Whoa! That’s not a truck! Before you get your undies all in a bunch, relax and hear me out. The EXO is, indeed, not a truck and, yes, this is RC Truck Stop. First, it’s not like it’s a boat (I crack myself up). Second, there are two very legit reasons this RC car, I mean buggy, oh whatever, is being reviewed here. The obvious reason is that the potential EXO purchaser is already here checking out articles. That is to say this vehicle simply isn’t really that big of a stretch. The same type of guy that likes the stuff here is probably going to also be interested in the EXO. The second reason for this review is that the EXO is loaded with truck DNA. As soon as we saw one up close, we saw a 4WD short course truck in the making. Then we blinked and we envisioned a nimble monster truck that could bash around with the likes of the Traxxas Stampede 4X4. So, enjoy the review (we like to think we offer the best in the biz) and, mark my words, we’ll soon be turning this bad boy into a bonafide, true blue party-rockin’ truck that will make your eyes bug and jaw drop!
> Fully assembled ready-to-run
> 4mm thick aluminum chassis
> 4WD drivetrain
> Aluminum sliding motor mount
> Detailed scale roll cage
> 4-wheel independent suspension
> Threaded plastic shocks
> Brushless motor system
> 2.4GHz radio system
The EXO uses a narrow 6061 aluminum chassis that is flanked by molded plastic side plates. The aluminum piece is an impressive 4mm thick. That’s a chassis that can take a beating. The front and rear of the chassis are supported by plastic braces that travel down from the bulkheads to the chassis. The overall layout is very 1/8-scale buggy-esque. Mounted to the chassis is a full roll cage that makes for a very scale 4-seater sport buggy. The cage is molded plastic and not as much of an integral part of the overall structure as it looks.
DID YOU KNOW?
Technically, the EXO is modeled after a sand car or sand buggy which are 2WD, but Axial states they decided to build what is essentially a RC model of a hypothetical concept car–a 4WD multi-seat sand buggy.
Unlike the vehicles we’re used to seeing from Axial, the EXO has 4-wheel independent suspension. The front is pretty straightforward with lower H-arms and plastic fixed length upper links. The shocks have all plastic bodies, but they have threaded bodies. The front shock tower is molded plastic. The inboard suspension mounts or toe blocks are available in in machined aluminum. The rear suspension is slightly atypical in that the upper shock mount is part of the roll cage and not a bulkhead mounted shock tower. The rear shock is also longer than the front.
DID YOU KNOW?
It took Axial approximately 18 months to go from concept to final running sample. The first working prototype assembled from early parts samples was about 12 to 14 months in.
The EXO has a drivetrain that is similar to what is used on 1/8-scale buggies and truggies. That is to say it has front and rear geared differentials and a center differential with a spur gear. The advantages of this type of design or layout are that it is durable, simple and tunable. Changing the thickness of the fluid in the differentials can have a fairly profound impact on handling. The spur gear is molded plastic and Axial includes three additional gears in the following tooth counts: 54, 50 and 48. Stock is 52. The drivetrain is 32-pitch, so finding replacement pinions is easy. The drive shafts from the center diff to the front and rear diffs are steel dog bones–as are the axles. The entire drivetrain is supported by ball bearings. The motor mount is aluminum and has a sliding design to make setting gear mesh easy. Our review sample included a replacement motor mount.
DID YOU KNOW?
The EXO gets its name from the term exoskeleton (the armor that protects and supports some insects). Axial chose EXO because much of the cage can be seen from the outside.
Axial has outfitted the RTR version of the EXO with an electronics package that is appropriate for beginners, but will also satisfy experienced RC’ers who want to add the EXO to their collection but don’t want to do the build and source electronics. The power is handled by a Castle Creations built Vanguard brushless sensorless system. The motor is 2900Kv and the AE-3 speed control can handle 11.1 volts or up to a 3S LiPo battery. Axial also states the Vanguard system is waterproof.
The AX-3 radio system is Axial’s 2.4GHz setup which is a relatively simple, no-frills transmitter, but since it’s 2.4GHz, we chalk it up as a solid pick for a RTR. The transmitter is two channel, but the receiver is three channel.
The AS-4 servo is a plastic geared servo. It is combined with a plastic servo horn (more on that in the performance section).
DID YOU KNOW?
Axial’s Brandon Coonce designed the EXO Terra Buggy. He also designed Axial’s motor-on-axle XR10 competitive rock crawler. Brandon and the rest of the Axial engineers and designers use SolidWorks 3D CAD program to create products.
Tires, Wheels & Body
We don’t like to sing praise, but we have to give Axial credit. When it comes to the details, these guys are on the ball. Not only does the EXO have some legitimately scale tires Raceline Renegade chrome rims, but Axial also setup the EXO with narrower tires up front than in the rear–34- vs. 41 mm, respectively. That may not seem like a big deal–and it isn’t–but that extra attention to detail takes the realism up a notch. The tires are scale Hankook Dynapro MT tires. They too are two separate part numbers as the rears are wider to match the rear rims.
The body is pre-painted Lexan and actually an assortment of molded panels secured with numerous small 2.6 mm screws. The rear wing is molded plastic.
