The brand formerly known as Electrix has a short and storied past. Horizon Hobby, ECX's parent company, wanted to do for the R/C Surface category what their Blade line had done for R/C helicopters: make them affordable and open to anyone. A lofty goal to be sure, but one not so far out of reach as to be unbelievable. I believed in them.
ECX now boasts ten different vehicles (thirteen if you count the discontinued Nitro Revenge and the brushless variants of the 2WD Torment and Ruckus), yet few hop-ups exist for these vehicles. To their credit, the Revenge Type-E did receive a good selection of aluminium optional parts. But their 2WD platform has practically nothing. It's been a point of contention between myself and ECX for sometime.
That having been said, I hope ECX will rectify their situation soon. I look to them to be the competition Traxxas needs to further innovation and drive down consumer prices - and they can only do that if they begin to pull even with Traxxas in sales and after-market support. The new four-wheel-drive vehicles area a good place to start, so let's take a look at this new platform.
What You Get
The Torment 4x4 is available in any color you'd like, so long as you'd like gray. The body design is especially bland in the pictures released before the truck came out. In person, the body's appearance is not quite so drab, but the gray is still very overpowering.
Other items included with the Torment 4x4 are a 7-cell 2400mAh Ni-MH battery, a 2-Amp AC charger, the manual, and a DX2e transmitter and AA batteries. Pretty basic package, and nearly identical to the items shipped with the Torment's 2WD cousin (only the battery is different). Since we're reviewing the truck, and not the accessories that come with it, we left the charger in the box and used our Hitec X4 AC/DC charger and our Team Orion Advantage Touch charger to charge our batteries for this review. We did use the included battery, along with a Dynamite Reaction 5000mAh 2S LiPo battery as well.
The chassis looks to be of good construction - it there's one thing the boys at ECX understand, it's plastic. The Torment 4x4 is built beefy. Everything looks pretty well protected. I'm not sure I like having upper and lower a-arms, though. I think I'd prefer a simply turnbuckle to replace the upper a-arm. Either way, though, I have every bit of confidence that the Torment 4x4 will hold up as well as anything in its class. Durability has never been a problem for ECX, and it doesn't appear that it will start being a problem now.
I really, really, hate the battery hold down on the new ECX 4x4 vehicles. It's a pain to remove the shield from the posts, it's a pain to install the body clips, and it's a pain when the battery slides around on the chassis. I had to make a spacer for both the batteries we used, to prevent them from damaging the wires on the shield when the batteries slid. ECX does not give any foam spacer material with the truck, so it's left for the consumer to make their own. It's not a big deal, but it's annoying that this small item was overlooked. Even their stock battery doesn't fit perfectly - it will slide around as well. I would like to see a battery spacer (or spacers, for different lengths of batteries) included in the future. Alternatively, the end user can opt to Dremel out a couple of slits on the chassis and use a Velcro strap to secure their battery.
One upgrade the Torment 4x4 received is its ability to accept LiPo batteries, a first for ECX's lower priced vehicles. Switching back and forth from one mode to the other is as simple as moving a jumper on the speed control. I like the simplicity of this feature, but I'm also worried about people loosing the jumper entirely, which I suspect will render the vehicle unusable. I don't see anywhere on ECX's website (or Horizon Hobby's, for that matter) where one could purchase a replacement jumper. So don't lose yours!
Running the Torment 4x4
The first time we powered up the Torment 4x4 and drove it, we were more impressed than we should have been. All of us here on staff have been caught up on how poor the 2WD ECX vehicles handle compared to their, say, Traxxas counterparts. We were all expecting a similar comparison here. But the Torment 4x4 handled much, much better than its 2WD cousins. We took it over some snow piles, which I thought would get it stuck, and it powered over everything we threw at it. The video above shows some of our first runs with the truck - some of the things it does are kind of awesome.
Once we got done running it that first time, though, we came to a couple of conclusions. First, even though it handled better than the 2WD Torment, it didn't turn worth a damn. Second, it was cold out, and we broke the bumper. Fixing the second issue was easy - since we didn't have a replacement bumper handy, we drilled some holes in the existing bumper and zip-tied it to the bulkhead. It worked well as a stopgap measure until we could get another bumper installed. You can see that briefly at the end of the above video.
Fixing the second problem was much more difficult, though not nearly as impossible as fixing the steering on the 2WD ECX vehicles. At first, we thought it was simply a weak servo saver, and replaced it with a solid arm. But taking it out and driving it again proved that the problem didn't lie with the servo saver at all; the servo itself was simply too weak to properly steer the truck. We removed the stock servo and replaced it with a Traxxas 2075 servo we had lying around. That, combined with the solid arm, made the Torment 4x4 steer so well that we had to turn down the steering dual rates on the transmitter. We ran the rest of the review with the replacement servo. Seriously, the one of your first upgrades on this truck should be to replace the steering servo. My first choice would be a Savöx SW0231MG servo - plenty of torque, metal-geared, waterproof, and it uses the same 25-tooth spline as the stock servo.
Durability wise, the 4WD Torment seems to be holding up. Other than the broken bumper, we have not broken anything else on the truck. However, during one of our time trial runs, we were running without the bumper installed. and managed to slam into some monkey bars at a local park, right on an a-arm. The impact loosened a couple of screws enough to make the the front CVD pop out of the yoke. Nothing broke, but we had to take it back to the shop to repair it. Beyond that, the Torment 4x4 has proven to be pretty bulletproof, but that should surprise no one.
