Sciby, flooding the engine yet again. 1.6mb .avi.
A big thank you to Toyrange for providing the review sample. Also, thanks to Dan Yarrow for helping me with photos, starting the car, refueling and generally putting up with my swearing when trying to get the damn thing running at first.