Review: Dromida SC4.18

For a seasoned RC’er the Dromida SC4.18 seems like it would be “beneath” me. It is a brushed sized mini truck that is designed for the new or inexperienced hobbyist. This is the type of vehicle that six year olds find under the Christmas tree, not something that a grown man with 25 years in the hobby could enjoy. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The Dromida line of 1/18 vehicles are targeted at the new hobbyist, this is true, but they are great for people of all ages, from six to 106. Available in brushed and brushless versions, the vehicles offer a lot of value for the price (which starts at around $100). They come out of the box ready to run with a 2.4ghz radio, a six cell NiMH battery with charger, outlet adapters for use in other countries and the instruction manual. The box even includes a plastic handle allowing it to be used as a carrying case once you have the truck up and running. The package even includes some shock preload clips and the (4) AA batteries for the transmitter. All that is required is to install the batteries into the transmitter, charge the truck’s battery with the included charger, check the trims and drive.

FIRST DRIVE: Like many Dromida owners my first run took place in my kitchen and down the hallway. I was really surprised as to how quick the truck is out of the box. Before I knew it, the truck had reached the end of the hallway and smacked into the back door with a loud “thump”. The truck rolled back a few few and I was certain that the front bumper or front bulkhead were going to be laying at the point of impact. To my surprise the truck drove away without a scratch. The truck tracks very straight and does not want to wander. The steering is precise and smooth and the servo has respectable torque for its size. The truck is sized well for indoor use in a basement or large room and handles well on carpet as well as hardwood with no oversteer or push, it goes where you point it without complaint. I could see that the truck wasn’t being taxed in this small space so I decided to head outside to let it stretch its legs.

ON ROAD: The tires that are included with the SC4.18 are quite soft and have foam inserts supporting them. They were able to find traction on the hardwood in the hallway so I knew that they were going to do well once outdoors. On the textured concrete that comprises my driveway, the truck launches with authority and has the same excellent balance that it exhibited indoors. The top speed is impressive for a vehicle of its size and I even found myself having to turn down the throttle EPA when handing the transmitter over to others to try. The top speed is enough to keep experienced drivers on their toes (about 20-21 mph) and its size makes it appear to be moving faster that it is actually going. Full throttle cornering is handled with confidence and rollovers are a non issue unless you clip an object and get the truck airborne.

OFF ROAD: The 4.18 does well once the tarmac ends and the dirt begins as well. The soft tires grip well on dirt and grass and once again the truck handled well. The only surface that the truck struggled with was gravel, namely due to the size of the debris compared to the truck being quite out of scale and the truck would get tossed around and often end up on its lid. With the shape of the body and the low center of gravity the truck will land back on its tires more often than not in these situations so the amount of time spent retrieving a turtled truck is minimized. The truck jumps quite well as long as the throttle is applied in air, otherwise the nose likes to drop quickly and the truck can’t recover before landing. I spent an entire pack just jumping the truck off of a small 1′ high ramp that I built out of scrap plywood. After the full pack had been spent, there were no broken parts to speak of and the body was still in good shape despite a few bad lawn dart landings.

DURABILITY: It always makes me cringe when I do durability testing on a product as I know that there is a good chance that a run will get cut short in dramatic fashion. With the SC4.18 I only experienced one breakage during all of my testing and it wasn’t even during the intentional crashes. I had handed the transmitter over to my wife for a run and she got mixed up as to which way was left and clipped the corner of a quarter pipe at the skate park and this impact split a front suspension arm at the seam where the top and bottom halves of the mold meet. I picked up a replacement and have not had any issues since. I landed the truck on its nose numerous times, smacked it into doors, nailed a few rails at the skate park, and even submerged it at the track (okay, that wasn’t my fault, I wasn’t driving and I didn’t laugh until I nearly cried…) and it took it all in stride.

IN THE HANDS OF A NEWBIE (BOTH YOUNG AND NOT SO YOUNG): I can tell you all about the performance data and tell you what it’s like to drive from the perspective of an experienced hobbyist, but that is not what this truck is for. This truck is designed to give people new to the hobby an easy and fun entry into the world of hobby grade RC. We all remember what it was like when we got our first RC. The excitement, the wonder of what it will be like, or even the smell once the cellophane is removed, its all an experience. I can’t do that again (although it is still really exciting opening up a new truck, don’t get me wrong) but what I can do is place the transmitter in someone’s hands who has not had that experience and see what they think. For me that person is my wife and she is about as green as they come when it comes to RC. She took to the controls surprisingly quickly, owing in part to her love of console video games. The truck held up to her learning how to steer when the truck was coming at her and she didn’t quite get it right (refer back to the skate park story from earlier). She didn’t have any trouble with how quick the truck is and within the span of a battery pack she was zipping the truck around like a pro. Her only requests were for a left handed radio (she is a lefty and holds the radio backward while driving) and for a shorter charge time. The charger takes over two hours to recharge the battery and if you only have one battery it makes for a fair bit of downtime. While at the skate park I attracted the attention of a family that was at the playground next door. They were really excited about the small truck that was jumping 10 feet above the quarter pipe and the dad had never seen anything quite like it. They all had questions. “How fast does it go?” “How far can it jump?” “Is it gas powered?” “Where can I get one?” “Can I drive it?” These are the usual questions that I get no matter which vehicle I am driving so I am used to answering them. The kids loved driving the truck, and I didn’t have to worry about the truck being too much for them to handle. They took turns with it and by the end of the battery they were all pulling on their dad’s pant leg and asking for one for themselves. The dad asked a question that I have never been asked before and it made me think if others are asking the same thing. “Would you recommend this over one from Toys R Us or Walmart?” I didn’t have to think for a second before responding “Yes, a thousand times over.” The dad asked me where he could get three of them, one for each of his kids and one for himself and I showed him a few of the online retaillers that sell them and he bought them on the spot. He called me after he got the trucks and thanked me for helping him out and told me that the kids were having a blast with their trucks, but not nearly as much fun as he was having with his. He takes his to work with him and runs it on his lunch break and even said that a few of his co-workers were considering one as well. When a truck makes that kind of impression on someone, you know that the designers have done something right.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Over the past few weeks I have enjoyed driving the SC4.18. It handled everything I could throw at it and didn’t complain once. The only issue that I encountered was trying to keep the motor cool. It likes to run hot when the run times exceed 15 minutes. If you don’t keep the runs shorter the motor will heat up enough to make the chassis dangerous to hold underneath the motor and a burn could occur. The motor temps hit 180 degrees after a full 30 minute pack and that is way too high for safe running and a long motor life. The truck has plenty of torque to get itself moving with authority so I am not sure that gearing is the only culprit. A fan or heatsink would be helpful and combined with slightly lower gearing may reduce the temps to a more reasonable level. The truck is simple to work on, easy to drive and looks pretty scale while doing it. For an entry level truck the Dromida SC4.18 is impressively equipped and the price point is low enough that buying one for each member of the family is an attainable feat. New drives can pick up the transmitter for the first time and have the truck zipping around in minutes and the experienced hobbyist can challenge their skills with a smile on their face knowing that they didn’t have to take out a second mortgage in order to have that much fun. The trucks handle well enough that they could make a great spec racing class and parts to keep them running when (or if) they break are inexpesive and readily available. If I were in the market for a vehicle for a new driver or just wanted another truck for family or friends to drive I would handily pick up another SC4.18.