It’s review time here at The Lego Car Blog, as we add another LEGO set to the by now pretty huge Review Library! This set review comes from one of our readers, who dons the Reviewing Anorak (which may or may not be a real thing) and takes on the enormous remote controlled LEGO Technic 42114 6×6 Volvo Articulated Hauler. Wojtek Hildebrandt is the reader in question, and so good is his review that TLCB Team are frankly a little worried for their jobs. That’s not true of course, as they don’t get paid… Anyway, over to Wojtek!
LEGO has a long-standing tradition of recreating dominantly yellow construction equipment in Technic sets. This is rather a grateful theme for construction blocks after all – simple shapes and function over form. Recently these have mostly been Volvo licensed vehicles; wheel loaders, excavators, and haulers with different degrees of motorisation – from full (as in 42030 loader) via optional (to power 42053 excavator pneumatics) to none (for endless knob spinning fun with 42081 concept loader). The time has come for a fully remote-controlled articulated hauler – a Volvo A60H with the Control+ app.
Beauty is in the eye of the behauler.
First, let’s have a look from the outside. This is a looker, at least for a construction machine. We can see it already on the box cover, where the hauler is put in some blurred quarry environment. It fits well, but then the same image is sometimes used without the background, which makes the chassis twist look weird, like doing some unlikely stunt.
Speaking of weird: LEGO’s previous attempt to minify a Volvo hauler – the B model for 42030 – had it all wrong (even with the number of wheels), but if you’re generous enough, you can say it was a tribute to vintage, skeletal Technic sets. If so, then 42114 is more from a bloodline of Model Team or recent adult Creator sets, even if it uses mostly Technic parts. Of course, the pins and holes are there and some proportions and colors are off, but both overall shape and some neat details are very true.
Let’s start from the business end; the dump body – we’ll call it the body from now on – has a complex shape with clever usage of tapered panels (which are flat on both sides, unlike straight panels) and very few empty spaces. I guess you couldn’t haul sand in it, but it should be perfect for some beans or potatoes. Or lemons to match the colour. The driver’s cab is correctly centred and surrounded by a proper, orange safety railing as well as accurate big mirrors. There is a slightly surprising mudguard serving as a dashboard, my favorite seat made of a single curved panel 3x5x3 (which seems to fit the same purpose regardless of model scale), and a warning beacon on the roof that twists slightly to turn the Control+ hub on or off.
Further to the front, we have one of the best-looking parts – a nicely sculpted bonnet. The impression is improved by a few stickers, but even without them all the angles and curves feel just right, even if they’re not entirely true to the original, e.g. with headlights. One curved panel covers the limits of the other and everything works together nicely. It’s wobbly during construction but becomes solid enough eventually. The front bumper on the other hand is no match for a durable look of the original, but to me, it doesn’t harm the overall impression too much.
Now we get to the hardware. Both real-life and miniature versions of the Volvo hauler are powered by six cylinders. In full scale, they are six, famously green inline cylinders of an internal combustion engine. For the set, they are 6 AA/R6 batteries. Which one is “greener” energy depends probably on whether your batteries are rechargeable and if so – how you recharge them.
Accessing both the battery compartment and the fake engine is fairly easy, as the back of the Control+ hub is exposed to replace batteries. A two-part engine bonnet can be opened using a clever locking pin (in fact being a Technic axle) that sits comfortably in a rubber connector. The front of the bonnet opens ahead and reveals a folding ladder, the top of the bonnet can be supported by the removed axle-pin: Easy and safe access for your mini-figures to maintain the engine.
But there are more motors than just this engine. There are three actually: one is a steering servo controlling both model’s turning and rotating the steering wheel, for which it uses its double-sided output. The second is controlling the gearbox position, and the third provides propulsion via said transmission. The gearbox idea is particularly tricky; it’s an automated (which is not the same as automatic) transmission with 3 speeds + 4th that drives linear actuators to raise the body. This 4th speed can be thought of as a power-take-off device from real vehicles. The only major drawback of this drivetrain hardware is that reversing (also with 3 speeds) and lowering the bed is controlled by the reverse output from the propulsion motor rather than by a different gear.
