Closes May 31st:

Competition: make a LEGO font

1 June 2016

A True Supercar?

I'm excited to have Ryan Welles (merman) return today to be one of the first to review a thrilling new LEGO® Technic set, 42056 Porsche 911 GT3 RS. It is available to buy online from today (June 1st), but in terms of physical stores, is exclusive to the thirteen German and Austrian LEGO stores for the whole of June and July.

For the past couple of years, the LEGO® Technic range has given the aficionados of gears, pins, axles and beams more than they could have possibly hoped for. Still, the adult community committed to this product line which was launched almost forty years ago, is among the most critical of all AFOLs. To most of them a perfect Technic set does not exist and there is always room for improvement. Perhaps that is the charm of being a Technic builder. In recent years, Technic has undergone a massive improvement in both set quality and parts count. But it comes with a price tag as well.


This evolution has been accompanied by the LEGO Group joining forces with well-known manufacturers of cars and construction equipment. It all started with 2011 Mercedes-Benz Unimog U 400 in 2011 and was followed in 2014 with 42030 Volvo L350F Wheel Loader and last year’s 42043 Mercedes-Benz Arocs 3245. And then there was the very first Technic direct-to-consumer exclusive,  41999 4x4 Crawler, which was a fan-created design based on the earlier official set 9298 4x4 Crawler Crane. There were only 10,000 made of this set and it came in an exclusive high-quality box and each carried a unique printed tile with serial number.

Now, is there any way to top or even combine all of these saliva-inducing Technic goodies? With the 42056 Porsche 911 GT3 R3, the Danes have not only released the most expensive set in the 39-year history of the Technic theme, it is also an exclusive set that screams luxury and extravagance, despite being a normal retail set. With steep prices (£249/99/€299,99/$299.99 and 2704 parts, this 2016 flagship set may not be an instant purchase. Is this a set surrounded by blatant hype, or does it do the sky-high price justice? Read on to find out why this may be the ultimate Technic Supercar that, yes, may need the occasional improvement.

Unboxed: a Coffee Table Book

Once you hold the box in your hands you actually feel this is something really special. The box is made of sturdier cardboard, similar to the exclusive box of 41999 4x4 Crawler. It is rather corpulent, measuring 48x37x14.5 cm. On the backside we find a top view of the fancy orange automobile and what struck me the most is that this Technic model is paved with panels. There is not a gear visible besides the clear headlights, the dominant colours being orange and black. From this angle, the only hint of its extensive gearbox functions are the central gearbox (that simply changes between forward and reverse) and a yellow paddle shifter kept in place by some white rubber bands.

Aside from the top view, the back of the box shows the four main stages of the building process, represented by pictures of each of the stages’ main assets, such as the gearbox, front wheel suspension, ‘fake’ six-cylinder engine and one of the two seats. The sides of the box show different views of the Porsche 911, the company’s logo and a 1:1 representation of the new black rim which is unique to this set.


Once admired from all angles and after resisting the urge to keep the four seals intact, it is only a matter of time before greed wins over resistance. Inside the box the central highlight is the hefty 570-page coffee table book - it can hardly be deemed as a mere instruction book. The book is surrounded by four smaller boxes. One is unlabelled and has cut-outs for the car’s four wheel rims, on an orange background. Mine got slightly ripped near the cut-outs during transport so hopefully this is not a common problem. The other boxes are numbered 2 to 4. Once the instruction book is lifted a fifth box, the biggest one in volume, is revealed showing the fake engine. Heave a sigh of relief - they did not forget to include the first box. There is also a sticker sheet, rather modest in size, but this makes the absence of all-printed elements even more questionable.

The book is sturdy, with glued binding. It falls open rather comfortably and no heavy objects are required to keep the instructions open on the table. The instruction manual speaks volumes, especially when it comes to lauding Porsche; it is filled with more superlatives about the brand and the capacities and the mind-blowing qualities of the car than the set has black pins (being a staggering 519 in total, so about a quarter of the total number of parts). Regretfully there is not much info about the designing process. Apparently, the designer went to meet the Deutschers and had to do a lot of checking and adjusting, but how he actually came to design the set and its technical highlights remains much of a mystery.

