Rustling Some Feathers at 70+MPH!
Traxxas is all about speed and they’ve outfitted their Rustler with some new options to highlight this fact. Take the body – it’s modeled after the Courtney Force Top Fuel Drag Racer, which is fast. They’ve included an uber-powerful Velineon VXL-3S electronics package to it, added 3S LiPo battery capability and tout it can hit speeds of over 70mph – all fast. Then there’s the addition of their TSM system, allowing you to drive it full speed without the fear of unsafe control. For a 2WD Stadum Truck, these are all awesome features that seem too good to be true. Ah, but I’m here to tell you that their claims are in fact valid. Better yet, I’m here to show you. We’re going to break this sizzling Stadium Truck down and tell you about everything it has to offer, then take it for a test drive. Here we go…
Product: Traxxas Rustler VXL Courtney Force Edition
Part #: 37076-3
Recommended For: Beginners to Advanced drivers
The chassis on the Rustler is a molded, fiber-composite monocoque design. A molded battery box runs down the middle that is capable of accepting a 2- or 3S LiPo battery pack and is easily accessible via a small molded battery strap. The chassis adds a separate kickup plate up front and a molded top deck over the servo for added rigidity. On the right side of the chassis is the waterproof receiver box while the waterproof Velineon VXL ESC is securely fastened to a small molded deck just in front of the rear shock tower. This setup is actually quite rigid, allowing the shocks to handle the suspension duties.
Speaking of the suspension, the Rustler VXL uses a tried-and-true 4-wheel independent design damped by 4 oil-filled shocks. These shocks use plastic bodies and pre-load clips to adjust ride height with multiple mounting holes for tuning. Stiff suspension arms are located on all 4 corners and are secured with threaded steel hinge pins (except the front inner pins which use E-clips). Traxxas has used the steel threaded pins for some time now and I have to say, they work really well. Camber and toe are adjusted on the front and rear of the Rustler via 4mm turnbuckles and the front and rear bulkheads are impressively meaty; you’re really going to have to do something really wrong to break these! The shock towers are also thick but because the body mounts are incorporated into them, they are molded from a more pliable material that allows them to flex a bit.
The Rustler uses Traxxas’ efficient Magnum 272 transmission to transfer the massive power to the wheels. Internally, the transmission uses a full set of steel gears, a composite planetary gear diff and shielded bearings to ensure smooth rolling. A Revo-Spec Torque-Control slipper clutch allows an adjustable amount of slip to help protect the plastic spur gear and can be accessed by a plugged hole in the molded gear cover. Telescoping, heavy duty U-joint driveshafts spin the rear axles, also supported by shielded bearings. At the end of all the spinning parts are a pair of press-fit 12mm wheel hexes.
Handling the steering is Traxxas 2075 digital servo. This is a waterproof unit that also puts out a whopping 125oz/in of torque! A dual-bellcrank steering set up is utilized that is bearing-equipped for extremely smooth operation. A servo saver is used in the steering, but not in the bellcrank system; instead, Traxxas has incorporated one into the servo steering arm. Is this better? I really don’t think it matters, but if you’re hard on your vehicles, replacing a faulty (or worn out) servo saver is much easier to do when it’s mounted to the servo.
From the bellcranks, 4mm turnbuckles extend out to the molded steering arms and use shielded bearings to ensure smooth operation. All of the links use long-threaded screws with nyloc nuts so nothing comes loose while you’re out bashing around. Nice touch.
Traxxas has included their Velineon VXL-3S ESC and Velineon 3500kV brushless motor. This is an extremely versatile brushless system that is suitable for both beginners and advanced drivers. It features three programmable drive profiles; Sport Mode, using Forward, Brake and Reverse; Race Mode, using Forward and Brake only; and Training Mode, using Forward, Brake and Reverse but with only 50% power available.
The Training Mode is perfect for the first timer, letting them learn the basics of driving at a slow, controlled pace. Once they’re comfortable with their driving abilities, the VXL-3S can be switched to Sport or Race Modes, allowing faster speeds. It’s really a brilliant idea that I totally commend Traxxas for doing.
More versatility – the Velineon VXL-3S is also capable of handling NiMh (6-7 cell) or LiPo (2-3S) batteries. Each step is a pretty hefty speed increase; 6-cell NiMh on the stock gearing – 35+mph. Switch the optional 28T pinion (included) and a 7-cell NiMh, you’re looking at 45+mph. Move up to a 31/76 gearing (sold separately) and 3S 4000+mAh LiPo, the Rustler is capable of hitting 65+mph and, finally, using the 31/76 gearing and a 3S 8000+mAh LiPo and you’ve transformed the Rustler into a 70+mph land rocket. Mind you, we haven’t changed a thing other than the gearing and a battery!