We’ve seen some complex gearboxes in recent Technic sets, but this one combining 3 speeds, power take-off, and remote control is one of the most interesting in my opinion. There is even a one-side-fixed clutch serving as a sort of parking brake for when the body is operating. Clever, clever stuff indeed.
While we’re at operating the body; this is by far the most obvious difference from the full-scale hauler. The real thing is operated hydraulically, whilst the 42114 set uses linear actuators. The reason is obvious to anyone who ever tried to use Technic pneumatics to lift something heavy – linear actuators are much stronger, their clutch slips under a much higher load than pneumatic pistons stall. Sure it would be awesome to see pneumatic integration with a compressor as has been used in some other sets, but I’m afraid the playability would be badly harmed.
There is – obviously – a lengthy instruction book to help you convert the 2,193 LEGO pieces into this complex vehicle. It’s a clear guide – I think I omitted one step while building, but that’s because I was so eager to play with the finished set so it wasn’t exactly LEGO’s fault! However there are no instructions for a B model, as one sadly doesn’t exist – at least in the official set.
Work hard or play hard
Similar to other remotely controlled Technic vehicles, the playability of the “unplugged” hauler is heavily limited. Apart from opening the bonnet or replacing a flat tire – if that ever happened to your LEGO vehicle – there’s not much to do without using a remote control. For this, you need to open the Control+ app on your mobile device. I strongly suggest using at least an 8″ tablet for this, and the application runs well on my low-end device so I don’t think there should be any performance issues.
The App has separate profiles for all Control+ driven sets, so the first time you connect the application to your set (by twisting the beacon on the roof when told so by the App) you need to go through a calibration process. This way motors will be able to tell their neutral positions and can go further with relative turns for steering and gearbox control.
This calibration process can take up to 2 minutes and doesn’t guarantee success. For me, the first run made a vehicle do really strange things on the floor and failed to properly calibrate. I had to run it again, this time with success, and it’s worth noting that even after a few weeks’ break recalibration isn’t require; once calibration is completed (successfully) you are free to go.
There are two different interfaces to drive and operate the body. You can also pick the mode for transmission: manual or automated, limiting to 1, 2, or using all 3 speeds – typical to old-school automatic transmission – and a button to keep the current speed. However the automated gearbox driver doesn’t work as well as it should; under heavy load the gearbox will go straight back to 1st gear rather than reducing one-by-one. Holding the current gear is also limited, but there’s a brighter side to this, as it’s all in the software. This means it can be updated by LEGO at some point (even though I don’t think this will happen) or overridden by custom software. There are examples already available online and you can always try to write better drivers on your own. Of course, there are some limits to what you can do with your LEGO hardware – for example, you shouldn’t make your vehicle change gears while in motion, as the pieces aren’t capable of it – but within some reasonable boundaries you are free to program this however you want. This is where I think PoweredUp/Control+ shines the most.
Apart from driving, you can also put some App-simulated tonnes of rocks or sand in your 42114 hauler, and there even seems to be a slight difference in vehicle performance depending on the load, which is nice. To enhance the immersion, you can also see vehicle statistics and there are engine sounds too, a reversing warning, and a horn – although these all play through your mobile device. Finally, you can take part in challenges. Fortunately, you don’t need a real size quarry for that – distances are big, but the acceptance criteria are rather forgiving.
Stop! Hauling time!
So to sum up the impression and experience of this set; I think it looks great, it can be very educative both when building and when playing with, and it deploys some great techniques from both styling and engineering perspectives. The remote control App provides quite some fun too, even if there are a few shortcomings. And you can always get your hands dirty in the code (but not as dirty as with real-life hauling or construction machines maintenance I imagine) to make it run more to your liking. A strong 9/10 for me. I’d buy it. So I did.