Blakbird

[REVIEW] 9398 - Rock Crawler

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I came home from work yesterday and found a lovely box on my front porch from Denmark. In my experience, this is always a good thing! I quickly unpacked the box and beheld with wonder the new 9398 Rock Crawler. There has been a lot of speculation about this set for a long time, so I hope I can answer most of the questions in this review. I apologize in advance for the darkness of the first pictures, but I started building at midnight and didn't want to use a flash.

The first thing you see is the huge box which says ages 11-16 and 1327 pieces. Technically the name is "4x4 Crawler", not Rock Crawler. The box is very large and uses the front flap to display the functions like a lot of the newer flagship sets. The back cover shows the alternate model. Note that the alternate uses exactly the same chassis and just has a different body. The instructions for the B-model are not yet available.

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The inside flap here shows all the Power Functions parts and a demo of the functions.

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Here's a view of the instructions. The A-model instructions come in 3 volumes. You might expect that the first two would contain the chassis and the third the body since these are built totally separately, and you'd almost be right. There is one page of chassis in the 3rd book! I'm convinced that these just get divided up evenly and therefore the booklet breaks are not at any convenient point. There was also an instruction addendum sheet in the box which shows 4 amended pages. I should point out that none of these changes are due to actual errors; all are just to clarify steps that might commonly be done incorrectly.

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There is a full page sticker sheet as you can see below. I'm hoping the quality of the white stickers has improved and doesn't end up like the Williams Racer. I guess I won't know for a few years! The first page of the instructions, shown below, suggests that this model is only intended for indoor use. This is not surprising since the unsealed gears would immediately fill with grit outdoors.

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Let's start taking a look at the new parts. Firstly, the IR receiver has changed in some unknown way. You can clearly see the "V2" stamped on the front. The next image shows the new servo motor. As you can see, this thing has a lot of attachment options. What you can't see in this image is that the orange output goes all the way through so there is an identical output on the back. I would guess that the upper part of the housing has the motor and gear reduction and the lower portion has the position resolver. There is probably also a spur gear stage between the two which gives you the very high reduction. This servo rotates +/- 90 degrees from neutral. Neutral is marked with a couple of dots. The procedure to center it is interesting. If you simply hook it up to a battery box, then it will drive all the way to one end or the other depending on polarity. However, if you hook it up in series with the IR receiver then it commands to neutral automatically as long as there is no signal. In this case, the polarity of the battery box doesn't matter. Although this model has a simple remote which only commands the servo to full travel or neutral, the servo is capable of proportional control. For example, if connected to the Li-Po battery box you can move it in 7 increments in each direction. I can only assume that a proportional remote is in our future. The train remote would technically work, but it is useless for controlling IR/C vehicles.

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Here is the long awaited L motor. One big advantage over the M-motor is that it can be much better supported with pins along the sides. It looks like the internal motor itself is larger, but probably has the same 2 stage planetary reduction. Output speed seems very similar to M motor. The next image shows some other new parts. The black tie rod is actually old. I don't think we've seen this one since 8865 in 1988. The difference here is not just the color, but the fact that this tie rod does not have stops inside so you can insert ball joints from either side. This makes it the only choice for certain applications. Oddly, this model does not put in the ball joints from both sides so the part is unnecessary here, but welcome. The new tan 4L axle at first seems like it does not offer any useful properties, but I'll talk more about it later when you can see what it does. The final angled axle connector will have many uses. It seems that LEGO has been using Barman's ideas!

I'm not going to post any more images of the motors because they have been well covered in other discussions already.

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The parts come bagged and numbered 1 and 2. 1 is the chassis, 2 is the body. All are shown in the first picture. The second picture shows the Bag 1 parts sorted. It is obvious that LEGO has been listening to our part requests. We get a bunch of orange and white beams and panels and we get 4 more portal axle hubs. Remember how some people didn't like the gray wheels on 8110 and wished there was black but they were rare and hard to get? Well there are black ones here. Remember all the requests for black smooth toggle connectors. We get 4 more of those too. And of course don't forget the new motors. An L motor was requested the very first day that Power Functions came out. The gap between M and XL was obvious. (Now we just need small.....) The servo motor has also been requested for a long time and will make a lot of people happy. We'll be happier once we get a proper proportional transmitter for it.

