mostlytechnic

[REVIEW] 42109 - App-Controlled Top Gear Rally Car

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Technic App-Controlled Top Gear Rally Car

Thanks to Lego and EB for this review set - I'd seen the rumors and leaked images, so I was thrilled to get to try it out. 

Name: App-Controlled Top Gear Rally Car

Set Number: 42109

Pieces: 463

Price: $129.99

Minifigs: 0

Theme: Technic

The Box Front

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There is a LOT going on here. Logos everywhere, and not just on the car. But overall, that's a pretty nice looking set. I'm worried that it's over-reliant on the stickers though. I get the Top Gear branding - it makes sense for a car. Except they've never had a rally car on the show driven by the Stig. There were SO many opportunities for a more fitting car - any of the "reasonably priced cars" that they had stars race in (but that would've required more licensing deals), or the Reliant Robin, or the ridiculous P45, or the Hammerhead Eagle i-Thrust, or best of all, the indestructible Toyota Hilux. This feels more like Lego designed a rally car set and then got TG to do a licensing deal and just slapped stickers on it. 

The Box Back

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Yep, it's the Stig. With so much Top Gear branding, I feel like this set is Euro-targeted. Yes, people here in the USA have sometimes seen Top Gear on the internet, and there was a few episodes of "Top Gear America," but it's still not a popular thing here. I think the average person seeing this on a shelf won't know the reference. And sadly, no sign of a B-model.... even worse, no Stig is included. This would have been a GREAT opportunity to bring back the Technic figures and have an all-white one. 

The Box Side

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Here's the electronics included. You get a Powered Up hub, a large motor, and an XL motor. Yes, this is the bigger hub that has FOUR ports. It's previously only available in the Off-Roader set and the massive Leibherr Excavator. That alone will probably sell some of these sets.

The Contents

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Nothing shocking - a manual, sticker sheet, non-numbered bags of parts, and an inner box that has the electronic stuff.

The Stickers

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Yep, there's a lot of them. And they're full of puns and TG references. But being Lego, not the inappropriate TG jokes (sorry, no Penistone or anything like that)

The New Parts

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Yes, there is a new differential in the set. It's actually pretty nice - it's easier to use than the old one, since you don't have any of the inner gears falling out while you're trying to put it in place. And it's the same size, but with a double-bevel gear so you've got more flexibility in driving it. As for other new parts, the only thing I noticed was the mudguard panel in white, which you get FIVE of. 

The Build, 1

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The build starts with the simple drive system. It's upside down in the photo - you've got the rear axle with the differential. It'll take advantage of the new diff gear by using a simple drive. The motor will get a gear attached and directly drive the diff. I also appreciate the new cable management clips, which come in a couple colors in this set. 

The Build, 2

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Here is the chassis basically done. It has a fair bit of decorative bits - brake discs on the rear axle, engine components up front (around the L motor which handles the steering), and dual exhausts.

The Build, 2B

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The steering is directly done, like the drive setup. The L motor has a small gear that meshes with a gear rack to steer.

The Build, Done

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All that was left is adding the body panels. And stickers. So many stickers. There's big ones, little ones, all over. The car looks really naked without them. 

The Underside

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From the bottom, the car looks pretty boring. There's no drive train, suspension, etc. Having the two motors so directly driving their functions makes it mechanically a pretty simplistic set. The batteries are easily accessible, and you can see two of the new larger 7x11 frames in white. Those give the car a lot of strength without needing many parts to reinforce it.

The Side View

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There's a few cosmetic misses, IMHO. There is a gap in front of the black panels at the rear, behind the "door" - it's necessary due to how the beams behind it are placed, but that panel with "The Stig" on it would look better a stud or two forward. I don't like the different tire sizes either. It's partially to give the car an aggressive posture, and it's partially for easier clearance on the steering mechanism. The larger tires do fit the front wheel wells, but they just barely rub when the steering is turned to the max. I just think the littler tires look too small. 

