I agree here. The older Athearns I have which is a lot of them were and still are very resonably priced. They work great, however, I have a couple of Stewart Hobbies, Atlas, and Katos and them(old Athearn engines) don't even come close to par. It seems like the contacts get dirty really fast or they lack the needed weight that the heavier priced engine cost. I'm sure there are other things that they lack. I have notice or it seems like Athearn has three different levels of engine prices, Quality$$ Genesis-midrange and just plain Athearn resonable, but less quality. Oh well, I will stick with what I have.
I will put my RTR Athearn up against any brand as far as smooth running..
The best thing these newer RTR Athearn can be found on line for $49.95-64.99 depending on locomotive type.