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OK, let's start building. The very first part used in the assembly is the servo motor. You can see from the picture that it not just attached to the structure, it is actually part of the structure. The ball joints on the front and back of it will allow the steering commands to pass forward and back through u-joints to the front and rear suspension without the steering axle having to support any weight. The fact that a single motor is used for front and rear steering means that they will always stay in sync because they are mechanically linked. The second image shows the chassis forming around the motor. The diagonal members here are a great way to stiffen the chassis by making a truss, and it works very well. You can see the first of the tan axles protruding from the ball joint. At this stage, you still can't tell what they do.

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Now let's get to the good stuff. The first image is the front suspension assembly (although the back is exactly the same). Unlike the 8110 Unimog which used two 16 tooth gears in the portal axle and therefore had no hub reduction, this crawler uses the 12 and 20 tooth double bevel gears to add mechanical advantage in the hub. The black fitting just above the wheel spindle is there only to keep the 3L supporting the black gear from pushing out when you assemble the hub to the suspension assembly. Nice touch. I can always use 4 more of these. They are technically redundant once built so you could remove them if you wanted, although they may help it from falling out under load (are you starting to figure out what the tan axles are for yet?). The second image shows the front suspension assembly attached to the central chassis. A couple of observations:

  • The drive is passed through the steering to the hub using u-joints. Unlike using CV joints, this means that the wheel will not rotate at a constant speed when turning. However, the steering lock is so small that it is not really a noticeable effect.
  • Again unlike the Unimog, this time the steering hubs use frictionless pins to make them easier to turn.
  • On the other hand, the steering rack attaches to the hubs with friction pins. I think this is mostly to remove slop in the steering and seems to work fine.
  • The red beam you see behind and under the steering is just there to keep it aligned and clocked straight ahead until it can be synchronized with the back steering. There are a number of such examples of making "assembly tools" in this model.

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This image better shows a couple of details.

  • See that red bushing to the left of the differential? It has no function except to keep you from putting in the diff backwards. This is really important because if the front and rear are not aligned, then the wheels will rotate in opposite directions.
  • Now we can see the function of the tan axle. The tan axle is coming out of either side of the diff and you can see the end of it beyond the black bevel gear. As you can see, this stopped axle cannot be inserted from the end which also means it cannot fall out. The 12 tooth bevel inside the diff is only 1/2 stud deep and it is pretty easy for the axle to back out under power. For a model like this, that would be death. The new parts cannot fall out so it helps the whole assembly endure the torque associated with driving this model.
  • You can count up the gear reduction. One stage is diff to 20 tooth gear, 28:20. There are then 3 sets of 12:20 bevel gears (one set in the wheel hub, one shown here by the diff, one in the front of the picture going up to the motor), giving a total of 7:1. Plus, of course, whatever is inside the motor.

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Now the front and rear assemblies are mated up to the center and another tool is installed on the side to hold everything straight. The second image shows where the motor is going to go. You can see the steering links have a slight Ackerman angle because the pin attachment is one stud inboard. You can also see the front end of the tan axle coming out of the ball joint which again is prevented from falling out.

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Here's a unique tool. The instructions actually tell you to use one of the tires to support the suspension assemblies while you build. In the second image the L motors are finally installed. The front and the back each have their own motor which are connected together at the receiver. There is no center diff which is good for rock crawler or you would lost all power if one wheel came off the ground. There is no mechanical connection between front and back. This model uses the same hard shocks as the 8110 which work well. You can see the pendular suspension which is stabilized by the 1x6 tie rods at the lower corners.

will no doubt point out that the negative caster and zero camber of the front wheels is not very realistic, but the steering servo seems to handle the forces fine so I am OK with it here. Of course, it also simplifies the assembly greatly.

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This image is here to make a point. See how this assembly just looks like a solid lump of plastic? There are virtually no empty places. The designers went out of their way to make sure every single direction was reinforced, then they reinforced it again just to be sure. Every gear set is locked together with the holes of a single part so that they cannot separate or skip. The motor stalls before any gears can slip, which is pretty incredible. It's not pretty yet, but there is nothing stopping us at this point from connecting the wires and trying this thing out, so that's what I did!

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This shows the final stage of the chassis which includes the fenders and the doors. Without any stickers or the rest of the body in place, it looks very odd.

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Time to do the body, so I've unpacked the bags numbered 2 and the sun has come up! No, I didn't work all night. Total build time was about 4 hours. You can see the white 5x11 panels which I believe are new.

