The HPI Venture Toyota FJ Cruiser is finally here. Was it worth the wait? Let’s cut to the chase and find out.
Review By: Doug Welker
Photography By: Doug Welker
RTR or Kit: RTR
2wd or 4wd: 4wd
Shaft or Belt: Shaft
Electric or Gas: Electric
Length: 20.7″ (527mm)
Width: 9″ (227mm)
Height: 9.4″ (238mm) with roof rack, 8.5″ (217mm) without
Wheelbase: 12.3″ (311mm)
Running Weight: 5.3lbs
Weight without Body: 4.7lbs
Ground Clearance 2.7″ (68mm)
Axle Ground Clearance: 1.3″ (32mm)
Drivetrain Ratio: 7.6:1
Transmission Gearing: 1.53:1
Axle Gearing: 3.31:1
Transfer Case Gearing: 1.5:1
Motor: 540 size 35t brushed
Speed Controller: HPI waterproof SC-3sWP2 Crawler Edition
Low Voltage Cut-off: Yes
Radio: HPI TF-40 2.4GHz 3-channel system
Shocks: Oil-filled, aluminum body, dual stage springs
Servo Saver: Yes
Tires: 1.9″ Rockthorn
Battery: 2000 mah NIMH
Part Number: 116558
Warranty: “Two year limited beginning at date of purchase.”
Front wheel travel (vertical only, axles level): 1.1″
Rear wheel travel (vertical only, axles level): 1.1″
Wheelie on demand: On 3S you can go from full reverse into a forward wheelie.
Backflip off ramps: No
Stability Control: No
Sound Module: No
Top Speed: 5 mph on 2S
Runtime (measured by BSRC): Longer than we care to measure. It’s a brushed scale crawler. It’ll go foreeeeever.
Street Price: $399
Set-up Notes: As an FYI we were sent a pre-production kit that, for customs purposes, was sent without a 2000 mah NIMH battery as well as 4 AA’s for the transmitter. The retail version will include these. For a battery we used several different 2S and 3S packs. Duratrax Onyx for charging.
Primary Competition: The FJ enters the scene at a time when competition is at an all-time high. The Axial SCX10.2, Traxxas TRX4, Redcat Everest, Vaterra Ascender, various RC4WD trucks…yeah, this is a crowded category!
What’s Needed To Complete: As noted above, we needed a battery, a charger and AA’s. All of these will be included in the retail kit, though. The ESC comes with a Tamiya connector, so if you plan to run a different style you’ll need an adapter or plugs to solder.
Build Quality: Very nice. Everything was tight and meshed properly right out of the box in our test unit.
Test Drivers: Claude Buster, T-Money, several employees at Mark Twain Hobby and myself.
Test Venues: Quail Ridge Park and Trigger King R/C Arena in Wentzville, MO, Bangert Island State Park and Mark Twain Hobby Center’s comp crawling course in St. Charles, MO. Also, various neighborhood crawl spots.
Turning: The zero Ackerman knuckles provide turning as good as anything else you’ll find in this class of vehicle. It also features a very solid chassis-mounted steering (CMS) / panhard bar setup with behind-the-axle steering. The only thing holding it back is the relatively weak servo.
Jumping: For a scaler, this thing actually jumped very well! We did some tough truck style driving on a competition monster truck course with it and it handled remarkably well. Now granted, the speed is quite low, but still. This can be attributed no doubt to the excellent shocks. We were seriously impressed with how these aluminum bodied dampers performed.
Bumps/Whoops: See above. When the going gets bumpy on the trail, the Venture excels. Many scalers have relatively stiff suspensions that cause the truck to hop in the air when running over roots, craggy or otherwise rough trail sections, but not the FJ. The buttery smooth shocks let it keep truckin’ without the vehicle attitude changing much.
On-Road: Eh, this is a traditional scaler and as such they aren’t for parking lot bashing. The truck handles very well for the class it’s in, though.
Grass: The Venture was tested in a freshly rained-in drain gully with thick, spongy grass and it had zero problems with it. Our testers shoes, well, those were another story. Seriously though, the FJ chews up the green stuff and was very impressive in this environment.
Trail Driving: This is a serious trail truck, right out of the box. The suspension soaks up the normal stuff you’ll find on your average hiking trail with ease and the excellent steering geometry, weight distribution and good tires will eat up most of the other stuff you’ll find. Being waterproof really helps this as well, as you can tackle creeks and/or muddy terrain without worrying about smoking anything.
Rock Crawling: The superlatives listed above for trailing apply here as well to make for a great crawler, for the most part at least. The geometry is great, allowing it to make some gnarly lines with no tuning needed. The biggest knock against it is the servo. It doesn’t have a lot of power and therefore is the weak link on the rocks. It also likes to get hot. The included plastic suspension links also like to get a tad bendy under heavy stress. The top 3 link bar in the front is metal, which solidifies that end nicely, so really it’s just an issue for the rear. We think that with metal links and a high end steering servo added, the FJ would be a monster on the rocks.
