A number of popular Ultimate Collector Series sets have been redesigned in recent years and 75181 Y-wing Starfighter is the latest addition to that collection. Fourteen years have passed since its marvellous predecessor, 10134 Y-wing Attack Starfighter, was released and I therefore have exceedingly high expectations for this set.
Improving upon 10134 Y-wing Attack Starfighter might prove difficult as the 2004 rendition is often considered to be among the best Ultimate Collector Series sets ever produced, despite its age. Nevertheless, many new pieces and building techniques have been introduced since then so hopefully the designer has been able to take full advantage of that on this occasion.
Box and Contents
The Ultimate Collector Series branding has been updated several times over the last two decades, most recently in 2017 for 75192 Millennium Falcon. That black box design is used for a second time here and it looks tremendous, beautifully displaying the model while also distinguishing these premium sets from the standard retail range. Hopefully LEGO will continue to use this branding for some time to come.
Opening the box reveals a total of fifteen bags, numbered from one to thirteen. Some are packaged in a separate internal box along with the instruction manual and a sticker sheet. The smaller box is white and features a well known quotation from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope alongside detailed shots of the Y-wing. It therefore matches the packaging for 75192 Millennium Falcon and looks fantastic.
The instruction manual contains 220 pages, the first nine of which are devoted to information about the BTL-A4 Y-wing Starfighter and interviews with both the set and graphic designers. I particularly enjoyed reading that Jordan David Scott, the set designer, took inspiration from different studio models of the Y-wing when creating 75181 Y-wing Starfighter as there is some visible variation between them in the movie.
Jon Vander has appeared in several previous Y-wing sets but this is by far the most detailed rendition of the character yet. The front of his helmet features a grid pattern while the sides are decorated with symbols which match the film exactly. These designs look great but the olive green highlights should cover a lot more of the helmet, leaving very little white plastic visible when the pilot is viewed from head-on.
Furthermore, I was disappointed to find that Vander's arms are not printed given that the Rebel pilots in 75144 Snowspeeder do include printed arms. A new double-sided head would also have been welcome as this component has been in use since 2014 and its frightened and smiling expressions seem ill-suited to Gold Leader. The torso and legs, on the other hand, are impressively detailed and a black blaster pistol completes the figure.
The Ultimate Collector Series focuses almost exclusively upon the Original Trilogy so it is interesting to see R2-BHD, an Astromech Droid introduced in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, here. Many past droids have included pearl silver elements but this example is shinier than any other, featuring an array of metallic silver access panels on the cylindrical body and all the way around the head.
Unfortunately, the reverse of the body is not printed. It therefore looks rather bland and I think a pearl silver element would have been more appropriate than dark bluish grey when this figure is compared with its source material. I like the pink processor state indicator though and R2-BHD stands out when displayed beside other LEGO Astromech Droids.
Most UCS models are built around a sturdy Technic frame as a result of their large size and 75181 Y-wing Starfighter is no exception. However, the fuselage of the Y-wing is fairly shallow so the Technic liftarms at its core are quickly obscured by layers of plates and bricks, even during the early stages of construction. I was a little surprised by how few pieces each bag contains and can imagine that this might perturb some people who enjoy a more challenging building experience, although it does not bother me.
Bags three and four are dominated by small elements which represent exposed machinery across the top of the Y-wing. This stage is time-consuming but remains enjoyable throughout as many different elements are used in unusual ways, including bucket handles, binoculars, a whip and even an ice skate! I also appreciate how dark bluish grey droid torsos are fitted at the point where the fuselage narrows, just as they were in 75172 Y-wing Starfighter last year.
Technic pins anchor the engine pylons in place before an additional layer of plates is laid over the two joints, ensuring that they remain locked securely to the fuselage. Further mechanical detail completes this area of the vehicle, again employing a selection of tiny parts. This is undoubtedly the most elaborate example of 'greebling' that I have come across in an official set, exceeding even 75192 Millennium Falcon.
