Large-scale RC cars have been slowly growing in popularity over the past couple years. With events like Bajafest, Dunetoberfest, and 5th Scale Power Jam, there are plenty of places for you to race the vehicle you once thought was a big gas-powered toy. And, with the massive 5th scale aftermarket support, it’s not unusual to see $2000+, highly-modified racers and bashers! But the one thing that has been missing in this niche of the industry is an affordable 4wd vehicle. That wait is over. CEN has stepped up to the plate with the Matrix 5-B, a high-powered, definitely affordable 4WD buggy! For this test session, I made my way over to Milestone RC (Home of the 2008 Baja Nationals) and met up with Andrew Smolnik (CEN Product Development), Chris Lee (CEN Head Technician) and Rodney Roberts II (CEN Account Executive) to throw down some hot laps and see if the 5-B could deliver. After a quick overview, we fueled up the buggies and headed for the track.
AT A GLANCE
WHO MAKES IT: CEN
WHO IT’S FOR: Everyone
HOW FAST: 39mph
PART NO.: 5002
HOW MUCH: $849
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
• The high-output 30cc 2-stroke engine runs on a pump-gas/2-stroke oil mixture. Just mix up your fuel, pour it in and go! Easy to tune and maintain, these monster motors also have quite a bit of aftermarket support, making it easy to bolt on some additional power. I would suggest a high-flow air filter and pipe right away!
• The drive train is similar to an 1/8th scale car. Durable gear differentials are packed away in the beefy front and rear bulkheads. While the center is equipped with a hardened transfer gear, Andy mentioned that they will be releasing a fluid-filled center differential as an option part.
• The Matrix 5-B comes equipped with big-bore threaded aluminum dampers on all four corners. This makes adjusting ride height a snap, something I found very useful during our test session. The stock springs worked well on the test track, and Andy informed me that they will be releasing option springs to fine tune the buggy to different track conditions.
• The chassis is a stout, 4mm T6 aluminum plate that is braced front-to-rear by an aluminum roll cage. The cage is designed with quick-disconnect ‘legs’ so you can swivel it out of the way for easy access to the radio box or engine. This was one of my favorite features about this car.
• While the 650cc fuel tank will keep you going for close to an hour, the design of it is what caught my attention. If you look closely…oh, yes, you see it now? Uh, yes, that is the driveshaft going THROUGH it. Interesting design to maximize the amount of fuel you can carry onboard.
• To get the correct gear ratio, the Matrix 5-B uses a 4-step gear reduction system that is visible from the right side of the car. It is covered with a heavy-duty clear lexan cap. The gears are made out of a lightweight composite that held up well to some brutal beating at the track.
• The 8” tall, all-terrain tires are pre-mounted to the fluorescent spoked wheels from the factory. While they provided decent traction on the track, they worked great while on an impromptu bash session in a local field! Dirt, grass, sand and even mud, the knobbies held up well with very little signs of wear.
• The Matrix 5-B includes the Skyion DX-Pro Digital Radio System. This FM transmitter features a LCD display, digital adjustments, 10 model memory, dual rate… you name it, its got it!
WHAT WE LIKED
• Powerful 30cc engine
• Full ball-bearings
• Fully adjustable suspension with heavy-duty plastic parts
• All-terrain tires have pretty good traction
• Quick-release body-cage mounts
• I kinda dig the green anodizing!
WHAT COULD BE IMPROVED
• Stock filter and pipe seem restrictive
• It’s a lot of work to get the body off for refueling and repairs
• Diff fluid should be thicker
NEEDED TO COMPLETE
• Charger, fuel, AAAs
Test Venue: Milestone RC, Riverside, CA
Conditions: Outdoor 1/5 track with bumps, ruts and big jumps!
The Matrix 5-B has controllable steering at low speeds, but pick up the pace a bit, and you have to concentrate a little more to keep the car composed. The front and rear diffs have a really light oil. I think this, in combination with the tall, soft nubs on the tires, prevented the 5-B from really getting a good grip on the dusty surface. Slap on a set of race tires and put a slightly heavier oil in the diffs, and that should settle the steering down.
Combine a dual-disc braking system with a high-torque metal-gear servo, 4WD and soft knobby tires, and you have definite braking action. On dirt, gravel and any other “slippery” surface, the brakes work exceptionally well. On asphalt … well, let’s just say that slamming the brakes while doing high-speed passes could tear up parts of your street!
Again, the 4WD and soft knobby tires excel here. Coming out of corners or accelerating down the straight, the 4WD system allows you to really get into the meat of the large 30cc engine’s powerband. The 5-B I was driving also had an optional pipe and header. This not only altered the car’s sound, but it also added a little more speed on the top end. Gearing seemed spot-on for the size of the track. CEN will release optional pinion gears to tune for larger and smaller tracks.
The Matrix 5-B has many adjustments that racers and hardcore bashers might want. Caster, camber, ride height, toe angles, shock position; there are enough tuning options to keep you busy for some time. In stock form, the suspension soaked up the bumps and the 5-B flew straight and level off some of the bigger ones. The landings, on the other hand, were a bit bouncy for my taste. A slightly heavier oil in the shocks should cure that.
You’d think that a couple of 33-pound cars would create carnage—right? Well, I’m happy to say that they are still in one piece! There was a pretty major crash when Andy and I hit going over a large jump. After the 66 pounds of machinery had stopped tumbling (which I thought would send both to the parts bin), we drove them over to the pits to give them a quick look. Closer inspection showed that I had a broken wing mount and Andy’s car had a broken front bumper—nothing that would prevent us from continuing to run. I’m pretty confident that this car could run an hour-long Main or a few tanks in the wilderness with only a few spare parts on hand.
If you like the idea of a big gas car but the buggy doesn’t do it for you, CEN Racing offers up a stadium and monster version of the 1/5 Matrix Chassis. Either one is priced within $50 of the 5-B.
• Camber (F/R)—adjust length
• Toe (F/R)—adjust length
• Shock springs—standard or optional
• Shock locations—standard or optional springs
• Shock oil—use a variety of viscosities
• Bump-steer—add or subtract shims under the steering ball stud
• Optional pinions
THE LAST WORD
It was only a matter of time before someone appeared on the radar with a good, large-scale 4WD buggy. With features such as a digital radio, fully adjustable suspension and great parts support, CEN shows that they’re not just looking to release a great 4WD basher-buggy, but they also want to create a 4WD racing class. If you’re a truck kinda guy, CEN has also added the Matrix 5-T and Matrix 5-MT to its lineup. All three are based on the same platform with only minor differences. So no matter which version you choose—buggy, truck or monster truck—CEN has a 4WD vehicle for you—and at an affordable price.
Milestone RC, www.milestone-rc.com