|Set reference: 8110|
Set name: Unimog U400
Theme: LEGO Technic
Release date: 2011.Jul (postponed to 2011.Aug)
Number of parts: 2048 (plus spares)
Model under review: Main and secondary models
Weight: 2.030g (main model, w/o batteries)
Approximate set dimensions: (main model; grabber laid over the cargo bed)
Width - 20,0cm (7,9")
Height - 28,5cm (11,2")
Length - 56,0cm (22,0")
Approximate box dimensions:
Height - 9,0cm (3.5")
Width - 57,8cm (22.8")
Length - 47,8cm (18,8")
Building instructions: 5 booklets (84, 84, 84, 60 and 48 pages)
B-model: Just differs in the attachments (a snowplow instead of the grabber plus winch from the main model).
Instructions will be available online for download, only.
Age recommendation: 11 - 16
Building difficulty level: High+
Estimated building time: 6 - 8 hours
Price range:180-185€ (Estimated average retail price)
Price per part: 0,09€ (Estimated)
Inventory (Bricklink): Link
Inventory (Peeron): Link
Other user reviews (Brickset): Link
This is the most anticipated LEGO Technic set from 2011. Probably also the most successful at hiding its details, since the leak of the first images until the limited availability of this set.
Due to specific circumstances, I'm in the possession of two examples for nearly three weeks. Time availability has not been much and this set demanded a lot of time to build, not to mention to choose and process all the photos, to prepare the most extensive video coverage in a TBs review to date, and to write the review itself. Don't even want to make a estimate on the total effort "spent" on this...
But finally it paid off.
The package and content
The box guarantees the first contact for itself, of course . It has the usual size and nice look, characteristic to all the LEGO Technic flagship sets.
Opening the huge lift-up cover we can see all sort of details about model's electric and pneumatic functions, as well as the different attachments combinations available.
With 2048 parts, this is the biggest official LEGO Technic set ever released. The box despite a big one, comes reasonably full of LEGO parts and of course the huge new tires take their part on the space available...
The bags with the parts are numbered from 1 to 4, which will help the building process for those willing to take advantage from this facility.
- Bags "1" - For the chassis
- Bags "2" - For the cabin
- Bags "3" - For the cargo bed
- Bags "4" - For the front and rear attachments
The building instructions and stickers come also according to the new packaging standard for large LEGO sets, in order to avoid frequent damages during transportation as often occurred in the past. This is definitely a great measure and a sign that TLG is willing to listen to the fans concerns!
We get included 5 booklets (4646565, 4646566, 4646567, 4648793 and 4660503) with instructions that follow the numbered bags, but which do not split according to those. So it does not seem made, to facilitate a building share of this huge set, among several family members. This always make me wonder how the instruction booklets are divided and why so many books as it is the actual tendency.
Coming with the booklets there are also two small sticker sheets (again I wonder - Why not all in one sticker sheet?). Among operation instructions and some warning signs, there are also several references to the Unimog and to the licence with Mercedes-Benz.
Now some positive and less positive notes, that worth to mention about the building instructions.
Often the building process requires to align parts, which exact relative positioning are not obvious since the first step and may require some later adjustment ahead in the building process. Across the building instructions there a few 1:1 scale tips that help to build these with precision from the beginning, as you might see from the photo bellow on the left side.
It also happens that sometimes a mistake slips into the final instructions, after all the revision steps made by the LEGO Designers. It is the case also illustrated below where the scale starts out of the page. I must confess it took me a moment to realize what was going on there, and where it was the 19,2cm pneumatic hose to use...
It seems it was a mistake meanwhile detected and fixed for later productions of the building instructions.
It was still not this time that TLG found one way to help easily distinguish between Black and DBG parts, at the building instructions. For once or twice, this made me doubt if I was doing it correctly. Off course the experience of many of us is determinant to make a fast judgment and proceed, but this is definitely a potential challenge for some builders.
As usual in the last pages it comes the huge part assortment and respective partnumbers, which makes the actual U400.
There are plenty of new molds and existing parts in new colors, as we will see right ahead.
The new parts
Being the 2011 LEGO Technic flagship and from what we already knew, you may expect to find several new parts within this set.
Let's take a snapshot and overview on these.
Probably one of the things you will first notice when looking to this new model, is the new and large tires. These fit into the existing 56 x 34mm wheel (44772) but are definitely larger from any previous existing "standard" tires (non ballon format) for the same wheel. The new tire size is 94,3 x 38R, while the previous largest tires existing for the same wheel were 94,8x44R (Ballon) and 81,6x36R.