The cockpit module is constructed separately and feels very reminiscent of 75172 Y-wing Starfighter as the sides of the cockpit are attached at an irregular angle using skeleton arms. It seems strange to find so many familiar steps in an Ultimate Collector Series set, although the resultant model looks fantastic and I think this is attributable to the advanced design of the smaller set rather than the simplicity of this one.
A range of different slopes and curved slopes are used to form the armour surrounding the cockpit and these are integrated nicely, leaving few visible seams. The stickers are actually quite useful in this regard as they help to disguise the transitions between slopes of varying angles. The underside of the cockpit is also finished with curved slopes which are fixed upside down using the yellow headlight bricks shown above.
Repetition is inevitable when building a symmetrical model and I was therefore slightly concerned that the latter stages of construction would become tedious. Fortunately, the engine core can be assembled quickly as they consist primarily of much larger pieces than the fuselage or the cockpit. Moreover, the 6x6 round bricks with Technic pin holes are interesting as these have only appeared once before in 60080 Spaceport and are new in both sand blue and light bluish grey.
Narrow pylons connect the engines to the thrust vectral rings and these feel rather fragile during construction. However, they form a remarkably sturdy frame once all four pylons are linked to each engine, making good use of some unusual connection points inside the light bluish grey wheels, to which the thrust vectral plates are fitted.
The engines are built around an array of colourful bricks with studs on the side. These are covered by separate panels which slot very neatly between the Technic pylons, forming a fairly consistent curved shape that looks perfect in relation to the movie. Uniting the engine nacelles and the fuselage feels very satisfying and the connection between them is extremely rigid, despite consisting of just three Technic axles on either side.
Bag thirteen contains the pieces for the display stand. This design is almost identical to that found in 75144 Snowspeeder, using a combination of Technic liftarms and bricks to create a sturdy base which will comfortably support the full weight of the Y-wing. Applying the sticker to the display plaque is difficult, as usual, but starting at one corner and rolling the sticker across the surface slowly should yield a reasonable result.
The Completed Model
75181 Y-wing Starfighter measures just over 61cm in length so is a little shorter than 10134 Y-wing Attack Starfighter which measures 67cm from the tips of the laser cannons to the thrust vectral rings. This reduced size may disappoint some LEGO Star Wars fans as the model is not in scale with 10240 Red Five X-wing Starfighter from 2013. Even so, I believe it represents a considerable improvement as the proportions of this model are far more accurate than those of the earlier Rebel Alliance Y-wing.
There has been some debate concerning whether or not this model is minifigure scale as its cockpit is designed to seat Jon Vander. This is not necessarily surprising given the difficulty in establishing a consistent minifigure scale, although once construction is complete it becomes apparent that this set is actually far larger than would be suitable for a minifigure. 75172 Y-wing Starfighter, shown beside the Ultimate Collector Series model below, is closer to an appropriate size.
The Y-wing rests on a black stand, matching the design of those found in other UCS sets. These always look very stylish in my opinion and I like the plaque mounted at the front which features some technical specifications for the bomber. There is room to stand the two minifigures on either side of the plaque and that is a welcome feature, although I prefer to display the model with R2-BHD in the droid socket.
I was also pleasantly surprised by the versatility of the stand. Not only can you adjust its angle, as has become standard in recent years, but the Y-wing will slot onto the stick facing forwards or to either side. It can therefore be adapted to occupy different display spaces and looks very imposing when positioned with the cockpit angled towards the ground, as though the craft is preparing to unleash its payload upon a target.
The Y-wing starfighter's cockpit is very distinctive and curves in several different directions, making it difficult to replicate the shape using LEGO. This combination of curved slopes is reasonably effective though and I like how stickers have been used alongside yellow pieces to replicate the decorative design seen on Gold Squadron craft. Most Y-wings feature a white cockpit canopy but Jon Vander's canopy is sand blue and that is reflected here, demonstrating excellent attention to detail.
However, the shape of the canopy could be improved. The same windscreen component has been in use since 7150 TIE Fighter & Y-wing was released in 1999 and while it is probably the most appropriate of the parts that are currently available, a new element would have been preferable. It is also a shame that the cockpit does not open to the side as it does in the film, although I like the ion cannons which can be rotated remotely by twisting a small gear hidden among the exposed machinery behind the cockpit.
