We’re continuing our expedition to the frozen tundra of the Arctic with more new LEGO sets from the LEGO City Arctic Expedition theme released on June 1st. In our review of 60195 Arctic Mobile Exploration Base, we took a close look at the new woolly mammoth. 60193 Arctic Air Transport is the smallest set that includes the saber-toothed “tiger” at $39.99 in the US (49.99 CAD in Canada | £24.99 in the UK), with 277 pieces and 2 minifigures.
First, let’s get some taxonomy and nomenclature issues out of the way. While the mammoth is rather evidently a mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius or one of its close relatives), it’s less clear what the “saber-toothed ‘tigers'” in these new Arctic sets actually depict. From more than 40 million years ago until the last Ice Age barely 12,000 years ago, there was a broad range of carnivorous creatures with long canine teeth, none of which were closely related to modern tigers in Asia. As a result, most palaeontologists use the common name “saber-toothed cat” to refer to the true felines that had saber-shaped canine teeth (like the iconic and aptly named Smilodon fatalis from the La Brea Tarpits), and generically “saber-tooth” to refer to the full range of creatures across many orders, genera, and species who had such teeth — even including a few marsupial saber-tooths! Thus, we’ll be avoiding the term “tiger” in favor of saber-toothed “cat” or just saber-tooth. If your eyes haven’t completely glazed over yet due to all this taxonomic minutiae, we’ll return to this point when taking a close look at the saber-tooth in this LEGO set.
The box, instructions, & sticker sheet
The set’s box includes only three numbered bags, with two loose instruction booklets, the sticker sheet, saber-tooth, and lower aircraft fuselage. Our larger instruction booklet was curled up, but thankfully the sticker sheet was undamaged.
The sticker sheet has several logos and stripe details, but doesn’t have the same range of potentially useful technical designs that the large hauler in the mammoth set has.
Bag 1 corresponds to the small instruction booklet, and only includes the parts for the four-wheeled ATV and the block of ice for the saber-tooth. Despite the sticker sheet, the 2×2 slope piece is printed with the expedition logo.
Like the mammoth’s block of ice, the saber-toothed cat is encased in white elements with trans-blue. The smaller animal’s ice block is much more rudimentary, consisting largely of 1x6x6 panels and another LURP.
The second instruction booklet covers the quadcopter, with bags 2 and 3. The build is very straightforward, using large aircraft fuselage sections that sandwich basic bricks and plates. A simple Technic mechanism creates a winch (and boy do I hate tying LEGO string onto winch drums and hooks!), with the string extending through Technic holes to the underside of the aircraft. Placing the round stickers on either side of the rear stabilizers is also a pain, and unlikely to be successful for younger builders. The rotor arms use A-shaped wedges to create 45° angles out from the vehicle’s fuselage.
Four identical rotors then attach to the outboard arms to complete the quadcopter.
The finished model
I haven’t built a LEGO City aircraft in quite a while, mostly because I’ve avoided sets that have the large fuselage pieces. While certainly useful in a variety of other contexts, they’re absolutely more specialized than a variety of smaller parts would be, and thus a bit more limiting to alternate uses — the aircraft’s forward cockpit section in particular. The extremely simplistic build and large pieces confirm my perspective on sets featuring these large parts — especially on smaller vehicles like this one, where the proportion of these fuselage pieces is much higher. The quadcopter rotor assembly was the exception, and once complete the vehicle actually looks pretty cool.
Because the cockpit section of the plane is one large piece, the vehicle has no doors or hatches — you access the interior by removing the nose. The rear of the aircraft is empty and inaccessible.
Both vehicles follow the design aesthetic of the other vehicles in the rest of the line, with orange and dark blue sections and azure highlights.
The creatures & minifigures
The highlight of the set is, of course, the saber-toothed cat. The creature has a unique head with large canine teeth and a short mane behind its mouth, while the body is identical to other big cats released in previous LEGO City jungle-themed sets like 60161 Jungle Exploration Site. The cat’s body is dark orange with printed stripes in brown.
Unlike the cave lions of Europe seen in famous archaeological sites like Chauvet, there are no known depictions of saber-tooths by eyewitness artists. Similarly, no saber-tooth cats have been found in tundra, as mammoths, woolly rhinos and even a handful of cave lions have. As a result, the manes and coloring of saber-toothed cats are matters of pure speculation, though some scientists have applied genetics and ecology to propose that saber-tooths were spotted. Quibbles with reinforcing the “tiger” terminology with those stripes aside, it’s a lovely and fearsome LEGO animal.
This set includes the same climber minifigure included with 60195 Arctic Mobile Exploration Base, along with a pilot minifigure who would look at home in the Resistance. The female pilot wears a helmet, and doesn’t have extra hair for when she removes her headgear.
Both minifigs have detailed rear printing, with a hood and ropes on the climber and various straps for the pilot.
Conclusions & recommendation
We chose 60193 Arctic Air Transport because it’s the smaller of the two sets in the new Arctic theme that includes the saber-tooth. The big cat is also available in 60196 Arctic Supply Plane at $79.99 for 707 parts, including 4 minifigs, an ice-cutter on treads, and a larger airplane. I had a chance to play with both sets during the Summer/Fall Preview event in New York a couple weeks before the sets’ launch, and I have to admit that the larger set is the cooler of the two, with better price-per-parts value.
So, if your goal is to get the new saber-toothed cat for the lowest price in a new LEGO set, this is absolutely the set for you. But if your goal is to get the best value for a set that includes a saber-tooth, we recommend the larger set instead.
60193 Arctic Air Transport includes 277 pieces, 2 minifigs, and a saber-toothed cat. The set is available now from the LEGO Shop ($39.99 in the US | 49.99 CAD in Canada | £24.99 in the UK). The set is also available from third-party sellers on eBay and BrickLink.