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Tamiya Avante Re-Release Review

05/20/2011 by Gary Katzer

Copyright:© 2011 Horizon Hobby, Inc.

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Tamiya has had a number of class-defining vehicles over its long and illustrious history. From the Frog to the Blackfoot, the TA-01 to the Manta Ray, there have been many innovative products that has come from the folks at Tamiya. One of the most innovative vehicles they have ever produced was the Avante 4WD buggy. In the mid-80's, the 4WD class was dominated by belt or even chain-driven chassis, but the Avante featured a quieter and more efficient shaft-driven system. The Avante also featured aluminum-bodied, oil-filled shocks, highly adjustable suspension, adjustable wing and a super-cool wheel retainer system. For its time, the Avante was bad to the bone. Time and technology doesn't stand still however, and eventually the Avante gave way to newer technology and it was discontinued. Collectors coveted their treasures as they became harder and harder to find, eventually becoming the stuff of legends.

Fast-forward to 2011, where Tamiya has answered the call of collectors everywhere by re-releasing this classic kit. Authentically re-created in perfect detail, this is the version of Avante that brings this classic buggy up to modern standards with features such as a Li-Fe-compatible ESC (included), two sets of wheels, including a modern-sized set wheels (standard width rears and narrow fronts), and all the aluminum and carbon-fiber graphite you could want. We recently had a chance to get our hands on one of these new re-releases to put it through the paces.

Speed Specs
Part Number:
Vehicle Class/Type: 4WD Off-Road Buggy
Target Audience: Fans of Classic Tamiya Vehicles
Completion Level: Kit

The Avante is an absolute work of art as far as how it goes together, and the materials used in its construction. I know I mentioned this earlier, but this car is a masterpiece of carbon-fiber, graphite and aluminum; it's everywhere! When assembled, the Avante's chassis rivals the rigidity of many of today's current 4WD competition-level kits. The suspension takes additional time to assemble, mostly due to the complexity of the front and rear suspension components. Take your time during this assembly process and, if possible, have a digital caliper handy to ensure the links are the same length left-to-right.
As a kit, the Avante requires you to pick up and install your own electronics. Since this was a new kit (to me) I thought it was quite appropriate to use a new radio in the Spektrum DX3C. I've really liked this radio since the first time I had a chance to hold one and thought it would work quite well in this application. To handle the steering duties, I installed a Spektrum S6010 digital servo. I debated about swapping out the included ESC, but in the end I decided to use it after all. The final piece of the package was the battery pack choice. I wanted to try one of Team Orion's new Li-Fe battery packs for quite a long time, and this seemed like the perfect time to give it a shot.

Top Speed/Acceleration
Before I headed out to Eli Field with the Avante and camera, I fired it up in our workshop. I wasn't really impressed with the acceleration, and the top speed was even more disappointing. All of a sudden, the car stopped moving and I could hear something in the driveline spinning freely. Soon I discovered the issue, which was an overly-loose slipper assembly. With it properly tightened down and re-installed onto the chassis, the Avante was much spunkier when I grabbed the throttle.
Keeping in mind that the included 2011 Avante Special Edition motor is a high wind brushed motor, I was actually pleasantly impressed with how it felt on-track. It wasn't earth-shatteringly fast, but it was absolutely respectable. I've used some of Tamiya's other brushed motors (mostly 17- to 21-turn) and this motor ran about the same as those. The power was smooth and efficient while keeping the temperatures relatively low. In the end, the Avante felt faster than a traditional silver can or black can Mabuchi-style motor, but you'll never confuse this motor for a brushless system.

When I got to Eli Field, I anticipated only taking a few laps with the stock tires and opting to run the majority of the day on the JConcepts' Flip Outs, but I was amazed at how well the large-knob, retro-style tires hooked up. That's a lie; I was amazed that they hooked up at all! Those tires represented 25-year old technology that's been left in the dust by softer rubber compounds and smaller pins. These tires actually worked really well in these conditions. I will admit though, that on a harder or higher-bite surface they would have been swapped out for the JConcepts tires in no-time flat.
I didn't know what to expect out of the Avante quite honestly. I had never driven a 4WD buggy with a trailing link suspension setup, and the Frog and Blackfoot were the only other vehicles I had driven with a trailing link setup at all. Granted, the track at Eli Field doesn't have huge motocross style jumps and elevation changes, but I was really impressed with how well the Avante drove. It was actually really well balanced with a slight oversteer-on-exit tendency. I have to admit, I wondered more than a few times how this car would compete with more power on a competition-style track.

4WD vehicles, particularly buggies, are well-known for their excellent jumping characteristics, and the Avante fit this stereotype perfectly. The extra rotating mass of the shaft drive and the front diff/driveline helps keep the chassis level when the Avante takes flight. Landings weren't always the smoothest due to the overall low ground clearance of the chassis that allowed it to bottom out occasionally, but thankfully, the lower chassis protector kept the graphite chassis from getting gouged or damaged, while also reducing drag. I think that if the Avante had a touch more static ride height, landings would be no-problem.

With dual gear differentials and a solid shaft drive, you'd expect the Avante to push like a dump truck. The truth is that this is one nimble little car. Off-power I could either tap the brakes or just pitch the car a bit to scrub off some speed and the Avante would take a nice arching line around a corner. I'd best describe the Avante as being both smooth and predictable.

The acceleration of the Avante was brisk, as I mentioned earlier, and I anticipated that would make the chassis feel a bit loose when I got on the gas. Surprisingly, it wasn't loose at all as the suspension provided enough sidebite and forward traction to get the car off the corners smoothly and easily each and every time. If I wanted to, I could pitch the car sideways just like I could off-power in order to make things interesting, but this is a very happy car. And all this out of a 25-year old design? Color me impressed!

Out-Of-The-Box Setup
I was a bit surprised to see a full set of swaybars included in the box with the Avante. I don't know why as they are hardly new-technology, however, I'll admit that I didn't start using them until I got into on-road sedans in the late-90's. I'm glad that they were in there though, as they do aid in the overall handling and performance of the Avante on-track. The car absolutely exceeded my expectations in many ways; so much so, that I never even installed the JConcepts' Flip Out tires. I was having too much fun with its box-stock!
Now this all needs a bit of perspective. While I did have a blast while driving the Avante, it is still a 25-year old design and there are more competition-worthy buggies including Tamiya's own TRF511 and TRF502X. If competition is what you're looking for, then the Avante isn't the car for you. If, however, you have a taste for the vintage and are a fan of classic Tamiya vehicles, then the Avante is just the car for you.

When I talked to Tamiya America's Fred Medel about reviewing the Avante, he told me that I would enjoy this car as it was the first car he had ever owned. I hate to admit it, but he's right; this was a fun car to get some track time with this classic buggy. I was astounded at how sharp the chassis looked, the quality of the parts, how the parts fit together and just how much of a pleasure this was. The Avante's included ESC worked very well and I was thankful that I was able to disable reverse and simply have it setup as a forward/brake ESC. The Avante impressed me with how nimble and quick it was, especially for such as unique design. The Avante is a terrific car for the passionate Tamiya-fan (like myself), those interested in the history of our hobby, or those looking for a different sort of vehicle that is sure to turn heads.