Sphero has revolutionised the remote control market with the Ultimate Lightning McQueen. Remote control clearly wasn’t enough for them. The racer from hit film Cars is a prime example of how toys and technology can be combined.
In the Ultimate Lightning McQueen, Sphero has created a whole new remote control car. You may have heard of Sphero before – it launched a BB-9E, an R2-D2 and a reworked version of the BB-8 on Star Wars’ Force Friday. But why am I going on about the new generation of remote control car? It’s simple: its interior boasts the very latest in technology. The Lightning McQueen is not just a car that you can control with your smartphone. It has something else up its sleeve, and it’s not shy about it.
Crammed with technology
Sphero’s Lightning McQueen is full to the brim with technology. It has six motors, which enable it to mimic animation-like movements. One motor controls the car’s mouth, making realistic movements based on its speech. Two further motors control the front wheel suspension, enabling the car to move sideways and carry out its famous «KA-CHOW» move from the films. The remaining three motors take care of the drive and steering.
The car also has three processors. One is dedicated to the Bluetooth smartphone connection. This connection means the app can be used to control the car and send it commands. A further processor is required for the WiFi connection to ensure problem-free updates and the the third processor is needed to animate the car’s eyes: the LCD windscreen.
The car can react to physical contact thanks to five touch panels on the roof, bonnet, both doors and behind the windscreen. If you touch or press these areas, Lightning McQueen will interact with you with speech and different movements. Speech output is via the car itself rather than your smartphone. The quality of the built-in speakers impressed me. They deliver crystal-clear, understandable sound. The red speedster also has a sensor which recognises ambient light. Depending on the light level, McQueen automatically adjusts its front and rear lights.
The remote control car reaches almost 10 km/h and its scope is around 30 metres. The latter depends on the Bluetooth reception, which can vary according to the surroundings. Thanks to its all-round tyres, it can drive and drift on virtually any terrain, from concrete to your living room carpet. With a full battery, Sphero promises a minimum runtime of 40 minutes. Because Lightning McQueen doesn’t switch itself off, remaining in standby mode, it always needs power. This means that you may need to recharge it even if you haven’t used it. On the plus side, charging it up is incredibly quick. The battery is fully charged after around 30 minutes, ready for you to start your next adventure in the famous racing car.
Sphero is offering a free iOS and Android app for Lightning McQueen, which you can use to control your car, among other things. It feels a little strange at first, but you soon get used to it. The steering for conventional remote control cars is based on the car. If you steer left, for example, the car will steer to its left. Sphero’s Lightning McQueen is different. Its steering is based on your smartphone: the car always travels in the direction you move the joystick, whether you direct it towards you or away from you. If you’d rather, you can switch the steering back to what you’re used to in the settings. Alongside controlling direction with the joystick, there are also three more buttons in control mode. One is used to reverse, the middle one is for drift mode and the third gives Lightning McQueen an extra boost.
Controls on the app.
The Sphero app also has small, built-in games. You can compete in different races or play an in-app pit stop game, for example. If you win, you receive different trophies, which you can see in a separate menu. Another interesting feature on the app is the drive-in cinema. If you watch the Cars film in this mode on the app, Lightning McQueen will react to specific parts. How amazing is that?!
If an update for McQueen is available, you can download it via WiFi from your smartphone straight to the car. You can also change its language: I set it to Japanese to test it out. it was quite funny to hear him, but I wouldn’t recommend changing the language. It takes a good 45 minutes, and it took about the same length of time to change it back. This process totally drained my battery, so I had to manage without my smartphone for the rest of the day.
The fuel cap is also the connection for the charging cable.
Who is it aimed at?
This is the big question when it comes to this product. Who exactly is it for? Admittedly, I absolutely love it and it’s a lot of fun, but it costs 350 Swiss francs! Pretty steep for a toy. It is filled with technology and works faultlessly, but who is it for? Cars is too childish for tech geeks, and a child who loves Cars doesn’t have the budget for it.
I’ve come to the conclusion that there are three possible target groups. The first is a tech-loving parent with a Cars-loving child. That way, they can both enjoy it. The second possibility is children with wealthy parents who buy them whatever they want. The third and final option, which includes me, is people who just love toys and can afford such things. 😀
Sphero’s Lightning McQueen is a new generation of remote control car. It’s crammed with different motors and sensors to simulate realistic, animation-like movement. The built-in technology is cutting-edge and provides an unforgettable experience. The only negative is its price: 350 Swiss francs is pretty expensive for a children’s toy. Nevertheless, I have to say that I think it’s worth it. Are you a tech fan with a Cars-obsessed little one? Then the Ultimate Lightning McQueen by Sphero is a great Christmas present for the both of you.
CHF 199.–instead of 314.–1
Ultimate Lightning McQueen (25cm)
Ultimate Lightning McQueen is the top-end racing machine. Drive and drift, play games, and train for the next big race with this app-enabled racing star. Thanks to all the bells and whistles, you can now experience Lightning like never before.