Going Fast with Durango’s Dynamite DEX8!
Words: Tony Phalen
Photos: Walter Sidas
The world of electric 1/8-scale off-roaders has changed drastically over the past couple of years. They’ve evolved from large, clunky conversion kits to streamlined, dedicated e-racing machines. Some have become easier to build, others easier to drive and yet others easier to maintain. Team Durango has successfully combined all three of those features into the astounding DEX8, a buggy that is not only mild-mannered on the track; it also comes partially built from the factory. TD has referred to this as the ‘Fast and Easy Build – Hit the Track Quickly’, and it actually cut my build time by half. Now it’s time to review its features and discuss its mannerisms on the track.
AT A GLANCE
WHO MAKES IT: Team Durango
WHO IT’S FOR: Serious 1/8-scale racers
PART NUMBER: TD102038
HOW MUCH: $549.99
BUILD TYPE: Kit
+ A+ on the packaging.
+ Lots of the tedious parts are already factory assembled
+ Nice chassis with lightweight cutouts and laser-etched TD logo
+ Pre-trimmed body. Yay!
+ Water-resistant receiver box with integrated transponder mount
+ Easy access diff cases reduces maintenance time
+ Big bore shocks are incredibly smooth
+ If you use two 2S LiPos, you can adjust the packs forward/backward position independently
+ Rear mud guards and mud scrapers are a nice addition
+ Rear wing has three Gurney Flap positions
+ Extra arm mount inserts for additional tuning
+ Interesting motor mount system
– …however I’m not quite sure what makes it better
– Rust on the drive axles
From the moment you open the box, you’ll see that TD has put quite a bit of effort into making this car a pleasant experience. Time is reduced dramatically with the organized bags and factory-built assemblies and, once on the track, you’ll be behind the wheel of one of the smoothest cars out there. It’s feature packed and tough as nails!
• Team Durango builds the DEX8 off of a 3mm thick aluminum chassis that has milled pockets to reduce weight. Tapered side rails help block debris from entering the chassis and double as side-impact absorbers. Long front and rear braces extend from the bulkheads to the chassis, meeting in the middle right next to the center diff. On the left side, a tiny, water-resistant box holds the receiver while a full size battery tray mounts just behind it. This tray can accept a single 4S LiPo, but TD has added a cool option for those that like to use a pair of 2S LiPo packs. Screw-in spacers allow you to individually position the batteries, helping to fine tune the weight bias; pretty slick feature. On the right side there’s the standard servo/ESC/motor configuration. One thing to note is the elevated ESC mount. This mount gets the ESC off the chassis just enough to run the wires underneath and through a wire retainer, protecting it from the fast-spinning center driveshafts. It also gives it a nice, clean look as the wires seem to be ‘hidden’ from view.
• The suspension on the DEX8 is, of course, top notch. The front arms (both upper and lower), steering blocks, rear arms, rear hubs and all the turnbuckles come factory-assembled. This is a huge time-saver when building the car. Even the shocks are pre-built. However, you do have to fill them with fluid. For those of you that are full-DIY, it only takes a few seconds to re-check these assemblies to make sure everything is good. I did, and didn’t find any issues with the pre-built parts. Once assembled, the suspension is like butter and seems incredibly solid. Other notable features are the 5mm aluminum front shock tower, 4mm aluminum rear shock tower, aluminum arm mounts and anti-roll bars. There is also a spare bag of arm mount inserts for tuning the DEX8.
• The Futaba servo sits close to the front of the car, only requiring a short drag link to swing the steering system. The DEX8 uses a dual bellcrank setup that comes pre-built and is full-bearing supported and includes a built-in servo saver. The steering turnbuckles are pre-built as well.
