Little red wagon company Radio Flyer is best-known around these parts for its Tesla Model S and Cyberquad ride-ons for kids, but they recently launched another all-electric ride-on for kids. And let me tell you: if your kids are as obsessed with Nintendo’s Mario Kart as mine are, This is the ride-on they want.
Radio Flyer is calling this one the “Ultimate Go-Kart,” and while that may be a hard one to swallow for the hardcore TaG or shifter-kart racer dads out there, the fact remains that it’s a significant upgrade from the Kid Motorz 12v Volvo Xc90 my kids have been riding around in for the last few summers. In comparison, the Ultimate Go-Kart feels more solidly-built, and is much more true-to-form to “Mario’s Kart” than the XC90 is to — well, my XC90, which makes the imagination play a bit easier.
Besides, Mario and Luigi racing all over the universe in go-karts is way cooler than mom and dad driving around the ‘burbs in their Volvo, obviously.
This Kid Gets It
What’s more, the 24v battery in the UGK seems to charge up faster than the 12v unit in the Volvo. Not sure if that’s an age thing with that battery, but when I brought it up to Radio Flyer’s Chief Wagon Officer Robert Pasin during one of my recent trips to their Chicago factory, he didn’t seem surprised. “We looked at all the pain points parents had,” he said (I’m paraphrasing a bit). “When we talked to the parents they all said the same thing, ‘the [competitor brand] take too long to recharge and run out of power too fast,’ so that’s one area we really looked at when we were developing our ride-on with Tesla.”
Still, while I might be able to comment about the assembly process, build quality, and charging characteristics of this little red
wagon go-kart, I am simply too big to ride it (believe me, I tried). So, to get a better sense of what the Ultimate Go-Kart is like from behind the wheel, I’m going to have to enlist a littler help(er).
Meet the Ultimate Test Driver
Radio Flyer’s Ultimate Go-Kart has 3 forward speeds, and ships with a black plastic tab on the “shifter” to prevent little ones from pressing it into its highest top speed — 8 mph — without parental consent. On its highest setting, the kart had more than enough juice to intimidate my 5-year-old test driver (who slots in right in the “sweet spot” of the 3-8 suggested age range for the UGK). Part of that is down to his relative unfamiliarity with real-world driving, and part of it is the “snap” of the instant-on electric motor.
With full torque available at 0 rpm, the UGK’s acceleration seems pretty instantaneous — both from the point of view of a 5-year-old and that of an over-protective suburban dad. The kart seems to be standing still, then going 8 mph, with precious little in between. The nice thing about that snap, though, is that the kart is still fun for kids who find themselves at the high end of that age range, according to test driver number 2, who racked up significantly more
miles blocks on the UGK than the little(r) one this past weekend.
All told, the UGK proved popular with most of the kids on our block, and had enough juice that many of our smaller testers kept the kart on “level 2” for most of their rides. Which, I mean, that just keeps them outside playing longer, which is great news for parents struggling to compete with the appeal of an iPad, you know?
Great, but Not Perfect
I’ll skip to the point and tell you that the Ultimate Go-Kart is a great ride-on for young kids. Short of Radio Flyer’s Tesla Model S and Cyberquad (which seem aimed at smaller kids and bigger kids, respectively), you’d be hard-pressed to find a ride-on that’s better at the UGK’s $329 asking price.
That said, the UGK is almost too good for its own good, if that makes any sense. I say that because, on a lower quality ride-on like the previously-mentioned Volvo and a Mercedes GLK 300 we had before that, the whole thing was so crappy that you didn’t know where to start. On the Radio Flyer, everything is so good that its few flaws stand out proud. I’ll give you a quick run-down of those:
- The “slick” tires are hard plastic, and look like they’ve lived a hard life after just a few hours of play. Some of that may be down to the older kids trying to “drift” the kart, but that should be expected behaviour. I’d like to see rubber tires for durability, but acknowledge that change might ruin the kart’s ability to drift. As I type this, it occurs to me that the Radio Flyer guys have probably spent a lot of oxygen on this trade-off.
- All the Ultimate Go-Karts are “Number 7.” Harley-Davidson does a great deal with this by offering a range of stickers for its Stacyc-built IRON-e line of kids’ ride-ons, and a little bit of customization or choice here could go a long way.
- I wish the flag were a safety red or hi-vis orange, to help the kart stand out that little bit more when the kids are near street corners. This one is easy enough for the handy moms and dads out there to remedy on their own, but they shouldn’t have to.
Beyond that, the UGK is an absolute blast, and my kids absolutely love it. As a parent I’d also like to see a removable battery that could be more easily carried up stairs to charge indoors (the Cyberquad spoiled me) and maybe a more easily adjustable seat to speed up the transition between little little drivers to big little drivers, but I’m just nit-picking at this point. Your kids won’t think of either of those things. They’ll just focus on the fun — and the Ultimate Go-Kart will bring them lots of that!
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