One of the most in-demand full-size off-road vehicles is the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon. They’re everywhere! Also known as the JK, this model may truly be the most popular and capable Jeep ever offered from the iconic brand. Who wouldn’t want one? Other than the two vehement Jeep haters out there grumpily saying no, everyone else is raising at least a metaphorical hand. Jeeps rock and they really rock on the rocks. The only problem is unless you have $30,000+, you may be out of luck. Where I’m going with this is pretty obvious. Axial’s latest scale creation makes getting a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon possible–for just about everyone. Heck, the reality is you probably don’t need me to sell you on the relevance of this release. If you like Jeeps, this one is for you. Check it out:
> SCX10 platform
> Fully assembled ready-to-run
> Fully licensed Jeep body
> Steel frame rails
> 4-link rear suspension
> Poison Spyder fenders and bumpers
> Molded multi-piece plastic cage
> Maxxis Trepador scale tires
> 2.4GHz radio system
DID YOU KNOW?
There are technically no 1996 Jeep Wranglers. What?! Jeep skipped a year? Yes. Well, sorta. Production of the YJ model started in 1987 and ended with the 1995 model. The next model was the TJ which started with the 1997 model. 1997 TJs were available in 1996, but technically there are no 1996 Wranglers–YJs or TJs.
The 2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon is built on Axial’s popular SCX10 scale truck platform. The main feature of the chassis is the use of actual steel frame rails. The frame rails have a C-channel design and mimic the shape and contours of a real ladder frame. The frame rails are connected via a series of molded composite plastic cross members. The chassis is flanked by the same plastic rock rails found on the Honcho RTR and the Dingo kit, but the ends of the frame is capped by new bumper mounts and bumpers.
The plastic bumpers are modeled after Poison Spyder Customs’ RockBrawler style. The front features a short, wide stinger, plastic D-shackles for recovery, LED light buckets and the Poison Spyder logo. The new rear bumper is one of the wow features of the Axial Jeep. The rear bumper has a fully functional swing-out spare tire mount. Besides looking extremely cool, Axial made the spare mount simple to use. Two small body clips with grab tabs make releasing the swing-out easy. Even better, the spin-off retainer is solid plastic and doesn’t have a lock-nut like the retainer used on the Honcho and Dingo. That seems like a small item, but if you’ve ever had a Honcho or Dingo, you’ll appreciate this nice touch.
DID YOU KNOW?
Axial was founded March 15, 2005 and had four employees (Yes, you read that correctly) at launch. Axial’s first product release was a .32-sized big block nitro engine that was made available later that year on December 27.
This is why you like RC Truck Stop reviews: I was thrilled to notice (others will miss it) that the new bumper mounts include provisions for sway bars (I’m going out on a limb and saying you can expect an SCX10 sway bar kit next year). In my opinion, linked suspensions with coil-over shocks go together with sway bars like peanut butter and jelly or bacon and eggs or Rosie O’Donnell and, well, any food.
The SCX10 platform uses a 4-link rear setup and a 3-link front suspension arrangement. The links are plastic and feature snapped-in plastic rod end balls. The upper front link is a Y-shaped piece that mounts at a single point on the front axle and splits to mount to the chassis.
DID YOU KNOW?
The original Axial AX10 Scorpion was released in 2007. It was unveiled at the July 1 at 2007 Axial West Coast Championships. This happened to also be the inaugural running of this event which has been going strong and growing since. The first batch of AX10 shipped August 14, 2007. The SCX10 was released in 2009 and the first batch shipped on January 20.
Axial includes plastic bodied shocks, but they are threaded for easy preload adjustment of the springs. The plastic shock caps feature faux reservoirs. The springs are dual stage and Axial offers a number of optional springs rates. The main springs included are Axial’s 4.08 lbs/in medium (green) with two softer (down to 2.7 lbs/in) and two firmer (up to 6.81 lbs/in), and the short top springs are 3.6 lbs/in super soft (red) with four stiffer options (up to 7.95 lbs/in) available.
DID YOU KNOW?
The Rubicon edition of the Wrangler was introduced in 2003. Named after the famous Rubicon trail, this model is billed as Jeep’s most capable and heavy-duty Jeep model. The JK model that Axial’s SCX10 replicates was released in 2007.
