iOS-controlled vehicles seem to be coming into their own lately, as several new and different models have recently arrived for testing. AutoWave’s Ford Mustang Boss 302 ($99) is the latest, a 1:43 replica of the recently-revived American race car — a customized Mustang with a more powerful engine, special suspension, and tweaked styling. The tiny toy Boss 302 comes in a “competition orange” color with some of the original vehicle’s body detailing preserved. And like the better radio-controlled vehicles we’ve seen, it communicates with your iPhone over a Bluetooth 3.0 connection rather than needing a separate dongle. The toy ships in a model car-style presentation box that requires a Philips head screwdriver for removal before you can start using it.
While smaller and more expensive than Silverlit’s Porsche 911 Carrera, AutoWave’s car is the first we’ve seen with a die-cast metal shell rather than a plastic body. It looks and feels solid for the most part, but we were surprised to have the driver’s side mirror snap off almost immediately during driving, while the passenger’s mirror barely hung on. The black plastic panels beneath the doors also pulled away more easily than we expected, but can be put back in place without much effort. We also saw paint chipping off after limited use. Both the headlights and taillights shine when the car is turned on.
Flipping the car over reveals its plastic and metal guts, including the motor and the limited controls. A plastic cap emblazoned with the USB symbol lifts to expose an unlabeled power/pairing button that must be depressed with a pen or similar narrow object, while a Micro-USB port is included for recharging the car. AutoWave says it’ll get half an hour of runtime per charge, but our review unit didn’t include a cable; instructions claim that one’s supposed to be packed in. The rear-wheel drive engine is capable of three speeds, all controlled by the free iPhone-only AutoWave Car v1.0 app.
AutoWave’s control app is much simpler than some of the remotes we’ve tried in the past. Its graphics aren’t even Retina-quality on iPhones or iPods, and the font choices are poor, but it’s fully functional—despite the art issues, we actually found it to be one of the best controllers we’ve tested. Users have the choice of a virtual joystick or tilt-based controls, which are both very responsive and easy to use: neither requires a lot of practice or skill. Also built-in are self-running demos including circles and figure-eights, so you can tap to confirm a command and watch as the car takes off. As long as it has enough space to drive, you’re all set.
Despite its looks—and the annoying looped engine revving sound effects—we really liked this app and how well the car performed under its control. It really would have been one of the best remote control vehicles we’ve seen, if only the app and car motion were considered. However, once you factor in the price, size, and build quality, the story’s different. Spending $20 less gets you Silverlit’s Porsche, a considerably larger and more nicely built vehicle with a better looking app behind it; this is a lot to pay for such a small car. As such, we can’t offer more than a limited recommendation for Ford Mustang Boss 302. It’s a fun toy, but costs too much for something that’s only a little larger than a Matchbox car, and based upon a somewhat obscure variation on a common vehicle. Consider it seriously if the price drops.
Company and Price
Model: Ford Mustang Boss 302
Compatible: All iPads, iPhones, iPod touch 2G/3G/4G