February 15, 2021
Usukani for years has been one of the most under-rated manufacturers in the R/C Drift Scene. In talking to various people, it seems to stem back from when they were first getting their start a few years back. There were a couple products that just didn’t hit quite right and seems to have put some off a bit. At the same time, I have known people who own Usukani chassis, and they have always loved them. I had finally broke down and gave the PDSR-SE a chance and was instantly won over. Usukani has just released their latest version of the PDS, the PDS MIX. I grabbed one and got to building.
From everything I had seen about the PDS MIX I thought it was going to be a mid-motor version of the PDSR-SE, that ended up to not be the case. One thing I have always been told about Usukani is they are always evolving and improving. This seems to be the case, as there were a couple things I felt could be improved on the PDSR-SE, but nothing worth noting. When I started building the PDS MIX, I was pleased to see they were addressed.
The first thing I noticed was the chassis deck itself was very different than I expected. The trend recently has been ridged decks. The PDS MIX chassis was noticeably thinner than most and flexible. The rear section where the gearbox and rear suspension mount to had been cut narrow deep into the chassis itself. This reminded me of back in the CS days where people were cutting their chassis for added traction. Engineered flex, this has really sparked my interest. With the top bracing added, there is no flex front to rear, but there is noticeable twist.
The front end for the most part has not changed in regard to functionality. It’s a design that really agrees with me since I’m a fan of the no nonsense approach.
Previously the upper control arms were only supported on the front side. It never caused me any issues, but it just never felt right to me mentally. The PDS MIX addresses this with the addition of a rear supporting brace. Minimalistic, but effective. It has put my mind at ease if nothing else. They have also changed the fastening for the front lower control arm assembly. Now instead of using a through screw, they are using a notch and set screw. I believe this will eliminate the chance of it loosening over time.
I have installed the optional IFS (Inboard Front Suspension) since I have become accustom to this system from the Overdose Galm and the PDSR-SE. I have grown to prefer this type of suspension. Being able to adjust ride height independent of shock length and preload work well for me. Not to mention having the added clearance up front doesn’t hurt. The Usukani IFS works really well, so I see no drawbacks.
One of my favorite features, the adjustable servo mounting position. Quick adjustment of steering geometry.
While we are on the subject of servos, those of you who wish to use the ReveD servo may run into issues. It’s a well known fact the servo is taller and has been having issues in some chassis. The PDS MIX is one where it’s not just a drop in. It appears it can be made to work with some shims, but I’m not quite sure how well since it will lose the positioning provided with the Usukani servo mount.
The PDS MIX front steering knuckle is very light weight. It has 0, 6, and 12 degree KPI options. Note the steering stop. It is easy to adjust, light weight, and effective.
Closed gearbox with inline gears. Usukani now has a gear diff that utilizes straight gears rather than bevel gears that are traditionally used. It seems to work well, but time will tell how durable it is.
The battery holder is very light weight and effective at the same time. I am definitely a fan of this.
The PDS MIX can be configured with the motor in the high or low position, as well as many different battery placement options. This should appeal to both the high and low motor people out there. I always gravitate to the low mount (Low Center of Gravity) setups since it fits my driving style better. I can drive both ways, but always prefer low mount for some reason. I have built 2 PDS MIXs to compare, and again have found the LCG setup to my liking.
The factory supplied dampers. I will be the first to admit whenever I see sandpaper included to sand any burrs off, it’s a quick pass for me. This was no different and I jumped immediately to my personal setup to test the chassis itself. However, when it came to testing the kit as it comes, I had to take the time to build them and see for myself. The dampers are not that bad, in fact, they are very smooth and more than acceptable. There are worse aluminum dampers out there. There are small burrs that need to be removed from the side of the pistons, but if done correctly, the results are really good. It took maybe 2-4 light swipes directly on the burr itself and it was perfectly smooth. I didn’t go by sight, but by feel. If I could feel it by running my nail over it, it was still there. When it was not detectable, then I knew it was smooth. For a plastic shock, they are surprisingly good. I have no issues with them.
I have 2 setups to test, High Motor and Low Motor. I am always very partial to low motor.
For the Low Motor setup I chose the Futaba CT700 Servo, Futaba GYD550 Gyro, Futaba MC970CR ESC, Overdose/Acuvance 10.5T Motor, and paired it up with my Futaba 7PXR Remote. This is my go to setup and one I am very familiar with. For the High Motor setup I chose the same, but with a Acuvance Xarvis ESC and Acuvance Agile 10.5T.
Enough talk, so how does this thing slide?
The first thing that I noticed was there was a lot more side bite than I had expected. Not just from this chassis, but any chassis. I believe this is due to the added flex in the lower deck. I would say it is safe to assume this was the intended result from the chassis design. The LCG setup was definitely to my liking and I found myself impressed with the agility that comes with this setup. The optional IFS setup worked as it should and I found myself not wanting to stop driving since I was enjoying the feel of this chassis so much. I should disclose the setup I used was what I have come to use on the PDSR-SE and not the setup from the instructions. The testing this time around was more about how well will this chassis performs rather than how does it drive out of the box.
The HCG setup felt like the typical High Motor chassis, with the added side grip. It drives as expected and is definitely a solid chassis. For those who are accustomed to the HCG chassis, I’m sure you will feel right at home.
Overall, this chassis really agrees with me and my driving style. Coming in at just over $300, this may be the best Bang for the Buck! The necessary changes I would recommend are using different ball cups (I used Yokomo), as the Usukani ball cups leave a lot to be desired (you have been warned), and possibly dampers at some point, but not really necessary. Some may argue there are good chassis available at $100, but definitely not at this quality. Full carbon and aluminum with decent shocks and gear diff. Even at the $200 price point, you are barely getting into a plastic chassis. Since I have built the PDS MIX, quite a few people have been able to test drive it. I will just end this by saying the Usukani PDS MIX has been flying off the shelves here.