The App

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Yes, you MUST have an Apple or Android device to use this set. Well, perhaps the Powered Up remote could control it, but I didn't test that. They completely expect you to use the app. So before you buy the set, make sure you can get the Technic Control+ app on your device (I don't know how old of devices it'll work on). This is the primary interface. You use your left thumb to steer, on the corner steering wheel. Your right thumb controls the throttle on the right. There is a handbrake, but it doesn't do much (the car stops pretty fast on its own). And you can switch to "manual transmission" where you select one of 3 gears, which do affect the car's speed. There are also some "races" you can do, driving the car following onscreen prompts and trying to beat a set time. 

The Video

So how does it drive? Well... it's a mixed bag. Personally, I think it's too slow. It's a race car, Lego. Not a piece of construction equipment. It does maneuver well and the app works well to drive it. One perk is that the new motors have position sensors built in, so the steering automatically returns to center. It's not perfect though - it would typically be still curving slightly any time I tried to go straight. 

 

The Results

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Overall, how is the set? I think it's a nice set. The cost seems high, but that's driven by the new Control+ system. Lego doesn't currently sell any of the included parts alone, but for comparison, the smaller PUP Hub retails for $50. The Medium motor retails for $17. So I'm sure Lego would value the hub and motors from this set at $90+. Given that, the value of the set is good. However, on Bricklink, the current selling price is $25-30 for this hub and $15-20 each for the motors. There's a lot of people parting out the Liebherr set!

One huge benefit to Technic builders is that there's now a car in the app. You could easily design your own car, and as long as you have an L motor for steering and an XL for driving, the app would work. 

There are definitely things that I think could be better on the car, it needs a B-model, it's expensive, and I seriously wish it came with a Stig to drive it. Overall though, I'd give it a solid B. Whether it's a good buy for you depends on your wants - do you want a Technic app-controlled car? If yes, go buy it! Then mod it to go faster :head_back:

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Great review, and again, nice backdrops!

The new differential is very cool. But I am not a big fan of the looks. There's too much going on. Not a fan of the different wheel sizes either.

Overall it's likable and it has the new electronic parts.

Has the big white frame been used in the Liebherr?

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Thanks for review. I really like new differential, it would be perfect for my Moc to make bigger reduction from XL motor.

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13 minutes ago, Jim said:

Has the big white frame been used in the Liebherr?

Yes, around the radiators, a total of 4 pieces.

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I like the look of the car, but it could have done with some brighter colours. Lego missed an opportunity to introduce a new buggy motor here. It's way too slow! it should be drifting around corners (surface permitting).

H

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I agree this would have been a good opportunity for a new buggy motor in PU format. But do the hubs have the ability to power such beasts? Can the point where the protection for the motors kicks in be altered depending on what motor is plugged in? To make it better to drive I think they should have added a trim function to the steering and possibly used pins with friction to reduce backlash, or very slightly increase the minor diameter of the frictionless pin by a few hundreths of a mm so it's less sloppy! TLG must know that at this price point, and with an app that STILL doesn't allow for custom builds with custom controls, they are in much closer competition with much much better performing RCs, and the lack of speed and steering adjustment puts it way behind. And you still have to look at a phone screen to control it. Lego should add support third party physical controllers like the PlayStation style controller. After all, the smart phones they need us to have to purchase these control+ sets are also third party devices are they not? So what's the issue? But looking for the positives, I do really like the new diff and I am now completely sold on its strength, it's very strong indeed and should have no problems with driving a heavy flagship sized model without further reduction after the diff, I think. 

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Good assortment of parts, but set itself is one of the ugliest ever. I might get it (for the diff if notthing else), but it will go straight to parts. Parformance is also dissapointing. For such small set, I was expecting this to "fly" not crawl as it is. 

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Thanks for the great review! I managed to get my hands on it yesterday, and I must say, it's quite an interesting set. Without stickers makes me wanna swap some panels on it. But I have some good ideas as to what to MOC  out of it. Also, if anybody had doubts about putting it on the car transporter, I can report that it kinda fits om the trailer's lower deck. Also, has anybody got an answer to why some recent sets (this and Volvo Zeux) have add-on pieces at the steering? I mean, why a gear rack and a double bevel gear is not enough?

