Without doubt, the most highly touted and anticipated car of 2016 is the ARRMA Nero monster truck. A series of teasers about its new “rc brain/smart diff” kept the rc world wondering just how radical the latest vehicle from ARRMA was going to be. Once announced, the Nero did not disappoint, it was pure radical from nose to tail. The Nero not only has the esoteric smart diffs, but it sports laydown shocks, a big burly brushless system, and was designed to go big or go home. So the question remains, does the Nero live up to all the hype? Is it the best 1/8 scale monster truck that money can buy? Read on to find out what we thought of the ARRMA Nero…
Review By: Cubby
Photography By: Tim Mohr
RTR or Kit: RTR
2wd or 4wd: 4wd
Shaft or Belt: Shaft
Electric or Gas: Electric
Weight: 13lbs 4oz
Motor: ARRMA BLX4075 2000kV 4-pole brushless
Speed Controller: ARRMA BLX200 150 amp 6S capable
Low Voltage Cut-off: Yes
Radio: Tactic TTX300 2.4GHz 3-channel w/ diff lock control system
Differential: 3 remote locking gear diffs
Slipper Clutch: Yes
Driveshafts: Steel slider CVD
Shocks: Threaded metal bodies, plastic caps, oil filled
Servo Saver: Large spring loaded
Screws: Metric, hex head
Spur/Pinion Pitch: Mod1
Tires: dBoots Sand Scorpion MT
Battery: Not included
Part Number: #AR106011
Warranty: 2 year limited
Front wheel travel: 2.75″
Rear wheel travel: 2.7″
Wheelie on demand: Yes
Backflip off ramps: Yes
Stability Control: No
Sound Module: No
Locking Diffs: Yes
Top Speed (measured by BSRC): 54 mph
Runtime (measured by BSRC): 16 minutes
Street Price: $799
Primary Competition: Oh boy, there is some serious competition in this class. You’ve got epic machines like the Traxxas E-Revo, Losi LST XXL2-E, HPI Savage Flux, Thunder Tiger Kaiser, ARRMA Kraton, and the Team Redcat MT8E.
What’s Needed To Complete: To get the Nero up and running you will need four AA cells for the transmitter, a pair of 2 or 3S LiPo batteries with XT90 connectors, and a battery charger.
Build Quality: We carefully eyeballed the Nero to inspect just how well it had been assembled. We found no issues. The shocks seemed well filled and were not leaking, the gear mesh was spot on, the tires were well glued, and we didn’t find any stripped or loose screws.
Test Drivers: Robby G, Iron Mike, T-$$$, Tim Brown, and yours truly.
Set-up Notes: Like nearly every review, we ran the Nero bone stock to see exactly how it performed out of the box. We did enlist a pair of Duratrax XT90 equipped 3S Onyx 5400 LiPos to supply the juice and used a TrakPower VR-1 to handle the charging duties.
Turning: Whewwww… about time we got to the actual driving part of this review. How did the Nero turn? It cornered well. It doesn’t have the sloppy/lean-way-too-much feel of some of the other monster trucks in its class. Yes, we could get it to traction roll in grass and on pavement, but for an 8th scale monster truck it stayed relatively flat, and did not roll on its lid as much as most of the other trucks in its class. While the Nero didn’t have the raw corner speed of its cousin the ARRMA Kraton, when you entered a typical corner on loose dirt, the front tires generally stuck where you aimed them. The rear end seemed fairly well planted in corners as well, it didn’t break away unexpected. Overall, with all 3 diffs unlocked, the Nero is one of the easiest to corner trucks in its category.
Jumping: Oh yes, the ARRMA Nero certainly loves airtime. Big tires, big suspension, big power, the Nero just begs to reach for the sky, so that’s where we spent most of our time with it. Take offs were easy with the Nero as it liked to ignore rain ruts and bumps on jump faces. In the air (with all diffs unlocked) it was easy to give it a little gas to raise the nose or tap the brake to lower it. The Nero generally liked to jump flat and when it didn’t, it was easy to correct in the air. Landings were well soaked up by its suspension, even huge sky shots. The progression on the compression damping seemed to work well for small 1-3′ high jumps, but also seemed to work well for the gnarly 10 plus foot landings. We have no complaints about how the Nero jumped, in fact it just might be the best jumping truck in its class.
