With the r/c scale movement white hot, previously niche manufacturer RC4WD is quickly becoming a household name among hobbyists. Their latest release, the Gelande II Cruiser, channels the spirit of one of the most famous off-roaders in automotive history, the legendary Toyota FJ40. Is the Cruiser a runner or just a looker? Read on to find out.
RTR or Kit: Kit
2wd or 4wd: 4WD
Shaft or Belt: Shaft
Electric or Gas: Electric
Differential: Locked front and rear axles
Slipper Clutch: Yes
Tranny: R3 single speed w/ Hammer transfer case
Shocks: Dual spring oil filled
Servo Saver: None
Screws: Metric Allen head
Spur/Pinion Pitch: 32p
Tires: RC4WD 1.9 Dirt Grabber
Part Number: Z-K0051
Top Speed (measured by BSRC w/ 3S Lipo): 11 mph
Warranty: To be free of defects when new
Street Price: $429
Primary Competition: Axial SCX10, Vaterra Ascender, Gmade Sawback
What’s Needed To Complete: Radio gear, ESC/Motor, battery and a servo.
Test Drivers: Chris aka “Claude Buster”, Easy Ed, Lily the Explorer, and me (Doug).
Test Venues: Castlewood State Park, Bangert Island Park, various neighborhood spots and my cul-de-sac.
Build Quality: It’s a kit, so the ultimate build quality is up to you. The majority of the parts in this kit are metal and the machine work is top notch. Many of the more complex assemblies come pre-built from the factory (axles, transmission, transfer case) which saves on build time. All came nicely lubed and cinched down. Blue threadlock is an absolute must have due to all the metal on metal. The only issue we had during construction was the wheels. The tires did not seat very well onto the 1.9 stamped steel “wagon wheels”. Ultimately with some force they took, but it was a pain.
The body is a kit all by itself. It’s hard plastic and everything needs to be painted and assembled, including a full interior. I used standard Tamiya plastic model paint and the result was fantastic. It’s a Toyota FJ40 come to life on the work bench. The scale layout of the chassis and great looking machine work topped by the finished body make for quite the showpiece.
Set-up Notes: We used the stock 14/64 pinion and spur combo that came with the kit. Electronics are up to the end user. Due to the abundance of snow on the ground we threw in a waterproof Axial AE-5 ESC and used a 27t motor, similar to what most hobbyists purchasing the vehicle will probably use. A Hitec 625MG servo was used as well as a Spektrum SR410 rx. For a battery we used both 2S and 3S.
Turning: The 8 degree steering knuckles combined with the sweet chassis mounted servo (CMS) / panhard setup make the big ‘Yota surprising limber given the locked diffs and hefty weight. Still though, it suffers from massive body roll. You will want to be careful turning sharp at speed on a high bite surface.
Jumping: Um, no. We took the Gelande off a variety of jumps, even so much as going WFO down a staircase. It doesn’t jump, it just falls. Falls result in broken parts. The truck is geared too low with way too much weight (around 7 lbs) to be a jumper, even on 3S.
Bumps/Whoops: The weight and slow speed let the truck travel through rough patches pretty easily. The suspension acts realistically which is fun to watch.
On-Road: This is an off-road truck but we ran it on the street a good amount to see how it would do. A lot of body roll but no traction rolling (mainly thanks to the chassis weight). Still, you’ll want to primarily run this on dirt or grass.
Grass: The G2 will power through heavy grass and leaves (even snow covered fields) with no problem. The locked diffs make easy work of it.
Crawling/Trailing: While we bashed the heck of the truck per our normal testing, we also spent a good deal of time on the trail. This is probably what most owners of this rig are interested in. We are happy to report it’s a very capable scale trail truck as long as it’s driven in a manner like a 1:1. Even though the truck is top heavy due to the body, the heft of the chassis makes it a way better climber than you’d think. You still want to watch going too vertical though as you’ll be tumbling.