These also compare in size with any other large tires from the LEGO Technic assortment, as you can check from the picture below on the left. There was also a new tire tread used, more suitable for such heavy duty machines like the Unimog and Off-Road or TrTr vehicles.
On the right image - The new tread used for the U400 tire.
Because of the Unimog large partcount, the suspension had to be reinforced to sustain all the extra weight. Thus we got a new extra "hard version" from the existing 9.5L Shock Absorber (2909). Check all the different stiffness variants actually existing, from the picture below.
Probably the most anticipated were the new parts used to build the portal axles. These include two new elements, the portal axle gear hub and the 3-pin wheel hub.
Once put together these are joined for life, or almost... At least you should put little faith to ever see them apart again! But these parts design is so single use specific... that there's probably no need to ever take them apart.
Below you can see there was introduced an axle connection through the wheel hub, so that we can drive the wheels from the portal axle gear hub.
The gear hub design also allows for the usage of different gearing combinations as seen from below. Double 16t for 1:1 gearing or 8t + 24t for 1:3 gear reduction which will become a lot more useful for TrTr builders.
Despite not illustrated above, of course the double bevel gears 12t + 20t will also work, providing an intermediate 3:5 gear ratio.
We got also two new elements that allow to simulate a torque tube with LEGO parts, and basically consist of a large ball-joint.
Unfortunately and against the expectations, one of these parts come permanently attached to a C-beam frame, whereas a separate design with two different elements connected through a couple of pins or 2L axles would have been preferred, for a more generic use of these.
It rests to know if this proposed solution would be stiff enough.
Then we have also a new version of the pneumatic mini-pump, with an increased 1/2L length. This was produced in LBG color instead of the traditional yellow and blue, likely to ease the distinction from its previous counterparts.
As previously discussed here, the pneumatic pumps used in official LEGO Technic sets, like 8868 (Air Tech Claw Rig) and 8049 (Tractor with Log Loader), used the Small Pump (x191c01) in combination with a Technic Engine Crankshaft (2853) in order to achieve a 1L displacement. Although the old pump cylinder is capable of a 2L displacement, it doesn't fit within a linear setup over a Technic beam.
In order to achieve a 2L displacement (double stroke) and optimal pump efficiency, some other arrangements might be used, like a bent liftarm (6-4) or even some old school studmore designs. However such arrangements wouldn't fit properly in the Unimog and would also require more space. This was likely the reason for this re-design as the 2L displacement would be very important to achieve maximum power and enough air supply, for smooth operation of the grabber arm.
Finally there is also a pneumatic hose connector, which allows for Pneumatic Power Take-off (PPTO) termination at the front and rear side of the chassis.
As seen from the first preliminary images, this was initially achieved with already existing parts. However these would not guaranty the required robustness when attaching and removing the hoses from the several pneumatic tools to attach in the Unimog PPTOs. Hence another new part (the blue connector above) was developed for this set, already plenty with new parts.
The parts assortment
Despite an impressive eight new parts count developed for one single set, there are also some other parts released in colors never produced before.
The praise goes for all the new set of Technic panels and beams produced in Orange. This was probably the most demanded color by the AFOLs, to be re-introduced in the Technic assortment. And finally we got eight new orange Technic elements, at once!
I think you all agree that probably the most eye catching factor on the new Unimog, it is its distinctive color scheme, where the huge orange cabin captures the first attention. It is also a great move from TLG to diverse from the traditional colors used for the Technic sets. Specially the ubiquitous yellow, in almost every official LEGO Technic building machine...
Another example is the large Technic turntable which is now introduced in the LBG/Black color combination, instead of the usual DBG/Black and the 11x5 Technic panel released in LBG for the first time.
As for the remaining parts I'd say 8110 presents a very good assortment, with a very good balance in terms of parts and color diversity. Also the fact of being a vehicle using both electrical and pneumatic functions, turns into a very interesting purchase, as you can get into one single set, all the parts for building suspensions, electric functions with gears and parts specific to build gearboxes, but also many parts specific for pneumatic functions (including the new ones) and a good amount of panels in one single color. Many connectors, gears, U-joints, CV-joints, etc...
A fact that's worth to mention is also the presence of two types of differentials in one single set. Two from the newest 3L version (62821) and one older 4L version (6573), which was not used into a LEGO Technic official set, since 2009. The 4L version was recalled because of its 16t gear crown and how it facilitates the transmission design towards the engine.
