November 26, 2020
At this moment in R/C Drift, there are 2 mainstream players dominating the chassis game. Yokomo’s YD2 line is by far the most popular, with the MST RMX 2.0 in a distant second. For most, it’s exciting to be a part of the in-crowd, for others, it becomes a bit boring and they search for an alternative. For myself, I find excitement in both aspects.
The Usukani PDS R-SE
Not new to the game, but new to me, is the the Usukani PDS line. More specifically, the PDS R-SE. It has been in my possession for the better part of this year, and I constantly find other projects to give priority to. I will be the first to admit I wasn’t very excited about this chassis. The main reason being, I’m not a fan of Rear Motor Chassis. I have built a few and they just don’t do it for me.
As always, I give any chassis I test the best possible chance of success. For this round I would be using my go to electronic setup. Futaba CT700 Servo, GYD550 Gyro, MC970CR ESC, R334SBS-E Receiver, Acuvance Agile 13.5T Motor (Not pIctured), and the Futaba 7PXR Remote to control it all. I had also chosen some Overdose HG v3 Dampers since I’ve been using them on all my builds recently.
Note: The Yokomo DX1 13.5T Type R (Titanium Shaft) motor was being tested when I took the pics. Not my normal setup.
The first thing that struck me as different was Usukani provides the instruction manual on a USB drive. My initial thought was this was a good idea and very trick! I quickly figured out this just wasn’t the business for me as I kept getting messages as I was building and it became a pain to keep going back to open the PDF. It works, but I prefer a hard copy of the instructions. The instructions themselves were good. Easy to understand and I didn’t run into any issues.
The chassis itself is really a no nonsense type of chassis. The shape and the appearance didn’t really wow me (good appearance is nice, but doesn’t make or break a build for me), but there were some features that sparked my interest in this build.
Usukani has used servo mounts that allow the entire servo to move front to back for quick and infinite adjustment of the Ackerman. No more going back to the pits and adding spacers. Just loosen two screws, move the servo, and you are back in business. It looks like my mount is slightly crooked, but since I only use one side to keep track of the position, it doesn’t really change anything. For tuning, this is a great feature that I really came to appreciate.
I absolutely love this servo setup! Usukani’s included Servo Lever is awesome. When I was putting this together, I quickly realized I didn’t need to center my servo before assembling the steering. They provide a splined insert that fits onto the servo, which is smooth on the outside. Then the actual lever clamps to the insert. Zero out your trims, center your steering, and tighten up the clamping screw. Perfect setup! The lever length is also infinitely adjustable which is also nice. Talk about options! One thing I really like about the CT700 is the ability to program the center point. Not even necessary with this system.
Previously, I had heard about there being some issues with quality with the front knuckles on the PDS. I found no issues at all, and in fact found them to be on par with any of the mainstream chassis kits available. They are aluminum and come with aluminum wheel hexes as well. Initially I didn’t care for the way Usukani did their steering stops, but after using them, I found I actually prefer them to the solid posts used by other manufacturers. I can get them exactly where I want them with ease. This is a good example of function over form.
From my experience, only Overdose has made a cantilever suspension that I feel works as well as shocks mounted directly to the arm and tower. All the others have some sort of binding or drag and that translates to not working very well. Usukani now makes it onto my short list of cantilever suspension that I feel works well. One thing I felt didn’t sit right with me when I built this kit was the Front Upper Control Arm being supported on only one side. Interestingly enough, both the PDS and the ReveD front end utilize a one-sided support for the UCA with no issues. I still prefer both ends of the hinge pin being captured, but if it works, I guess why fix it.
Rear Mounted Motor
The PDS R-SE is the PDS Rear Motor version and it comes with an open 3 gear transmission. It uses all YD2 compatible internals, so there is no issue with parts. It comes supplied with a solid spool, but since I always use a gear diff, it was only fitting I dropped one in to make sure I get a good comparison. The fit and finish is excellent. No complaints here. I also used a Kamikaze Battery Holder since I decided mounting my battery sideways would be better suited for what I was trying to accomplish. The supplied battery holder mounts the battery inline with the chassis, and is very minimalistic. I was disappointed I was not able to use it as it is extremely lightweight and functional. There are many mounting holes for the battery, so adjusting weight bias is a breeze.
The PDS R-SE is a light weight chassis with a 30/70 front to rear weight bias (As I have it setup). An interesting side note, my ReveD/Yokomo MC-1 and my PDS R-SE both weigh EXACTLY THE SAME at 1173g, but my MC-1 has a 35/75 front to rear weight bias.
So, how does this thing drive? Not how I expected. I always try to come into any type of test with an open mind, but of course there will always be some sort of predetermined thoughts going on. I was already thinking it was going to be rear-heavy with a strong pendulum effect going on, just like all the other Rear Motor chassis I have had. I couldn’t be more wrong.
The first thing I noticed was it has great corner exit speed. Something very familiar to any rear motor setups I have driven. What was missing with the heavy pendulum characteristic. In fact, the transitions and overall driving of this chassis doesn’t scream Rear Motor at all. It is a well balanced driving chassis which really does agree with my driving style. I had received a tip from my homie, Karlo, suggesting going heavier on the rear shock fluid to help with the heavy rear setup. So rather than my normal setup of lighter fluid in the rear, I started out heavier and happened to be just right. (OD 6 hole pistons with #15 Front and #20 Rear, stock springs all around.)
What can I say, the Usukani PDS R-SE really surprised me. There are so many things I like about this chassis, I need to ask myself what took me so long? I have always heard great things about the PDS line, but it was always followed by some of the downfalls of the kit. I addressed some of the issues before even getting started and it seems to have given me great results. I was warned the ball ends the kit comes with don’t last, so I replaced them with Yokomo ball ends (just the cups). I have been told the dampers are “decent” but knowing myself, I would most likely upgrade them anyway, so I did. Added a gear diff and titanium turnbuckles to top it off, which I would do anyway. I’m just missing my titanium screw kit, and it will be setup the way I like it.
Probably the best way I can end this is, during the past 2 weeks I have had 2 new chassis on my pit table. The PDS is the one I have been drawn to every day. It will most likely be my main chassis for the foreseeable future (Which in my case is usually not very long in all fairness) To add to this, we have dozens of YD2s, MC-1 conversions, and Galm v2s in stock, but we don’t have any PDS R-SEs at the moment. So you can believe this is not a sales pitch.