The New Hotness
Marketed as a trail rig, the first thing to know about the Sendero HD is that this is primarily a rock crawler. It can do trail driving, but it is designed for and excells at rock crawling.
What sets this apart from other options in the 1:10 RC crawler field is its unusual transmission (‘Stealth(R) X’ branded) which comes with a 5.7% overdrive to the front and includes an optional nylon gear you can swap out for 11.83% overdrive – included with the RTR package.
Two other factors are unusual with this crawler. The first is the BTA (Behind The Axle) steering setup, which helps with clearing obstacles on steep approaches; and second, the included Reedy 5-slot 16 turn motor, which gives sublime low-speed control.
But there’s more to love – and some maybe not so much – about this RTR truck that is small-on-cost but big-on-features. Read on!
Out of the Box
It’s as big as a barn!? Well, not really, but Element RC had a little fun with this special 1/10 scale RC crawler. They’ve printed the walls of a barn-type garage on the inside of the box this RTR vehicle ships in. Just a little thing that makes zero difference to the crawler itself, but it does communicate fun. Little touches like this add a bit of extra delight to pulling this rock-munching RC car from the box. Another welcome factor during unboxing is that there is very little plastic in the packaging. It’s mostly cardboard, plus a few cable ties, so the environment doesn’t have to suffer unnecessary extra wear with the purchase of this cracking little rock rig.
As you remove it from the box, one thing to watch in particular is for the loose headlight wire. It dangles loosely inside the body. In our model, it was resting right next to one of the cable ties you need to cut to remove the car from the box base. Cutting it accidentally wouldn’t have been too hard to fix, but it would take a little of the shine off of the unboxing process! Other than that, unboxing and packaging are every bit as good as an RTR from any of the big names in RC crawling. You wouldn’t know this was much cheaper than the big-name competition at a glance. Full points here.
Sendero HD Problems
Where the first impression suffers a little is in the problems we found in the Sendero HD out of the box. AE (Associated Electronics) have been around for a while and the brand has changed hands over the years, but manufacturing and finishing can be a challenge for companies of all sizes. With the Sendero, it was nothing that couldn’t be fixed – IF you knew to look for them!
On paper this is a truly capable rock crawler for a relatively amazing price. As with so many things though, it’s what you don’t know that can hurt you. In this case, the Sendero had a leaking rear left shock (the whole thing came out of the box covered in a light sheen of silicone oil – yuck!), the steering links and servo horn were loose and the sliders were not installed symmetrically – that last one was a recipe for body sill damage.
So, after a disappointing first round on the rocks, we took the time to properly go over the rig before actually driving it hard – generally a good idea for any Ready To Run (RTR) vehicle! The good news here is that these problems are not design issues but simply factory build issues. No materials or manufacturing faults here, and as such, they could all be addressed with minimal fuss on the workbench.
Sendero HD vs The World
Once this was all done, wow – this was a different truck. Keep in mind this vehicle comes with a 5.7% overdrive in the transmission out of the box, though you can go to a 1:1 drive ratio OR to an 11.38% overdrive, both via included gears in the accessories bag, which also contained a few other little scale plastic bits and pieces.
This is a really well-appointed rig. The tires are grippy – though a later test showed they didn’t do so well in the wet (see our wet rock challenge video to get a feel for the Sendero HD in the wet). The other little trick this Element RC crawler includes that many other RTRs exclude is a three-channel radio AND a spot for a servo-type chassis mounted winch. All you need is an ESC, like the HobbyWing WP-1025 and the servo-type winch, and you’re ready to rock!
Another redeeming feature here is that even though one of the shocks arrived with a leak, they are high-quality, threaded aluminum bodies and they’re pretty nice. The one-piece springs are appropriate for the vehicle’s weight for rock crawling, too.
Speaking of the radio system, the Sendero HD ships with the AE XP130 2.4GHz 3-channel radio system, including one spare channel on the receiver that is just begging to be used for a winch. There’s a fourth port on the receiver for ‘BATT/BIND’ but as with most receivers, the positive and negative power busses are parallel across all the ports, so you can use this port for an additional power source if you’re adding more lights, for example.
The design of this radio is a dated one but it is certainly fully functional. The transmitter takes 4x AA batteries and you have the usual channel reverse switches for Steering and Throttle, trim for each of those, as well as EPA (End Point Adjustment) dials for Throttle and Steering – but you also get EPA and trim for the third channel, which is frankly unusual for a cheaper, basic radio. So, this is good!