• Like most of the other tedious parts, the front, center and rear diffs come factory-assembled and only require you to fill with fluid before installing. Lightweight outdrives are used on all three diffs and are coupled with 4mm front/rear and 3.5mm center driveshafts. TD includes a unique motor-mounting system with the DEX8. Traditionally, the center differential in 1/8 e-buggies is mounted firmly in place to the chassis with the motor on a sliding mount. You simply loosen a few bolts and slide the motor toward the center. The DEX8, however, does this backwards. The motor is keyed to the chassis with the center diff on a sliding mount; so you’re loosening a few bolts and sliding the center bulkhead out. This would seem to move the weight away from the center as well as putting more angle on the driveshafts, but I guess I’ll have to wait and see how it actually works.
• There are a few other cool features on the DEX8. Starting at the front, you may notice the pivot ball covers with silver marks etched into them. These are reference marks when tightening or loosening the pivot balls to control camber. The shocks have plastic shock cap covers that protect the shocks when you roll over. A built-in transponder mount is included right next to the receiver box. The rear arms feature mud guards that keep dirt and debris off the rear driveshafts and shocks. There are even mud scrapers that extend off the rear hubs to keep mud from building up in the rear wheels. Finally, the body comes pre-trimmed, meaning you only have to paint and mount.
TOOLS & ACCESSORIES INCLUDE
• L wrenches
• Electronic Speed Control
• Brushless Motor
• Futaba S9352HV Servo
Buggies like the DEX8 require both speed and torque in the steering department. Because of that, I opted for Futaba’s S9352HV servo. Rated at 306 oz./in. of torque and .06/60° speed, this servo was a beast in my TD.
• LRP iX8 Brushless ESC
The iX8 is LRP’s flagship 1/8-scale brushless ESC. The new hardware coupled with the latest v2.6 Firmware makes incredible power on a 4S LiPo while still being completely controllable. I also dig the pluggable connections!
• Futaba 4PX Transmitter
What can I say about this transmitter that hasn’t already been said? The 4PX is awesome, both in function and ergonomics. Oh, and I like the pretty blue lights.
ADDITIONAL ITEMS USED
• LRP Dynamic 8 2200Kv Brushless Motor
• TrakPower 6700mAh 4S LiPo Battery
• AKA 1/8 Buggy EVO Wheels
• AKA Rasp 1/8 Buggy Tires
• Paint by Kustom RC Graphics
HOP-UPS WE RECOMMEND
There’s not much more you would want that doesn’t already come with the DEX8, but believe it or not TD does have a few option parts. They offer aluminum wing posts (TD320275, 16mm black shock caps (TD330582), gold-colored threaded shock collars (TD330583) and lower shock caps (TD330584). None of these will make you faster, but it will set your car apart from the rest of the field.
BEHIND THE WHEEL
For the test drive of the DEX8, we headed over to Wolcott Hobbies in Wolcott, Connecticut. This large, outdoor track is best suited for 1/8-scale and, because it was a rather hot day (about 94 degrees), we were going to get our chance to test everything out in pretty extreme conditions – the buggy, the tires and the electronics.
Out of the box, the steering on the DEX8 is really quite good. The only real issues I had was the slight push I encountered when going into corners; it was a bit much for my driving style. However, others might be OK with it. Through the middle and exiting the corner, the steering was fantastic. In fact, you could actually modulate the throttle to inhibit a slight power drift exit. This is where the awesome Futaba servo helped; there was a lot of back-and-forth sawing on the wheel to keep the buggy pointed straight and the servo worked flawlessly. A lot of tuning options are available on the DEX8, so I’ll be fiddling around with them to remove some of that push.
The DEX8 is a little lighter than some of the other 1/8 e-buggies out there, and it shows on the track. While the top speed seems comparable to most cars, the acceleration off the line and out of the corners is pretty impressive. There’s very little spool-up time from the moment you pull the trigger to the moment the car leaps forward – the lightweight drivetrain is going to give racers a definite advantage. The iX8 was impressive as well. Even in the heat and pushing the buggy hard, it only got slightly hot to the touch. Under heavy braking, the nose of the buggy dumps pretty hard, but it’s stable with no erratic traits. During the entire test session, the rear of the buggy stayed behind the front, only sliding around when I tapped the brakes going into a hard corner. This is a good sign of predictability; no evil end-swapping at inopportune times.
