RCU Review: Vaterra Kalahari 1/14 Scale 4WD Desert Raider

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    Contributed by: Geoff Barber | Published: August 2013 | Views: 22084 | email icon Email this Article | PDFpdf icon
    RCUniverse.com Review of the Vaterra Kalahari Desert Raider 1/14th scale RTR
    Geoff Barber

    Email Me

    Distributed by Horizon Hobby
    4105 Fieldstone Rd.
    Champaign, IL 61822
    Phone: (217) 352-1913

    It's a mad dash through thousands of miles of burning sand and unyielding brush. Haunting beauty and countless dangers await drivers at every turn. It's called a rally raid-a desert race so grueling, simply finishing is a triumph. Since 1976, rally raids have been held on different continents, but the challenge of each has always been the same: man and machine against the magnificence of the wild.

    Pit your driving skills against the toughest terrain with the Kalahari desert raider. Its rugged, four-wheel drive chassis and abundance of power lets you muscle through sand and brush or blast across the flats at up to 45 mph (with the optional 3S LiPo battery). Not even the elements can stop you. Its chassis dust cover and waterproof electronics make it possible to run in all kinds of conditions. With the Kalahari, you don't simply follow the trail to adventure, you blaze it.

    Those are quotes taken directly from the Vaterra Kalahari Desert Raider's web page. Four wheel drive. Chassis dust cover. Waterproof electronics. Really? A 1/14 scale, RTR truck with all of that? Add the fact that you can upgrade to a 3S LiPo battery and get some serious speed? Sounds too good to be true! I have GOT to see if all of this is real! Let's get to it!

    • Ready to Run Out of the Box
    • Brushless Inrunner Motor, ESC, Receiver, and Steering Servo Pre-installed
    • NiMh Battery and Charger Included
    • 4WD for Great Off-Road Action!
    • Polycarbonate Body with Great Color Scheme for Easy Visibilty in All Conditions

    • None as Tested

    Skill Level:

    Time Required to Build:

    Frustration Level:

    What do these ratings mean?

    Name:Vaterra Kalahari 1/14 Scale 4WD Desert Raider

    Price: $199.99 (Accurate at Time of Review)

    Stock Number: VTR01001 (Vaterrarc.com)
    SKU Number: VTR01001 (Horizonhobby.com)

    Length: 13.19" (335 mm)
    Width: 7.09" (180 mm)
    Height: 4.57" (116 mm)
    Wheelbase: 8.27" (210 mm)
    Weight: 2.12 lbs (.96 kg)
    Radio Used: Spektrum DX2L 2.4 gHz Pistol Grip (Included)
    Receiver Used: SR200WP 2Ch DSM Sport Waterproof 2.4 gHz Receiver (Included)
    Battery Used: 7.2V 1200mAh Ni-MH (Included)
    Optional Battery Used: 3S 1400mAH 30C LiPo for 2nd Part of Video (NOT Included)

    Channels Used: 2 - Throttle/Brake and Steering

    Items Needed To Complete:

    • Nothing! Everything you need to get started is in the box!

    The Kalahari Desert Raider comes in a nice, full-color box. Inside, I found a fully assembled desert truck, an instruction manual and another box. Removing the contents from the latter, I found the Pistol-grip transmitter, the 1200 mAh NiMh battery and charger, Tx batteries, and some spare parts and tools (more on the spare parts and tools in a few minutes).

    The painted polycarbonate body, with clear windows, comes out of the box with all of the decals applied - a real time saver! Since the body is made of polycarbonate, it is much tougher than a standard Lexan shell - and resists a lot of scratches and damage that would put a regular RC body in the scrap pile!

    I really like the chassis dust cover- it, too, is pre-painted with decals applied. The wheels are molded in a flat black composite material, and the pre-glued tires have a realistic tread on them!

    The included Spektrum DX2L pistol grip transmitter has a lot of features. The steering wheel is foam covered for a comfortable feel, and there are several switches and buttons to adjust steering and throttle - from individually adjusting right and left endpoints on the steering, three position throttle limiter and servo and throttle reversing, this transmitter has a lot of adjustability!

    Removing the body and dust cover, we can get into the heart of the beast! The bright red Fuze 4500 Kv brushless inrunner motor stands out clearly and grabbed my attention first, followed by the WATERPROOF ESC and Spektrum receiver! Being waterproof adds another dimension to running this truck in a lot of different weather and track conditions!

    The front end suspension is built to take a lot of abuse with very little maintenance. Though the camber and toe-in are pre-set and non-adjustable, it makes this a simple set-up for beginner drivers.

