Rock crawlers are the new hotness, and some of the best radio control cars out there. They're not as fast as some of the top off-road buggies, but they're really not supposed to be: they're about successfully making it over the toughest terrain, powering your way through with maximum torque and control.
Our two favourite entries in the sector are the TRX-4 Scale and Trail Crawler, a beautifully realistic Land Rover replica from high-end RC expert Traxxas, and FTX's mid-range FTX5570 Outlaw, dressed up like an Ultra-4 desert buggy but capable of going slow and steady when it needs to.
But which is the cream of the crawling crop? Which truck can you trust to buck the muck? Let's break them down and find out.
Traxxas TRX-4 vs FTX FTX5570 Outlaw: Price
There's no getting around it. The TRX-4 is one pricey RC car. It's not quite as high-end as Traxxas' XO-1 supercar (in fact, it's about half as expensive) but at around £575/$499/AU$800 it is not a pocket money toy. This is an enthusiast-level 1:10 scale platform, supplied ready to run.
The FTX FTX5570 (also 1:10 scale) is a lot cheaper, with an MSRP of £139/AU$285 – in the US, you're looking at an import, so expect a price around $250. That makes it perfect for budget buyers looking to play with rock crawling (and, indeed, take advantage of its straight-line speed) for the first time.
So the FTX wins on price, right? Well, yes, it's cheaper. But the investment you make in Traxxas' model might be a better spend overall, as we'll find out: the Outlaw is rough and ready, but it's twitchy and fragile too.
Traxxas TRX-4 vs FTX FTX5570 Outlaw: Design
In terms of realism, the Traxxas TRX-4 wins the day here: if you've ever wanted a dinky Land Rover Defender, this is absolutely that, making the very most of its license. It looks great; the only thing that's missing is a working winch on front, and that is us being obnoxiously demanding.
The FTX FTX5570 Outlaw is far more standard RC car fare, with a lifted body shell and a much more plasticky look. Note that both models come with spare tyres which can actually be switched out if you hit too-tough terrain.
The outer shell is not the only concern, though. What's underneath really matters, and the extra investment you'll make in Traxxas' crawler really makes the difference here. The FTX is no slouch, with some serious oil-filled shocks, a lightweight frame and a 550 motor underneath.
But the TRX-4's portal axles elevate it, its TitanT 21T reverse rotation motor gives it power, and its steel frame makes this one of the most rigid RC cars around still.
Traxxas TRX-4 vs FTX FTX5570 Outlaw: Speed
The Outlaw often feels like it's on the run, hitting a 30kph clip with ease and possibly pushing even further depending on your battery, with its power driven through a 4WD shaft drive. Keep the throttle low and there's certainly enough torque (and flexible enough shocks) to tackle just about any terrain.
The TRX-4 is nowhere near as fast. Although modders have somehow managed to get their TRX-4s up to in the region of 50kph, a bone stock model will give you more like 8kph in low gear, 14kph in high. Honestly, even low gear is probably a little high if you're working on some particularly rough ground, but it gives you a good range to play with.
Traxxas TRX-4 vs FTX FTX5570 Outlaw: Control
There's a clear winner here: The TRX-4 can be whatever you want it to be, with five smart driving modes which take it anywhere from Race mode (which cuts out reverse) to Crawl Mode (which applies 100% holding brake when in neutral) to a special training mode which applies half power so kids can safely have a try. You can switch to high or low gear, and lock the differentials remotely; it absolutely feels like the total package.
The FTX5570 doesn't have the same range of control – it's more a manual dexterity test than a collection of mod cons. It could be a little twitchy for racing, particularly over rough ground, and many users say it has the tendency to flip and roll with little provocation; you may wish to experiment with its adjustable shocks and reposition the battery weight to find the right balance for you.
Traxxas TRX-4 vs FTX FTX5570 Outlaw: Which is best?
The Traxxas TRX-4 is best. It just is. It's one of the most highly respected rock crawlers out there. It's great fun to tinker with, has a whole load of functions to explore, and it'll go and go. If you're looking to invest in the RC hobby and have even a passing interest in rock crawling, this is the one to have.
But the FTX FTX5570 is faster. It's cheaper. It's arguably more versatile. And it might even be more fun? That would depend on what you wanted to do with it, of course, but there's something to be said for a novice car with a good price and plenty going for it.