The Rustler is great. It’s proven fast, durable, easy to work on and fun to drive (in that wily, rear-wheel drive kind of way you don’t get from a 4×4). The vehicle design may be getting dated, but new electronics and some other performance upgrades breath new life into one of the best bashers available. What follows is a side by side comparison of the current XL-5 (brushed) and VXL (brushless) versions of this truggy.
Both cars feature the same Alias tires on the same wheels, although the wheels on the VXL have a dark chrome finish. The bodies are molded identically, but feature different art. The VXL definitely has a sleeker, more modern look.
The Little Things
The XL-5 comes held together with Phillips-head screws. The VXL comes standard with all Hex hardware. Anyone who’s worked with RCs knows that the hex head is a very welcome upgrade if you plan on tinkering with the car. The VXL also comes with slightly beefier body pins, and a front suspension tie bar (located right behind the bumper) to add some rigidity to your front end.
While the XL-5 contains quality straight forward parts, the VXL replaces a number of them with their more modern, refined counterparts. The VXL features adjustable camber links on the front and rear (as opposed to solid plastic links on the XL-5). This is a very fine adjustment that a typical basher won’t take advantage of. The steering rods underneath them are also slightly thicker gauge than those on the XL-5.
This is a substantial quality-of-life thing. The RC vehicles of yesteryear (that’s the XL-5) utilize 27MHz radio technology. This type of transmitter/receiver requires more power (more batteries in the controller), is weaker (less range and longer antennas), and can create issues with interference and compatibility with vehicles using similar bands.
Enter 2.4GHz. Fewer batteries, no Olympic-fencing length antennas, no interference, better range. Woohoo! It’s a subtle but important improvement that’s included with the VXL, especially if you plan on driving with others. Both vehicles include their versions of the Top Qualifier transmitter, which have the necessary adjustments available, and both have foam on the steering wheel.
Both vehicles have waterproof electronics. The XL-5 has a high-torque analog servo (2056), and the VXL has a high-torque digital servo (2075) that is theoretically quicker and more accurate.
The Electronic Speed Control on the XL-5 supports low-voltage detection, so you can use a 2S LiPo battery (as opposed to the included NiMh) to give that brushed motor a little more punch. The VXL comes with a 3S compatible ESC that is connected to a brushless motor.
Here’s the biggie: Brushed vs. Brushless. Hobby-grade RCs are fast, and a big improvement over the toys I used to play with. Going from brushed to brushless is like that jump in performance all over again. The XL-5 has a solid Titan 12 Turn motor, coupled with the fact that the Rustler is a fast vehicle, and it takes some skill to control, it won’t feel immediately lacking. But if you are the kind of person who wants to push it – who wants that extra power on tap, you’ll find yourself wanting to go brushless soon.
Brushless motors require less maintenance, are more efficient, and man, they go faster. In fact, one of the downsides to the Velineon 3500 motor that powers the VXL is that it’s easy to lose control, flip the vehicle, or crash into something you didn’t intend to. This may be an important factor if you plan on handing the controls over to an unpracticed or young driver. Both ESCs do, however, have a “Training Mode” which limits the throttle and makes the Rustler more manageable.
Both Rustlers are enough to get you into trouble. If you’ve never used a hobby-grade RC before, the XL-5 is a good place to start – a way to test the waters. It’s reliable and rear-wheel drive is the best way to learn. But, if you plan on enjoying RC for more than just playing around, are a speed freak, competitive, or want to stay current, just skip right to the the VXL. Both vehicles offer good value, but the VXL is a true jack-of-all trades.