Brushless Race Boat with Ballistic Speed Capabilities!
Traxxas has been involved in the marine segment of RC since the late 80’s with its first offering being the Villain IV deep-V, twin motor, offshore cruiser. As the years passed, Traxxas clearly invested in R&D to continually improve its products and the fruit of its labor is the jaw-dropping, 36-inch, brushless powered Spartan. It comes ready-to-run with only four “AA” batteries needed for the transmitter and a charger for the included twin 7-cell NiMH battery packs. This boat is built for performance and high speed, which is typically not the case with RTRs. Inside the eye-catching hull sits an incredibly powerful, water-cooled, brushless motor system with the capability to propel the Spartan to 50-plus mph! Traxxas also includes a high-quality 2.4GHz radio system along with a purpose-built hull and first-rate running hardware, but this only scratches the surface of what makes the Spartan special—read on!
AT A GLANCE
WHO MAKES IT: Traxxas
WHO IT’S FOR: Intermediate to experienced boaters
HOW MUCH: $439.98
BUILD TYPE: RTR
BOAT TYPE: Brushless electric deep-V
THE BOTTOM LINE: Right out of the box the Traxxas Spartan is a very good boat and then becomes truly awesome when its full capability is unlocked with 6S LiPo power. Thumbs-up goes to Traxxas for working with Castle Creations on the awesome brushless motor system. I also like how complete the Spartan comes; only requiring “AA” batteries and a charger to get running. That’s not to mention its high-quality machined aluminum and stainless steel running gear and super innovative removable power module.
NEEDED TO COMPLETE
• Battery charger
• Four “AA” batteries for transmitter
WHAT WE USED
• Traxxas EZ-Peak Plus charger, 2933
• MaxAmps.com “AA” batteries
• Traxxas 5000mAh 3S 11.1v LiPo battery packs, 2872
TOOLS INCLUDED: Two 10mm motor coupler wrenches, 2.0 and 2.5mm “T” wrenches, 1.5mm “L” wrench, 4-way wrench
TOOLS RECOMMENDED: Thin CA glue, hobby knife, side cutters, needle nose pliers, Phillips screwdriver, soldering iron
The hull is constructed of lightweight ABS yet is designed to be very rigid by layering the material where it is needed most like at the transom and ride pad. Filling the cavity in the bow is foam that fits the contour of the hull, therefore adding additional stiffness. Located on either side of the hull are integrated battery trays that can accommodate different battery types and allows for quick hull tuning by moving the packs fore and aft. Hook and loop straps secure the batteries. The included NiMH packs are not easy to get tight due to their small size which limits the contact patch where the strap overlaps itself. The straps do work great with the more square shape and larger LiPo packs.
Right down the middle of the hull is an incredibly innovative feature, the removable power module. The power module houses the motor, speed control, receiver box, steering servo, stuffing tube and it lifts out of the boat in one unit. All you need to do is detach the flex cable, and rudder linkage, unplug the water cooling tubes, loosen two screws and out it comes—very clever indeed.
The graphics on the outside of the hull make the Spartan stand out from any other RTR out there and it has proven to be durable enough to withstand the inevitable dings from retrieving it from a rocky shore or when transporting it. There is a choice of either a predominantly red or blue hull. The hatch uses a single body clip with a lanyard to secure it to the hull, thus making it easy to access the inside. Traxxas does not suggest the use of sealing tape because a drip rail in the hull channels away any water. Water will enter the hull when driving in reverse because the hatch overhangs the hull at the transom. I would prefer a sealed hull to keep water out and away from the batteries and other components even though they are waterproof.
Mounted on the transom you will find stainless steel trim tabs and turn fins. The turn fins are situated to provide aggressive cornering while the trim tabs assist in keeping the hull at the proper angle in relation to the surface of the water. The drive strut, rudder and rudder strut are all machined from 6000-series aluminum which is then anodized a great-looking blue. On the knife edged rudder is the intake for the water-cooling system that feeds water into the tubing and then enters the hull through the transom.
Obviously, the heart of any electric boat is its power system and the Spartan is fitted with one that is basically bionic. Traxxas worked with Castle Creations, the leader in high-power brushless performance, to develop the extremely potent brushless motor and high-voltage speed control. The Velineon VXL-6S speed control was spec’d for true 6S power and the extra voltage and current allows the Velineon 540XL brushless motor to easily spool-up and push the Spartan over the 50mph mark. Responsible for the job of relaying all that power to the high-performance molded composite propeller is a durable flex shaft. The flex shaft is affixed to the motor’s output shaft with a clamping collet and can be quickly and very easily removed with the included open ended 10mm wrenches. A couple of twists to loosen the collet and the prop with flex cable simply slides out of the stuffing tube for maintenance. Water is used to cool each component where it passes through the case of the speed control and around a sealed jacket on the motor.