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Here are some interim steps showing the grill, the seats, and the roof. The seats lift up with the body.

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Now the body is completed and the stickers are applied. Actually looks almost like a whole truck without the wheels. The second image shows the body attached to the chassis and open to allow access to the battery. Opening it involved only pulling two long pins with stop bush.

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OK, here's the final model! I know there has a been a lot of talk about the colors, but I think the final model looks great and I can always use more orange and white. Gets me one step closer to my goal of making an orange Countach. I'm not crazy about the red frame since I think it clashes with the rest of the colors, much like the 8110. You will remember that several people changed the colors of the frame and/or crane. Here's an example.

So how does this thing work? Well, in a word: great. I don't think we can deny that LEGO has been inspired by the Trial Truck races going on in Europe and this is a worthy entry. I drove it all over my house and over many obstacles. It never skipped gears and never got stuck. Now, it can't climb just anything, but it's performance is excellent. It is also surprisingly fast and has plenty of power. We've only had two IR/C Technic sets before: 8275 bulldozer and 8043 Excavator. 8275 was fast but was skid steer and used XL motors. 8043 was also skid steer. This is the first wheeled, motorized set ever. Well, almost. After building and driving it, I am pleased to report that this model is not just designed, but actually engineered. I can't think of another set I've had so much fun playing with. I tend to mostly build and display, but I can't stop messing with this thing. So much fun.

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Here are the extra parts. Mostly the usual stuff but the 12 tooth bevel gear is unusual. I guess LEGO recognizes that this is the structural weak point of the model and gives you an extra.

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I always like to compare models with what has come before. Here is the new rock crawler with the 8297 Extreme Offroader II and the 8466. 8297 and 9398 are similar in size, but 8466 is much bigger. Although 8297 has a motor, it does not drive the model, so there is really no comparison. And of course, 8297 is not really 4WD. And yes, the Power Puller wheels do fit as long as you put the deep parts of the wheel hub out.

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Let's look at it next to a couple of MOCs. On the left is Grazi's amazing Bigfoot monster truck. On the right is Nathanael Kuipers' Jeep Hurricane. Although both are marvelous MOCs and both have motorized wheels, neither can actually drive! Making this happen with the reliability of an official set is a real achievement. It is possible that I once predicted that this would never happen because the plastic parts cannot take the strain, so I guess they did it just to show me!

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I thought I would show you how to replace the battery box. First you fold up the body by accessing the gray pins inside the doors. Then you fold open the red retainer shown in the second picture after releasing the blue latch. The allows you to lift up the battery box module as shown in the third picture. Note that it includes some beams to position it inside the model. The whole thing can be done in 30 seconds and avoids having it hang out the back like 8070.

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Here are a few final thoughts. This image shows the very small steering lock. I think the reason that they did 4 wheel steering is because it was the only way to give this a good turning radius. Also, with the small steering lock there is really no reason for proportional steering.

The second image shows how well the pendular suspension works. It is very difficult to make one of these wheels come off the ground. You can also see the remote and how they have added a steering wheel much like a controller for an R/C car. Now it just needs a pistol grip and a trigger.

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So in summary this thing does everything you might expect a LEGO rock crawler to do. OK, it is not as fast or capable as a real R/C rock crawler, but those are made of metal, put together with screws, and not at all suitable for younger children. This thing will keep the kids busy for years, and the adults as well. If I take this to work, all the engineers will lose productivity for days as they study it.

So what about complaints? Not many. As I said, I am not crazy about the red frame, but that's pretty minor. It has all the parts we've been asking for. This seems to be a clear response to AFOL requests of the last few years, and LEGO seems to be doing this more and more. I like the trend.

Here is where I would normally put ratings in my review. But honestly, this thing has no competition because there's never been anything like it before. What can I rate it against? Anyone who's actually read all my rambling is obviously going to buy this thing anyway so why are you still reading? Go already!

(Larger versions of all these pictures can be seen on my Brickshelf account.)

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Great review as always. Is the steering limited by pins in the frame or by the 90 degree turn of the servo?

tim

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So how does this thing work? Well, in a word: great....It never skipped gears and never got stuck...it's performance is excellent. It is also surprisingly fast and has plenty of power....After building and driving it, I am pleased to report that this model is not just designed, but actually engineered. I can't think of another set I've had so much fun playing with....I can't stop messing with this thing. So much fun.

