REVIEWED BY TIM MOYNIHAN
The Henes Broon F870‘s seduction begins long before you’re seated in its sporty bucket seat, gripping its racy steering wheel and tapping and swiping its best-in-class infotainment system. The big flirt begins with the brochure, 90 glossy pages that reel you in with a barrage of automotive temptation.
First, the images grab you. The F870 is a knockout with its strong lines and supercar looks—a boxier 2015 Miata with a similarly furrowed brow. Move over, Tesla, because the zero-emissions Broon F870 is as eco-friendly as it is eye-catching. And you can recharge this fully electric ride from any wall outlet—not that you’ll do much charging, because its range is excellent.
Not feeling its style? No problem. Pop off the modular exterior panels and have at it. SUV and sedan bodies pop right onto the chassis. The fully loaded F870 has dual motors and all-wheel drive like the Tesla P85D, doubling the top speed of the base model Broon F830. All that giddy-up requires extra safety assurances, so it’s got a four-point racing harness—standard.
And the piece de resistance? You don’t even need to be behind the wheel to drive it. An included remote turns it into the world’s biggest RC car.
Um, what? Surely there are regulations against ghost-driving a car. And shouldn’t the South Korean company Henes be a household name if it’s out-Tesla’ing Tesla? Can the F870 be as amazing as its brochure suggests?
“Better,” says our test driver, who figures the Henes Broon F870 is worth five times its asking price. “My favorite thing about it was the motor.”
That asking price, by the way, is just $1,000. And yes, this is a real car, even if it is just 4 feet long, tops out at 10mph and has about as much trunk space as an Italian supercar. You see, the Henes Broon F870 is a precision-engineered, high-performance luxury car for kids. And it is awesome.
It’s Freaking Amazing
No, seriously. It’s freaking amazing. Although it’s made for kids, adults covet this car. The one we tested, a fully loaded top-of-the-line model, is one of a kind. Henes said our loaner unit was the only functional Broon F870 in the world at the time we reviewed it. Every WIRED staffer who saw it wanted to drive it. Nobody could fit. So to test this miniature version of a luxury sports car, we turned it over to a miniature version of WIRED contributing editor Brendan Koerner. Koerner’s six-year-old son Maceo test-drove the car over the course of two months and provided some behind-the-wheel impressions.
As it turns out, even Maceo had trouble fitting into the Broon F870. He’s about 4 feet tall and had to drive with his knees straight up. Four feet is definitely the height ceiling. Despite the tight squeeze, Maceo said the ride is comfy.
That’s due in no small part to the independent suspension system, which looks and works a lot like the one you’ll see in most sports cars. This baby motors right over gravel, potholes, and other nastiness with ease thanks to its coil springs and gas-tube shocks that dampen wheels wrapped with urethane-foam tires. “There was a sidewalk they were fixing,” explains Maceo. “But it went solid over it. One time I thought it was going to get stuck, but it didn’t. It was just a long bump, like BUMP.”
Handling is equally nimble. Differential steering controlled by an aluminum-alloy gearbox and a short wheelbase make the F870 capable of surprisingly sharp handling. The suspension and the steering truly make it more like a real car than a toy. Adding to the realism are working headlights, brake lights, hazard lights, and turn signals. The signals automatically engage whenever you take a left or right. All of this make the Broon a legitimate learning tool.
“It was a steep learning curve, but by the third or fourth time that we brought it out, he was doing three-point turns and trying to parallel park,” says Koerner the Elder. “It taught him a lot about driving.”
A Range Of ‘Like, 3,000 Miles’
The battery life on the car is outstanding, as it uses the same kind of 24V/14Ah rechargeable unit found in some electric bikes and scooters. When asked how far the car could go on a single charge, Maceo replied “I would say like 3,000 miles.” Dad could not vouch for that, but said he charged the car just twice during the two-month test. There’s a tradeoff, however: The battery takes up a ton of trunk space, leaving little room for cargo.
“It was little,” Maceo says of the trunk. “If it was bigger, I would put all my stuff I don’t need that I brought in the car just in case. Like let’s say if it was a really hot day and I brought my sweatshirt. If I didn’t need it I would put it in the trunk.”
Recharging the car also recharges the 7-inch Android touchscreen tablet on the dash. It displays the car’s speed, lets parents adjust various settings, and streams music to the car’s speakers. The tablet also lets you tweak safety features, like maximum speed and its driving mode. Cooler still, the car has a self-diagnosis feature. If anything goes wrong, you can have the car analyze itself and tell you what’s wrong with it.
There are three driving modes beyond full remote-control mode: “Comfort” mode makes acceleration and braking slow and easy. “Normal”—used for most of our testing—increases the sensitivity of the gas and brake pedals for a little more yee-haw; “Dynamic” mode cranks it all up to whiplash levels.
The Bluetooth 4.0 remote control, which runs on a pair of AAA batteries, is the only way adults can enjoy this ride. Oh sure, it’s a great way to drive around kids who are too young or too small to drive themselves. But it also lets you increase your return on investment. Thanks to its responsive handling and surprising speed, the Broon is a massive but tightly tuned RC car. “I wouldn’t let him drive it across the street, so I would put it in remote control,” said papa Koerner. “That was super fun.”
It Is Not Without Issues, However
There was one issue with the remote control, however, and it’s significant. The big emergency stop button on the top of the remote—designed to stop the car and shut it down in an emergency—didn’t work consistently. Perhaps the fact our car was a prototype meant the kinks are still being worked out. Or perhaps it only works when the car is in RC mode. Either way, it didn’t work in Normal mode.
That’s the only big issue we found, but we have some quibbles. While the car’s polycarbonate body is incredibly durable and ding-resistant—I crashed it into a wall (no passengers) at a fairly high speed, damaging the wall but not the car—the plasticky trunk and hood feel flimsy. And the body panels are shaky and slippery when you’re carrying the 60-pound ride, a task that takes two people.
The car’s “key,” a small polycarbonate rod that stows under the dashboard, is easily lost–and you definitely want to keep it away from toddlers’ mouths. You don’t need the key to start the motor—that’s done with a button on the dash—but it pops the trunk, which you’ll need to do to turn the car’s main power on and recharge the battery.
As long as your kid is the right age, this is their dream ride. The car is rated for ages 1-5, and Koerner says 5 might be the sweet spot. That’s the age at which most kids are the right size and have enough mental capacity to get the most out of the car. Maceo reckons the ideal age is 4—mostly because the car was so small—but he never got tired of driving it despite the cramped space. He says he likes the car more than his bike.
In the end, father and son agreed the F870 provided excellent value, but they disagreed slightly on the overall rating for the car. Dad gives it an 8 out of 10, citing the emergency-stop issue and the polycarbonate frame as the only drawbacks. “Just seeing him get into it, he really really enjoyed it,” says Koerner. “As a parent, that’s the most important thing.”
Maceo would bump that score up to a 9. He also offers his own blueprint for Broon perfection.
“It drove pretty well, and it was surprisingly fast,” says Maceo. He’d have awarded the car a perfect 10 “…if it was light-green. And had a full steering wheel. And had more trunk space. Bigger. And had a roof.”