The SCX10’s drivetrain–based on the original AX10 Scorpion–has been updated since it was first released. While the key components and general design are the same, five improvements have been made that significantly improve durability. First, the WB8 (Wild Boar) driveshafts are far more reliable than the original design. They are a huge improvement over the original driveshafts. Second, the AX10 transmission now includes a spur and pinion gear cover to keep the plastic spur gear from getting chewed up. This is essential for scalers that see action on more than just rock. The third update, the slipper clutch, has been around the longest. The adjustable slipper protects the entire drivetrain and also spins true which helps prevent the spur gear from an early demise. The fourth change is with the transmission output shafts and the axle input shafts (pinion gear shaft). To take full advantage of the WB8 driveshafts’ use of pins that pass through the driveshaft ends and the shafts they attach to, the transmission output and axle input shafts are now drilled through. Lastly, the original lockers have been replaced with stronger sintered units.
The rest of the drivetrain is all familiar territory. AX10 axles with full ball bearings and a three gear transmission with no differential. The front axles a dog done style, but universal upgrade axles are available. Universals are stronger and offer more steering range.
Axial offers a fairly typical electronics package with its RTRs. The radio is simple, but it’s 2.4GHz which is always an appreciated feature. The included AE-2 speed control is engineered by Castle Creations and is compatible with Castle’s Castle Link that allows programming and updates via a PC. The best part about the AE-2, other than it has smooth throttle control, is that it’s preprogrammed with drag brake. The only downside of the AE-2 is that it includes a Tamiya plug as opposed to something higher quality and more befitting the SCX10 such as a Deans Ultra Plug.
The AS-3 servo is a metal gear servo and is rated at 132 oz.-in. of torque–pretty impressive for a 1/10-scale RTR.
The stock sealed-can 27-turn brushed motor is a simple, no-frills design, but it offers a good blend of some speed cruising around or popping over obstacles and power for crawling.
DID YOU KNOW?
In 2008, Jeep unveiled an electric 4-door Wrangler (Yup, they did) that had a not-so-impressive 40-mile range. On onboard gas-powered engine would kick in and function as a generator to supply electricity for the electric drive. The project was scrapped in 2009 and a model was never made available.
Tires, Wheels & Body
Axial’s new Maxxis Trepador tires are a directional tread design and are fully licensed. Of more interest, the new tires are taller than previous Axial 1.9″ tires. To be specific, the Trepador is 4.6″ tall and 0.3″ taller than the 1.9 Ripsaw tires and 0.4″ taller than the Pro-Line Flat Iron 1.9 that Axial formerly included with its SCX10 vehicles. Same as in the full-size world, a taller tire increases ground clearance and, thus, improves off-road performance. The bigger benefit (no pun intended) is–at least arguably–that the slightly taller tire looks far more scale (i.e. more realistically proportioned). In addition to the tire being taller, the soft Axial R35 compound provides a good boost in traction.
The Trepador tires are glued to 1.9 Walker Evans Racing wheels. The black molded plastic rims feature a chrome faux beadlock ring. The hex area of the is substantially reenforced.
The body is the most significant part of this release. The molded Lexan shell is offered only in silver. The body is a two-piece design as the windshield frame is a separate piece that fits tight to the back edge of the hood area and actually screwed into the Rubicon’s aftermarket style molded plastic roll cage. In addition to the plastic cage, the body features molded plastic taillights, side mirrors, shifter lever, steering wheel and Poison Spyder Crusher flares.
People who are familiar with the performance of the SCX10–Dingo and Honcho–will find the performance the latest version to be essentially the same as the other versions. Big surprise, right? I will say, however, while it isn’t profoundly better, the Rubicon is the best performing SCX10 yet. The long wheelbase combined with taller tires give it an advantage. The Ripsaw (on the Honcho and Dingo) tires are slightly more aggressive, but the taller size of the Trepador makes it a draw since both tires are molded in Axial’s soft R35.
I tested the Rubicon with a thin (and very lightweight) MaxAmps.com 2S 3250mAh LiPo, so the stock mounting location–over the rear axle–didn’t seem to negatively impact performance. The spare tire does add some tail weight and, occasionally, the Rubicon would tip back when negotiating a steep climb and lift the front tires off the ground, but overall, the SCX10 Jeep crawled well for a stock scaler.