The book is unique in its use of a new font and colour scheme and uses paper that is less shiny than that of the usual instruction book. The inclusion of so much info about Porsche and the many iterations and versions of the 911 GT3 RS makes it clear this is a toy not only focused at LEGO lovers, but also at admirers of the actual car.

Box 1: Fundaments

Building the contents of first box is the most interesting on the technical level, I always find. It is fascinating to begin a model, since it forms the basic structure and pipelines in the form of axles, movable parts and gears. It is thoroughly that pleasing the box is not sealed but can be opened without tearing stuff. That is also why it is a big plus most modern sets now have boxes that can be opened simply by cutting some tape, rather than by destroying the box with brute force (those perforated markings somehow never seem to work without ruining the box to some extent). Opening the first box, the biggest of all five, also makes you realise the package is cramped with parts and contains little of that beguiling factory oxygen. Box 1 is comprised of a total number of eleven bags; ten labelled '1' and one unnumbered bag containing orange flex hoses and panels that are needed much later in the building process.


This is also the stage of the build that introduces three of the four new parts. One is a 7x3x2 panel that comes in Black (Element ID 150082) in this bag and Bright Orange [TLG]/Orange [BL] later on. This panel is a shorter version of the similarly shaped Panel Curved 11x3 with 2 Pin Holes through Panel Surface (Design ID 62531). It is used here in Black to guard the central axles of the gearbox. Another new element is a smoother version of the new 3-stud long Driving Ring Connector that was introduced only last year. This newer version comes in Bright Red [TLG]/Red [BL] (Element ID 3686615 | Design ID 18948). It has no noticeable ridges making it easier to slide a Driving Ring over it. This only works well, however, when the movement of the Driving Ring is controlled by a switch that is either secured by friction or a geared movement as used in this Porsche set. You get eleven of these, but only two are used as actual slides for Driving Rings, with the remaining ones officiating as simple connectors (a job once performed by part 32034, the good old Axle and Pin Connector Angled #2 - 180°. The third new part is a new steering hub in Black (Element ID 6145859), included twice. It is different from the new hub introduced in 2013 in its position of the steering arms. Finally, there is a printed 1x4 White tile containing a unique printed serial number (6160271).

Box 1 also contains a recolour of the 6.5-stud long Shock Absorber with hard spring; it comes here in Red (Element ID 6144791 | Design ID 76537). This new colour is in accordance with the suspension springs used in the real-life Porsche 911. It is a nice touch (or perhaps a demand!) from the Porsche officials, to include the springs in a new colour. Another useful part is the Axle 3 with Stop (Element ID 6135494 | Design ID 24316) introduced earlier this year. Because it is used frequently - you get a total number of eighteen - the amount of Reddish Brown on show looks somewhat odd, especially against certain backgrounds.

For quite some time it is rather unclear what you are really building, which is also due to the fact the company did not release any pictures prior to the release of 42056 to show its inner gearing. You start with the central gearbox that ends up in between the seats and simply lets you switch between forward or reverse driving. This is extended to the actual gearbox, hidden in the back of the model. It forms a wide array of meshing gears and two parallel Driving Rings. These are switched simultaneously by what is the true marvel of this Technic instalment: the paddle shifters. Even though this configuration was seen in MOCs shown around the internet, this is the first time such an intricate arrangement is seen in an official set. The shifters have a scissor-shaped configuration and are kept together by two white elastic bands on each side. Not the prettiest sight, but it is hard to imagine how this could be achieved in any other way.


The paddle shifters move impressively smoothly and to extreme satisfaction, although sometimes the Driving Rings are not in full position completely, making gears that are supposed to be in rest move slightly. Both paddles perform a similar task, simply altering in which order you shift the gears. There is a total number of four arrangements of Driving Rings. So, basically this is a 4+4 gearbox design. There is, however a critical error in the instruction book. The two gears at the bottom (marked with blue dots here) are supposed to be switched. If you don’t fix this, the gears either get stuck or you experience no difference in transmission. A pretty painful mistake that hopefully will be fixed soon in newer instructions.