The interior is fairly spacious so there is plenty of space to seat a minifigure and stickers are used for each control panel, one of which displays the targeting computer shown during the Battle of Yavin. A separate targeting computer can fold down over the pilot's left shoulder and it looks superb, despite being mounted on the wrong side when assembled according to the instructions, as shown in the image below. Thankfully, this is easily rectified.
R2-BHD fits into the droid socket behind the cockpit and is surrounded by reddish brown bars of varying lengths that represent coolant pipes. These present an attractive contrast against the light and dark bluish grey bodywork underneath and you will also find a few dark tan pieces sprinkled throughout the model which add an extra dimension of detail.
Many Star Wars sets include exposed machinery but 75181 Y-wing Starfighter surpasses all previous examples! The entire fuselage is absolutely laden with intricate mechanical detail and looks marvellous in relation to the source material. In fact, you can identify individual features such as an angled coolant conduit, the hyperdrive tachyon exhaust at the centre of the vehicle and the deflector shield generator towards the rear.
The round thruster control jets look magnificent too. They are both surrounded by spindly frames which are cleverly constructed using light bluish grey handlebars along with Technic pins. You can grip the model comfortably from here and it is sufficiently robust to be flown around with absolute confidence, although the frames are only attached using a single clip so can be knocked out of position sometimes.
Four 3x3 rounded corner bricks comprise the white domes that cover sensor arrays at the tip of each engine nacelle. Their shape is not perfect but they still look good when compared with the movie and I love the yellow and sand blue stripes behind the dome. The ends of the support pylons divide into two columns which is great and they should then be reunited into a single structure, as seen in 10134 Y-wing Attack Starfighter. Unfortunately, that design feature is absent here.
The engine cowling remains relatively intact when compared with the Y-wing starfighter's fuselage but a great deal of textured detail is still visible on every side. I like the sand blue and dark tan highlights very much and am impressed by how the pylons are integrated with the surrounding bodywork. These stanchions are constructed using Technic axles so they are quite sturdy and they are also the perfect shape, just like the exhaust nozzles which emit a trans-pink glow at the rear of the nacelles.
The thrust vectral rings which direct the Y-wing appear extremely fragile in the film and have usually presented an issue on previous LEGO models. However, I think the designer of this set has found an ingenious solution, employing light bluish grey wheels to form the ring while trapezoidal flags represent the steering plates inside. The additional struts visible between the plates are not ideal but this is probably the best that could be achieved without creating a specialised piece.
Mechanical detail dominates the top of the fuselage and similar attention has been lavished upon the underside. This area features a few more reddish brown coolant pipes alongside the repulsorlift thrust emitter and a square hole for the display stand. The Y-wing therefore looks fantastic from every angle, as one might expect of an Ultimate Collector Series set.
The model also includes retractable landing gear so it can be displayed without the stand if you wish. I absolutely love details like this and all three footpads look brilliant, making good use of dark bluish grey skids. It would have been wonderful to see closing doors which cover the landing gear but they retract very neatly against the underside of the starfighter so look superb in their current form in my opinion.
The BTL-A4 Y-wing starfighter is one of the most immediately recognisable vehicles from across the entire Star Wars saga and 75181 Y-wing Starfighter is undoubtedly the best rendition of the craft yet. Not only does it include tremendous detail but the model is remarkably sturdy and feels very tactile, despite using a plethora of small pieces. The set therefore offers reasonable play value as well as looking fantastic on display.
On the other hand, I think there is still some room for improvement. The shape of the cockpit canopy is not entirely faithful to the source material and some fans may be disappointed by the scale of the model, which does not equate to 2013's 10240 Red Five X-wing Starfighter. Nevertheless, the price of £169.99 or $199.99 seems quite reasonable and I would have no hesitation in recommending this set to any LEGO Star Wars fan. 75181 Y-wing Starfighter is definitely a worthy addition to the Ultimate Collector Series!
I hope you have found this review informative. Let us know by liking this article and share your thoughts on the set in the comments below.
This set was provided for review by The LEGO Group but the review is an expression of my own opinions.