The lower weight also helps in the buggy’s handling. It’s very nimble and switched directions quickly, although you do need to be careful when throwing the steering around. For the most part it’s stable, but constant, quick, back-and-forth flicks through S-sections will upset the DEX8. Smooth operation through fast, winding sections will reward you with fast lap times, something I only found out after the first 20 passes. Oh, and it loves to jump. Wolcott had quite a few jumps with this layout; short doubles all the way to a nice, long triple section. The DEX8 handled them all, landing perfectly and powering away. The triple was the only jump that gave me a few issues, but this was mainly me not hitting the sweet spot of the jump. The track was a little blown out (both the takeoff jump and the landing), so it was important to pick the right spot to hit the jump. If I got it right, the DEX8 was airborne and flying perfect – minor corrections in the air and a nice, cushy landing. If I hit the wrong spot, it required a lot of work to make it land on its wheels. This isn’t so much an issue with the DEX8 but more of an issue with the track; most buggies would exhibit the same qualities.
Thanks to the track being a little rough, I had plenty of chances to test the durability of the DEX8 and its factory-built parts. Most of the incidents were caused by bad landings that were completely my fault (it’s better to over jump than under jump), and the DEX8 did a lot of slipping and sliding on its roof. The body and wing held up well as did the shock towers, thanks to the plastic caps TD has included. Running through some rough sections, the suspension did a lot of work – the shocks, suspension arms and chassis all took quite a beating. I would say the chassis took the brunt of the abuse, attaining quite a few scratches and a gouge or two, but otherwise, after four or fi ve packs, it and the rest of the buggy survived. I did a pretty thorough inspection at the end of the day and all of the factory-built assemblies were in great shape; no loose screws, missing pieces or failures.
SPECS & TUNING OPTIONS
LENGTH: 20.6 in. (522mm)
WIDTH: 12.08 in. (307mm)
WHEELBASE: 12.7-12.9 in. (323-327mm)
WEIGHT: 7.05lb (3.2kg)
BODY, WHEELS AND TIRES
BODY: Clear, pre-trimmed Lexan body
WHEELS: Not included
WHEEL ADAPTER TYPE: 17mm hex
TIRES: Not included
TYPE: 4-wheel independent
SHOCK POSITIONS: (F) 5-tower, 1-arm,
(R) 5-tower, 1-arm
CAMBER: Adjustable turnbuckles
ROLL: Adjustable ball heights
WHEELBASE: Adjustable with shims
RIDE HEIGHT: Threaded shocks
TYPE: Dual bellcrank
TYPE: Flat deck with plastic side rails
MATERIAL: Precision anodized aluminum
DIFFERENTIAL: Three fluid-filled gear diffs
GEAR RATIO: Optional pinion gears
BEARINGS: Full shielded
CLUTCH TYPE: N/A
THE LAST WORD
Team Durango has done a great job with the DEX8. The layout is well thought out, easy to maintain and can accept a wide range of electronic systems. The handling is also superb thanks to the stellar suspension. While I do like building my kits, there’s always an area of a build that I sometimes dread doing (turnbuckles, for example). Having parts like that factory-assembled removes that anxiousness, resulting in a better build experience. It also gets you to the fun part faster – actually driving the car. That’s the part I like the best.
Team Durango, team-durango.com, (217) 398-3630
AKA, raceaka.com, (951) 677-2500
Futaba, futaba-rc.com, (217) 398-8970
Kustom RC Graphics, kustomrcgraphics.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
LRP, lrp-america.com, (949) 276-6060
TrakPower, trakpowerusa.com, (217) 398-8970