Today we roll with the Sphero Cars Ultimate Lightning McQueen. It’s fixin’ to be a really fast ride, so strap yourself in and hold on tight!
Lightning McQueen Features and Specs
Sphero’s Ultimate Lightning McQueen is one of the most unique and feature rich smart toys ever to be released by Sphero. App controlled by your smart device via Bluetooth Smart, Lightning McQueen is simply packed with fun Cars themed features. Contributing to his massive personality are animated eyes, an animatronic mouth, and an emotive suspension system—much of which is controlled by his 6 different motors. In fact, Lightening McQueen isn’t just Sphero’s most unique creation to date, he’s also by far their most advanced. This car can do things that would leave most other smart toys in the dust.
Measuring 10 inches long, 5 inches wide, and 3 inches high (all approximations, by the way), Lightening McQueen is the perfect size for kids and adults alike to easily play with or tote around with them wherever they go. Lightening also features a lifelike voice and realistic engine sounds, as well as working LEDs (both head and tail lights) that can adjust their brightness according to how much ambient light there is in the room. In addition to the sensors that let Lightening know how bright to run his lights, he also has responsive touch sensors in several different places that allow him to feel when someone picks him up or places him in an awkward position. For instance, when I picked Lightening up and briefly held him upside down, he suddenly asked: “Hey, who turned your garage upside down?” So this little red race car certainly seems to know what’s going on!
But the real attraction with this toy is the cool trapezoidal shaped LCD screen that sits just behind his windshield, giving Lightening his highly expressive eyes and really bringing his unique personality to life, particularly when combined with his actual working mouth. I was really quite impressed with both of these features. Lightening almost seemed to know where I was at times—his eyes practically following me around the room. Of course, this wasn’t really the case, it merely seemed that way (it was all in my head, I suppose). It also wasn’t at all creepy, because there’s certainly no malice in the eyes of this friendly little car. It was more like being in the room with a pet, such as a dog, that merely loves to look at you. All up, Lightening McQueen was a pretty impressive toy right out of the box, but what was he like to actually play with?
Rolling with Lightning McQueen
The first step in playing with Lightning McQueen is getting him all charged up and ready to roll. What’s super clever about this process is that Lightning’s charging port is actually through his gas tank opening. Pretty cool eh? Lightening also comes with a standard wall charger that has 4 different outlet adapters that can be attached and swapped out as necessary. This means that in many different countries around the world you’ll be able to plug your Lightening McQueen in and charge him up, no matter the configuration of the power outlets in that country. This is great for those that do lots of international traveling.
In roughly one hour (although this, it seems, can vary a good bit), Lightening will fully charge up his built-in (internal) Li-Po battery, so as to give you around 40 minutes of play time (this depends somewhat on how you employ him). I also really like the fact that the Sphero Lightening McQueen App has a battery level indicator in it so that you’ll always be able to check and see just how much gas Lightening has left in his tank. Very useful feature!
Once I got my Lightening McQueen all charged up, downloaded and installed the iOS and Android compatible app to my smart phone, and got everything paired up via the Bluetooth Smart connection, it was time to explore Lightening’s cool app features. There are basically 5 different modes that you can use Lightening in. These consist of Free Drive (simply driving Lightening around via the control pad on your device screen), Pit Stop Panic (a fun game where you must give Lightening gas, oil, new tires, etc. as quickly as possible during a lightening quick pit stop – this game is pictured above), Acting (or Actor’s) Studio (a game where you program Lightening with many of his finest sound effects and catch phrases and then have him play everything back for you), Drive-In (a Watch With Me type of feature where you sit down and watch the original Cars movie with Lightening and enjoy his fun reactions – still haven’t tried this one yet myself), and Racing (a game where you pit Lightening against other “virtual” racers and drive on numerous different tracks in an attempt to be the fastest car around).
The racing game is actually quite interesting because as you drive your real-life Lightening McQueen around on the floor, a virtual representation shows you your progress on your device’s screen, as well as the cars that you are racing against. This way you can see if you’re winning the race, or losing, as you drive along. It’s pretty fun. In fact, the entire app is fun, and I really enjoyed messing around with it.
The experience of just driving Lightening around is also fun. Unfortunately, I didn’t find that I was getting the expected 30 metres of range when I took my Lightening McQueen model to the local tennis courts, but the 10 or so metres I did get was honestly plenty, so it was no big deal when I kept losing my connection beyond that distance. I also don’t really know if Lightening himself was to blame or my increasingly incompetent not-so-smart phone. Still, I had lots of fun driving Lightening around and hearing what he had to say as he went. The 6 mph of speed also seemed to be plenty considering the nature of the toy. If he were touted as a hobby grade RC vehicle, I wouldn’t have been happy with it at all. However, as a Sphero robotic Lightening McQueen, his speed was more than adequate. Overall, I really had a lot of fun testing Lightening out. He’s a pretty cool little racer.
Examining the Video Evidence
Please take a few minutes to briefly enjoy my video overview of Lightning McQueen. Not only will you get to see him in action, but you’ll also see his app, hear him speak, and get a very good close-up look at his very cool paint job. Take a look:
The choice of whether or not to recommend Sphero’s Ultimate Lightening McQueen really comes down to how much of a fan one is of Lightening and the overall Cars film franchise. This car is truly Sphero’s most ambitions project to date, and that level of technology does come at a cost. If you’re a massive Lightening McQueen fan, you’ll probably see the value in such an investment and want to get your own Lightening McQueen anyway. I personally have never seen any of the Cars movies (although that is about to change very, very soon) and can’t really label myself as a big enough Lightening McQueen fan to pick one up over, say, one of Sphero’s Star Wars droids, which I would gladly buy in a heartbeat. But, even so, I really like this toy a lot and would love to have him sitting on my toy shelf. Maybe after watching the movie (later tonight, in fact) I will become a serious Lightening fan and will want him all the more. But for now, I definitely see the appeal, even without having a previously existing relationship with the films and the character. Anyway, that’s my two cents: Lightening McQueen is highly recommended for the truly serious Cars fan, but I’m somewhat neutral otherwise.
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