Fun review: Lego Technic™ Liebherr R 9800 Excavator

It’s time for the annual review of the Lego Technic flagship, and this year Lego partnered with Liebherr for an impressive excavator.

Unpacking

The box itself is quite imposing and heavy:

Front side
Front side
Back side
Back side

Inside, there are two other boxes (one for the motors and controllers and another white one) and the first 3 sets for the build, out of 6. I don’t exactly understand why there is this extra white box:

Unpacking level 1
Unpacking level 1

So let’s all the packs that we have, with the manual (in two books) on the top left:

Unpacking level 2
Unpacking level 2

Usually the packs are well separated, in the first few pages, you would get pieces from different packs. This would allow an easy start. This is not the case here, you would find the pieces in the same pack often and there is this:

All red pieces together
All red pieces together

All the different small red pieces (axles, pings and pushings) are together, which is perhaps the first time I’ve seen this. Anyway, let’s build the beast.

Building

The first step has a double part, one for each side of the crawler plus the middle section, each with one motor. We stick here one controller attached to them as well as the base of the turret:

End of step 1
End of step 1

One thing that is not obvious is that you can actually start the controllers with the Lego app already during the first step. I would actually recommend to do so, as it enables you to check that everything is fine (I didn’t and regretted it, as it would have helped me spot a few mistakes).

Other view for step 1
Other view for step 1

Let’s go for the second step, with lots of packs here:

Pieces for step 2
Pieces for step 2

This section starts the turret and adds the second controller with one motor that will steer the base of the arm of the excavator. Less pieces remaining here after the build.

End of step 2
End of step 2

One interesting aspect of the turret is how it rests on the base:

Close-up for the turret
Close-up for the turret

It’s not the same system as last year’s crane or the mine excavator from two years ago, but it feels more robust (and bigger).

Now the interior of the turret is more or less empty if we look at it:

Inside the excavator after step 2
Inside the excavator after step 2

Basically nothing around the controller and the motor.

Now for part 3 which starts the arm itself:

Pieces for step 3
Pieces for step 3

There are lots of axles in the arm with the three motors at its base. Unfortunately, I felt a little bit down here, because I realized that with the 7 motors, we wouldn’t need any fancy creative thinking to activate everything with just one motor as with the previous flagship sets. No gear box this time. I will miss also the Chiron complexity…

Anyway here we go for the end of step 3:

End of step 3
End of step 3

Here is another close-up of the turret resting mechanism and the base of the jacks:

Close-up for the turret 2
Close-up for the turret 2

In step 4, we mainly close the top of the turret with lots of decorative elements:

Pieces for step 4
Pieces for step 4

Which gives you then this:

Close-up of the turret after step 4
Close-up of the turret after step 4

Just a few of pieces left:

After step 4
After step 4

Step 5 actually finishes the build and the mouth of the beast. Lots of decorative mess for the arm:

Pieces for step 5
Pieces for step 5

And this is the result after step 5!

After step 5
After step 5

We have these remaining pieces for the full model:

All remaining pieces
All remaining pieces
Playing with it

Wait, there were 6 steps, no? Indeed, there were 6 steps. The last one is not a step, it’s just 100 “rock pieces”…

Mouth with step 6 pieces
Mouth with step 6 pieces

Before you can start playing with your phone, you need to calibrate the model. It’s quite easy, my son did it without any problem. The scare comes if you haven’t respected the distances on the manual, because then app will force the jacks. And this gives nasty noises… This is due to the lack of sensors on the jacks themselves. The motors are smarter with 6 cables instead of the previous 4. I suspect this is for a counting feedback, which allows several motors to be used in sync, this is great. This is probably how the app makes it possible not to force the jacks once calibrated.

The app is the same as the 4×4, with small challenges to get you familiar with steering the excavator. It’s very intuitive and has different modes for different types of fun.

The mouth itself is nice but not efficient, you won’t be able to pick up anything on a parquet floor. And on carpet, it’s the crawler that will not behave in the best way.

Still, the controllers will be very interesting once Lego opens the API to moders and mocers. I can’t wait for this, it should make for nice and interesting new builds. The consumption of the 7 motors seems also fine, you don’t have to change the batteries after an hour of playing.

Conclusion

The 5 steps to build the excavator are longer than previous years, and especially when comparing to the Chiron. But this is also due to the simpler mechanisms that are due to the new controllers.

With this model, Lego gets back ahead of the third party competition that had ways to connect motors with your phone (typically the SBrick) and also used that opportunity to change the connections. It’s frustrating until you look at the connections and realize that Lego decided to do more than just frustrate its users: it added value to the motors by allowing more than just off/forward/backward.

I’m looking forward future sets with this technology.

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