Using the Radio
The radio is comfortable in the hand. Steering feel is light and precise, typical of most modern 2.4GHz radio systems. Battery use is good, as far as I can tell; it’s had 7 or 8 hours’ use at this point and they’re still going. I do tend to forget to turn my radios off and the idle time-out beeper is what saves the batteries on many handsets. This transmitter does not have an idle alert and I have left it switched on at least twice for some hours each. The batteries are still going, so I can report at least that the circuitry is effecient enough when not in use!
The only obvious downsides I found on this unit are the lack of transmitter battery level display, leaving you to guess when you might run out of juice, and that the dials and switches are all located on the top of the unit – so if you’re crawling in the rain, you will need to be careful to shield the radio from the elements! (Anyone note a little irony given the company name…? Anyone? Just me?) More seriously though, modern RC crawlers ship with water resistance built in. The radios should be able to handle at least light rain as well (see the Spektrum DX5 Rugged for a solution there).
Can It Trail?
Given its overdrive and lighter weight (2.6KG / 5.7lb with a small 3S battery), this would be a middling trail rig. It’s a great rock crawler, but for trail driving there are a few other options on the market that might be better for this purpose. Though to be clear, the Sendero HD would still be capable enough and certainly durable. Overdrive, 5-slot motor and rock-biased suspension mean things wouldn’t be so rosy in deep mud or scrabbling over loose and mossy tree roots and clay. The tires especially wouldn’t be much chop in mud. (If you swapped the motor to a more conventional 3-slot 35 turn, added slightly heavier wheels and changed the tires to something with bigger, more separated lugs, such as the Proline Interco Super Swampers, it would be a different story).
Also in its favour for trail use is the integrated servo winch mount and plush Reedy ESC that pairs so well with the Reedy 5-slot motor. The scale tires add to the pleasing visual aesthetic.
Rock Crawling – Where It’s At
Where the Sendero shines is on the rocks. This is what it’s made for. Out of the box, it may be the most capable rock crawler available today. The Reedy 16-turn, 5-slot 540 motor is butter-smooth at low revs in particular. That’s the advantage of the 5-slot motor over the cheaper and more common 3-slot 540 and 550 motors. The 5-slot doesn’t have the same punch but its smoothness is top-shelf. It also really aids on the technical stuff when you’re crawling, which is really what this rock crawler is all about.
Check out our video (to the right) for the 6-problem rock test, as we put it through it’s paces whilst unboxing between problems.
Worth It? You Bet!
Bottom line, this RC crawler is unbeatable value for money. The included and thoughtful accessories, simple overdrive design, silky smooth drive train and crazy-good tires make it an absolute beast on the rocks. It is really easy to recommend this rig – as a rock crawler! Modifying it a little for better performance is as simple as these few steps: changing the wheels to something with a shade more weight; swapping out to the higher included overdrive gear of 11.38%; and taking the time to ensure screws are tight and links are correctly fastened.
That all done, you’ve got a belting-good RC crawler that will leave your friends’ jaws dropped – especially when they hear you’ve spent only around half of what they did for their SCX10 III and TRX-4 rigs with similar crawling ability. As long as it isn’t raining, the Sendero really is that good. (And a tire change may be all you need to have it battling slick rocks with the best of them – more on that in a future review and comparison/test. Stay tuned).
Other RC Crawler Options
We have a great, high-level overview of options in our article, ‘What is the Best RC Rock Crawler?’, where the Sendero HD features as the Best Value RTR crawler. You may find some value from that as an overview – find it here.
Consider looking at the SCX10 III or TRX-4 Sport if you’re after a trail-oriented crawler, or the Redcat Gen8 V2 if you’re interested in a trail-biased crawler that also does well on the rocks. Find in-depth reviews of all of these on our YouTube channel, RC-TNT. For rock crawling out of the box, the Element RC Sendero HD is the one to get. Recommended.
Check out our video review below, which is focussed on the Sendero’s rock crawling ability in particular (spoiler: it’s pretty good!).
Power system: Brushed, electric, RTR
Wheelbase: 313mm / 12.32in
Weight: 2.6KG / 5.7lb
Manufacturer Part #: 40105
Manufacturer: Element RC (Associated Electrics)
Craig has been into radio control since the 90s and into RC crawling since about 2010, when a Losi MRC started the obsession! Now it’s all rocks this and crawl that and upgrade all the things! …You know how it is, right? Welcome home 🙂