Model: Porsche 911 Carrera
Compatible: All iPads, iPhones, iPod touch 2G/3G/4G
Silverlit Porsche 911 Carrera Interactive Bluetooth R/C
Larger and more intriguingly app-assisted than most of the toy vehicles we've seen with iOS compatibility, Silverlit's Porsche 911 Carrera ($80) offers radio-controlled car enthusiasts a deluxe driving experience. As one of several luxury RC vehicles offered by the company, it's powered by four included AA batteries and communicates wirelessly using Bluetooth, so unlike some rivals, there's no need to change Wi-Fi networks or attach a proprietary wireless dongle to take control of the car. Silverlit's free iOS apps not only take full advantage of Porsche's distinctive cockpit design elements, but also include a surprisingly large array of user-adjustable control parameters.
Made mostly from plastic, this little 911 feels like a toy—a high-end toy to be sure, but a toy nonetheless. Produced under license from Porsche, the 1:16-size Carrera includes quite a bit of styling from the sixth-generation model of the car, including distinctive front and rear vents, working turn signals and other lights, and even a finely detailed interior complete with proper gauge and navigation screen placement. We found that the exterior is prone to scuffs and peeling paint resulting from collisions, which are likely to happen as you learn to control the car. Like a real sports car, this replica isn’t designed for off-roading or similarly aggressive driving, so if you have the space, start testing it in an open, flat area. Like a real Porsche, Silverlit’s toy picks up speed, fast.
Rather than one offering app with universal compatibility for iPhones and iPads, Silverlit has two separate titles in the App Store differentiated by the appendage of “_HD” to the tablet version—which is not Retina display-enabled. There’s no obvious practical reason for this division, as they’re otherwise identical, and both free. Each app offers two control schemes: gesture and joystick. While gesture is the default, relying on tilts for steering, we found the latter to be significantly easier to control, and likely the smarter way to begin with the car. A pair of virtual thumbsticks are presented underneath a dashboard display. The one on the left controls forward and backward momentum and the other moves the Porsche from side to side. These controls are easy and intuitive for anyone who’s ever piloted a remote control vehicle or played a video game.
The gesture controls are offer a far greater level of control than the joysticks, but can be harder to use, depending on the settings. While you’re presented with a Porsche steering wheel, you don’t use it so much as watch it turn as the device’s accelerometer registers side to side turns plus back and forth acceleration. Thankfully there are settings to adjust the steering and forward/backward sensitivity on a ten-point scale; at the highest of them the car is incredibly tough to control, but it becomes much more reasonable at lower levels.
Both modes let you control the 911’s hazard lights, brights, turn signals, and horn—that sound effect and all the other engine and tire noises are played through the iOS device rather than the car itself. There’s even a steering trimmer control that allows you to compensate for any drift to the left or right the car may exhibit. Finally, Silverlit includes a setting to adjust the acceleration curve, which we’d have assumed would affect the car’s acceleration rate, but the highest and lowest settings didn’t seem to change the car’s behavior.
Silverlit’s Porsche 911 Carrera is a fun toy and nice RC car, although it’s not quite perfect. The 911’s styling and overall attention to detail are admirable; apart from its model year lag, luxury car fans will likely find it very appealing. We also like that the interface is Bluetooth and doesn’t require a Wi-Fi connection or an extra dongle like Dexim’s Monster Truck; pairing is super easy and simple to reestablish whenever you’re ready to play with the car. On the app side, the controls and the available options allow the car to appeal to amateurs and more seasoned drivers alike. On the other hand, the use of disposable AA batteries rather than a rechargeable cell is a bit of a bummer though, as is the fact that the $80 car is almost certainly going to get dinged up quickly. Silverlit got enough right to earn Porsche 911 Carrera a strong general recommendation—this is a very good iOS-controlled toy—but we’ll keep our fingers crossed for an even more impressive follow-up.