Our review sample came with the Traxxas TQ transmitter, but now the Spartan is equipped with the all-new TQi radio system. It boasts long-range, high-output 2.4GHz signal and proven Traxxas reliability along with a full range of tuning features. What makes the TQi extra special is that it can be equipped with an optional docking station for either an iPhone or iPod touch. With the free download of the Traxxas Link app, it opens the door to more tuning options and even telemetry can be utilized when optional Traxxas sensors are purchased.
All of the electronics found inside the hull of the Spartan are waterproof or protected from water. The receiver is safely sealed in a watertight receiver box while the high-torque 2056 rudder servo and VXL-6s speed control are completely waterproof.
To get you up and running quickly, Traxxas included two 7-cell Power Cell NiMH battery packs to give the Spartan 16.8-volts of roost throwing power. Each is fitted with 12-gauge wire and Traxxas’ high-output, gold plated, high-current connectors.
SPECS AND TUNING OPTIONS
LENGTH: 36.5 in.
BEAM: 9.5 in.
HULL MATERIAL: Super rigid ABS
MOTOR: Traxxas Velineon 540XL brushless, water-cooled
SPEED CONTROLLER: Traxxas Velineon VXL-6S, water-cooled
PROP: 2-blade molded composite, 42x59mm
RUDDER: Knife edged, 6000-series aluminum
DRIVE SYSTEM: Direct drive, quick release, flex cable
Before you even get the Spartan ready for its maiden run, take the time to read over the exceptional owner’s manual that Traxxas painstakingly put together. It gives you insight on adjusting the electronics and even how to tune the Spartan to improve its performance for different driving styles and water conditions.
Lake Lillinonah in Brookfield, Connecticut was the test spot for this 36-inch speed boat. The first run had the Spartan set up with the included dual 7-cell NiMH battery packs. It launches up and out of the water with zero cavitation and runs nice and level on plane. Right turns can be made more aggressively than left turns and this is expected with the rudder offset to the right side of the prop. Don’t get me wrong, turning left will not give you that uneasy feeling like you get with some other boats where they are ready to flip at the blink of an eye—this deep-V stays planted. The aforementioned removable power module does not only offer convenience, but also plays a role in the great handling of the Spartan by keeping the CG nice and low.
On the first run, I had brought the Spartan back to shore a few times to check that water was exiting the cooling system and to clear grass from the rudder. This led me to using reverse more than normal because I had to back away from obstacles. I then discovered the inside of the hull will take on water and it seems to enter if you use reverse because the hatch overhangs the rear of the transom. I wish the hull was sealed from water, especially since this race boat can hit highway speeds and the inevitable crash will be quite violent. I would like the peace of mind that water is not filling the hull while the boat is being retrieved. Yes the electronics are waterproof, but a hull loaded down with water is harder to retrieve and I just don’t like the idea of the LiPos and brushless motor completely submerged.Top speed with the stock setup is admirable. Someone who is unfamiliar with quick RC boats will be plenty satisfied for some time. For me, all that was in the back of my mind was that this boat is equipped with a brushless motor system that is designed to handle up to 6S of LiPo battery packs—this is a whopping 22.2-volts of pure water churning might. I had to try it out. Traxxas hooked us up with two of its 5000mAh Power Cell 3S LiPo battery packs. As soon as they arrived, I hooked them up to the Traxxas EZ-Peak Plus charger. A super useful feature to this versatile charger are the optional dual charging boards that allow you to juice-up two 3S packs at the same time—this cut my anticipation time in half. Once the packs were fully charged, I installed them in the Spartan and then activated the low-voltage detection on the speed control so as to not damage the LiPos. Now, when I clamped the trigger on the transmitter, the bow lifted slightly off the water, the prop shot a giant roost of water in its wake and the Spartan accelerated instantly down the lake. At full speed with 6S power, the Spartan sounds like it has a mini turbine jet inside. It is something that you just have to hear for yourself to understand. Adding to the sound is the rooster tail of water—it is outrageous looking! I estimate the roost being 8 to 10-feet high and it seems to take minutes for it to stop raining from the sky after the Spartan blows by. Handling at high speeds is good, where the hull still feels planted and allows you to take relatively tight turns. Just be wary of wind and crossing waves because it will unsettle the boat.
+ Incredibly fast with 6S LiPo power
+ Potent, water-cooled Velineon 540XL brushless motor
+ Castle Creations engineered speed control and motor
+ Quick release power module
+ Waterproof electronics
– Unlocking 50-plus mph requires large expense of 6S LiPo power
– Hull is not sealed from water
The overall package of the Traxxas Spartan is quite impressive. It is ready for action soon after it comes out of the box, is equipped with an extremely powerful brushless motor system, includes the all new, one of a kind TQi 2.4GHz radio system, features waterproof electronics, and when run with 6S LiPo power, the performance is downright extraordinary. Yes it will hurt your wallet when you take the step to twin 3S LiPo packs, but once you get there, you will wonder why you didn’t do it sooner. Traxxas is completely right to refer to the Spartan as a ready-to-race boat instead of ready-to-run.