The Velineon 3500kV brushless motor is also quite a workhorse. It’s a sensorless motor which means, well, it’s a bit complicated, but in short it uses a different method to apply power to the motor than a sensored design. The sensorless design is a bit less torquey, using a ramp-up method of applying power. Now, that doesn’t mean it’s any less effective or creates less power, it just means that the initial torque is numbed a bit. That’s fine by me – this is a 2WD ST and 70+mph is 70+mph no matter how it gets there!
Body, Wheels and Tires
The body of the Ruster is the same as it’s always been; a nice Stadium Truck design that protects all the underpinnings from damage. It does, however, feature a killer new paint scheme from ProGraphix modeled after the Traxxas-sponsored funny car driven by Courtney Force. It’s quite colorful and looks awesome shining in the sun, but Traxxas didn’t stop there. They also equipped the CF Rustler with a set of black-chrome 2.8″ All-Star wheels wrapped in Alias rubber (ribbed front, step-pin rears). The tire compound is a bit hard which is perfect for longevity. With that hardness though, you’d think that traction would be limited. Well, you’d be wrong. This thing has so much grip (thanks in part to the TSM) that wheelies on almost ANY surface are easy to do.
Traxxas Stability Management
Speaking of the TSM, we certainly can’t write a review without mentioning the awesomeness that is Traxxas’ Stability Management. This control system is wrapped into the TQi 5-channel micro reciever and is constantly assessing the movements of your vehicle. If it senses the Rustler getting out of shape, it auto-corrects the steering of the vehicle to keep it in a straight line. This allows you to keep the power on harder in looser conditions and keep the car straight as an arrow. It’s also adjustable by rotating the TSM (or Multifunction) knob on the TQi radio. More TSM, more stability while driving; less TSM, more fishtailing – better for drifting or sliding the Rustler around. It’s actually quite useful, especially in this 2WD truck, and allows alot more fun in the dirt when driving with modified gearing and a 3S LiPo!
The TQi 5-channel reciever also has additional telemetry ports, but we’ll touch on those in another article (coming soon).
Real world testing is the only way to go, so we’re going big right off the bat with a 31/76 gear upgrade, 3S LiPo battery and the VXL ESC set to Sport Mode (I like reverse). We’ll be wearing out some tires on both pavement (in a parking lot across the street from my house) and a dirt area with, of course, the TSM turned up a bit (70+mph is scary enough on asphalt!). Let’s get this show on the road!
Speed and Braking
Speed. Wow. I could just end this right here with that, but let me just tell you that this is a FAST truck. At low speed it’s very controllable, slow inputs allow easy driving. I rolled around a bit, occasionally blipping the throttle to produce some awesome bursts of power and instant wheelies. When it came time for a full-speed ‘fly-by’, I drove to the other side of the parking lot, slowly rolled into the throttle and got the Rustler going before I pinned full throttle. The time it takes to get from kinda fast to scary fast is insane, and it’s went blowing by me in the blink of an eye. Once you’ve hit that high-speed mark, there’s nothing more you want to do but to do it again. And again. And again. Yes, it’s only a straight line pass, I get it, but there’s something about going Traxxas fast in a straight line that’s so addicting. I do have a suggestion, though, and that’s to follow my lead and roll into the power. Mashing the throttle will only result in raging wheelies and you running over to your ride to turn it back over.
The brakes on the Rustler are pretty strong, but unfortunately that kind of gets you in trouble. In an AWD (4WD) car, big brakes are ok since all 4 tires are used to haul the vehicle down from a stop. In a RWD (2WD) vehicle (like the Rustler), big brakes can cause the truck to fishtail violently and spin all over. Oh, but wait, we have TSM, so this really isn’t and issue. Since I had the TSM turned down a bit, slamming on the brakes did cause the truck to wiggle a little bit but still kept it in a straight line. I like the TSM for forward movement, but LOVE the TSM under braking.
