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Unbelievable RC

New Bright Rock Crawler

November 2011
new bright rock crawler

Street Price: $64.99
Manufacturer: New Bright
Mfr's recommended min. age: 8
Our recommended age range: 5-9
Primary use: Outdoors
Top speed: A crawl
Runtime per charge: varies by terrain, ~30 mins
Radio: 27 MHz 4-band
Includes:

  • Assembled vehicle
  • Controller
  • 9.6V rechargeable battery
  • Wall charger
  • 9V controller battery
  • Instructions
Requires:
  • Just a driver!

Initial Impressions

I first tested a New Bright Jeep Rock Crawler back in 2006. It was fair as an RC, and somewhat poor as a true "crawler." This newer version released in 2011 uses the same dual-motor, four-wheel-drive chassis as the old Jeep, but it's been outfitted with narrower tires with deeper, more aggressive tread, and it's topped off with a new lightweight body. Personally, I think the old one looked a thousand times better. It had a lot of realistic touches, while this new one has flashy chrome wheels, strange proportions, and a racing truck style that really doesn't go with the crawling theme. Shockingly, they also switched to much stiffer springs. Normally when you think of a vehicle that's made to go over rocks, you think of soft suspension that can flex & extend over the terrain. The new Crawler is so stiff that the springs barely compress at all.

On the positive side, all batteries are included, with a 9.6V rechargeable pack for the vehicle and a 4-hour wall charger. It uses a selectable 4-band radio, so even if you get four of the same vehicle in the same color in the same place, they can all be driven together without any radio interference. The controller also features proportional control, allowing you to go really slow, full speed, or anything in between. Steering is not proportional, though; it's just all left, all right, or straight.

Testing

Top speed of the New Bright Rock Crawler is, well, a crawl. This is by design. When I first started driving it, I went from a flat street-like surface to gravel, and noticed the speed did not change at all. This was an early indication that the vehicle had plenty of power on tap, it was just geared down in the axles to sacrifice speed in favor of torque. From gravel I drove into some medium-high grass and low weeds, which the Crawler pushed through better than most toy-grade RCs I've ever tested. The real test came the first time I encountered a big chunk of broken-up concrete. To my delight, I was able to drive right up and over it. As I found more big obstacles, my eyes continued to widen as the New Bright performed almost flawlessly. There were a couple of situations where I got high-centered or wasn't able to go over an exceedingly large rock, and the sport of rock crawling (whether in RC or full scale) does require some planning & skill as you choose your routes & angles carefully to match the capabilities of your vehicle. Most of the time, though, the worst thing that would happen is that I would have to reverse out of a sticky situation. I was genuinely impressed.

Video

(Click a video a second time to view it larger in a new window.)

Conclusion

The 2011 version New Bright Rock Crawler takes a big step upward in performance compared to its predecessor. It now handles obstacle-laden terrain better than expected. The inclusion of all needed batteries is always a good thing, and the proportional throttle control on the radio lets you use maximum skill to put your tires exactly where you want them and adjust your path carefully as you inch your way over rocks. It could have been made better still with softer, real rubber tires, and softer springs to allow a little bit of suspension articulation. I feel like it's just a little on the pricey side, but the overall value is pretty decent.

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