The best RC rock crawlers: hardcore off-roaders in miniature

Parkers picks its favourite RC rock crawlers for tearing up the terrain.

Convoy of RC rock crawlers

by Chris Williams |

If you’ve had enough of staring at a screen playing racing games but still want to indulge your passion for driving, consider this specialised line of remote-control vehicles known as rock crawlers.

What are RC Rock Crawlers?

Put simply, they are the toughest type of remote-control vehicle you can get, designed specifically for attacking tough terrain, be it wet or dry.

There are two types you will come across, one being the dune buggy-style crawlers, the others being based on actual vehicles. The idea behind either body type is the same: to be able to take a beating and keep going.

They are all about substance over style. You wouldn’t take your car off-roading or mud-plugging, but if you’re interested in that sort of thing, an RC rock crawler gives you access to this fun world.

Are RC rock crawlers any good?

Be in no doubt that these machines are a very far cry from the remote-control cars of old and the £30 units you can get in every toy shop.

Quality RC rock crawlers are not cheap relative to other remote-control cars. But the top-tier RC rock crawlers undergo development testing as vigorous as that of any full-size off-road vehicle.

RC rock crawlers bear narrow but solid chassis, heavy-duty axles and suspension that provide enormous wheel articulation, waterproof hardware, and properly chunky tyres. Manufacturers put a lot of thought into their models, even making sure the weight distribution is correct in order to gain as much traction as possible.

It is important to remember that RC rock crawlers are meant for tough terrain and obstacle courses rather than belting across a landscape as fast as possible.

For an in-depth comparison review of rock crawlers, check out the group test our colleagues at CAR undertook.

The best RC rock crawlers

FTX Outback 2

Best entry-level crawler
FTX Outback 2
Amazon

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As a means of testing the rock crawler waters, the FTX Outback 2 is our pick. It comes ready to go, which is unusual in rock crawlers. The Outback 2 is an improved recipe based on the first Outback. The 2 has more torque than the original, wider track width (by 15mm), and new suspension.

Consequently, the new Land Rover, I mean, Outback 2 is a seriously accomplished little 1:10-scale off-roader.

Specifications
Dimensions (L) 416mm, (W) 215mm, (H) 230mm
Weight 1.35kg
Motor Brushed RC390 motor
Ground clearance 76mm
Radio system 2.4ghz
Battery 7.2V 1500mAh NiMH battery
Scale 1:10
Chassis Twin rail metal chassis

Traxxas TRX-4

Editor's pick
Traxxas TRX-4 Defender
Amazon

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Arguably the most capable RC rock crawler around is the TRX-4 from Traxxas. Thereu2019s a few different body types available, including a Mercedes G Wagon, a pickup, and the latest 2021 Ford Bronco featured above.

The TRX-4 bears everything you get on a full-size off-roader (we refrain from saying ‘real off roader’ because the TRX-4 is in every sense a real off-roader). Locking differentials, big ground clearance, high-low transmission, about 57-degree approach angle for steep inclines, even an adjustable wheelbase and cruise control. It will tackle anything, and we mean anything.

It doesn’t stop at what comes as standard, though. You can upgrade and customise too if you wish. Just bear in mind that the TRX-4 doesn’t come with batteries or a charger.

Specifications
Dimensions (L) 586mm, (W) 249mm, (H) 292mm
Weight 3.37kg
Motor Titan 21T 550 motor
Ground clearance 80mm
Radio system TQi 2.4 GHz 4-Channel transmitter
Battery Not included – accepts a range of NiMH and LiPo batteries
Scale 1:10
Chassis Steel ladder frame with nylon composite crossmembers

FTX Outback Texan

Ready to go
FTX Outback Texan
Amazon

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There is nothing extra that you need to purchase with this hugely capable old-school Dodge-style crawler from FTX except for AA batteries for the remote control. Like the Traxxas TRX-4 and FTX Outback 2, the Texan is a 1:10 scale machine.

