I purchased a Tamiya XB Levant a few years ago and not long after put it into storage while I moved towns/jobs, this week I finally found it again and decided to give it a run. The Levant is part of Tamiya’s Expert Built Series of Ready To Race models, as opposed to the ‘build yourself’ kits which are the norm for Tamiya, the advantage of the XB series stuff is that you can start using the model straight away, but this does come with a few drawbacks.
The first this is that you do not get the enjoyment of putting the kits together, and in the process of doing so get to see how everything goes together and how it all works, this is especially handy if you need to repair or replace something later on down the track. The second downside, one that has reared its ugly head for me already, is that because you did not put it together yourself you cannot be sure that everything was put together as well as you would like it to be. I will come back to this later but first lets get one with a review of the kit.
The truggy comes packaged in a box that makes the car seem more like a ‘toy’ RC but otherwise is very well packed and includes the car, a very average ‘plasticky’ AM pistol grip radio, a full set of instruction sheets for the car, radio and ESC. It also includes a small little pack with a few extras like a spare cog, spanner, clips and a tube of the ubiqitious Tamiya AW grease. One word of warning is to make sure to have some side cutters handy when opening, as Tamiya have used some industrial strength zip ties to hold the car down in the box and chances are you will break something on the truggy before you can snap one of these.
Once out of the box of the box all you need is to charge your batteries and you will be off and running. Mine came with no batteries but I initially ran it on some 7.2 volt NiMH stick packs, it comes with the Tamiya battery connectors which I find tend to either break or give a bad connection, especially when talking about running higher current draw setups, so I changed the connectors to Deans Connectors .
With fairly aggressive driving you will get about 7-8 mins out of a 4200mAh NiMH pack , the Brushless Combo gives an average performance and is really a very mid range motor which is obviously trying to balance performance with run time. This power system is unlikely to put a strain on components and is probably a good combo for a beginner with little chance of it getting away from you and smashing into something hard. I found the suspension to be too soft and the stock setup was no good for anything but the smallest jumps and even those would invariably finish with the car tumbling end over end. The tyres are of a fairly hard compound so you will get a lot of life out of them but they do sacrifice performance for both on-road and off-road, this is easily fixed by putting your own tyres on to suit your preferred driving surface though. The Levant can be used as a straight out racer or just an off road ‘basher’ and while it won’t excel at either it is a lot of fun in either role.
Putting in a 2S LiPo pack gives a real boost in performance both in terms of run time and power and is really what you need to get the best out of the car. The manual warns against using a 3S pack as the ESC may overheat but I found that a 2S pack gave it plenty of punch. I found that once I switched to a LiPo pack I could easily get about 20 minutes of reasonably aggressive driving and that the extra speed meant I needed to be a bit more careful with my turning on surfaces that offered a lot of grip. By default the Lavant is geared for acceleration rather than top speed which makes it a lot of fun on any sort of dirt track. Be aware though that in really soft sand it is very easy for it to dig itself into a hole, in some situations this can be a bit annoying like say if you are using the car for FPV and have just driven it under your lowset house which has about 45cm of clearance :-).
Overall the car is built pretty solidly but it has pretty much no upgrades out of the box, luckily there are plenty of upgrades available which can improve not only reliability but performance. However as I mentioned at the start, this car is prebuilt and I found that within a very short time parts were coming loose. After the steering servo came loose I decided to pull the car down and rebuild it from scratch, I also used a plastic safe Loctite to make sure that screws and bolts stayed put. On the plus side this is a very simple car to pull down and rebuild and is well worth the few hours it takes, as it would give you a better understanding of how everything is put together, which in turn allow you to do better fault finding later on.
I also had a few issues with the Tamiya ESC needing to be re setup for no apparent reason between one battery and the next, it would simply start flashing errors. Redoing the setup would fix this every time but it was annoying, I am not sure if this was just a faulty unit or if it was an issue with all Levants.
Overall the Levant is a fun car to drive it is a mid range vehicle and a good 1st brushless car for people to try, that won’t break parts too often and if it something does break Tamiya parts availability should not be an issue. It also has plenty of upgrades to allow you to improve most parts of the car without needing to buy a new one. The drive train is also pretty robust, I have since upgraded to a HobbyWing EZrun SC10 Combo which provided a significant boost in performance and was well within the limits of what the drivetrain could handle. This car will not disappoint, here is a quick video I made of the Levant with onboard video.
Levant Update – 05/02/2013
Over time I have discovered a few issues with the design of the Levant, the main one being the front shock absorbers. They are very vulnerable to a front impact where they connect to the front suspension, as shown in the picture below. The small ‘bumper’ that comes with the Levant does not actually extend coverage to these connection points and it is very easy to snap the bottom mount off of the shocks. I have since installed a wider bumper and I no longer have this issue.
Just as an aside the body shell for the Levant was in a very sad state and I replaced it with this shell from RC Hobby E-Store which for about $AU22 delivered is a great price.
Levant Update – 03/10/2014
In the last few months with the lousy flying weather I have been getting into cars again, so I took the Levant off the shelf and have been running it fairly heavily. In the process I have started to break the odd part or two and contrary to what I originally stated Levant parts/upgrades are not really that easy to find now, the model was replaced pretty quickly with the Super Levant and then even more quickly discontinued. While the two cars do share a lot of parts the relatively short run has led to spare/alloy or upgrade parts being difficult to find, while the Levant is based off of a TB-01 chassis it has parts also coming from the TNS Nitro series, TA-05/04, TB-02, Vajra plus more.
This means that while parts are available from Ebay and various 3rd party sellers I plan on making a list of parts that will fit and who makes them so that if I do break something I can easily find a replacement part.
The steering assembly on the Levant is the stock TB-01 setup and quickly develops a lot of slop I have since found and installed a delrin replacement that has removed a lot of the slop from the steering