As you may surmise from the pics, it was snowy and cold during our testing (thanks midwest winter!) which makes for very tough conditions. The rig performed admirably plowing through deep water, snow mud, and slick rock. This is a fun trail truck and if you are a hardcore scaler you’ll probably dig it. Still, don’t expect performance like a lexan bodied performance scaler.
Tires: The included Dirt Grabber tires work well enough and have good grip, although the tight tread pattern doesn’t like to clean out on it’s own. You need to clean them from time to time to keep your grip up. A popular thought amongst our testers was also that they looked a smidge too small for the body.
Drivetrain: The separate transmission and transfer case looks super trick and works great. The R3 tranny and Hammer transfer case house metal gears that have no problem getting the power down. The Punisher driveshafts are plastic, which sticks out where everything else is metal…but they proved to be surprisingly stout. They are made of a very high quality feeling plastic and even with repeated neutral drops in the cold still had no problem.
Broken Parts: We were really hard on the G2, and as such broke a fair amount of parts. Several screws ripped out of their holes, including one of the 4 link mounts. By the end of testing we also managed to completely shear one of the rear shocks completely in half.
One may think that the hard plastic Cruiser body may be fragile but you’d be wrong. We busted one of the rear view mirrors and repeatedly popped the windshield assembly out, but that was it. We beat the crap out of the truck and the body still looks awesome (just with a few scratches).
Did we say the truck looks good? Everyone who sees the truck remarks how cool it looks, including my wife who could not possibly care less about toy trucks. Hey, when even she says “that looks awesome!” I figure that’s high praise.
If you plan on building one of these you’ll want to make sure you have plenty long motor leads and a servo extension because the electronics tray is located way to the rear of the truck.
Everyone really liked how the vehicle reacted to the terrain realistically. It was a lot of fun and the slower top speeds made it easier for the noob in our group to handle.
The body system is an improvement from the original Gelande 2. It mounts to two bars via 4 screws and you then use 4 body pins. Much quicker than using a screwdriver each time.
The hardtop is removable and you can run the truck topless if you want. This makes it very easy for those who want to tinker with the interior (i.e. use driver figures and scale accessories) as well as just being a cool option for a different look.
Best Mod Under $5: Take the mirrors off if you plan to do any substantial wheeling. They come off very easily.
Best Mod Over $5: A set of upgraded shocks (like RC4WD Kings) to help with body roll and smooth out the ride.
A = Outstanding/Best in Class, B = Above Average, C = Average, D = Below Average, F = Horrific
Time To Bash: C It’s a kit so it takes awhile to build. The actual chassis goes together relatively easily thanks to several prebuilt assemblies, but the body takes a good amount of time to paint and build.
Workability: B The chassis layout is clean and everything is very easy to wrench on.
Car Show Rating: A+ Spectacular. This thing is a major head turner and looks super realistic. Chances are if you’re an old school Toyota fan you’ll have to wipe the drool off your remote as you wheel it. It’s second to none in the scale looks department.
Bash-A-Bility: D If you are using this as a trail truck and therefore take it relatively easy you’ll be fine. If you drive it like you stole it (like we did) you are going to start breaking stuff fast.
Fun Factor: B- All of our drivers had fun with the Cruiser. Even if the performance wasn’t always superb, it was still a good time bombing the scale Toyota around.
Handling: D The truck is very heavy, has lots of body roll and locked diffs. A buggy it’s not.
Value: B There isn’t much to upgrade on this thing as almost everything is metal right out of the box. The body is outrageously detailed. A very good value for the money.
Parts Availability: B- RC4WD stuff is starting to trickle in to major hobby shops across the country and the Gelande 2 platform has a good amount of parts support online.
BigSquid Rating: C+ RC4WD continues their dominance in ultra scale builder’s kits. The truck will probably be the coolest looking at your local trail or bash spot and it’s remarkable how much attention was paid in remaking something that looks and feels like the real thing. Unfortunately the tax you must pay for those good looks are performance and reliability. Hardcore scalers will love it, bashers not so much.