Traxxas Bronco long-term review

It comes loaded with features but CAR puts the expensive Traxxas Bronco's ability to the test against time.

Front 3/4 view of Traxxas Bronco

by Chris Williams |

There are two nations that make up antipodeans. One is Australia, the other New Zealand. Though inhabitants of the two share a love of outdoor cooking, V8 engines, and thongs/jandals/flip flops, Australia and New Zealand differ quite considerably. Culturally, the Australians are more like Americans: loud, self-confident, and extroverted. Meanwhile, the Kiwis align more with the more restrained and self-conscious British.

But even though New Zealand was advertised as 'Britain of the South' to the emigrating colonials, the assimilation is not total. For example, Kiwis do not share Britain’s obsession with supermarkets. In my home country of New Zealand, people go to whichever supermarket is closest, without giving thought to anything else.

In the UK, supermarket brands stand as the cornerstone of social hierarchy. And consequently, British people engage in active two-hour-long debates about which supermarket they go to. Witnessing this bizarre topic of conversation amongst work colleagues for the first time was very weird, to say the least.

I find this pecking order of food warehouses most intriguing and found myself wanting to apply it elsewhere. To RC rock crawlers, for example.

What is the Traxxas Bronco?

The Traxxas Bronco belongs on the shelves of Waitrose or M&S, next to the quail eggs. It is one of the high-end models on offer in the RC rock crawler world. Many RC rock crawlers are made to look like full-size trucks but the Traxxas Bronco is one of the few that carries an officially licenced 1:10-scale body.

Rear badge of Traxxas Bronco
©Photo: CAR/Chris Williams

This machine looks exactly like a Ford Bronco on the outside, but underneath it’s all Traxxas, with a steel rail chassis, Titan 21T 550 electric motor and hi-low two-speed transmission. The Traxxas Bronco even has cruise control. Compared to its competitors, the Traxxas Bronco possesses enviable features but comes with an unenviable price tag.

The Traxxas Bronco competed in CAR’s RC rock crawler group test and was at least twice the price of the others. But I don’t like getting bogged down in the issue of cost if there is so much you get in return for it. And whether you get a decent ROI is what we aim to establish over the course of this long-term test.

How does the wee Bronco behave?

Traxxas Bronco mid-jump
©Photo: CAR/Chris Williams

Before letting it loose, the receiver needed switching on, the battery connected, and the speed control roused, in that order. Unlike the other machines, the Traxxas Bronco benefits from body clips inside the wheel arches – no stupid pins and body posts. Thus, removing and replacing the Bronco’s body to access the under-bits is beautifully simple. That’s worth £50 straight away.

With receiver in hand and trigger squeezed, the Bronco diverges from the pack of other rock crawlers in attendance because while they only have the single trundle speed, the Traxxas Bronco has trundle and rapido thanks to its two-speed transmission. Being fast is not a requisite for rock crawlers, it’s not a priority at all. But the fact that the Bronco can be, really lends to its versatility and fun factor. The only machine in the group test that was comparatively quick was the FTX Outback Fury.

So the Bronco can be fast and used for charging and rolling around like a house-bound spaniel in the park. And while that is what we did first, it’s not the most important thing, and racing around in high gear drains the battery faster. We got about an hour of high-gear antics from a 5000mAh battery (not included in the box). By contrast, we got double that when crawling around in low gear, even on steep, harsh terrain.

Traxxas Bronco driving on rocks and tree roots
©Photo: CAR/Chris Williams

Beneath gnarled trees, steep slopes of earth were ruptured by roots and stone; expired pine needles covered the dirt. The proving ground for the Traxxas Bronco’s first major outing was formidable and the Bronco’s owl eyes surveyed the landscape. An Element Enduro Trailrunner had ventured up the tangle of wood, soil, and rock first and, given it was half the price of the Bronco, made impressive headway. In low gear, the Bronco drove forward in low-gear pursuit.

What came was a fascinating battle between the two. The white Trailrunner was slow but surefooted and stable with lots of torque. It perambulated up, over and along the terrain in an extremely satisfying manner. In its haste to catch up to the Trailrunner, the Bronco demonstrated it didn’t have the same level of lateral stability, and tumbled sideways where the Trailrunner had stayed upright. Unperturbed, the Bronco tried again, and with a little more driver care the Bronco came good. Very good.

Traxxas Bronco climbing sleep terrain
©Photo: CAR/Chris Williams

Where the Trailrunner sometimes struggled with grip and taller obstacles, the Bronco did not. The 1.89-inch tyres had more grab and moulded over hurdles easily, and the 80 millimetres of ground clearance ensured the Bronco didn’t get beached. What’s more, it could tackle steeper stuff than the Trailrunner thanks to its 52-degree approach and 49-degree departure angles.

We didn’t find the Bronco would ever get stuck. It might roll, but not get stuck. Part of this is thanks to the remote locking differentials – another unique Traxxas feature. On top of the receiver is a small three-way switch: backward for unlocked diffs, centre for front diff lock, and forward position for front and rear diff lock.

Of initial concern was the Bronco’s susceptibility to injury. The Traxxas Bronco’s irrefutable expense naturally causes extra wincing when it inevitably takes a tumble down a slope and into some undergrowth. But the Traxxas Bronco is built correctly. There are hard materials where there ought to be and flexible ones used where appropriate.

