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10 December 2012

Test Track delivers the thrill of the original attraction with an updated vibe

The bones of Test Track haven’t changed. The vehicles and ride layout are almost identical. But the experience couldn’t be any more different.

Charming in its own right, the original Test Track was starting to show its age. It was becoming a microcosm of the American auto industry it represented: suffering from a lack of new ideas and needing an influx of capital – fast!


The new Test Track erases all that, and moves the auto-design process into the future with a glamorized version of the not-so-sexy automotive design process.





One Republic performed at Test Track's grand opening on December 6, 2012. Photo by Paul Williams.
From an attraction standpoint, the retrofit works in how it brings together three pillars of ride design that are shaping the future of attraction development. For starters, the ride experience is thrilling and fun. Luckily, the original Test Track Imagineers created an interesting ride experience that has stood the test of time.

Secondly, the ride now enjoys some customizability, which makes it a more repeatable experience. Arguably, the customization element of the attraction is really more in one’s perception rather than in the experience. Upon entering the “Chevrolet Design Center” guests shape their own virtual car on a giant touch screen. Here, they can stretch and shape their vehicle design by length, width, height and engine size – and decide which performance attribute is most important to them. Once they create the design of their dreams, guests complete their creation with even more choices. They can choose an expressive front grill, tailored wheels of various sizes and styles, and custom paint with graphics and other vehicle accessories. The process takes 5-10 minutes to complete.



The new entrance to Chevrolet's Test Track. Photo by Paul Williams.
The guest’s virtual car is tied to a RFID card, which the guest scans prior to boarding the actual ride vehicle. While the ride doesn’t change based on their vehicle design, there is still an incentive to try the design process multiple times, as during the ride feedback is displayed on monitors as to how well each rider’s design is performing.

That leads to the final pillar: the element of competition. Throughout the ride, the vehicle is ranked against four important performance attributes that guide Chevrolet designers: capability, efficiency, responsiveness and power. During the ride, after each “test” a monitor shows models of each rider’s car ranked against one another. While there isn’t an explicitly competitive theme to the ride (like Toy Story Midway Mania, for example) it is a component that drives repeatability for the attraction.


IPM Editor Martin Palicki designs his virtual car for Test Track. Photo by Paul Williams.
The actual ride is a neon-lovers paradise. Everything is either pitch black, or pulsating and glowing. It certainly offers a distinctive style – a form of blacklight minimalism that seems void of depth but at the same time is futuristic.

The post-show area of the ride has also been redone, and while the feeling of the area is generally less showroom-like, the vibe is still sales-y, and more in place with the obvious corporate-sponsored brand-building expected in Innovations. But, really that is what Test Track, and the World of Motion before it, has always been about. Only now it’s more fun, and in an odd sort of way, kind of sexy.


Test Track is now open to the public at Epcot.

Epcot at night. Photo by Paul Williams.