Scion xB R/C Car
Engine HPI Saturn 35T motor.
- Independent McPherson strut suspension
- 12 ball bearings are used in the drivetrain
- 7.2V rechargeable Ni-CD battery pack
- Front midship motor layout
- Black Five Axis R5:F Wheels
- Molded rubber tires
We’re doing things a little differently this month: instead of modifying an actual automobile, we’ve scaled down our vehicle and ventured into the world of remote-control cars.
R/C cars are a great way to enjoy the automotive lifestyle without ever getting your hands dirty. There’s no need for a license (the younger kids can appreciate this) and the cost of entry is extremely affordable. Plus, thanks to companies such as HPI Racing, R/C cars are quite modable, making them a long-lasting, enjoyable hobby.
Typically, when you think of a R/C car, you think RWD, but when HPI Racing designed the Scion xB body shell, it wanted to stay true to the real-life model that’s powered by the front wheels. The result is HPI’s first ever FWD car. The HPI Switch comes ready to drive out of the box (no assembly needed) and includes a transmitter/receiver, battery pack and charger. There are several body colors to choose from and a set of 5-Axis wheels come standard on it.
If you’ve been looking for an excuse to get a second project car (without the hefty price tag) or want another hobby, then R/C cars may be just what you need.
It seemed fitting that we modify this small-scale Scion in our fully equipped tech center among all the other project cars. As described, the HPI Scion Switch comes ready to drive out of the box and at first we didn’t know what to think of the FWD configuration, but playing with it for about 10 minutes turned out to be quite fun, as its handling is extremely quick and agile.
We would have kept fooling around, but our urge to tear the little chassis apart and add all the upgrades proved too intense, so off came the xB shell and the modding began. First thing on the list were wheels and tires. One look at HPI’s website and the amount of wheels (and tires) to choose from is staggering. From vintage wheels to race car–specific designs to replica Volk and Work wheels models, you won’t have a problem finding a style and design that suits your needs. In our case, we chose the tried-and-true Volk TE37 wheel that looks just like the real thing. Speaking of, the Falken RT-615 tires we put on the TE37s are incredibly detailed with the tread pattern design and sidewall branding as found on the life-sized tires.
Next up was a set of rotors and calipers. Again, true to life, a set of 6-piston rotors are mounted up front with a 4-piston setup on the rear. The plastic rotors have actual holes cut in them to resemble drilled rotors. The attention to detail on this stuff is really impressive.
With the wheel, tire and brake combo installed, we took to adding probably the most expensive (a whopping $113) part onto our chassis: the suspension. HPI has a killer aluminum shock setup that you build from the ground up and works just as real shocks would with machined pistons, shock oil and anodized shock caps. Assembling these shocks gave us some better insight into how much R&D must go into such a small piece. The parts are all precision-cut to ensure smooth operation as well as proper oil transfer inside the shock body. These shocks aren’t just for looks, either — they actually work and smooth out the ride, improving body roll. Believe it or not, HPI makes different shock oil weights for varied terrain use. That’s enough proof that these shocks aren’t just shiny add-ons.
Not that many people do engine swaps in their Scion xBs, but with our version it’s a little — actually, a lot — easier than the real thing. After removing some screws, access to the electric motor is granted and it slides out with ease. Our replacement, an X-30RE motor provides an added punch that nets faster speeds and quicker acceleration. It’s an ideal upgrade for someone who has gotten used to the original engine.
After: Really fun*
That concludes our upgrade path on the HPI Switch, but there are still plenty of items that can be added: sway bars, titanium turnbuckle (think steering shaft), hubs, screws and more. We really weren’t joking when we said this is a great alternative to modifying your real car. The mods available are essentially the same that you would do on your ride, but with half the hassle and price. Then there’s the aspect of customizing the exterior. You can buy different bodies, paint and decals — the sky’s the limit. Best of all, your wife or girlfriend won’t ever complain about this hobby because all you have to do is tell her that you can always go spend thousands more on the car sitting in the driveway.