LEGO Technic 42053 Volvo EW160E Review

The Volvo EW160E might not be the biggest LEGO Technic set ever, but looks can be deceiving.  Does this middle of the range set punch like a lightweight or a heavyweight? 

Price: £69.99 / $119.99 / €89.99  Pieces: 1166  Available: Now

‘You don’t miss it, until it’s gone,’ so says received wisdom. Who ‘they’ are, and what ‘it’ is can vary quite a lot, but I feel it after building this set. All of the LEGO sets that I’ve constructed recently have come with numbered bags, meaning a nice simple build. You work through the manual a couple of bags at a time, everything’s neat and tidy.

It was a bit of a shock when I tipped out the contents of the Volvo EW160E to find a dozen bags, all most definitely number-free. I’d had to open half the bags by page 5, so bit the bullet and spread all the pieces out. If you’re going to build this Volvo, then at 1166 pieces, you’d better bring your best sorting game.

This wheeled excavator – for that’s what an EW160E is – looks deceptively compact. It’s in a modest-sized box, although the nigh-on £70 price tag hints that it’s more than just a simple set. On reflection, dense is the word that springs to mind. For a model that will just about sit on the palm of your hand (if you’ve got pretty big hands), the Technic team have packed a huge amount into this set.

The small-but-mighty Volvo E160E

On the face of it, it’s a small-ish lorry/tractor that has an articulated arm with a grabbing bucket sprouting out of the centre, but there’s plenty more going on as we shall see. The first obvious clues are the tubes that run along the arm. After the 42043 Mercedes-Benz Arocs truck, this is the second Technic set to feature the new Pneumatic System V2. Normally I’m not much of a pneumatic fan – it tends to be noisy and difficult to operate smoothly, but this set doesn’t have any Power Functions, so how’s it going to work?

It’s a fiddly build which requires concentration from the off, which for most Technic builders will be seen as a good thing. A low chassis, with outriggers front and rear, and front wheel ‘hand of god‘ (HOG) steering gets the ball rolling. It’s topped off with a large turntable which will ultimately allow the main body of the vehicle to rotate 180 degrees each way with a small buffer to stop it simply spinning round and round. The internals of the truck hold three sets of pneumatic switchgear. These control the raising and lowering of the main arm, the ‘reach‘ of the upper arm, and the opening and closing of the bucket. Unlike some sets, which require the skill of a seamstress to thread the tubes though tiny gaps in the superstructure, the pipework is straightforward, although there is one short tube which goes nowhere. There’s probably a reason for it.  At this point all becomes clear as to how the system will work when there’s no power supply – it’s hand-pumped.

The three switches that control the pneumatics functions are housed at the back of the vehicle.

Part 6152004, or Pneumatic Pump 2x3x11 No.1 to its friends, is the only new part in this set. As we shall see, pumping the cylinder three or four times with your finger is enough to prime the system to allow one or other of the parts to move. No noisy motors rattling away here…

The hand pump can be seen in the centre of the picture. Note also the pneumatic tube that ‘goes nowhere’.

The side-mounted cab is built separately, but rather than just fixing it on to the main chassis, it’s attached to a pair of arms which allows the cab to be raised up to give the operator a better view of whatever it is that they’re trying to pick up. A HOG axle attached to a worm gear provides a smooth raise and lower action and adds an unusual twist to the build.

In order to stabilise the vehicle the EW160E has outriggers both front and back. At the front, a full width panel can be lowered to ground level with a lever, and then the lever can be moved another click which raises the front wheels off the ground. At the rear is a simple but effective two-stage system. The outriggers are lowered manually, then a second arm clicks down holding the outrigger in place and lifting the wheels clear.

Front outrigger in the raised position.


Front outrigger clicked down, raising the front wheels clear of the ground.


The steering, it has to be said, isn’t perfect.  The HOG gearwheel is placed at the back of the vehicle, rather than the more traditional placement at the top. Admittedly, with the cab raising mechanism and the pneumatic pump it was getting a bit crowded up there,  but it does make it a little difficult to access. In addition, because the steering uses a 4562009 gear rack which is quite short, there isn’t a lot of movement from lock to lock. Attempt to turn it round on a narrow table and you’ll be there for some time.

That, though, is probably the only criticism that can be leveled at this set. With steering, outriggers and the movable cab coming on top of the main selling point of the pneumatics, the set really does have a lot to offer. In addition, instructions are supplied that will allow you to motorise the vehicle with the addition of an 8293 Power Functions set, which gives even more value to an already tempting proposition.

The cab in its default position.

In summary, this is a cracking set. Unlike the enormous Bucket Wheel Excavator it won’t be difficult to display, it represents great value for money and some nice opportunities for tinkering.

This product was provided for review by the LEGO Group.



After a Dark Age lasting three decades, I discovered Technic in 2012, and was hooked. I sideline in Architecture and dabble in the odd Star Wars set (Holy Trinity only), but that's about it. I love building Lego and I love writing about Lego (there's a link to my blog here somewhere) but it has to compete with videogaming, juggling, cooking, cycling and a desire to write the next great novel. Very easy going, expect where spelling and grammar are concerned!

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