After a short shake down run around the yard, I pulled out a wood ramp and started jumping the EXO. With a decent amount of power and 4WD, the EXO is an easy vehicle to jump. I was jumping on pavement, and on most jumps, the low slung buggy actually didn’t chassis slap too much. On full speed jumps, it would land with a whack, but other than a healthy amount of scratches on the bottom of the chassis, the hard landings didn’t seem to impact the EXO at all. It was a nice summer day and jumping is fun, so I kept getting the EXO airborne. Eventually, I landed on just one front tire and heard an unsavory, crunchy/cracking sound. I drove the EXO back to me expecting to find some readily apparent shattered plastic parts, but there was no visible damage. I held the buggy up and tested the steering–it checked out. Hmmm. I kept driving and jumping. More than once, the steering didn’t seem right, so I gave everything a closer look. To cut to the chase, the plastic-geared servo stripped out. It still worked, but clearly was on its way out. Given the reletively high price of the EXO RTR, I’d love to see a metal geared servo such as Axial’s AS-2 included. When talking with the folks at Axial, they mentioned to always check that the adjustable servo saver isn’t too tight from the factory.
After replacing the servo, I was back in action. The next RC adventure was out bashing at RC Hobbies & More in Winsted, CT. RC Hobbies & More has an off-road track and not one but two 1/5-tracks. In addition to the tracks mentioned, they have a sand drag strip and an extensive area for all-terrain bashing. Needless to say, I tried out every bit of that terrain. The EXO is right at home off-road. It handled the track well-even with the stock tires. The track was not prepped for racing, so it was loose. Surprising, the stock tires had pretty awesome side grip. That is to say, it wasn’t spinning out–even when I switched to 3S (see below). Out in the open bashing area, the EXO is a smile maker. Since it has 4-wheel independent suspension, it can do some high speed bashing. You do, however, have to watch where you’re going. It is a scale buggy, so big rocks need to be avoided. A little common sense goes a long way. That said, I slammed into a dirt pile at full speed only to dislodge a large rock that was previously hidden and sent it forward a good three feet. I was pleasantly surprised when the EXO–which had been stopped dead in its track with a thud–was completely unscathed.
The Vanguard 2900Kv motor delivers plenty of power off the line. The tires spin, dirt gets thrown and the driver smiles. The EXO RTR is fairly fast on 2S (the stock gearing seems to lean towards acceleration over top speed), but it’s worth noting the AE-3 speed control can handle 3S. And, because a 3S pack can work, it has to be tested (our testing goes well beyond driving just long enough to capture a few glossy photos). Going to 11.1 volts is a 50% increase and it shows. When running 3S, the EXO RTR really comes alive. Plan on a little more limited use of full throttle when off-road on rough terrain or plan on going on some wild rides with a few rolls, flips and crashes. I used a MaxAmps.com 5000mAh soft-sided 3S pack and it fit with no issues. The battery system is innovative, but I have to admit I feel ham fisted every time I install a pack.
As said above, the stock tires provide plenty of grip–more side bite than forward bite–so the EXO is pretty easy to drive. The suspension works great at soaking up a lot of small bumps and jumps. I did notice that the EXO does have a slight nose down tendency when getting big air. I really didn’t notice too much until I tried jumping off the big banked turn of the large-scale oval track.
Overall, the EXO RTR is a solid performer and a lot of fun. The suspension works great and is clearly well engineered. The acceleration and top speed are very satisfying. On 2S, it not too fast for beginners who make buy the EXO RTR, but still fast enough to entertain more experienced. On 3S, the EXO RTR rocks and really pushes the suspension to the limit.
EXO SC & EXO MT
The EXO Terra Buggy is an entry for Axial into the short course segment. It is designed to appeal to the absolute masses of people drawn to short course trucks. As such, while it is technically a buggy, it’s a pretty close cousin to the trucks everyone is grabbing up. In fact, the footprint (length, width, wheelbase) is the same as the average short course truck. It’s also built with the common three gear differential setups (front, center and rear) that many short course trucks use and which was borrowed design technology from 1/8-scale off-road vehicles. If you wanted to convert the EXO Terra Buggy into a EXO SC, you really only need to remove the cage assembly, fabricate a rear shock tower, throw on some short course tires and rims and work out some body mounts. Making a EXO MT to compete with the likes of Traxxas Stampede 4X4 is a pretty similiar process. The wheelbase will be longer than the Stampede, but that would only help the hypothetical EXO MT perform better. We have decided to go the EXO MT route, so keep checking back at RC Truck Stop for updates.
I forgive the EXO RTR for not being a truck … mostly because it’s so much fun. The EXO platform–the kit and RTR–is an awesome addition to the Axial lineup. And, it fits in the lineup. It’s distinctly and unmistakingly Axial. Like I said before, I also see the EXO as a truck in the making. I just haven’t decided if I want to go basher or short course (actually, I have decided to make an EXO MT). I’d say the quality is great, the overall design is innovative and the performance has exceeded my expectations. The 4mm thick aluminum chassis is very beefy and almost overkill. The motor and speed control are a good match for the vehicle and the suspension design works very well. Run one and you’ll be surprised how much rough stuff the suspension can soak up at speed. I see the EXO being a companion to a racer’s short course truck or a go-fast alternative for a crawler guy. Or, if you’re like me and can’t keep well enough alone, I see it as a few quick and easy mods from being a truck.
> Realistic body, cage and stance
> Great performance (acceleration, top speed and handling)
> Waterproof brushless system
> 2.4 GHz radio system
> Plastic gear servo failed early in testing
> Easy-to-use battery system isn’t always so easy
KIT VS. RTR
The EXO Terra Buggy was first released as a kit. In addition to the obvious difference that the RTR arrives fully assembled and with the above described electronics installed, there are some key differences.
Kit Version Includes:
> Extra scale accessories
> Steel adjustable turnbuckles
> Clear body
> Black rims
> Light bar (LEDs not included)
> Scale engine body panel
> Lightened differential outdrives
> Aluminum toe blocks with inserts to adjust kick up and toe settings