Console and Computer versions
The most substantial portion of the game is found in the Story mode
. Players control Lightning McQueen through an open hub world based on Radiator Springs. Lightning interacts with the many inhabitants to play minigames, learn new abilities, and--most frequently--race them. Players collect 'Trophy Points' for accomplishing the various events, which along with a loose story progression unlock additional events at fairly regular intervals.
Other game modes include:
- Arcade mode : Play as any unlocked character in any unlocked race or mini game.
- VS Mode: Pick any two unlocked characters to compete in local-only versus racing.
The racing is very basic, and does not feature any weapons like most cart racers. Instead the player relies on an auto-refilling boost, power sliding, jumping and shortcuts to take and hold the lead. The NASCAR style events do not feature none of these abilities. Instead the player must avoid other players and pit effectively.
This game features no online play.
Confusingly taking place after the movie, Lightning must re-learn abilities from the residents of Radiator Springs that he can use on the track to overtake his greatest rival, Chick Hicks (all of which happens in the movie). After besting Chick on various tracks, Chick challenges Lightning to one final tournament of races, which take place over each environment of the game culminating with a second Piston Cup victory.
Aside from racing, the game features a small collection of mini-games. These mini games frequently have several stages of increasing difficulty.
- Lizzie's Poscard Hunt - Collect 20 postcards spread out around the game's environments.
- Luigi to the Rescue - Collect tires against the clock.
- Sheriff's Hot Persuit - Chase down down delinquent cars, 3 at a time.
- Tractor Tipping - Mater must avoid spot lights and Frank the Combine to tip tractors.
- High Speed Heist/Lightning Strikes Back - The delinquent street racers make their way through traffic to hijack Mac on the highway, stealing some of Lightning's supplies. The second level is Lightning recovering these items.
While players play solely as Lightning in the Story Mode, additional characters can be unlocked and played in the VS and Arcade modes. Each character has additional paint jobs that can be unlocked by earning points in Story Mode. Each character is voiced by their original movie voice actor.
|Character Name||How to Unlock|
| Lightning McQueen||Available immediately|
| Mater||Available immediately |
|Sally||Available immediately |
|Darrell Cartrip||Available immediately|
|Lightning McQueen (Monster Truck)||Available immediately |
| Doc Hudson||Earn 5,000 points|
|Flo||Earn 6,000 points |
|Ramone||Earn 7,500 points|
|Sheriff||Earn 8,000 points|
| Chick Hicks||Earn 10,000 points|
|King||Earn 12,000 points|
|Wingo||Earn 12,000 Points|
|Count Spatula (Monster Truck)||Earn 15,000 points|
Cars requires 5.2GB of space to install on an Xbox 360 HDD.
Xbox 360 AchievementsTractor Tipping (75G)
-Successfully complete all levels of tractor tipping. Palm Mile Speedway (75G)
-Win the race by finishing in 1st place. Lizzie's Postcard Hunt (100G)
-Collect all available postcards in postcard hunt. Motor Speedway of the South (50G)
-Win the race by finishing in 1st place. Sheriff's Hot Pursuit (50G)
-Successfully complete all levels of Sheriff's Hot Pursuit. Rustbucket Race-O-Rama (50G)
-Win the race by finishing in 1st place. Sun Valley International Raceway (75G)
-Win the race by finishing in 1st place. Smasherville Motor Speedway (75G)
-Win the race by finishing in 1st place. Monster Truck Mayhem (50G)
-Win the race by finishing in 1st place. Radiator Springs GP (50G)
-Win the race by finishing in 1st place. Tailfin Pass GP (50G)
-Win the race by finishing in 1st place. Ornament Valley GP (50G)
-Win the race by finishing in 1st place. LA International Speedway (100G)
-Win the race by finishing in 1st place. Tailfin Pass (75G)
-Complete the necessary activities to unlock Tailfin Pass Ornament Valley (75G)
-Complete the necessary activities to unlock Ornament Valley.
This versions of this game is limited to racing, with no open world. Like the console version, the bulk of this game resides in Story Mode. There are different racing mechanics, and a different plot. While boosting and power sliding remain key factors, jumping over obstacles is more prevalent, and players must now draft behind other racers to refill the boost meter. Many reviews indicated that the racing AI is noticeably more difficult than the console versions.
Other game types include:
- Grand Prix: Race in a collection of races organized in Cups.
- Time Trial: Self explanatory.
- Custom Race: Pick a racer, a track, how many laps, and whether or not to mirror the map.
- Multiplayer:This mode allows for Ad-Hoc head to head racing.
The delinquent street racers disrupt Radiator Springs, Lightning McQueen and the local populous challenge the racers to a series of races to chase them out of town.
Most characters have an alternate paint jobs that be unlocked by beating various time trials.
|Character Name||How to Unlock|
| Lightning McQueen||Available immediately |
| Mater||Available immediately|
|Boost||Defeat in Story Mode |
| Chick||Defeat in Story Mode |
| DJ||Defeat in Story Mode |
| Snot Rod||Defeat in Story Mode |
| Wingo||Defeat in Story Mode|
| Doc Hudson||Place 1st in Gran Prix 1|
| Sheriff||Place 1st in Gran Prix 2|
| Flo||Place 1st in Gran Prix 3|
| Ramone||Place 1st in the Mirror Cup|
Nintendo DS version
While this release does feature traditional racing (only 4 events), the main focus is on the 12 mini games, each based upon a character from the franchise. These mini games heavily involve the touch screen. There is no primary plot.
This game does feature Ad Hock 2 player vs racing, and requires two cartridges to do so.
|Mini Game||Featuring / Based on|
|Casa Della Tires||Guida|
|Fishin' Mater|| Mater|
|Flo's V8 Cafe||Everyone|
|Gesundheit||Snot Rod and the Imports|
|Hydraulic Jump Jam||Ramone |
|Ramone Style||Ramone and DJ|
|That Blinkin' Light||Fillmore and Sarge|
|The Drive-In|| Lightning and Sally|
|Tractor Tippin'|| Mater and Lightning|
|World's Best Backwards Driver|| Mater|
Game Boy Advance Version
This version is an isometric perspective race game (ala Super Off Road). There are 16 different events to compete in, and as with the other versions, power sliding and boosting remain a staple.
This version features no multiplayer.
Cars received average review scores, and the scores varied somewhat by platform. Many outlets seemed to feel that the title was a better than average movie tie-in with mostly solid mechanics, but ultimately coming up a bit short on length, and on some platforms, features.
| Nintendo Gamecube||71 |
|PC/Mac ||Not Available |