Traxxas Rustler vs. VXL: A Head-to-Head Comparison

When I came home with my new Traxxas Rustler VXL, my wife asked me what the difference was between this new car and my old Traxxas Rustler. 

That’s a fair question that many people new to RC cars ask as well. 

Obviously, when you upgrade from the two-wheel drive rustler to the VXL two-wheel drive, you’re getting a better motor and better electronics.

As the name suggests, the VXL has a brushless motor and an ESC rated for up to 3s power. 

To say that will give you a noticeable increase in speed is a huge understatement.

But are those the only differences? 

Let’s find out. 

Side by side comparison of the Traxxas Rustler and the Rustler VXL


Although you can fit street tires to them, both the Traxxas Rustler 2WD and Rustler VXL 2WD are designed for off-road. 

The Rustler 2WD has a standard Titan 12-Turn 550 brushed motor that can go up to 35 mph. It’s a great choice for beginners who want a high-quality off-road RC car that is easy to use and maintain. It is also a good option for those who want a more affordable RC car that still provides good performance and durability.

In comparison, the Rustler VXL 2WD upgrades to the Velineon brushless motor that can achieve speeds of up to 70 mph. This makes it aimed at more experienced RC enthusiasts looking to take their hobby to the next level. 

That’s why I decided to buy it. I wasn’t quite ready for a 4WD RC car yet, but I felt I’d progressed beyond the base-model Traxxas Rustler. 

Traxxas Rustler vs. Rustler VXL (2WD) Differences

In this section, we’ll discuss the differences between the 2WD Traxxas Rustler and the Rustler VXL in more detail. In each section, I’ll show images to help highlight the differences. 

Motor (Titan 12T vs Velineon 315R)

The electric Traxxas Rustler has two motor options depending on the model: the Titan 12T and the Velineon 315R. The Rustler also has a Nitro-powered option, but we’ll ignore that in this article. 

The Titan 12T is a 550 brushed motor, while the Velineon 315R is a 540 brushless motor. If you’re new to the hobby, you can learn more about the differences between a 540 and 550 motor and the differences between burshed and brushless motors here.

In short, brushed motors, such as the Titan 12T, are typically less expensive and generate more heat than brushless motors. They’re also less powerful and less efficient than brushless motors.

What do we mean when we say that a brushless motor is more efficient?

Rustler Titan 12T (left) vs Rustler VXL Velineon 3351R (right)

That means it converts more electrical energy from the battery into mechanical power that drives the RC car instead of being wasted as excess heat. 

In general, a brushless motor is more powerful and typically lasts longer per charge than a similar brushed motor. 

Returning to the Rustler, the Titan 12T motor in the base model can achieve speeds of up to 35 mph. The brushless Velineon 315R motor in the Rustler VXL can reach speeds of up to 70 mph.

In summary, the Titan 12T is a reliable and durable brushed motor that is a good option for beginners or people on a budget. The Velineon 315R is a high-performance brushless motor that is more expensive, more efficient, and can achieve much higher speeds.

ESC (XL5 vs VXL-3s)

The ESC (electronic speed controlled) and motor go hand in hand. So it should be no surprise that the Traxxas Rustler has two different electronic speed controllers (ESC): the XL5 and the VXL-3s. 

The base model Traxxas Rustler comes with the XL5 ESC, while the Rustler VXL comes with the VXL-3s ESC. 

Traxxas does a good job of keeping the feature set similar between both ESCs. Setup and tuning are identical, and both have a Training Mode that limits output to 50% power to help new drivers.

However, the VXL-3s is noticeably built to withstand more punishment. It has an additional heatsink, heavy-duty capacitors, and the option of adding an external ESC cooling fan.

This allows the VXL-3s to handle 3s LiPo batteries, while the XL5 maxes out with 2s LiPo batteries. 

Traxxas Rustler XL5 ESC (left) vs Rustler VXL-3s ESC (right)

Servo (2056 vs. 2075)

The Traxxas Rustler has two different steering servos: the 2056, found in the base model Rustler, and 2075 found in the Rustler VXL.

An RC car’s servo is the component that controls the steering of the vehicle. A more responsive steering servo will move the car’s wheels more quickly and accurately. This makes turning quicker and improves the vehicle’s handling overall. 

Two factors determine a servo’s responsiveness: torque rating and transit time (turning speed). 

The 2056 servo has a torque rating of 80 oz-in, while the 2075 servo has a torque rating of 125 oz-inch. Higher torque helps the servo to move heavier wheels and tires more easily. More importantly, it helps turn the wheels even when stuck in sand or mud, which can overwhelm weaker servos. 

The 2056 servo has a speed of 0.23 seconds/60 degrees, while the 2075 servo has a rate of 0.17 seconds/60 degrees. 

While this might not sound like a big difference, the 2075 servo on the Rustler VXL is noticeably quicker to turn its wheels than the base model Rustler. This enables it to turn quicker and feel more nimble overall. 

Finally, the 2075 servo is a digital ball-bearing servo compared to the analog 2056 servo. This gives it several advantages, including a faster response time and increased durability. 