Tires: The 1.9″ Rockthorn tires are very nice. The compound is soft and grippy and the foams are firm but reactive. The chunky tread pattern allows for the lugs to move around slightly for better grip and they clean out very well. They aren’t quite at the level of the high end aftermarket stuff, but they are good tires, particularly for a RTR. Even though they aren’t licensed replicas, we thought they looked very good and suited the overall cosmetics of the rig. We like them.
Power: The included 35t brushed motor, combined with the low gearing, doesn’t provide a lot of wheel speed but it is torquey. The truck is truly waterproof as well, which is a big plus. The drag brake leaves a lot to be desired though. The ESC includes modes for 80%, 100% or no brake at all. We ran it mainly on 100% and while it does work to help slow descents, it would normally not totally hold the vehicle.
Radio: The included 3 channel HPI TF-40 2.4GHz remote does the job just fine. It’s a decent RTR style radio with good ergonomics. The RX is waterproof, which is a good thing.
Broken Parts: The Venture proved to be a very tough vehicle, as we didn’t break anything during testing. The steering servo did get awful warm in heavy crawling conditions, though.
We love, love, love the entire drivetrain on this truck. The forward mounted motor is mated to a small gearcase that resembles a bell housing. That’s connected to a steel driveshaft that mates with a small central mounted transfer case. It’s durable, puts the weight where it needs to be and looks trick as hell.
All the mechanics up front mean the battery is mounted in the rear. This is typically not a good thing, but it works on the Venture because all of the heft is at the extreme front end of the vehicle. The battery helps balance it out. Still, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the aftermarket figure out a way to get it mounted further forward. If that happens, this thing would be the ultimate Billy Goat.
Speaking of the battery tray, the size is fine. The included battery brace doesn’t play well with all types of batteries though. It’s a minor thing but just know depending on what pack you use, you may need to use velco straps or a ziptie.
We’ve already discussed it before but man, those shocks are suh-weet! Ours had almost perfect action and the oil weight was spot on. We’ve been driving A LOT of different scalers lately, some with notably good suspensions, and this still stuck out. Tim, our resident pro-racer, was particularly enamored with them. He’s a grizzled vet, so when he’s impressed, you know it’s good.
The frame and overall construction of the FJ are solid as a rock. It’s also very elegant in it’s mechanical simplicity. This is a no BS rig and if you are looking for a solid platform to mod, as long as the parts support is there, the bones of this truck are VERY solid.
HPI has done a nice job on giving the vehicle a hard body look by way of a lexan shell with several details. The plastic roof rack and mirrors are durable and really enhance the look. We also really dug the gunmetal color.
The front bumper handles rock faces very well and wants to glide over them moreso than just hang up. The back bumper is fairly big but it also rarely causes any snagging.
Best Mod: Upgrading the steering servo would really let this thing shine on the rocks.
A = Outstanding/Best in Class, B = Above Average, C = Average, D = Below Average, F = Horrific
Time To Bash: C We had no issues getting the truck set-up and running, save for the included Tamiya connector did require an adapter to run our Traxxas/Deans style batteries.
Workability: B Nice hardware and a very simple layout make it easy to wrench on. Most of the internals are just a few screws away for ease of access.
Car Show Rating: A All of our testers think the FJ is as about as sharp as a RTR scale crawler can be. The nicely painted lexan shell with plastic mirrors and roof rack combine nicely with the bumpers and tires to look very authentic to a 1:1. Very slick looking.
Bash-A-Bility: A The Venture FJ is a tank. The vehicle features a stout, mechanically simple design that has proven to hold together very well. The included driveshafts, a very important part of every crawler, are very strong. It’s also not a very heavy truck, which helps it in severe dismounting situations. We broke nothing.
Fun Factor: B Wheeling the Venture out in the wild like it was intended is a lot of fun and all of our testers thoroughly enjoyed pulling trigger on it.
Handling: B The turning and weight distribution make this one of the better handling trucks in class. The shocks are best in class, in our opinion. The only thing holding it back from an “A” rating here is the steering servo, as it’s pretty weak.
Value: B The street price of the Venture is $399, and despite that being fairly high we think you are getting a good value. Metal steering links and various other parts like the shock/link mounts are nice. The shocks are amazing for a RTR, the tires are good and you are ready to tackle real-world trail straight from the box with no mods needed.
Parts Availability: N/A The Venture FJ has not technically been released to the public yet so at time of review this is pending.
BigSquid Rating: B+
The Venture Toyota FJ Cruiser is fine return to form for HPI. This is a stout truck that looks and handles great, and with a couple mods could be a total animal. We are big fans!