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10 minutes ago, Jockos said:

Also, has anybody got an answer to why some recent sets (this and Volvo Zeux) have add-on pieces at the steering? I mean, why a gear rack and a double bevel gear is not enough?

To center steering and to allign front axle turning with rear...

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1 hour ago, I_Igor said:

To center steering and to allign front axle turning with rear...

Thank you!:classic:

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On 12/27/2019 at 11:54 AM, allanp said:

....and with an app that STILL doesn't allow for custom builds with custom controls, they are in much closer competition with much much better performing RCs, and the lack of speed and steering adjustment puts it way behind. And you still have to look at a phone screen to control it. Lego should add support third party physical controllers like the PlayStation style controller. After all, the smart phones they need us to have to purchase these control+ sets are also third party devices are they not? 

Yes i agree, would be nice if LEGO offers its on "Real Controller", maybe in addition to App solution. It would be even more nicer if we have the choice between Technic Hubs based on BLE, or 2Ghz.

The positive things:

You must not use the phone screen to control it for a number of reasons:

1. You can use applications like "Brickcontroller" to use nearly any Bluetooth Game controller you like as shown here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G4fTGnBA6M0

2. LEGO has published their Wireless specification a while ago here: https://lego.github.io/lego-ble-wireless-protocol-docs/

As a result it is up to us  to Create: Apps, running on Tablets or phone, classic desktop Applikations on Apple, Windows based, LINUX ...

Creating our own Bluetooth remote controls, by using any casing you like.

I have just started a number of small projects:

a) I will strip a given RC Controller , former used by an RC car, i will keep Buttons and handles but replace the electronics.

    I will use LED Buttons, potentiometer for steering and throttle and connect all an Microcontrollerboard that supports BLE.

   I wil start with nrf52840 feather express Board from Adafruit, others are, ESP32, Ardoino nano 33 BLE, RASberry PI and many more

 

 b) Other Idea: The Brickcontroller app akts as a Sofwarebridge between an GameController and the LEGO Hub.

      In my case i will use my Board acting as a hardware bridge between an Ordinary RC controller and the LEGO HUB.

     The reveiver of the RC System is connected to my Board. My Board reveives and computes Control information from the Reveiver                   channels and translates them by using the commands taken from the LEGO BLE spec.

  Advantage is, that it woks without any changes on the hardware of RX system or LEGO hub.

Simplest forrm of an BLE  Handheld Controller for the LEGO HUB, based on:  https://github.com/corneliusmunz/legoino

  • Take a ESP32 based affordable development board of our choice
  • Setup your Ardoino or Plattform.io environment
  • Add  a pair of simple jostick gibles, Buttons, LED, what you like
  • Have fun

Happy new year, Marc

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On 12/29/2019 at 11:16 AM, Jockos said:

Thank you!:classic:

The app has a calibration function, but sometimes you need something to make small manul corrections,too

In addtion i miss a dual rate function to lmit the steering angle, becauseaccording to the noise comming from the steering, it seems that t sometimes hits the machanical endpoints.

 

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2 hours ago, ruppie said:

Yes i agree, would be nice if LEGO offers its on "Real Controller", maybe in addition to App solution. It would be even more nicer if we have the choice between Technic Hubs based on BLE, or 2Ghz.

 

Normal bluetooth and BLE use 2.4GHz

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Posted (edited)
15 hours ago, Tcm0 said:

Normal bluetooth and BLE use 2.4GHz

Yes, you are right i try to explain more precise what i mean:

1. Missing LEGO  BLE Handset, like inside the Train Sets. I don't understand, why the did'nt created at least a simple one, exactly tailored for the cars and the Liebherr.  

2. Missing "normal" RC Control Technic HUBs, supporting same set of motors, using same 2,4 Ghz Sub frequency bands, and more important,same communication protocolls as listed here; https://oscarliang.com/pwm-ppm-sbus-dsm2-dsmx-sumd-difference/.

