Once the whole thing is put together and charged up via the microUSB port in the rear, you can link it to the TechMods app. The connection was almost instant, a vast improvement over a lot of other Bluetooth-connected toys I've played with. The app itself has a limited number of modes and doesn't include any kind of coding features, so parents hoping for a stronger STEM component will be disappointed.
What you do have, of course, is a standard driving mode where you can zip the car around in the real world. I found it pretty fast, though like many RC vehicles it didn't handle rugs well and was better suited to a bare floor. There's also a "treasure hunt" mode where you drive around and wait for your phone to detect treasure. The app signals the car is getting close by changing a set of lights from red to yellow and then to green. The car doesn't have any way to track distance traveled, though, so it's really just waiting for you to drive a lot. I turned the car upside down and let it spin its wheels, and it still "found" treasure.
A little more interesting are the "car as controller" modes, which are pretty much described in the name. They're in-app games that ask you to point your TechMods car at the screen to steer. There's a standard track-racing game, one where you drive around an arena picking up and delivering items, and a survival game where you simply drive around until your car takes too much damage. It takes a little time to master: It's easy to understeer or oversteer, so you need to find the right point in the middle. It's best with two hands, especially if your paws are on the smaller side, so you'll need to prop up your phone or tablet somewhere. It's odd that the TechMods vehicle has some kind of motion sensors for this mode but that they weren't used in the treasure hunt game to detect that I was cheating.
Because TechMods skews a bit older than the standard Hot Wheels product -- ages eight to 16 -- Hot Wheels is releasing it via Indiegogo first, with the pre-order page going live today and shipments going out in June. It'll cost $50 for backers. The idea is to get feedback from a more tech-savvy audience before releasing it in stores or expanding the line. That hopefully is something that will happen: There's a lot of potential here, and it's a promising step up for kids who are ready to move on from little die-cast vehicles.