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Review: Test Track at Epcot



By Dave Shute

THE NEW TEST TRACK AT EPCOT

Test Track re-opened in early December 2012 after months spent fundamentally re-doing the ride.

The track and vehicles are essentially the same as before, including the great finale which is the best part of the ride, but the interior, pre-show and story have all changed.

The changes are mostly, but not entirely, for the better, and the ride remains a must-see!

REVIEW OF THE NEW TEST TRACK AT EPCOT

In the last version of Test Track, the story was that you were a crash test dummy and were riding a vehicle that was put through a number of, well, tests to see how the vehicle–and you!–performed.

The story of the new version is that you are designing a “custom concept car,” and testing the performance of that concept car against four attributes by riding a “Sim Car” through a computer simulation.

The crash test dummies are gone–so Ridley Pearson will need some new bad guys for his Kingdom Keepers series.

The attraction basically starts in a design studio.

Here you are directed to a design console, and use it to design the key attributes of your car.

Each member of your party can request your own console and design your own concept car.

If you don’t request a console for each person in your party, the cast member may group you to speed throughput through the ride. For example, my younger son and I were sent to one console, and my older son and wife to another. So we designed two custom concept cars, not four.

At the console, you pick and adapt a basic shape, and then add bells and whistles, saving the results on an RFID card.

You can change colors and add all kinds of stuff.

There’s real value later in the ride to picking a color now that strikes you as very unusual, as this will help you later pick out your concept car when various screens in the ride show simulation results and standings.

The design process works OK.  If your kids are very adept at touch screens they can probably handle it themselves…and perhaps better than you!  But some things that you might intuitively think you could do don’t quite work the way most consumer touch screen user interfaces work…

The real issue with the design process is that it is only lightly integrated into the ride–so lightly that some will be frustrated by it.

You aren’t riding the car you designed–Disney World does not have a fab machine in the back printing your car as you design it.

Rather you are riding the same car everyone else is, and the story is that your physical car–the “Sim Car”–is testing all the “Custom Concept Cars” that have been loaded into it.

You load your car from your RFID card at the boarding area.

Then you go on the ride itself, and at several points in the ride comparative results are displayed on a tote board.

This is where a distinctive color pays off, as you pass these so quickly, and the font size is so small, that you really can’t otherwise tell where you stand.

Not that it really matters, though, as what you designed has no actual effect on what happens during the ride experience.  You’ll have the same ride even if you didn’t bother to design a car at all. So it’s not like Sum of All Thrills where you ride what you design; rather, it’s more like Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure, which is in, but not of, Epcot.

And this is a source of frustration to many.  The activity in the design studio seems not to have enough of a payoff for the time, and perhaps thought, invested in it.

I have mixed feelings about this.

If you view what happens in the design studio as Test Track’s version of an “interactive queue” (interactive queues being a key part of Disney’s NextGen project), then it’s fun.

But none of the other interactive queues (at least that I can think of) raise, and then mostly dash, expectations that they will have a material effect on the ride experience.

So for many the ride will reasonably feel incomplete, or un-completed–like a movie which introduced in its first 15 minutes with much screen time and fanfare what seemed like a major character, but then almost ignored that character during the rest of the film.

Some–including one of my sons–also complain that the design studio yields longer waiting times.

I don’t think this is true except for the first 30 minutes or so of the day, because other than then Disney World is not dispatching empty ride vehicles, so your actual vehicle boarding time is not affected by the time you spend in the design studio.

However, it may certainly feel that way, especially if you complete your design well before the design studio doors open to the boarding area. If you just want to ride Test track first thing in the morning and not mess with the underwhelming design process, use the single rider line.

(By the way, the design process is optional if you take the FASTPASS return line.)

Now separate from these frustrations about the design process, the ride itself is very cool.

Almost all the old realistic settings and props are gone, and they’ve largely been replaced by cool electronic graphics.

As a result, there aren’t so many clear markers of your pace through the ride, and the whole ride now feels faster, smoother and more fun.

This is a big deal, as the former Test Track kinda clunked around for most of the ride then ended with a big finish.  Without that big finish, it would not have felt like an “E” Ticket ride.

The new visuals increase the sense of speed and mystery over the entire ride, and yield an overall better ride experience!

Once you finish the ride, you can download data on your concept car’s performance, or play with one of the fun games in the post-show area, or check out the Chevys in the space. (Chevy is now the sponsor, rather than GM.)

Despite the car design issues, I unreservedly recommend the new Test Track, and believe it will remain one of the signature rides at Epcot.

Either ignore the frustrations of the design process, or use FASTPASS or the single rider lines and ignore the design process entirely.  Get on the ride itself, and have a ball!

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8 comments

1 Sarah { 02.09.15 at 10:12 pm }

Would you recommend this ride for a just-turned-4 year old boy? He does pretty well on rides but isn’t a huge thrill seeker. He is tall enough for the ride, but I am wondering about the “scary” factor. Thanks!

2 Dave { 02.10.15 at 7:43 am }

Sarah, the biggest thrill is a high-speed turn near the end…but even so, you go more slowly than on any freeway!

3 Carla { 01.31.16 at 7:54 am }

Hi. With Soarin currently closed (and Mission Space moved to Tier 1 FP), would you recommend going straight to Test Track after rope drop (presumably along with virtually everyone else!) or head to Mission Space and Sum of All Thrills and then do Test Track afterwards on Fast Pass+?

4 Dave { 01.31.16 at 12:10 pm }

Carla, my itineraries (e.g. this one) mostly have people doing TT as their Tier 1, but that’s with two Epcot days.

5 Carla { 02.01.16 at 3:54 pm }

Thanks Dave, I hadn’t seen your updated itineraries. What would be your best guess for when Rivers of Light and Frozen Ever After will open? I have to book my fast passes in the next few days so I’m wondering whether to just assume that they won’t be open when we visit at the beginning/middle of April.

6 Dave { 02.02.16 at 7:25 am }

Carla, best guesses:

Rivers of Light: March or later
Frozen ever after: April or later

So I’m not much help here…

I don’t think you’ll need a FP+ for Rivers of Light, but for sure for Frozen…

7 Melissa { 02.06.16 at 2:07 pm }

Dave – is Test Track handicap accessible? We have someone who can walk but will be riding in a wheel chair but she won’t be able to step down into the seat. Do they have a way to assist a person to get in the car?
Thanks

8 Dave { 02.07.16 at 3:18 pm }

Melissa, sorry but no. Test Track requires a transfer from the wheelchair, and Disney does not provide an assist.

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