Bumps/Whoops: The Nero also excelled at driving over rough ground at warp speeds. Those big tires and its long travel suspension soaked up all sorts of ugly without the truck getting too far out of shape. The only flaw we saw was when hitting square edge kickers at speed. Slightly stiff damping on the rear shocks would sometimes cause the Nero to kick upwards, but not as radically as it would on most other trucks.
On-Road: Yes, the Nero is 100% designed for off-road use, but we know that consumers will inevitably spend a lot of on-road time with it. We didn’t have any major complaints when running the Nero on-road. In fact, we had a LOT of fun with it. Its massive power made it a blast to pull wheelies and to generally terrorize a local parking lot. Yes, it would traction roll when cornered at speed or when catching a crack mid-corner, but if you plan on hitting pavement once in a while, the Nero does a solid job.
Grass: The Nero was an absolute beast in grass, especially when all three diffs were locked. Once again, its large size and big power pull it through grass with ease. The Nero is best in class here, it was able to chew through some amazingly tall grass for its size. On grass 3″ tall it just sort of got on top and hauled butt, it took grass in the 5″ range to really start slowing it down.
Tires: The stock tires don’t really excel anywhere, but work in a reasonable manner just about everywhere. They aren’t particularly soft, an attribute that helps them maintain long life, and their tread pattern seems to work best in light loamy soil.
Power: Oh yes, the Nero has a lot of power under the hood, even more so than the old Kraton/Typhon/Senton/Talion. The Nero has an all new ESC and motor combo that really steps up the power. We noticed that the Nero had a lot more torque all along the power range than previous 1/8 vehicles from ARRMA (which were already very quick). It was easy for the Nero to pull a wheelie at nearly any speed while being driven on 6S. Power off the bottom was authoritative, it ripped hard through the mid-range, and had enough top speed to make the tires complete pizza cutters. If you are looking for “big power”, the Nero has plenty of it.
Radio: One of the changes that ARRMA has made for 2016 is including a Tactic radio in their products. The Nero comes with a special edition of the TTX330, one that has a knob just in front of the steering wheel to operating the remote locking diffs. The Tactic provided a ton of range and we never experienced a glitch with it. The simple smart diff knob was easy to operate and the ergonomics seemed to work well for a number of different hand sizes.
Broken Parts: Our ARRMA Nero received a VERY ugly beating. ARRMA has built up quite a reputation in the bashing market, so we wanted to see if the Nero lived up, hence the reason we drove it like we stole it. Then, it refused to break, so we had to up the stupid factor. Our test truck proved to be very durable, but we did finally manage to break a couple of parts. We ended up breaking one of the rod-ends on a front push-rod that goes to the rocker on the suspension, and we broke a rod end on one of the rear shock shafts. Both are easily and cheaply fixed, we were very impressed with the durability of the Nero.
So what’s the scoop on those Smart Diffs? The smart diffs simply give the Nero much more versatility. For example, the ARRMA Kraton uses 3 open diffs, this helps it corner and jump like a champ. The Traxxas E-Revo has a solid center diff, helping it wheelie, backflip, and get through rough sections easier. With the Nero, you can have the best of both worlds, or really, even better than both because you can also lock the front and rear diffs in addition to the center. Locking all the diffs on the Nero was easily done via the Tactic transmitter and allowed it to do things no other truck in its class can do. With all three diffs locked it become a great hill climber. It also become a fantastic mud slinging beast. It also plowed around on sand like no other truck in its class could do. It also became a really fun rock climber and trail rig. Or, you can just lock the center diff to make it easier to pull wheelies and do backflips, or you can lock the center and rear diff for even more off-road capability. Instead of having a certain style of monster truck, the Nero can have the best of both worlds. To boil it down, the ability to remote lock the diffs came in very handy, if you do a wide variety of different driving, the Nero is hands down the truck to have.
Btw, if you are wondering what driving the Nero was like with all 3 diffs locked on pavement or on a track, this is the scoop- it didn’t turn very well. The front pushes while the rear wants to snap around, so the Nero is much easier to drive with the diffs unlocked on high grip surfaces.
The Nero is also unique in the fact that you can run it with the body, or without. The plastic top structure has a tough/Mad-Max look that is sort of a “thing” right now.
The Nero runs pillow balls in the front AND rear. We are not fans of pillow ball suspension, but had no issues with those on the Nero.
