This may just be the ultimate Lightning McQueen r/c car. It's the Ultimate Lighting McQueen from Sphero. Combining the the amazing and elegant technology of Sphero with the beloved Disney/Pixar character has resulted in a high-end, app-enhanced vehicle.
Everything about this is meticulously detailed. That's no surprise because the Disney/Pixar animators were involved in the design and creation of this. The car has 6 motors, 5 capacitive touch panels in the roof, hood, side doors and back that allow touch-based interaction, 3 processors, an LCD screen windshield that lets Lightning's eyes move expressively. The suspension is also designed to be expressive, just as the character is in the movie. What this means is leaning from side to side, kind of like raising a shoulder. What do you expect? It's a car. As in the movie, though, the movement is enough to convey emotion without going all anthropomorphic on us. And your imagination will supply the rest.
Lightning also has LED head and tail lights that respond to room lighting condition, custom speakers and more. The tire material is designed to drive and drift on all kinds of surfaces, including low pile carpets and hard floors.
Lighting is controlled by an app that works with Apple and Android. Once you're connected to the app, you can access a tutorial that introduces basic driving. As you master that, you you can expand your skills, and adding creating scripts with different sounds and sayings Lighting can produce while driving. There are other app features, such as building racing strategy and unlocking skills, but we have to assume those are unlocked as you play with the app and the car. They weren't in evidence on the app as we started it up, and in several hours playing we didn't unlock them. We could access a built-in game that challenges your ability to get cars out of the pit by virtually changing tires oil, and adding gas. It's entertaining enough as an additional feature. Sphero says the car will respond to the movie Cars when the app is activated, but we weren't able to try that out, and it's not clear how that works.
The driving that we could do out of the box was pretty great, and the car is very responsive. There's a bit of a learning curve, and you'll want to have a fairly open space to maneuver. This is for indoor use only. The charge time is about 2 hours for 40 minutes of drive time.
Well, this is about as high end a Lighting McQueen r/c car as we've ever seen...or are likely to. The elegance of the technology and the quality of the toy are pretty dazzling. The driving in the app does take some time to learn, but no more than any other car.
This is probably going to be most fun played with other people who will be able to interact and be entertained and to see Lightning because if you're driving him, you can't really see the animation of the eyes, which is a big part of what makes this an unusual r/c car.
You'll want to invest the time in getting to know what it can do, and hopefully unlock the other features in the app that we weren't able to do in the time we spent doing this review. (Over two days.)
With a price tag of $300, though, we really have to ask who is this for? As noted, Cars toys generally appeal to preschoolers, and there are plenty of R/C Lightning McQueen toys that kids can drive, for a fraction of this price. You have to think of this as a luxury car. If it's worth it to you, then go for it, and enjoy it. It is a gorgeous representation of the character.
We would definitely recommend a test drive, if you can do it before you make the investment. (Like try one out in store or at a friend's house.)
We're not sure what more this car can (or could) do. However, we wish that the directions and the online guides were easier to use, such as in finding information and unlocking app features. Typically, we try to open these up and use them as a regular consumer would, and we found that we had to invest a lot of time in figuring out how to make this work.
Unfortunately, we're not convinced of the long-term play value of this since what we were able to do was fairly limited, especially when considering the price tag.
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