Suspension Upgrades

It’s easy to get caught up in the big differences between the Rustler and Rustler VXL, like the motors, ESCs, and servos. What I immediately noticed was the suspension. 

The Rustler VXL has several major suspension upgrades that increase handling and durability. 

To start, the Rustler VXL has an additional fiberglass tie bar to help reinforce the front suspension arms. 

Rustler VXL fiberglass tiebar (right)

Because of the extra power, you’ll likely be jumping your Rustler VXL higher and farther than the entry-level Rustler, so it’s nice to have additional support to help protect your front suspension. 

I still recommend upgrading your Rustler front bumper to a wider, more durable unit (like this one from RPM).

The base model Rustler has a non-adjustable, plastic camber link, while the Rustler VXL has an adjustable steel turnbuckle. 

The adjustable steel camber link in the VXL is a slight improvement. However, I recommend upgrading to the thicker Traxxas adjustable anodized aluminum turnbuckle. 

Even if you don’t take advantage of the increased camber adjustments, it’s a more durable part that will take more abuse during bashing runs

Suspension differences between Traxxas Rustler (left) vs Rustler VXL (right)

Motor Housing

One of the differences that surprised me was the exposed motor on the entry-level Rustler. 

The Rustle VXL has a sturdy plastic housing to help protect the motor and transmission during hard impacts. Unfortunately, the Rustler lacks any sort of protection from rear impacts.

That makes adding a wheelie bar one of the ‘must-have’ accessories for your Rustler. 

Traxxas Rustler chassis (left) vs Rustler VXL chassis (right)

Transmitter & Receiver

The Traxxas TQ (6516) and TQi (6528) controllers are the radio systems used to control Traxxas Rustler RC cars. The TQi controller for the Rustler VXL adds controls for Traxxas TSM and some additional menu tweaks. 

Traxxas TSM, or Traxxas Stability Management, helps improve the handling and stability of Traxxas RC cars by using sensors to adjust the throttle and steering inputs in real-time. 

This helps make it easier to control the vehicle and maintain stability.

If you’re new to the hobby, TSM can help reduce crashes and make learning how to operate and maneuver their RC car easier.

For more experienced drivers, it can help boost confidence by allowing you to push the car faster on challenging terrain without worrying about losing control or crashing. 

Traxxas TQ controller vs TQi controller

Paired with those transmitters are the Traxxas TQ 6519 and TQi 6533 receivers. They help receive and interpret the signals sent by the radio transmitter.

The biggest difference between the two transmitter\receiver pairs is in future expandability. 

The TQi controllers allow you to add the Traxxas Link Wireless Module. This extra addon allows the TQi receivers to send telemetry data to your Android or iOS smartphone. 

This gives the driver real-time data on speed, steering, throttle, braking, battery voltage, and motor temperature. Additionally, you’re able to create custom dashboards so you can get critical data at a glance. 

Overall, the transmitter\receiver combo in the entry-level Traxxas Rustler will get the job done, but you have fewer customization options. While you can upgrade it down the road, it’s not cost-effective. 

Wrapping It Up: Who Should Buy a Traxxas Rustler vs. the Rustler VXL?

In conclusion, the Traxxas Rustler and Rustler VXL 2WD are excellent RC cars catering to different types of RC enthusiasts. 

While the Rustler is aimed at RC car beginners, the Rustler VXL is designed for those who want to take the next step and experience high-performance RC car driving.

The Rustler VXL boasts several key upgrades that make it an amazing car on or off-road. With its powerful Velineon brushless motor, advanced VXL-3s ESC, responsive 2075 steering servo, and versatile suspension system, the Rustler VXL offers unparalleled speed, agility, and handling. 

It’s designed to push the limits and is perfect for those who want to compete or simply enjoy the thrill of high-speed driving. In fact, with the right pinion & spur gear setup, the Rustler VXL is one of the fastest Traxxas RC cars!

Traxxas Rustler (left) vs Rustler VXL (right)

On the other hand, the Rustler is a more affordable and beginner-friendly option that still offers plenty of fun and excitement for those new to the hobby. 

With its reliable Titan 12T brushed motor, XL5 ESC, and durable 2056 steering servo, the Rustler is an excellent choice for those looking to dip their toes into the world of RC cars without breaking the bank.

Overall, whether you’re a beginner or an experienced RC car enthusiast, there’s a Traxxas Rustler model that’s perfect for you. The Rustler offers a great entry point into the hobby, while the Rustler VXL is a high-performance 2WD machine designed to take your driving experience to the next level. 

Tim Wells

Tim Wells is the creator and driving force behind His passion for RC cars began when he caught a glimpse of a Kyosho Optima while on a family trip to Japan. Although he couldn't afford it then, the seed of his RC car hobby had been planted, and he knew he had to have one. Fast forward a few years, and he could finally dive head-first into the hobby as an adult. He found a ton of websites and YouTubers doing crazy stunts with their expensive RC cars but very few resources for the average person who just wants to go out and have fun. That's when he launched his RC car website: ClutchRC.

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