Tired of breaking shock towers? If so, the Nero is the truck for you. Thanks to its laydown suspension, the Nero simply doesn’t have any.
As mentioned above, the Nero is a wheelie monster. However, it doesn’t have a wheelie bar, therefore it tends to flip over on its lid when you give it too much trigger. Expect the aftermarket to fix this REAL soon.
There is a body clip/body retention war going on. The Pro-Line secure-loc caps rock, but Traxxas one-upped everybody with the single body lock on the X-Maxx. The Nero comes with standard body clips, but they have retainers so you won’t be losing one any time soon.
The bumpers on the Nero are made from REALLY flexible plastic. They do a good job of soaking up hits.
Now, about those XT90 connectors. The XT90s are a good quality connector, but they haven’t caught on yet. The Nero comes with XT90 connectors pre-soldered on the ESC and a couple of spares in the box. Plan on either converting to them, or away from them, if you pick up a new 1/8th ARRMA product.
The upper shock mounts on the Nero have extra holes for some degree of adjustment on the suspension.
While many trucks have low quality driveshafts, we found the metal slider CVDs to work quite well on the Nero.
Out of the box, the Nero comes with an “on-road” skid-plate/chassis bottom. This is a plastic piece that has large air scoops that funnel air from under the truck to the motor. We ditched it before we even ran the truck and installed the “off-road” chassis bottom that comes in the box. The “off-road” version doesn’t have the large scoops, just some simple vents.
Ok, about those cool battery trays. The battery trays on the Nero are also an innovative new design. You push a button on the side of the truck that allows the battery tray door to open. We found that sand can keep them for from working properly and that landing from tall heights can cause the battery doors to open by themselves. No, we are not fans of this design.
Because of the chassis layout the center diff is significantly off-axis with the center of the truck. This didn’t create any problems for the center driveshafts in our test truck, but might over time.
The twin vertical plate chassis on the Nero is ultra stiff. We didn’t have any issues with our test unit. It didn’t bend or get tweaked, even after some serious abuse.
The Nero is geared fairly tall out of the box, but we didn’t have any heat issues with the electronics until we started driving in tall grass.
As always, we were super impressed with the stock ARRMA servo. Huge props to ARRMA for including perhaps the best RTR servo on the planet in the Nero. It has enough power to easily swing the tires to full lock at a dead stop with enough speed that it feels natural to drive.
Best Mod: This is a mod that doesn’t exist yet, but the first thing we want to put on our Nero is a good wheelie bar.
A = Outstanding/Best in Class, B = Above Average, C = Average, D = Below Average, F = Horrific
Time To Bash: B We found the Nero very easy to get up and running. Hit the buttons on the battery trays, install some charged up packs, then bash.
Workability: C While the twin spar chassis is beastly tough, it does take a few more screws to wrench on than a traditional layout.
Car Show Rating: B The livery on the body is bright and bold, the wheels/tires look good, and the underbody looks good enough to run by itself.
Bash-A-Bility: B Our poor Nero suffered one of the worst beatings we’ve ever put a truck through with very few broken parts to show for it.
Fun Factor: A Because of its remote lockable smart diffs, the Nero gives you the best overall monster truck bashing experience that money can buy.
Handling: A From an overall perspective, we think the Nero is the best handling truck in its class. There just isn’t another truck in its class that can go through mud like it can, get around a track in quick order, trail drive/rock crawl, or simply backyard bash like the Nero can.
Value: B While its $799 price point is not cheap, the Nero comes with cutting edge tech and loads of power.
Parts Availability: C While more and more hobby shops are stocking ARRMA parts, we still don’t see them in as many shops as Traxxas. The good news is that if you buy a new Nero spare parts already readily available on-line.
BigSquid Rating: B+ The Nero can simply go places and do things that no other stock 1/8th scale monster truck can. You can turn a knob on the remote, lock all the diffs, and absolutely fly over soft sand sections. Or you can lock them and dive into a deep mud pit that would leave a normal 1/8 monster truck stuck. Or you can unlock all the diffs and haul butt around a local track or parking lot. The Nero is an extremely versatile monster truck the likes that we’ve never seen in the hobby before. Yes, the BigSquidRC Bash Crew had a great time with the Nero and can highly recommend one to you.