Of course, in a set with over 2K parts you may also expect to get hundreds of pins and alike...
Regarding the new parts introduced, the main complain goes for the fact that most of them seem to have a too much specific or single-use design (too specialized IMO). It is the case of the gearbox hubs for the portal axles, that AFOLs have been building for long with already existing parts, very successfully and in compact designs, delivering the same type of functionality.
The C-frame with the attached ball joint, is just another example, as already mentioned before.
Even so, it is still a great set to buy, whether you want to initiate into Technic and want to get an huge and diverse amount of parts at once, or you are an experienced builder willing to enlarge your collection.
The building experience
This year's flagship is definitively not the easiest LEGO Technic set to build. The huge partcount leads to a long building time, which may turn into a demotivation factor for those not so experienced with LEGO Technic or the youngest, who may lack the required determination to make it to the end.
Also some building steps, namely on the axles suspension/articulation, are sometimes prone to the mistakes and require a lot of attention to the details when following the building instructions. There are many places where one can easily make an error along the building process and it also happened with me, more than once... Fortunately I've always detected it in the following steps and did not have to revert many of them, to proceed.
But lets move on... and focus on the building of the beast...
The instructions start with the central part of the chassis, which includes the housing for the battery box, the functions switch box, the pneumatic pump and the central diff connecting the front and rear axles.
By the end of the first booklet, we have the central part attached to rear axle. Soon after we are also attaching the front axle to the same structure, which may represent one of the first assembling challenges...
The connection of both frontal and rear pendular axles to the central structure and driveshaft, uses the new large ball-joint parts which are the LEGO implementation of the so called torque tube.
A ball and socket type of joint called a "torque ball" is used at one end of the torque tube to allow relative motion between the axle and transmission due to suspension travel. The torque tube is hollow and contains the rotating driveshaft. Inside the hollow torque ball is the universal joint of the driveshaft that allows relative motion between the two ends of the driveshaft. In most applications the drive shaft uses a single universal joint, which is also the case here, but has the disadvantage that it causes speed fluctuations in the driveshaft when the shaft is not straight.
Since the torque tube does not constrain the axle in the lateral (side-to-side) direction, a Panhard rod is often used for this purpose. The combination of the Panhard rod and the torque tube allows the easy implementation of soft coil springs in the suspension for ride quality.
Having built all these components we can find them all, working together in the next video. There you will see the front and rear suspension, as well as the Panhard rods mentioned above. A nice and a realistic detail about the Unimog mechanics, present in this set. This video also shows both front and rear PTOs and PPTOs, but that's something to discuss ahead in this review.
Still related with the usage of the Panhard rod in this model, there is a discussion running at EB, regarding a potential flaw or a mistake in the building instructions.
It happens that the front and rear axles are built slightly different, leading to a small misalignment on the chassis, what may eventually avoid the model to drive perfectly straight, if it gets motorized.
In fact it is just an half stud misalignment, but it can be clearly seen on the photo bellow. There you can see the difference from the axle 3 with stud, in dark tan. The stud is totally visible on the left side but almost hidden on the right side. The difference is also visible from the towballs present on the top of the portal axles, but not so easy to realize from the photo below... Obviously this can be seen better, on the real model.
The difference occurs because the lower end of the Panhard rod, is connected to the axles in two different ways or using two different parts. A perpendicular axlehole and pin connector (6536) on the Unimog rear axle (left photo) and a perpendicular double axlehole and pin connector (32291) on the front axle (right photo). While the correct way seems to be the one used for the rear side, the front method causes an half stud offset to the live axle making it not straight.
At first sight this seems to be an obvious mistake, but until further confirmation there is still a possibility for this to be an intentional design, to compensate some potential dynamics of this model.
If it confirms to be a mistake is one of easy resolution. You just need to replace the connector on the front with the correct one
Now moving backwards again... we will see how the new gearbox hubs are used to build the portal axles and how these are used in a steering axle configuration.
As some already noticed, the Unimog has a relative wide steering radius. For some reason this was intentionally done by design, making use of four 3/4 Technic pins, strategically placed to limit the steering radius. But the same way it was done this way, it can also be changed or easily undone as demonstrated on the video below, to shorten the steering radius.
Notice how the suggested MOD decreases the steering radius, without causing the tires to collide with the chassis.