    The rear end is equally as tough as the front end, and the camber/ toe-in is, again, non-adjustable. One of the really cool things about this truck is its slipper clutch. Also designed to take a lot of abuse, it should help to prolong the life of the rest of the drivetrain.

    The included 1200 mAh Dynamite NiMh battery and charger add a lot of value to this RTR package - you will not have to purchase anything extra to get the truck on the ground and running! Speaking of the battery, it slips into a very nice holder on the left side of the chassis - there are two clips that hold the retention bar in place, but only the rear clip needs to be removed to get the battery out.

    Earlier, I had mentioned some spare parts and tools. The tools consisted of a four-way wheel nut wrench, a box end wrench, a slipper clutch wrench, and three Allen wrenches. The spare parts bag included some shock spring spacers and a pair of extra spur gears.


    Vaterra's instruction manual is very well written and includes a lot of great illustrations - and there are several different languages printed in the same manual! There's a great deal of useful information in the manual, and it seems to be written in a way that even the newest of beginners will understand. Well done, Vaterra!


    There's really not much to assemble. . . I charged the NiMh battery, installed the transmitter batteries, and secured the NiMh in the truck when it was fully charged.

    The chassis dust cover was installed next - it consisted of securing it to the four pre-installed hook 'n' loop tabs on the chassis' tub walls. The body was then held in place with the four body clips.

    Well that was easy enough - Let's go have some FUN!

    Just a few miles down the road from my house, I found a great spot to drive off-road RC cars and trucks. A perfectly groomed BMX track! Someday, hopefully I'll be able to use it - apparently it is unavailable for use without permission. . . So, in the meantime, I found a nice gravelly area with a few mounds to play on.

    I started running the Kalahari using the included 1200mAh NiMh battery. This battery was good for getting a 'feel' for how the truck ran and steered. I did find that for just bashing around it was helpful to turn the steering rate down - this helped me to not over-steer due to the quick response from the steering servo.

    With the steering set, I punched the throttle. The 7.2volt NiMh battery gives good speed, and like I said, was good for the first run on the truck - but I have run several RC vehicles, and quickly felt myself wanting more speed. So, a quick battery swap, and I had the 3S 1400mAh LiPo secured in the battery mount.

    WOW! What a difference the upgraded battery made! The Desert Raider came alive and was instantly a little land rocket! With the Additional voltage from the LiPo battery, a cloud of dust erupted from under the tires as I pulled the Spektrum's pistol grip trigger to wide open throttle! The dust seemed to keep flying as long as the truck was moving as well!

    Now the Kalahari's size and stature make going over large obstacles a little difficult, and large patches of weeds and grass can be a little difficult. BUT, the average lawn proved to be no match for the Desert Raider - it simply powered through, thanks to its four-wheel drive! Gravel and even pavement are equally as fun, and provided lots of entertainment.

    Check out the video to see the Vaterra Kalahari 4WD Desert Raider in action!

    When my buddy Jim Buzzeo and I were shooting the video for this review, we had three kids with us between the ages of 10 and 13. Once the video and action pictures were shot, we turned the Kalahari and the Vaterra Kemora (Yes, there's a review of the Kemora as well) over to them to try out. At this point, all I had available for batteries were some 3S LiPos, so I set the throttle limit switches to medium. James, Abby and Lauren really had a blast driving the two vehicles around a large, open parking lot (and into and over the curbs too!)

    Vaterra has added a really nice RTR package with the new Kalahari Desert Raider - it arrives fully assembled and includes some great features - I especially liked the adjustable rates and limit switches on the Spektrum transmitter. In my mind, this is an ideal setup for newcomers looking for some off-road RC action. At $289.99 the price is reasonable as well, considering everything you need is in the box - a hobby grade RC truck, a NiMh battery and charger, a Spektrum transmitter (and batteries for it as well) and even some tools - Great job, Vaterra!

    Distributed by Horizon Hobby
    4105 Fieldstone Rd.
    Champaign, IL 61822
    Phone: (217) 352-1913

    Comments on RCU Review: Vaterra Kalahari 1/14 Scale 4WD Desert Raider

    Posted by: goodatthis on 08/27/2013
    How are the Kemora and Kalahari different? Also, how much runtime could I expect with a 1400mah 3s LiPo?
    Posted by: RCFanatic911 on 01/05/2015
    I would have both if they were not discontinued (stupid vaterra).
    Page: 1
    The comments, observations and conclusions made in this review are solely with respect to the particular item the editor reviewed and may not apply generally to similar products by the manufacturer. We cannot be responsible for any manufacturer defects in workmanship or other deficiencies in products like the one featured in the review.

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