This is as close as most of us will ever get to owning James Bond’s Lotus Esprit from The Spy Who Loved Me. It’s an RC car (or, more accurately, tank) that converts into a boat. And it does so remotely at the push of a button.
Straight from the box, you’re pretty much set to go. There’s no construction involved whatsoever. All you need is three AA batteries for the controller.
The Thunder Trax itself is fairly compact and lighter than it looks – it does need to float, after all. The rubber tank tracks on either side reveal their dual purpose by the shape of the treads, which are scooped so they can act like the water wheels on a paddle steamer.
The top is split into two parts, hinged at either end of the vehicle. These are where the magic happens. When the Thunder Trax has been driven (or placed) into water so that it’s totally floating, a press of the blue shoulder button on the controller makes these two sections motor round and become a boat hull underneath.
The controller itself is quite decent. It doesn’t feel too cheap and nasty, and it even has a trim contol for correcting the tank/boat if it’s consistently veering to one side. Shoulder buttons make it look and feel a lot like a console gamepad, although only the blue shoulder button on the right is an actual button – the other’s a dummy. The controls are classic RC: left stick for forward/backward and right stick for left/right.
It’s actually quite refreshing right now to find a premium RC product that doesn’t rely on a control app. There are three benefits to this: the 2.4GHz operation has better range than Bluetooth; you don’t have to worry about an app becoming unsupported at some point down the line; and you don’t need to trust your kid with a phone/tablet in the first place.
Apart from the Thunder Trax and its controller, the only other thing in the box is the charger. Actually it’s just a charging adapter for charging from a USB port, and it’s plugged into a port on the vehicle’s side, beneath a water-proofing rubber flap.
This charging adapter is quite short and could be easily lost – which would be a disaster, rendering the Thunder Trax unusable until you could source a replacement.
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On the plus side, the USB plug does mean you could take a portable power pack out with you for a battery top-up.
Air Hogs Thunder Trax – How fun is it?
The Thunder Trax is everything a remote-control tank should be. It’s nippy, not too difficult to steer with a little precision, and can take on some pretty rough terrain.
But then the real fun starts when you tear it down a bank or plunge it off the edge of a pool, so that it’s floating freely on the water’s surface. As long as there’s a few centimetres of clearance underneath, those hull sections will slowly motor around as soon as you press the transformation button.
Every blip of either stick sends a satisfying spray of water from the tracks and powers the boat through the wet stuff. Doing donuts in water is massive amounts of fun.
The amount of joy that kids get from seeing this thing go aquatic will mean you’ll start to seek out bodies of water you never even realised you had nearby. As with any RC boat, though, make sure they bring it back to shore before the batteries run out, or you’ll either be swimming or looking for a very long branch for the rescue mission.
Why buy the Air Hogs Thunder Trax?
As an RC tank, the Thunder Trax is good fun – but you really need to use it in water as well, to justify the heft price hike over a land lubber. And to be honest, it’s even more fun in aquatic mode anyway.