The 27-turn motor is a good match for the truck. It’s not terribly fast, but quick enough that people looking to bomb around the driveway won’t get bored. It’s also a high enough turn motor that run-time is excellent and there is enough low-end power for climbing over obstacles.
I tested the Axial 2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon on everything from pavement (who cares?) to rocks to dirt to sand (wrecks stuff worse than letting a 5-year-old drive). In fact, I did let a 5-year-old take the wheel. No matter how many times I say, “Slow and in control,” my young son always ends up driving like he’s piloting Grave Digger in the World Finals freestyle competition. Even I was amazed when he found the right pile of dirt to be able pull off some back to back slap wheelies. Needless to say, the Axial Jeep took a beating, but didn’t experience any failures are show any premature wear.
The pre-programmed drag brakes on AE-2 speed control and the smooth throttle of the brushed setups combine for excellent control. Driving up and down steep inclines was predictable thanks to the setup.
As far as using the Rubicon, the one flaw–more of an inconvenience–I found was the placement of the rear seat in relation to the rear body mounts. The bottom line is removing the small body clips can be a bit of a bear. The answer is to get some of the clip tabs (AXA80126) used on the swing-out spare tire carrier. I switched the swing-out tire carrier clips with the rear body clips and made my life a lot easier.
To get a different perspective, I picked the brain of my video test driver after our trip to Hammonasset State Park in Madison, CT. He believed the motor had plenty of power when crawling at low speed and explained that he felt never felt it lacked power–even when the Jeep was in a tight spot. He added that it still had good wheel speed. He was impressed with how far he could get through some of the boulder strewn areas before missing a tire placement and getting hung up. But, as much as he was awed by the stability, he stated the maneuverability left something to be desired.
The hop-ups listed below are Axial factory upgrades that I recommend. They aren’t essential, but prior extenisve use of the SCX10 platform has proven that they are money well spent. These parts will yield a truck that performs well and is highly reliable. The springs described are for the rear shocks, and while I do not believe aluminum links are needed (except for the steering links), the links and other parts below will allow upgrading the front suspension to 4-link setup.
- 61-90mm Aluminum Shock Set >> AX30090 >> $36 (2)
- Aluminum Knuckle >> AX30496 >> $36
- Aluminum Servo Horn 25T >> AX30836 >> $15
- AX10 Scorpion Universal Set >> AX30464 >> $32
- Firm Spring (Yellow)(5.44 lbs./in.) >> AX30208 >> $5
- SCX10 RTR Links Parts Tree >> AX80043 >> $12
- SCX10 TR Links Set >> AX30550 >> $62
- Soft Spring (White) (4.32 lbs./in.) >> AX30201 >> $5
- Steering Upgrade Kit >> AX30426 >> $19
It’s fairly undeniable that Axial has a winner on its hands here. Jeep enthusiasts will naturally love this version of the SCX10 and even non-dedicated Jeep aficionados will gravitate towards the Axial 2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon just for the cool factor. It just looks like a real off-roader. That’s beauty of how iconic Jeeps are. As for Axial’s version, the body is well done and the added touches such as the fender flares and side mirrors really up the ante. The front bumper is good looking, but the rear bumper with swing-out tire carrier is extremely nice.
I would prefer aluminum knuckles and an aluminum servo horn over the plastic parts that, experience indicates, will break eventually. These parts, however, survived testing. The flexible steering main link functions like a servo saver, but at the same time, flexes at the wrong time. And, while I wouldn’t call it a flaw by any means, I’d love to see Axial offer more color options on its full licensed models.
> Awesome scale Jeep body
> Swing-out rear tire carrier
> Nice electronics (speed control, metal gear servo and 2.4GHz radio)
> WB8 drive shafts are an awesome upgrade
> Plastic steering links
> Molded rear seat and body post placement makes rear body clip removal difficult
> Tamiya battery plug
PARTS FOR OTHER SCX10 OWNERS
Other SCX10 owners will want to pick up the parts below to upgrade their Honchos or Dingos. The new front and rear bumper mounts have provisions for sway bars. The good news is these parts trees also include the new Poison Spyder bumpers. Even better one of the parts trees includes the new spare tire retainer.