Disaster struck on treacherous terrain. The jagged incline proved too much. As a wheel lifted into the air the Ford Bronco’s grille lead the fall as the SUV tumbled downhill. After a few reverse somersaults, the Bronco came to rest with its tires pointed skyward.
So we picked the orange SUV up, set it right, and approached the hill again.
Off-road enthusiasts can’t wait to find out how the reborn Ford Bronco handles a trail. For the time being, though, the Traxxas TRX-4 Ford Bronco remote control rock crawler will have to satiate many fans of the Blue Oval’s new mid-size model.
The Wait, What Now?
Traxxas is a Texas-based manufacturer of remote control vehicles. Founded in 1986, the company’s range spans track cars, monster trucks, boats, aircraft, and off-roaders. One of those dirt-oriented machines is the TRX-4, a chassis on which various bodies downsized to one-tenth scale fit.
Small it may be (about 20 inches long on a 12.0-inch wheelbase), but the TRX-4 boasts hardware suited for trail rigs of any size. Steel frame rails provide a foundation. Oil-filled coilover shocks suspend its clearance-enhancing portal axles. Each axle has a remotely locking differential and is secured to the frame by steel links with aluminum ball ends. Nylon composite makes up the floor, shock towers, inner fenders, and other structural areas.
Unlike most of today’s off-roaders, the TRX-4 is all-electric. A 14-volt, 21-turn brushed motor draws power from a lithium-ion or nickel-metal hydride battery, available in various cell counts and milliamp hours. Driving all four wheels through U-jointed driveshafts and a high-/low-range transmission, the TRX-4 tops out at about 12 mph. Speed isn’t the point, though. Picking through technical terrain is.
Controlling it all is a pistol-grip transmitter powered by four AA batteries. Pulling the trigger accelerates the TRX-4 and pushing away reverses it. Gradually letting off the trigger engages the drag brake, allowing low-speed finesse and enough force to hold the rig without rolling. A foam-lined wheel controls steering. Additional switches toggle between low- and high-range, cruise control speed, and more.
We have experience with this setup. In the depths of quarantine, we bought a TRX-4 kit with a Mercedes-Benz G500 4×4 Squared body from a local hobby shop. Hours spent building the chassis from tiny, intricate parts, as well as custom-painting the body, were totally worth it—we’ve spent even more hours driving it on Southern California rocks. When we learned that Traxxas was releasing a TRX-4 Bronco, we had to check it out.
Bronco Out of the Box
Unlike our G500 kit, the Bronco came RTR; ready to run. Step one was to get the battery on Traxxas’ EZ-Peak Live charger, which syncs with a phone app to show charge status. Getting everything else out was all too simple. This included pulling the transmitter from its styrofoam cutout, as well as the detailed instruction manual and a few basic tools. The Bronco itself rolled out of the box wrapped neatly in plastic.
Peeling the plastic off revealed the small-scale Bronco body’s realism. This being an officially licensed product, Traxxas worked with Ford to ensure that no detail was missed. Everything that makes the Bronco look rad—hood sights, folding mirrors, grille lettering—is here. Even though the headlights and taillights don’t illuminate (that’s an optional upgrade), the reflective finish of these bits adds a realistic shine. The body’s Cyber Orange paint includes a fine metallic flake, and it looks as eye-catching here as it does on the real thing (Traxxas also offers the kit in Rapid Red).
Underneath is all electronics—no interior here. How this body secures to the chassis using integrated clips in each fender adds to its realism, as opposed to our G500, which has posts poking through the body. The roof and doors don’t come off as on the full-scale Bronco, but the fender flares do. A few tiny screws hold each in place.
The standard rubber is 4.7 inches in diameter with a tread of Traxxas’ own design. Just like the real Bronco, a full-size spare is mounted to the back of this R/C variant. Punctures aren’t really a concern, either, as the tires are filled with cushy foam inserts and glued to Bronco-specific 1.9-inch wheels.
Small Crawler in Action
Shrinking the Bronco down to one-tenth scale makes the world around it seem much bigger. Full-size off-roaders need long trails, but the TRX-4 can prove its potential in an area the size of a parking space. Patches of slick rock, boulders, and silty dirt near the Corral Canyon Cave north of Los Angeles might as well have been Poison Spider or the Rubicon for the TRX-4. Often visited as a short hiking trail, the area was vast enough to drain the battery after a few hours and still leave us with features to try.
This little Bronco’s capabilities are impressive. It reacts precisely to every input coming through the transmitter. Four-wheel drive traction keeps it crawling over steep pitches and big (well, small) features. Locking the differentials makes a huge difference in what it can get over. The portal axles give it more space to clear obstacles—its ramp travel index might exceed what the real Bronco’s independent front suspension provides. How the tires conform to the surface adds performance and realism to the experience.
For as impressive as its low-speed crawling performance is, the TRX-4 Bronco doesn’t do fast very well. A fixed 50/50 front/rear torque split keeps things neutral when trying to slide on loose dirt. It’ll easily flip itself over when full throttle meets excessive steering angle, too. Credi the soft springs.
There are times when engaging high-gear lays down the power needed to leap over an obstacle, but the TRX-4’s capabilities are demonstrated best in its low gear. In low gear, with both diffs locked, it’s amazing what this little beast is capable of getting over—provided its handler has enough patience and skill.
Fun With Ford’s Baby, Baby Bronco
Tackling technical terrain in a built SUV is awesome, but unless you live somewhere like Moab, such trails are not always accessible at a moment’s notice. This is where the TRX-4 comes in. It scratches much of the full-scale off-roading itch. It also requires fine control, tactful planning, dialed equipment, and some guts to traverse whatever’s in the way. It’s a motivator to explore new terrain, and it turns the landscape into a puzzle to conquer. Massive acreage or pricey permits aren’t required, as any backyard rock pile or mud pit is enough. Unlike full-scale off-roading, tackling tiny trails in the TRX-4 is not expensive, nor is it dangerous if things go rubber side up. Just pick the rig up, set it right, and try again.
The 2022 Bronco is finally in production, but the order books are already full for years. Examples are bound to come up for sale with hefty markups. If the wait or cost of a new Bronco is too great, then check out the TRX-4 Bronco. At about $550, it’s less than a set of tires and gives just as many reasons to get out in the dirt. It also makes for sweet garage decor. Don’t scoff at this R/C SUV just because it’s small; the Traxxas TRX-4 Bronco is a proper bit of kit and serious fun.