Another thing you will notice, is due to its weight, Unimog has quite an heavy steering,
One small detail that I've enjoyed a lot, was the sticker in the bottom of the chassis, with a reference to the "LEGO System A/S". A clear reference to the company who designed the model, if there was any doubt about this...
But after several stickers applied with references to Mercedes-Benz, it makes perfect sense for TLG, to stand their rights...
Likely because this is a licensed model from Mercedes-Benz, for the celebration of the Unimog 60th anniversary, there is no reference at any other sticker, about the LEGO Designer who developed the model. Unlike it has been done in other LEGO Technic sets, from the recent years, specially the flagships.
But if you don't know I can tell you, this was another model designed by Markus Kossman, who has also designed other large and complex models like the Mobile Crane (8421), Motorized Bulldozer (8275), Front Loader (8265) or yet another more recent Mobile Crane (8053).
Notice what he says about the most challenging creation he did to date - "The model for this year, be surprised..."
At this stage, with the pneumatic pump working and a fully functional switchbox, the model already implements its core functionalities, as demonstrated on the video below.
The yellow lever switches between the electric and pneumatic functions. The red lever next to it (on the center) switches between the rear and front PTO (if the yellow lever is set for electric functions) and the rightmost red lever (on the pneumatic valve) switches the air supply between the front and rear PPTOs.
The pneumatic functions are driven by an electrical air pump system. Once running it for a short time without operating any of the pneumatic cylinders (thus not consuming any air flow) the generated pressure increases and easily reaches the maximum allowed. Suddenly we start to hear a kind of rattling noise coming from the pump or nearby and I guess the air should start to leak somewhere. Likely from the pump seals, as the generated resistance is not enough to stop or even slow down the PF M-motor.
In previous sets and MOCs where a pneumatic pump was used, we have seen such kind of pumps driven via a rubber belt or a clutch gear, as it is the case of the motorized version from the recent 8049 (Tractor with Log Loader). I'm not sure whether it should have been the case also here, but I'm confident on the Designers choice and let's hope this won't become a source of problems for this amazing set...
Another solution that may have helped to control the over pressure condition and consequent noise, could have been the use of one air tank (67c01), despite the extra cost this would represent for a set with already a premium priced tag...
The Unimog air supply system does not uses one to accumulate pressure. The pump is driven by the PF motor and attaches directly to the pneumatic hoses. Let's say the Unimog uses an electric pump instead of a compressor to feed the air circuit. However this should be very easy to MOD if you like to do so, once there is some free space on the right side of the chassis, next to the PF motor. Despite an air tank doesn't fit totally in, it should also not protrude too much.
Now it is time to proceed for the bags with the number "2". These include the required parts to build the orange cabin.
Nothing difficult about this! Just notice the amount of System parts, used to build a nice looking cabin, as close to the original as it is possible to achieve with LEGO parts.
It has a fake steering wheel and one HOG between the two warning light bulbs on the top, to steer the front axle.
The next bag ("3"), basically adds the cargo bed, resulting into a model like in the next image.
The building instructions proceed to the Unimog attachments (the devices or tools) included with this model.
It starts with a grabber that fits either as a front or rear attachment. It is powered from both a PTO (to drive the grabber arm turntable) and a PPTO which supplies air to the several pneumatic cylinders used in the arm (in the boom, dipper and claw).
We start building the lower part first, which consists of the manual outriggers or stabilizers and the structure where the grabber itself gets attached.
The grabber arm is controlled manually, from three pneumatic valves also located in the upper part of this attachment.
By design and to avoid twisting the pneumatic hoses beyond the limits, the grabber rotation is physically limited to a bit less than one complete turn (360º).
The main model includes a second attachment which consists of an electrical winch, that also fits either as a front and rear attachment.
As an electrically operated attachment only, it uses the PTO but the respective PPTO is left unused.
This was the last element to build for the main model and below you can see the leftovers for spares. Unless I missed some parts through the hundreds of building steps necessary to build the Unimog...
Functionality and playability
Once the model is built you get with a plenty of functions to play with.
Besides all the winch and the grabber play possibilities with the respective pneumatic and/or electrical functions, there are still some other points of interest in this model.
For instance you can tilt the cabin like in real trucks, to uncover and see the L4 engine.
The suspension is also a source of fun for itself. However you may find it not as hard as it would be advisable. Despite it is enough to sustain the model's weight, it is not always hard enough to make the springs instantly to return back in place, when you tilt the model to a side. Hence it is easy to find the whole cabin slightly tilted towards one side. Though the rear outriggers may help to prevent this, when parked!