The front and rear wheel set ups (using the newly coloured hard springs and yellow brake pads typical for the Porsche 911 - but not functional in this LEGO version) and the six-cylinder engine (that becomes quite hidden from view once completed) swiftly follow, as well as the steering arrangement. This set has no so-called ‘Hand of God’ steering. This adds to the realism, but it makes the car, which has a disappointingly big steering circle, hard to drive around. The LEGO Digital Designer screen print above shows the gearing of the three main functions (steering, paddle shifting and the gearbox itself). All main functions are so well hidden within the depths of the model and covered by panels all around, that there is hardly any educational value once the build is completed.

Box 2: Cover-up

Box 2 contains nine numbered bags and no other new parts. It builds the remainder of the chassis in a straightforward fashion. It is mainly made out of beams, liftarms, pins, connectors and the occasional panel. Rather unusual is the two Orange liftarms that are placed diagonally and cross each other halfway. This makes the chassis slightly asymmetrical and adds to the 'flashy racing car' vibe of the set.

Even though it does not seem that exciting to build this stage, what makes it worth writing home about is when it is joined with what you already constructed in phase one. The overlay of the chassis fits like a glove and is fixed tightly into place with the use of Pins with Stop Bush. So far the build has been a combination of modular builds, especially the portion containing the steering and paddle shifters and the suspension sections and long lines of liftarms to join it all together. The overlay made in this second stage ties it all together. Last, but certainly not least you build the two seats, which make use of bended liftarms.

Box 3: Dressing Up

On a technical level boxes 3 and 4 are all about turning the bulk of beams and gears into what can actually be perceived of as a car. This review will keep things short when it comes to this section of the build, basically because most of it is exterior stuff that can easily be judged by looking at the pictures of the finished set. Box 3 consists of ‘just’ four bags of parts. It is also the phase that makes use of a new type of arched panel measuring 5x13x2 in Orange (Element ID 6146786) and you get a total number of six of these, two of which are printed (Element IDs Left: 6151466; Right: 6151467). This is a truly lovely  panel that looks splendid as wheel arches and is much more solid than the soft axles used in several types of supercars to create wheel arches in the past.


Box 3 contains more goodies and newbies. This is the first time that we have Orange 12-stud long soft axles (Element ID 6142996 | Design ID 32200) and 19-stud long too (6126922 | 32235). The Curved Panel 3x13x2 (6135061 | 18944) comes in Orange for the first time and ten are included. We get the aforementioned new panel 7x3x2 in Orange (Element ID 6149936) as well as some rare 7x5x2 panels (Left: Element ID 6143017 | Design ID 64394; Right: 6143018 | 64680) which have only ever appeared in one other set to date, 42007 Moto Cross Bike.



Box 4: Posh Porsche


Box 4 has a total number of four bags and besides the new printed curved panels this stage of the build introduces a few other new parts: first, the long-awaited Technic Axle 11L, the only axle missing from the range. It  comes in Bright Yellow [TLG]/Yellow [BL] (Element ID 6130012), as do all  oddly-sized axles as of this year. I sincerely hope this is not a trend that will be continued any further, since it adds to the so-called dreaded ‘colour vomit’ in official sets. Another new part is a round tile with ‘RS’ print (6151377).

And then there are there new Porsche rims and tyres. As you can see on the picture below, these are a lot bigger than the old rims and tyres used in similar cars. The rims are really deep in order to be able to accommodate the brake pads and have a stud used for the printed round tiles with the RS logo. The size of these wheels can pretty much dictate the overall size of the car. To finish things off the set comes with a small suitcase that can be stored under the hood of the car.


Conclusion


Now this set is really something. It may be abominably pricey and should have been about 10% cheaper in my opinion. A recent post on the LEGO Facebook page demonstrated this set has to be hand-packed in their Czech factory, adding to the cost of the set. It is a rather extraordinary set that is a true marvel in the technical field and utterly pleasing to put together; a lengthy build with a few exciting new building techniques. Most of the fun is in the first half, when assembling the gearboxes and paddle shifting/steering unit. Placing the overlay to complete the chassis is very rewarding. The completed car is extremely big; bigger than the box it comes in!


