by Andy Fix
Walt Disney World recently put forth a significant effort to update an already much-loved attraction at EPCOT. The re-Imagineering of Test Track is an impressive update to a ride that was already very popular. While this “refurb” has been overshadowed by New Fantasyland, Imagineering really stepped up to the plate to deliver something impressive in Test Track.
As you approach, you see that the building and logo for this attraction has been changed to look more sleek and futuristic. When you enter the queue, this futuristic theme is only reinforced. Upon entering the building you see various models and displays including 2 prototype cars on display. One is very similar to a modern day sports car and the other is essentially a 2 seat Segway with a roof. There are also displays about the various factors that need to be considered in the design process… pay attention class, this information might come in handy later.
As you continue through the queue, you enter a room that has a plain white sculpture of a futuristic car. A video about the artistic process of designing a vehicle plays as numerous different paint schemes are being projected onto that car. To be perfectly honest, the first time or 2 through the standby queue, the line actually moves entirely too fast up to this point. There’s really a lot to take in, and no I didn’t get pictures of everything. I was too busy reading and watching the videos. You’ll just have to check it all out yourself. As you leave this room, the line splits to the left and right and each side has 2 large touch screens. These screens describe how “every vehicle design starts with a line” and invite you to shape the line of a vehicle as you wait. This does nothing to your car design, but it gives you a chance to practice with the technology a bit.
At the end of this hallway, a Cast Member hands you an RFID card and assigns everyone a color and a number. You stand on your spot and that will be your design station when the doors open. You watch a brief video explaining how it works and then you enter the design studio. This is what makes the new Test Track so much better. You start by drawing your line. I chose to make a truck. The computer then optimizes the line and it gives you a template of a futuristic car that closely matches what you drew. You can then customize the body angles and wheelbase, select wheels and wheel size, add accessories and change the paint.
One thing to take note of is that every change you make will have an impact on your vehicle’s score. Each vehicle is rated on Capability, Responsiveness, Efficiency and Power. Every tweak you make will affect some numbers in a positive way and others in a negative way. You can see these numbers change with each modification you make. You have 5 minutes so there’s time for some trial and error, but don’t waste too much time on one design element before moving on to the next. A side note on the design aspect: I strongly advise that you do the standby line at least once. It is the only way you can design the entire vehicle from the ground up. If you do Single Rider or Fast Pass, you only get a 2 step design. You pick which of the 4 stat categories you think is most important and then you pick one of about 8 already completed vehicles designed for that category. It isn’t nearly as much fun.
After leaving the design studio, you enter one of Disney’s famous corrals. You know, the place where they take you out of your single file line, make you fill in all available space, and then re-form said single file line. I think they’re still working out the timing on this, because they were releasing design studios before the prior group had finished funneling back into the single file section. But I’m sure they’ll improve this process. From this point it is just a boring queue for the most part. Once you work your way back into a single file line, you wait in a line that holds maybe two or three full design studio capacities and a CM merges the standby line and the Fastpass line at this point. By my watch, it was 20 minutes from the time we left the design studio to the time we were in the car. It was a 55 minute total wait, but those 20 were by far the longest. After you are finally assigned a row to board your sim car, you’ll see an RFID reader that allows you to scan your car into the system. This will allow you to see how your car stacks up against the others in your sim car after each test during the ride.
Once you get in the sim car, the ride isn’t much different from the old Test Track. I have to say, I kind of like the old version of the ride itself better. The new ride is just a dark room with a lot of neon and black light effects. It feels more like some kind of a Test Track/Tron hybrid than a real world automotive testing facility. I managed to get one decent picture of what used to be the barrier test, but is now called the power test. It kind of gives you an idea of how the ride portion is lit.
There are a few things that they did to improve the ride experience though. At the end of each test there is a display screen that shows a picture of all 6 car designs that were entered by the people riding in your sim car. It shows how they all ranked on the completed test. They also have a neat effect in one room that shows the air flow around your sim car on a mirrored wall, but aside from that, you’re really just driving around in the dark with some lighting effects and glowing neon lines.
After the ride ends, there is still fun to be had. You can scan your RFID to see your car’s overall score on a large screen. I had a 216, and the high for the day was a 232. Most of the others that I saw while standing there were in the 190 – 200 range, so I was rather pleased with my design. As you’re doing this, the center of the screen scrolls between the high score of the day, the top 5 cars in each stat category and a real time map of cars on the sim track. You can then go to the next room and swipe your RFID card to make a commercial for your vehicle, race it on a figure 8 track, or even do some more design work. There is a showroom with all kinds of Chevrolet vehicles to look at and stations to get pictures taken with them. I have to say, I didn’t do any of the pictures (as I had no desire), but they did have scanners there for the RFID cards, so I don’t know if they can put your vehicle in them as well, or what the deal is with it. I probably should have tried for research purposes. Maybe someone else can chime in on this.
They still have a lot of work to do to get it running properly. Both days I was in EPCOT (12/6 and 12/7) the ride went down for at least a brief period that I was aware of. They also haven’t got all the RFID technology and touch screens debugged yet. When my brother in law and I rode, they sent us to design studio station “yellow 7.” I noticed that circles on the floor for yellow 5 and 6 were covered up as were several others, and they left 8 empty in every row. My brother in law asked the CM why they left 8 open and he said it was in case one of the other stations doesn’t work. I also noticed as I was designing my truck that sometimes the touch screen wouldn’t respond and then it would take a big jump. My brother in law claims that is why his car had stars on it. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt on this one, but hopefully, they’ll get all those bugs worked out.
Overall, I believe the new version is a big improvement over the original, and this is coming from a guy who named his fantasy football team after the original ride. The scenery and effects on the actual ride itself were a bit of a letdown to me, but the whole design aspect fascinates me and gives it a lot of potential to be ridden again and again so you can improve on your design skills. I really enjoyed the changes on this ride and I can’t urge you enough to make sure to ride it standby at least once, even if you plan to grab FP’s to come back later. Believe me, you’ll want to go through the standby line again after you’ve done both.