Appreciate the comments. The VXL does not have a LCG correct? It looks like I can buy an ultimate LCG on storm hobbies for $570. This is in my price range and I would have another $100-200 to handle damage (if req).
Are they reputable?
Yes, Stormer is reputable. Another option is to join Tower Hobbies Super Saver Club ($9.99/year). You'll receive a set of coupon codes each month. Currently if you spend $300+ you'll get $50 off. The Slash 4x4 Ultimate gives you everything you need to race or bash right out of the box. They are now shipping with a pretty decent lipo and even a lipo charger. Here's the link for the truck, it's $649 before $50 coupon. http://www3.towerhobbies.com/cgi-bin...=LZ1010**&P=ML
So, $599 gets you a fully RTR Slash 4x4 LCG, lots of aluminum upgrades, 2.4ghz radio, a 2s lipo, and a charger.
Now, I'm no Traxxas fanboy, but when you factor in what it would cost to upgrade a regular Slash 4x4 to a LCG chassis and add all the aluminum, you'd be way over the $600 mark.
Whether or not a Slash 4x4 is the right truck for your needs is really a matter of personal opinion. You'll find quite a mix of imprssions here regarding the Slash 4x4, or any other truck for that matter! IMO, I like the Losi Ten-SCTE and new Traxxas Slash 4x4 Ultimate LCG better than offerings from other manufacturers if I was considering another 4x4 short course truck. At any rate, I hope you do decide to step into the world of the RC hobby, as it has been very rewarding and enjoyable to myself and many others. Welcome Krawolle!