For example, the body. Don’t whinge at the apparent flimsiness of the Bronco’s body because it’s as such for a reason. Imagine if the Bronco has an exquisite, delicate body. You’d be too scared to use it off-road, just ask any Range Rover owner. And it’d be disastrous in a crash. The flexy plastic absorbs the impact, where a more rigid body would simply break and/or pass that impact energy onto the chassis and underbody components.

Update 1: No comment

Traxxas Bronco leading a convoy of vehicles
©Photo: CAR/Chris Williams

Total hours run: 10

We found that the Bronco was the only participant in our group test that wasn’t subject to constant commenting on improvement, and that seems to be where much of the extra value lies. Want to upgrade your £300 rock crawler? You’d soon spend up to the cost of a Traxxas Bronco anyhow. On that note, the Traxxas Bronco does not come with a battery and charger, so that’s extra cost you need to factor in.

Though it too can be upgraded, in its out of the box form, the Traxxas Bronco is pretty sensational. And I did find it was the vehicle I kept coming back to drive – I became rather attached to it.

Upon initial testing the Traxxas Bronco seriously impressed. Over the coming weeks, we shall be testing its intricate details and build quality.

Update 2: Mr Bojangles

Traxxas Bronco descending down a steep hill
©Photo: CAR/Chris Williams

Total hours run: 15

I knew a truck, Bronco and it danced for you.

I had every intention of discussing the Traxxas Bronco’s more intimate details, but I also had every intention of doing that throughout the test rather than at the beginning, otherwise the review ends up reading like an elongated brochure. However, one of those details, regrettably we have not been able to thoroughly test the Traxxas Bronco’s waterproofing credentials, beyond splashing it through the odd puddle. The eastern guts of England where I reside have been rather dry in the last quarter of 2021.

During the additional driving hours of month two, which included a return to Crawler Hill where the inaugural CAR RC rock crawler group test was staged, the dexterity and finesse of the Traxxas Bronco became even more pronounced than on first impressions. I’m referring to the Bronco’s throttle control and steering.

Given the Bronco had proven itself when simultaneously pitted against reasonably challenging, steep terrain and driven by a novice, it was time to turn up the wick somewhat. The area in question this time was ridiculously steep, running in a series of tree-root plateaus down a roughly 45-degree slope – something photos cannot accurately portray. To be honest, throwing the Bronco into this next-level scenario was more out of journalistic duty than expectation. But as before, I underestimated the Bronco’s abilities.

I previously mentioned the Bronco’s diff locks and two-speed transmission, but I didn’t mention the settings on the electric speed controller (ESC). Here we go getting into the nerdy nitty gritty of RC rock crawlers. The Traxxas Bronco’s ESC is effectively its brain, which determines what the motor does. It has five settings that essentially dictate the severity of electronic motor braking and the ferocity of the throttle. The two settings we used mostly were Sport Mode and Crawl Mode; the latter in this particular scenario because it engaged 100% hill hold braking.

Traxxas Bronoc ESC
©Photo: CAR/Chris Williams

Tentatively descending down the rugged hillside, the Bronco displayed just how much command you have at your disposal. The throttle inputs I made, no matter how small, were translated accurately into action; likewise with the steering. I felt every bit in control as if I were in the imaginary 1:10-scale driver’s seat, but because I was outside the vehicle, I got a much better view of the action: approach a dip; throttle off and let the hill braking slowly carry the Bronco downward a little; use the slippery brown pine needles on the ground to create a small controlled slide, with left-hand down and a tiny bit of reverse throttle to line the truck up for the next section. Great Caesar’s ghost, it was satisfying.

Working in conjunction with all the other pieces of kit were the portal axles. They raise the ground clearance of the Bronco to 80 millimetres and the huge suspension travel allows the truck to keep its tyres almost always in contact with the ground, resulting in more grip, which in turn gives you better overall control. In essence, the Traxxas Bronco will dance for you, even in worn out shoes.

Final verdict

The Traxxas Bronco spoils you. It's engineered and feature-packed to such a degree that you are totally unprepared for. The consequence is that almost any other rock crawler you drive feels so basic by comparison, which it is.

The TRX-4 Bronco is a big investment, made bigger by the fact you need to buy the charger and battery separately. But you do get a lot in return for it. Over the many weeks that we tested it, the Bronco was subject to seriously challenging terrain and quite a few heavy knocks. It's still going strong with only a few war wounds on the body to show for it.

For seasoned RC rock crawler owners the TRX-4 is a worthy upgrade from a cheaper, less capable rock crawler straight from the factory, which we imagine to be in 1:10 scale as well. But inevitably you'll want to tweak it and elevate the TRX-4 to new levels of off-road ability.

For newcomers, we'd suggest you perhaps cut your teeth on a more basic machine. It'll allow you to explore the sport and learn without investing too heavily. That being said, if you wanted to dive straight in to a TRX-4 we wouldn't blame you. It is epic.

Specs
Official price £686.99
Motor 21T 550 motor
Weight 2.91kg
Dimensions (L/W/H) in mm 584/249/239

Traxxas batteries and charger

Neither are included in the box, and need to be bought separately.

Other Traxxas TRX-4 bodies

If you're a Land Rover-phile you're in luck because you can have this model as a Land Rover Defender...or if you like the old-school vibe, an old Ford Bronco.

Read next:

FTX Mauler: a value-for-money mountain goat

FTX Outback Texan long term test: A trusty steed or my lovely horse?

Element Enduro24 Sendero: the loveable runt

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