The "other" Brickset manufacturers  regulary earn applause, in case the y have put "any" type of RC  2,4 GHz control into the set

But: I have concerns that each of them uses their own, properitary protocol.our bricksets shall be as flexible as possible: I would like to see Sets where i can use at least my own RC -Set , as know from midrange price RC Modell cars.

 

Marc

 

 

 

Edited by ruppie

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Posted (edited)
On 12/27/2019 at 11:54 AM, allanp said:

I agree this would have been a good opportunity for a new buggy motor in PU format. 

If i am right the stall(maximum) current of these motors is 3~4 Amps. ?! I am not sure what is the maximum allowed current load for the new cable and connector pins of plug ans socket. If i am right somewere has left a message that the maximum current of the technic hub ports is actually limited , below 1A as i remember .

 

 

Edited by ruppie

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16 hours ago, ruppie said:

Yes, you are right i try to explain more precise what i mean:

1. Missing LEGO  BLE Handset, like inside the Train Sets. I don't understand, why the did'nt created at least a simple one, exactly tailored for the cars and the Liebherr.  

2. Missing "normal" RC Control Technic HUBs, supporting same set of motors, using same 2,4 Ghz Sub frequency bands, and more important,same communication protocolls as listed here; https://oscarliang.com/pwm-ppm-sbus-dsm2-dsmx-sumd-difference/.

The "other" Brickset manufacturers  regulary earn applause, in case the y have put "any" type of RC  2,4 GHz control into the set

But: I have concerns that each of them uses their own, properitary protocol.our bricksets shall be as flexible as possible: I would like to see Sets where i can use at least my own RC -Set , as know from midrange price RC Modell cars.

1. I think that the problem is the configurability of the motors. When should they be used as "Tank controls", when should they be used for normal steering, when should 2 motors be used at the same time (as seen in the offroad vehicle from last year) when should they be calibrated and how do you include a complicated model like the Liebherr (with multiple hubs) into that?

I think that lego is the only one with enough power on the market to develop a "standard" system.

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16 hours ago, ruppie said:

1. Missing LEGO  BLE Handset, like inside the Train Sets. I don't understand, why the did'nt created at least a simple one, exactly tailored for the cars and the Liebherr.  

We asked the Powered Up hw developers about it, why they did not create a controller for the Technic sets. The answer was simple - the Technic team did not ask for it yet. As I see there's currently a misconception about kids and smart devices, TLG thinks the only way to go is touch control and it is perfectly fine for everything. 

With the Powered Up system it could be possible to use a controller in 3 different ways:

- The controller connects to the hub directly with a preconfiugred layout. That's what we see with the trains and the train remote. Since it needs a factory configuration for the set it is working for simple stuff like trains, but would require an update with each new set with a more complicated gamepad-style remote and would not offer any customization, just like the Control+ app currently.

- The controller connects to the smart device that acts as a bridge. This way it'd be possible to configure the buttons of the controller and assign them to different hubs/outputs and actions. I think this will be possible with the Powered Up app sometimes in the future, but we'll still be limited with the train-style remote and the buttons, so no proportional joystick control.

- The controller (a gamepad-style one) could be a configurable smart device itself - the app could connect to the remote, we could configure the joysticks/buttons/dials/etc. and save the profile for a specific set or moc. This would be the best solution but I don't think we'll see anything similar coming from TLG considering the set-based approach we've seen so far. 

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Lets say, i am a product manager / project leader for a number of actual technic sets like:

 - Rally car

- Crawler / Buggy

- Liegherr 

I would have demanded a set of  tailor made hand held controls for each of them. The technical design base for all systems is equal, by means of hardware and firmware. The only challange is to create different "faces"  with usefull control elements within a usefull handy case.  I did not expect, one remote control, that must match all types of requirements like big RC programmable multichannel transmitters. Maybe this is  another interesting  product idea for a  high level expert customers.

Or in other words: Do one thing , but try to do it right. Actually it seems that the product designers got lost into their own world of "everthing is possible" ?

 

 

 

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