Steering and Handling
The steering on the Rustler is great at times and the inclusion of the 2075 servo is fantastic, but it’s actually two-fold; on asphalt, any time the weight of the truck has shifted forward (off-power or lower speeds), it’s carves a great corner. At higher speeds (or on-power), the ribbed front tires just don’t have enough tread to gain any traction. It does turn, but you can expect a much wider arc, so take that into consideration when you’re out having fun in a tighter space. I tried turning the TSM down a bit and that helped, but you lose the stability in the rear. On dirt, it’s a bit of the same deal but the surface irregularities help out a bit so the turning radius does improve. The best suggestion I have is if you want to make a tighter turning radius, slow down a bit.
Traxxas has done a superb job at optimizing the suspension for both onroad and offroad use. It’s quite stable on the asphalt, having some lean while cornering but never to the point where it feels like it’s going to flip over. As I mentioned before, it’s quite the wheelie-machine so some throttle management will be required if you want to keep it on all fours. In the dirt is where the Rustler’s handling excels, the large, oil-filled shocks keep the Rustler calm and balanced over most terrain. Through trails and passes, sandy areas and dirt roads, the Rustler is simply a bullet and leaves an awesome dirt plume behind it. In rougher areas, you’ll need to slow down a bit; the suspension is excellent but the lower stance can cause some bucking that could end in a pretty spectacular crash. Been there, done that; and I have video to prove it.
Durability and Maintenance
Traxxas has had a lot of experience with their VXL-powered cars and, in doing so, have made many changes to their vehicles to beef up the durability. After a couple battery packs on both the asphalt and dirt, I’m happy to inform that there were no broken parts. Now, I do have to admit that the top of this poor Rustler is a bit skinned up – it’s hard to keep the front end down when running full power – so that’s a bit of a bummer. I do suggest getting one of Traxxas’ wheelie bar kits to help prevent constant backflips. Other than that, it’s built like a brick and should survive some good crashes unless, of course, the crash involves a tree, curb or parked car. I can’t confirm that it will survive that.
As far as maintenance, there’s not much needed here either. A quick cleaning and inspection after my runs showed very little wear (other than the tires). There was a little build-up of dirt on the shock shafts but that’s easily cleaned up. The blue-shielded bearings looked great and there was no debris behind the gear cover.
While the Rustler isn’t designed as a top-level race truck, it does have some tuning available if you feel the need to tinker. Up front, you have access to camber, toe, shock mounting locations and optional springs (available separately). Out back, camber is also adjustable as is shock mounting locations, spring rates (available separately) and roll center. Popular wheel and tires combos can also be added for more traction, but note that softer compounds will likely shred pretty quick with the amount of power this truck has!
If you’re unsure of what each tuning option does, you can check out the CompetitionX Suspension Tuning Guide.
• Everything is included!
Power Source: Electric
Length: 17.5″ (445mm)
Width: 12.25″ (311mm)
Height: 7″ (178mm)
Weight: 59.6oz (1.69kg)
Material: Composite Nylon
Type: 4-wheel independent
Camber: Adjustable turnbuckles
Shocks: Coil-over, plastic body, pre-load clips
Steering: Dual bellcrank
Turnbuckles: Adjustable turnbuckles
Transmission: Single speed
Clutch: Revo-Spec Torque-Control Slipper Clutch
Differentials: Planetary gear differential
Bearings: Full rubber-sealed bearings
Gearing: 48P gears
Body: Stadium Truck Lexan body
Wheels: Black Chrome All-Stars
Wheel hex: 12mm hex
Tires: (F) Pre-glued Alias Ribbed, (R) Pre-glued Alias Step-Pin
• EVERYTHING is included
• New Courtney Force paint scheme looks great
• VXL Training Mode is perfect for beginners
• VXL Sport/Race modes allow ludicrous speeds on 3S
• TSM (Traxxas Stability Management) works flawlessly
• Waterproof electronics
• Kudos for durability
• Can add Traxxas’ telemetry system
• Includes an optional pinion gear to boost top speeds
• Be careful with full-throttle; you’ll end up on your lid very quickly
If you’re looking for a fast Stadium Truck, there’s no denying that the Traxxas Rustler should be on your list. This ST has proven to be an absolute terror with it’s brutally fast Velineon VXL brushless system and a 3S LiPo battery. The addition of the TSM system makes this truck truly easy to drive at higher speeds, and certainly adds another reason to pick one up. The Courtney Force body and black-chrome wheels work well together as well, finishing off a fantastic product.
Features – 8.6
Appearance – 9
Performance – Speed & Braking – 10
Performance – Steering and Handling – 8.8
Performance – Durability and Maintenance – 9.6
Performance – Tuning – 7.9
Overall Value – 10