Driving the Torment 4x4 (with upgraded steering servo) is not really any different from driving any other basher-centric 4x4 short course truck. It's a solid handling truck. We didn't experience any excessive tipping or ill-handling effects. The amount of play in the suspension and the steering is within acceptable levels, on par with anything else these days. It handled the grass as well as it did the pavement. The brushed motor setup didn't hinder the truck's ability to drive over obstacles. In fact, the only hindrance the included motor and ESC provided was a limit on speed, as the Torment 4x4 doesn't appear to go faster than 30MPH, even with the 2S LiPo we used.
Other than the steering servo, the only other big downside to this vehicle is the poor run time. I can only chalk this up to the vehicle being brushed-motor powered. The run times averaged out to an abysmal 7:42 on the stock battery, and a still bad 15 minutes on the Dynamite Reaction 5000mAh 2S 20C LiPo battery we used. We sell these batteries every day, and customers report back with run times much higher than this on their vehicles. However, the vast majority of folks that purchase LiPos from us are running brushless motor systems, and that may be where the discrepancy lies. Between being brushed and being four-wheel-drive, the Torment 4x4 is at a disadvantage in the run-time department. The only fix I can surmise for this is to upgrade to a brushless motor as soon as possible.
Our runtime trails took place on a variety of surfaces, from grass to pavement. We did five complete runs for each battery, then averaged the times together to get our mean run time. Some runs were significantly shorter than others; these mostly correlated with our grass runs, which would require more energy to push the truck, so this makes sense. But to have an average this low is unusual. We checked for anything rubbing or binding, and found nothing to explain it. We even strapped a Watt's Up meter to the truck and recorded the peak amp draw on a grassy surface. We got only 51 Amps, inline with ratings we've seen on brushless systems that would have greater run time than we're seeing with the Torment 4x4. So I have no way to explain the short run times other than to assume it has to do with the brushed power supply.
Versus The Competition
Inevitably, the Torment 4x4 will be compared with Traxxas' Slash 4x4. It's not a fair comparison, really; the Torment is a brushed vehicle, while the Slash 4x4 enjoys the benefits of a brushless motor and speed control. But with Traxxas not offering a brushed variant of their popular platform, there is not a contemporary to judge against. Therefore, I think I must compare the Torment 4x4 to both the Slash 4x4 and the Slash 2WD platform.
When comparing to the Slash 2WD brushed short course truck, the Torment is a solid competitor. Both trucks are in the same price point, but the superior handling of a four-wheel-drive truck makes the Torment slightly more desirable. However, the (current) lack of hop-ups for the Torment 4x4 allows the Slash to catch back up. The consumer gets a better battery charger with the Torment 4x4, as well as a better radio, in my opinion. The Slash 2WD offers a better battery and great parts availability in more hobby shops. The Torment 4x4 won't steer as well out of the box as a Slash does, so a consumer would need to keep that in mind as well; if it bothers them, there will be a cost to replace the servo with something better. To me, it's pretty much a dead heat between the two vehicles.
When putting the Torment 4x4 against the Slash 4x4, well, it's not really a contest. Even if the Slash 4x4 were available with a brushed motor and ESC, there wouldn't be a comparison. The Slash 4x4 will still reign supreme. The durability of the Slash 4x4 design, combined with the modular chassis, makes the Slash 4x4 a clear winner in this match up, and that's even before we toss in all the hop-ups and aftermarket support. The ECX Torment can't keep up. If you can afford the Traxxas Slash 4x4, buy that instead. The value of the Slash 4x4 is much higher than that of the Torment 4x4... for the time being. As I said before, this isn't a fair match up, in part due to the amount of time the Slash 4x4 has been out. There's simply been more time for third parties to make upgrades for the vehicle. But I can't review the Torment on what its upgrade selection might be. So for the moment, the Slash 4x4 is the clear victor.
I'm in a bit of a pickle. I don't like to make an argument about whether something is good based entirely on what it costs. I want to declare something good or not good, regardless of the price point. But ECX refuses to let me do that. Their focus on low price points drags that ugly factor into the debate, unmindful of my desire to elevate the conversation.
It's impossible to say that the Torment 4x4 isn't worth the money. It's a solid four-wheel-drive truck, currently priced under Traxxas' Slash 2WD. There's a value to that for sure. And when it comes down to it, whether or not this is the truck for you depends on what you can afford. If $250 is the most you can spend on a truck, the Torment 4x4 would be a solid way to go. If the platform proves to be popular enough, third-party accessory manufacturers will ignore the ECX 4x4s at their own peril. This means the more people that purchase the ECX 4x4s, the more hop-ups there will be for them.
At the end of the day, whether this vehicle is worth purchasing is dependant on how much money you want to spend. This puts it just slightly behind Traxxas' offerings; I feel like Traxxas makes more of an effort in making you want to spend a little more; they add more value to your purchase, even if that purchase costs more than you initially wanted. But ECX is inching closer to Traxxas with every new release. We're seeing the birthing pains of a brand here. It's a rare company that becomes a hit overnight; it's easy to forget that in a hyper-connected world of technology titans and overnight sensations. But don't forget: Traxxas was the punchline of many industry jokes when it came around in the late 80's, and look at where they are now. Puts a little perspective on things, doesn't it?