Each year, LEGO releases at least one new LEGO Star Wars set in its long-running Ultimate Collector Series line of large-scale sets. Last year saw the release of the monumental 75192 UCS Millennium Falcon (the largest LEGO set ever released at 7,541 pieces) as well as the excellent 75144 UCS Snowspeeder. This year’s UCS release is 75181 Y-wing Starfighter, built from 1,967 pieces, retailing for $199.99 starting on May the Fourth or “Star Wars Day” 2018.
Of course, this is not the first UCS Y-wing that LEGO has released — 10134 Y-wing Attack Starfighter was released fourteen years ago, way back in 2004. We’ll take a closer look at how this latest UCS Y-wing stacks up against the first one in our hands-on review.
The box, instructions, & sticker sheet
As we’d expect from an Ultimate Collector Series LEGO Star Wars set, the Y-wing comes in a very large box — though certainly not as large as the cardboard monolith that the UCS Falcon comes in.
Opening the box reveals a secondary box that contains some of the thirteen numbered bags and the instruction booklet.
The box helps keep the instruction booklet (itself wrapped in its own packaging) secure, along with the large specification panel.
The smaller interior box follows the design aesthetic of the UCS Falcon, with a memorable quote from A New Hope and line drawings of the LEGO Y-wing printed on a white box.
The instruction booklet includes several pages of introductory information, including details about the movie vehicle and interviews with various members of the LEGO Star Wars design team. (See more photos of the instruction booklet’s introduction pages in the full gallery at the end of this review.)
The sticker sheet lies safely in the packaging for the instruction booklet, itself secured within the smaller interior box.
We begin the build with the Y-wing’s central core section behind the cockpit. The first bag includes plenty of the usual plates and Technic beams that lend strength to all larger LEGO sets, but the first pages of the build do introduce some exterior details as well as attachment points for subsequent modules. This continues with the second through fourth bags, which conclude with most of the central core complete. Greebles pile upon greebles, alleviating any sense whatsoever that you’re simply building a long box in advance of the more “interesting” parts of the vehicle later.
The nacelle attachment pylons are a pair of mirrored segments with long Technic axles secured firmly in place by threading them through various Technic bricks within the pylons. The segments are a study in strength, plus more interesting greebles on their upper surfaces.
The axles extending from the pylons thread into holes in the central core, and pins extending from the core in turn snap into the pylons, locking both together.
Connecting the pylons to the core leaves the upper surface of the core’s rear looking fairly naked, but this actually leaves room for plates to be attached across all three segments.
Bag 5 concludes with these plates in place, and Bag 6 includes all the greebly bits that cover the connecting plates and complete the core with the nacelle pylons.
The next pair of bags include the parts for the Y-wing’s cockpit. Each side angles inward, connected by robot arms with a technique similar to the smaller System-scale 75172 Y-wing Starfighter from Rogue One. Headlight bricks reverse the stud direction within the cockpit, enabling plates to be attached upside down, to which the actual outer surface of the cockpit’s underside is attached.
The cockpit itself includes a control yoke, pilot’s seat, and various control panels (stickered elements), and the rear of the cockpit section has a small gear that connects to a rotating gear toward the front of the greebly core section.
Like the pylons earlier, attaching the cockpit to the core section leaves room for subsequent pieces that connect them securely. Stickers on slopes create a curved yellow design that extends from around the cockpit canopy. In fact, all of the stickers in the set are applied to the cockpit and control panels, except for the single large information plaque.
The eighth bag concludes the cockpit, adding the sand blue canopy (printed with the same design as the Rogue One Y-wing plus stickers on either side). The ion cannon on the cockpit’s roof connects via a Technic axle to the gear inside, which in turn connects to the exposed gear in front of the astromech droid slot.
Bags 9 through 12 include the parts for the outboard engine nacelles. First, we build two identical cores for the nacelles. More brackets and headlight bricks create studs-out attachments in every direction, with 4×4 turntables at each end of the nacelle. These allow the ends of the nacelles to be clicked to a 45° angle off the axis.
The tenth bag adds the nacelles’ struts, which is the first time that the UCS Y-wing begins feeling repetitive — you are, after all, building various components in octuplicate. The left and right nacelles are mirrored rather than identical, so once past the core, struts, and thrust vectrals on the end, we find ourselves building each nacelle separately (Bags 11 and 12).
The final bag includes the sturdy black display stand and specification plate that enable you to show off your big build. The angle of the upright section is slightly adjustable, enabling you to change how you display the Y-wing on its stand, with room for both minifigures on each side of the spec panel.
The finished model
While it’s no UCS Millennium Falcon, the new UCS Y-wing is a substantial vehicle in its own right. The long nacelles make it look much larger than a part count that’s fewer than one third of the Falcon’s parts. And it’s heavy! Nevertheless, it sits comfortably and securely on its stand, with no discernible drooping of the cockpit at the front or the nacelles in back.
In my review of the Rogue One Y-wing a year ago, I argued that the improved greebling, inclusion of sand blue, and overall movie accuracy made it the best Y-wing release since 1999. This UCS Y-wing shares many design elements with that System-scale predecessor, including plenty of exposed coolant piping in brown, pink ion engine exhaust, and sand blue cockpit details.
And this Y-wing looks great from every angle. The thrust vectral rings include vanes, and the exhaust nozzles incorporate pink radar dishes that pop when you view the Y-wing from behind.