Underneath the retro body is a collection of purposeful parts. The 550 electric motor is efficient and powerful; the suspension, driveshafts, steering servo, chassis, and axles are all heavy duty and metal. In CAR's group test it took a pummelling and kept going with no issues.

The Texan doesn't have a high gear like the Traxxas and therefore isn't as fast. Nor does it bear as many features, such as remote locking differentials. But it proved very nearly as capable and with some modification, certainly could be made to be even better.

Specifications
Dimensions (L) 475mm, (W) 237mm, (H) 242mm
Weight 2.9kg
Motor Brushed 550 17T motor
Ground clearance 80mm
Radio system 2.4 GHz
Battery 7.2V 2000mAh NiMH battery
Scale 1:10
Chassis Twin rail metal frame

FTX Ravine

Most fun to drive
FTX Ravine
Amazon

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The FTX Ravine is indeed a buggy in shape compared to the mini-doppelganger crawlers, but it's still hugely capable of dealing with the rough stuff, particularly given the value for money.

The FTX Ravine has long suspension travel and massive axle articulation. But more than that, it has multiple steering modes. You can steer the front, rear, or all four wheels at the flick of a button. It's not great on flat, loose surfaces but is amazing on steeper, technical terrain. Two 380 electric motors drive the ravine.

Like, the FTX Outback 2, the Ravine is great for beginners because of its ease of use and value, but doesn’t skimp on quality. Though, due to its design, it can't really be modified.

Specifications
Dimensions (L) 440mm, (W) 230mm, (H) 275mm
Weight 1.75kg
Motor Two 340 motors
Ground clearance 45mm
Radio system 2.4 GHz
Battery Li-Ion 2S 7.4V 1500mAh battery
Scale 1:10
Chassis TVP design

Lego Technic Control+ 4x4 X-treme Off-Roader

Unexpected choice
Lego Technic Control+ 4x4 X-treme Off-Roader
Amazon

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Yes, you wouldnu2019t think this is an arena is which Lego takes part, but it does now.

Naturally, this is a bit different to the others here – it isn’t as capable. However, you do get the timeless excitement from doing a Lego build, and at the end it actually drives.

Rather than with a controller, this Lego kit is controlled via the Control+ app. And it’s not just go, stop and steer. You can see the angles of lean, undertake challenges and all that sort of thing.

In terms of actual ability, the Lego Off-Roader is pretty good. The wheel articulation is huge and the tyres are properly grippy. This kit is a great way to bring motion to Lego, like you’ve always wanted.

Read our full guide on the best Lego car sets.

Specifications
Dimensions (L) 330mm, (W) 220mm, (H) 190mm
Weight Not given
Motor Smart Hub with 2 XL motors and 1 L motor
Ground clearance Not given
Radio system Control+ app via Bluetooth
Battery x 6 AA batteries (not included)
Scale N/A
Chassis Lego

Customising your RC rock crawler

Some diehards will want to build an RC rock crawler themselves. For most of us, especially beginners, what comes as standard in the kits above is more than enough.

But if you really get into your RC rock crawling, there is room for upgrades and customising. But before you buy the new motor, suspension, wheels, or whatever it is you have in mind, do your research first and perhaps talk to fellow enthusiasts. There are plenty of UK clubs to join.

Competing with your RC rock crawler

Groups of enthusiasts exist all over the UK. If you want to see how your machine gets on in a set course against others, jump onto Facebook and see what groups are local to you. They hold regular events and also provide a perfect opportunity to learn more about your machine. Alternatively, head to the BRCA (British Radio Car Association) page about RC rock crawling.

Caring for you RC rock crawler

While the motors, controllers, battery packs and other electronic parts may be waterproofed or kept in waterproof housings, that doesn't make RC rock crawlers submarines or idiot-proof.

If using your rock crawler in water, slush, mud, snow, or similar, you must set to removing dirt and moisture from the machine as soon as you've finished driving it. Check the motor is free of dirt and water and is completely dry (use cleaning spray if you need).

Read next:

The best Playmobil cars

The best kids' ride-on cars

The best toy cars for kids

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