Those are the words we were hoping to hear! Thanks for the great review! :classic: I can't wait until the set is available in the USA in early August 2012. drool.gif

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Thanks for staying up so late for the fast, awesome review Blakbird!

And glad/sad that TLG sent it to you and I don't have to drop everything and race down to the local TRU (yet)!

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Great review as always. Is the steering limited by pins in the frame or by the 90 degree turn of the servo?

Limited by the servo. I don't think you would want the servo to stall against the steering lock.

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@ Blakbird: Do you get to KEEP the set, or is it just "on loan"? Did Sinner arrange for the set to be sent to you so that you could do a Eurobricks set review? You're a lucky guy! :wink:

To All :tongue:1176097251-34yv6t3.gif

Edited by DLuders

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Great review blakbird and thank u as u have answered all my questions I wanted to know,I'm also really glad u were impressed with how it drives as I think that's a first for u :)

Those are the words we were hoping to hear! Thanks for the great review! :classic: I can't wait until the set is available in the USA in early August 2012. drool.gif

That was my favourite bit too :)

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Great review Blakbird. :thumbup: I'm so looking forward to getting this set! :excited:

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I love your reviews. The pictures and the explanations are always perfect!

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@ Blakbird: I like seeing the 9398 parked next to Grazi's Bigfoot and Nathanael Kuipers' Jeep Hurricane. When you have a chance (in a few days), could you scan the two Parts List pages and add them to your Brickshelf gallery? :blush: The images that the Germans posted on Doktor Bricks Community were very fuzzy, and the Lego Element IDs were hard to read....

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@ Blakbird: I like seeing the 9398 parked next to Grazi's Bigfoot and Nathanael Kuipers' Jeep Hurricane. When you have a chance (in a few days), could you scan the two Parts List pages and add them to your Brickshelf gallery? :blush: The images that the Germans posted on Doktor Bricks Community were very fuzzy, and the Lego Element IDs were hard to read....

Technically the instructions are copyright material so I'm not sure I'm supposed to be scanning and posting them, but probably the parts list would be OK. I'll tell them you made me do it.

Edit: Done.

Parts1

Parts2

Edited by Blakbird

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Thank you for the review!

I can't wait for this fantastic set. Well done to the Technic Team at TLG for creating this!

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Great review! Thanks for taking the time to give us an early look. I'm still not taken by the sticker dependent color scheme but everything else looks very promising. It looks like fun! :thumbup:

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Great review Blakbird. Always a pleasure reading your thoughts about new model.

Maybe you could take some pictures of the Crawler with the Power Puller tires on.

Regards.

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Very good review Blakbird! Seeing such a raving review by "Mr. Technic" himself only makes me want it more :thumbup:

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he black tie rod is actually old. I don't think we've seen this one since 8865 in 1988. The difference here is not just the color' date=' but the fact that this tie rod does not have stops inside so you can insert ball joints from either side. This makes it the only choice for certain applications. [/quote']

Wrong, last year, they came with the unimog (depending on version you buy, it's probably the reason why you haven't mentionned it).

Great review by the way. The model performs well, apparantly. Also, it's great to see that they are more and more trial trucks with differentials which allow to turn better.

The only point I do not understand is why designers haven't put a 3:1 reduction inside the hub, reducing efforts on the drivetrain.

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Those rods were in many (22) sets, including 8070, 8145, 8110 and others.

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Great, great review! Thanks for that!

And nice to see that one has already found its way across the pond!

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Those rods were in many (22) sets, including 8070, 8145, 8110 and others.

No, we speak about new ones, the ones where you can connect round pins on both side.

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No, we speak about new ones, the ones where you can connect round pins on both side.

that is nothing new. long years ago tlg has the same design, before they changed it to the "single side open" design. i was very surprised and happy that they go back to it.

Edited by efferman

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No, we speak about new ones, the ones where you can connect round pins on both side.

In published partslist it show partnumber 4629921, which finds this on BL:

http://www.bricklink.com/catalogItem.asp?P=2739b

But you are right, I beleive the right parts is this:

http://www.bricklink.com/catalogItemIn.asp?P=2739a&in=S

Which is also in Unimog and 8070 (as alternative).

At least I remember this part (without stoppers) from some recent sets.

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