But lets see the Unimog running all its functions, now that it is finally completed...
Now also a couple of photos from the bottom view. Probably one of the most interesting views on many LEGO Technic models...
And a few more photos to finalize.
I'm sure you will also have plenty of joy with this set.
As you might know the Unimog is a versatile work vehicle, also known for the variety of attachments available to adapt it to different functions and needs.
TLG perceived this as the essence of this vehicle and decided to develop a B-model inline with this characteristic. Hence, the Designers chose to develop another attachment that along with the Unimog base truck, would constitute the B-model.
In this case it was chosen to design a snowplow that fits to the front. This attachment uses two pneumatic cylinders to raise and tilt the plow, and one additional manually geared function for the fine vertical adjustments. Thus it just uses the front PPTO, leaving the PTO completely unused.
Please realize that on the video and images below, there are parts from two Unimog sets, like extra 4 tires and the whole snowplow which was built from a 2nd second as you can easily notice from the extra LBG 11x5 Technic panels.
Now it's up to you to create as many as new attachments/tools to the LEGO Technic Unimog, as you like! Eagerly waiting to see those from you.
Meanwhile I leave you with some additional images with a few highlights from the snowplow.
After two and half weeks to finish this review, everything shown or explained above, and the videos meanwhile slipping on YT... I must confess not having much to add for the final notes.
Except maybe that we have seen an increased use of LEGO SYSTEM parts, mainly for aesthetic reasons in the cabin. However it is a pity that some of these fall apart to easily when you handle the model. It is the case of the rear mudguards and the exhaust pipe on the cabin rear side.
Despite labeled for the 11-16 age range, the Unimog U400 looks definitely targeted for the AFOL segment because of its size, huge part count, complexity and number of functions, to mention just a few.
Coincidence or not, this model also incorporated several of the characteristics that have been here supported by many Technic fans, during the few years existence of TBs . Things like: massive introduction of parts in orange color; massive reintroduction of pneumatic elements and extended partcount; complexity and functionality, at the cost of an higher price that many confirmed to be willing to pay if it is worth.
In my opinion this set clearly ranks the maximum in most of the categories except regarding in terms of parts innovation. Despite the huge effort and resources probably allocated to design and produce a bunch of new parts, and the adoption of uncommon colors in the LEGO Technic theme up today, it suffers from too much specialized (single use) new parts, as already mentioned earlier in this review.
The gigantic aspect of this set and its huge amount of parts, has of course a penalty on its final target price. Despite fitting the AFOLs or more simply put, the adult segment, this may turn into a sales disadvantage for the mass selling of this product. Only time will tell!
as set value for money
for parts innovation
for set innovation
for set design
for functionality and playability
Overall rate: Highly Recommended
Mike Hatton, Parax), who came to participate in the event, together with 4 other members from The Brickish Association.
Of course coming from where he comes, we could not expect anything different from the MOD he did to this model... Can you realize what it was?
Now giving voice to his own words, some final notes about his impression on the opportunity to build this fantastic set, still before its market release:
"Wow! that had to be my first word, it was my first thought, and the set thoroughly lives up to it! What more can I add to Fernando´s words above? well I can agree that it is a really complex, and long, build and it is not easy, there are several place where you really have to pay attention to join things together but there are some great new methods including some good innovations like using pins to stop axles sliding out of place, and the new parts are great, (Thank-you LEGO for the Longer compressor, now wheres the longer pneumatic ram? ) although my first thought on the use of the portal axles was why 1:1? but as this set is not motor driven, it is right to drive the engine fast.
(I have no doubt many of you will change this fairly swiftly, and I am already looking forward to seeing your results). I am greatly impressed by the new live axle suspension and use of a Track Bar, it´s always good to see proper engineering displayed in Technic sets, as understanding how things work is key to making more, and better, engineering marvels of the future.
To sum up LEGO have done a great job on his set I´m sure it will appeal to both young and older Technic fans, Though I have a couple of words of caution: Patience during the build will be rewarded! and I´m sure this set will get many more folks involved in Truck Trail competitions which can´t be a bad thing. Finally I´d like to give a big Thank-you to Fernando (and Jan at LEGO) for letting me get my hands on this set, and to all the folks at PLUG for their generous hospitality at BRInCKa )"
Hope it was worth the wait...