Sphero’s Lightning McQueen interactive race car is brilliant! Technology, fun and love on 4 wheels

    Sphero have just announced something amazing, the Ultimate Lightning McQueen interactive race car and its seriously fantastic. As you’d expect from the company famous for wireless remote control of devices, the car is controlled by your phone but this time around, they’ve gone next level. Leveraging the latest technology advancements they’ve created a lifelike Lightning McQueen from Pixar’s Cars movie, perfect timing for the 3rd movie that arrives in theaters June 16.

    I was lucky enough to get sent an early release of the Ultimate Lightning McQueen and from the moment you open the box you can tell this product (and its packaging) is made with some serious quality, thought, love and fun.

    The car itself has a surprisingly solid weight to it, but once you power it on, you realise why. The car is packed with animatronic features that reflect Lightning’s supercharged personality. After a quick charge, the car comes to life, the headlights and tail lights come on and he starts talking to you with that familiar voice.

    Something that really blew me away was the soft plastic bumper that not only serves to soften any collisions you have, but also has a moving mouth. I’ve never seen this on a product before and its absolutely fantastic. It allows the car to express personality, further enhanced by a trapezoidal screen that fills the front windscreen. From here you’ll see eye animations, blinking and more.

    There’s 5 touch sensitive panels on the car that when pressed, make the car animate and respond, giving a far more ‘alive’ feel than any RC I’ve used before. As a 35 year old adult, this makes you feel like a kid again, seriously engineers and product designers, pat yourselves on the pack, job well done here.


    When it comes to driving Sphero’s Ultimate Lightning McQueen you download the app (currently still in Alpha) to your phone or tablet and then pair it with the car, simply by moving the device close. Once connected, it’ll check for updates which does require lightning to make a pitstop (aka be connected to power).

    The controls take a couple of minutes to get used to, but are brilliant fun after you master them. Find yourself an area with plenty of space as you can drive forward or reverse, and get this.. even drift. Most of us are now pre-programmed to drive a simple touchpad with forward, back, left right reactive touch, but this time, you drive lightning a little differently.

    With independent front suspension, the car loves to turn, so get used to moving left and right while also pressing the drive modes. It’s not hard, its just different and once you’ve pulled off a few slides, you’ll fall in love with this product.

    CEO of Sphero, Paul Berberian said,

    “From the beginning, we wanted to make Ultimate Lightning McQueen feel as real as he does in the film. In order to create a scaled down version of his big personality, we worked closely with the team at Pixar to ensure we were getting his nuances just right – such as leaning into turns and expressive facial and body movements.”

    The mobile app is available on iOS and Android devices and also features the ability to watch Disney•Pixar’s “Cars” with Ultimate Lightning McQueen in “Watch With Me” mode, where he reacts to the movie in real-time.

    Executive Vice President, Global Licensing, Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media, Josh Silverman said,

    “With Ultimate Lightning McQueen, Cars fans and families of all ages can interact with the character in a whole new way and experience the Cars story through technologies that weren’t even imaginable ten years ago.”


    Technical specs


    6 Motors

    One controlling the animatronic mouth, two for emotive suspension, two for the front tires and one for steering
    5 Capacitive Touch Panels Ultimate Lightning McQueen will physically respond to a tap on his roof, hood, both side doors and his rear window

    3 Processors

    Bluetooth Smart and WiFi allow for updates and app control, while the main processor controls the eye animations and more
    Custom- Built

    Trapezoidal Screen

    Ultimate Lightning McQueen’s windshield eyes are actually an LCD screen, allowing for live animation renders
    Automatic Head and Tail Lights Ambient light sensor allows the front and rear LEDs to adjust based on the light in the room

    Versatile Tires

    The tire materials allow Ultimate Lightning McQueen to drift on hard surfaces, average carpet conditions and at slow speeds
    Custom Speaker and

    Speaker Box Design

    Ultimate Lightning McQueen’s integrated speaker system creates crystal clear audio  


    Sphero created custom animations to make Ultimate Lightning McQueen’s eyes as emotive as the character in the movie

    The Ultimate Lightning McQueen is available for pre-order via EB Gams and Zing and at other select retail partners. Now here’s the crunch, this amazing piece of technology doesn’t come cheap and will set you back A$499.99. That’s a lot of money for what is essentially a really advanced toy, but seriously there’s no other product like this and its buckets of fun. If you’re kids are fans of Cars (lets be honest, who isn’t), then this will definitely win you parent of the year award.

    Jason Cartwright
    Jason Cartwright
    Creator of techAU, Jason has spent the dozen+ years covering technology in Australia and around the world. Bringing a background in multimedia and passion for technology to the job, Cartwright delivers detailed product reviews, event coverage and industry news on a daily basis. Disclaimer: Tesla Shareholder from 20/01/2021

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