It does have a few flaws: first of all, considering the price and rather small sticker sheet, those parts should have been printed. The side mirrors look odd with the use of Technic panels. There is a dent near the headlights, breaking the smooth curve of the hood, and the rear lights look unfinished and rough. The overall colour is plain orange whereas the actual car is dyed ‘lava orange’, which is a bit more intense. I understand why the LEGO Group stuck to their own orange, but a brighter lava orange would have been a nice touch. No need to call 911; aside from these minor flaws this set is highly recommended. If you can afford it that is.



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11 comments:

  1. Er Tim...where is the alternative build ;-)

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    Replies
    1. There is no alternative model in this set

      Delete
  2. Good review. Regarding the printing, I was definitely disappointed with some of the stickers, particularly the 1x1 round badge on the steering wheel (a hard part to sticker, a part that's printed elsewhere in the set, and the first time I've ever seen that part stickered), but I still think it'd be unrealistic to print all the parts. Technic beams in particular have never once been printed to my knowledge, and moreover I think attempting to print them (in the case of the stickers for the badge on the hood and center column) would not be that well-advised. I can just picture mistaking the blank side of those printed beams for unprinted ones and using them in the wrong place on the model, only to discover the error later in the build when the printed ones need to be attached. It'd be an easy mistake to make compared to printed parts like tiles that only have one obvious printable surface, and Technic builds are much harder to correct once a mistake is discovered than System parts generally are.

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  3. Although the most expensive set, it's not even the largest released this year. The humongous 42055: Bucket Wheel Excavator contains 3927 pieces... A lot of Huge Technic sets released this year.

    /Håkan

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. But it's the largest to date: the 42055 hasn't been released yet ;)

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    2. 42043: Mercedes-Benz Arocs 3245 contains 2793 pieces, and seems to be the biggest Technic set released so far.

      /Håkan

      Delete
  4. A wonderfully detailed review as a set this complicated needs. However I must point out that you called part one 'fundaments'. Did you mean 'fundamentals' or were you being (ahem) cheeky?

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  5. A wonderfully detailed review as a set this complicated needs. However I must point out that you called part one 'fundaments'. Did you mean 'fundamentals' or were you being (ahem) cheeky?

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  6. A very nice review. I particularly like the 3D representation of the drivetrain and part of the gear selector mechanism.
    Regarding the error, I'd like to point out that if you simply swap the gears on the axles you have indicated you will run into trouble as the black gears don't mesh with the grey ones. Instead of swapping the gears, the easiest (less error prone) solution is to pull out the left and right 4L axle with gears and bushes attached and swap them out. This way you get a mirror image of what you had a the gears will mesh correctly.

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    Replies
    1. There was some criticism about the gears not working "correctly", as in the original car, but this is another criticism? About them not working at all?...

      /Håkan

      Delete
  7. TLG have made an official statement about the criticisms of the gearing:

    "Thank you to all our dedicated fans for the comments regarding the GT3 RS by LEGO Technic.

    It is correct that the gears in this model are not sequential as in the real Porsche PDK. This is however, a deliberate decision taken to ensure that we make the best possible LEGO version of this amazing car that both meets our design requirements and gives everyone a great building and product experience.

    It was a considered decision taken during development that the gears running in the correct order meant that it did not result in a great experience when driving the car. Too many gears are engaged at the same time and smooth running with all those tolerances is just not possible.

    If you switch the build in steps 267 and 269 the gears will run sequentially, and everyone who feels that this is the better solution should feel encouraged to do so.
    LEGO Technic really is the ultimate open source design product and now that it is finally available, we look forward to seeing all the 'improved' models our fans create. After all, that is what LEGO building is all about.
    We hope everyone will have a great building experience and feel a strong sense of pride from creating both our version and their very own LEGO Technic representation of a Porsche GT3 RS. We are very fortunate to have such skilled and dedicated fans that can spot this small deviation from reality and would like to thank everyone for sharing their ideas and expert knowledge."

    ReplyDelete