In an unusual connection technique, the clips on the triangular flags that serve as vectral vanes are only attached halfway to one end of the rods that connect them to the large wheels on the ends of each nacelle.
The starfighter’s underside gets plenty of attention as well, with a trio of functional landing gear that pop down from the ion engine nacelles and central fuselage.
The landing gear aren’t the only details on the Y-wing’s underside, with more coolant piping (the square hole is the slot that the top of the display stand fits into).
Reference materials for the Y-wing don’t provide much information on the vehicle’s underside, so we’re not sure what the square detail with the round embedded radar dish is, but it does appear on various plastic models, and LEGO set designers work directly with reference materials from Lucasfilm, so we presume it’s an accurate detail. It certainly lends interest to what might otherwise be a flat gray bottom.
One of my favorite details on the whole Y-wing is the targeting computer that flips down in front of Gold Leader as he attempts his attack run on the Death Star trench.
As we mentioned during the build process earlier in this review, the Y-wing’s ion cannon connects via Technic gears and axles to an exposed gear in front of the astromech droid.
Turning this gear spins the ion cannon, and the extra friction from the Technic connections prevents the ion cannon from flopping around loosely like some previous Y-wings’ cannons.
75181 Y-wing Starfighter includes two minifigures, Gold Leader and his silver astromech droid R2-BHD.
Gold Leader is the callsign of Jon “Dutch” Vander, who flew at both the Battle of Scarif, where he helped destroy the Shield Gate, and the Battle of Yavin, where he died in a failed bombing run on the Death Star. Gold Leader / Dutch Vander is a fairly common character as a LEGO minifigure, having appeared with most of the previous LEGO Y-wings, but he wears a highly detailed flight suit previously released only with the X-wing pilot in the LEGO Star Wars Build Your Own Adventure book from 2016 and the X-wing Microfighter from 2014. Gold Leader’s helmet design is brand new, although it’s an update to previous helmets for this character.
Dutch has the standard Rebel pilot head with reversible faces. This angle shows off more of the helmet’s details, printed in olive green rather than gray.
R2-BHD (“Tooby”) was introduced as Gold Leader’s astromech for Rogue One, and this is the first time that he has appeared in LEGO form (and thus is exclusive to the UCS Y-wing). Tooby has a dark gray body with silver printed details, along with a silver dome and legs.
Comparison with 10134 Y-wing Attack Starfighter from 2004
The UCS Falcon had a 10-year gap between redesigns (2007 and 2017), while the UCS X-wing had a 13-year gap (2000 to 2013). The UCS Y-wing surpasses the X-wing’s gap by a year, coming 14 years after the previous version in 2004 and matching the gap between UCS Snowspeeders (2003-2017). The earlier Y-wing was built from 1,473 pieces and did not include a pilot minifigure, while this new version includes 1,967 pieces with a Gold Leader fig. However, these are hardly the most noticeable differences. Earlier LEGO Y-wings used much more white than current versions, with no sand blue details. Most importantly, the two Y-wings have markedly different proportions — the 2004 Y-wing has a considerably longer fuselage and much longer ion engine nacelles. The nacelle struts had a tendency to sag under their own weight, as you can see in this comparison photo.
Despite a cockpit section that is essentially the same size as the latest UCS Y-wing, the earlier nacelles were very long indeed! In reality, the nacelles should be about 3/4 as long as the fuselage (in other words, about halfway from the rear through the cockpit section).
Our animation shows just how different the proportions are between the 2004 and 2018 UCS Y-wings.
And here’s a fancy infographic in case you prefer a schematic to prove the point. It’s not simply that the 2018 Y-wing takes advantage of improved shaping from new pieces like all the new curve slopes (that’s not really the case here, though there are plenty of new pieces among the greebly bits), but this makes it clear that the 2004 Y-wing’s proportions were simply wrong.
Many thanks to our friends at Bricks and Wheels for loaning us a copy of the 2004 UCS Y-wing for these comparison photos.
Conclusions & recommendation
I feel obligated to disclose that the Y-wing is my favorite Star Wars vehicle after the Millennium Falcon. The two vehicles share a battered, rusty, stripped-down aesthetic that epitomizes the “lived-in” production design of the Classic Trilogy and Rogue One — far more so than the sleek and sexy X-wings flown by Luke and his ilk. (This is why I love the new Han Solo’s landspeeder so much as well.) As such, I’m predisposed to love a massive, highly detailed LEGO Y-wing. Conversely, my love of the movie starfighter sets a very high bar for what a LEGO UCS Y-wing should be.
But I’m pleased to say that 75181 Y-wing Starfighter exceeds all expectations, with great color selection, amazing greebles, and a shocking sturdiness that had me swooshing it around the room — something you certainly can’t do with the monstrous UCS Falcon or the awkwardly shaped UCS Slave I (both excellent LEGO sets, but much less swooshable).
$200 for about 2,000 pieces is also a pretty solid deal for a licensed set, though I can’t imagine parting out such an excellent display model just for the pieces. While on our book tour for Ultimate LEGO Star Wars, a frequent question from audience members was which LEGO Star Wars set was our favorite. Both Chris and I agreed then that the Slave I was our favorite, but speaking personally, I think I might have a new favorite LEGO Star Wars set of all time.
The LEGO Group provided The Brothers Brick with an early copy of this set for review. Providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews.