Cynical Reviews: SAT Speedway
Welcome back to Not Club 33, your new home of the Disney Cynic!
It’s been a while since I’ve sat down and written a review of an attraction. Part of the reason why is I haven’t had a trip to Orlando since 2017. I’ve also already reviewed a lot of the heavy hitters out there. Looking at my list, I noticed a couple of glaring omissions. Today I’m going to take a swing at one of the more popular attractions in Epcot, one which received a recent update but didn’t really need to: Test Track!
In the 1990’s Epcot faced a similar identity crisis to the one it faces today. While certainly the old school nut-jobs out there long for the days of Food Rocks and the deluge, Epcot was facing attendance and satisfaction issues. Why? There were no thrill rides at the park. The closest one came to a thrill was at the Norway pavilion when you went backwards down a 15 foot incline.
To solve this, Disney decided to close the World of Motion, an omnimover attraction that was god awful. Like, I remember riding it once. Undoubtedly some will think it was on par with Spaceship Earth, but you’re fooling yourself. World of Motion’s thematic topic was the concept of transportation. Scenes from this ride included demonstrating foot-power, animal-power, the wheel, flight, steam, and finally combustion.
Mercifully, the horse used to demonstrate animal-power was shot be the local vet. The pavilion’s sponsor was General Motors, who wanted to spend its money on an attraction which actually advertised its products. Continuing to spend money on upkeep of animatronics demonstrating locomotives seemed like a waste. A deal was struck whereby GM would continue sponsoring the pavilion if a new attraction were created that focused exclusively on cars.
After two years of construction, the newly minted Test Track opened softly in time for Christmas of 1998. Officially opening March 17th, 1999, the attraction was based on actual GM vehicle testing procedures and starred John Michael Higgins (whom you’ll recognize as just “that guy from that thing”) as the test operator. Guests saw crash dummies get smacked with hammers and various car parts being put through their paces before finally embarking on the attraction. It quickly became the most popular ride at Epcot. With its 6 passenger ride vehicle being an oddity and being so popular, the original Test Track is also notable for being the one of the first attractions at Disney World to use a single rider line to fill out the seats and reduce wait times.
As good of an attraction as the OG version was, it fell victim to feeling outdated rather quickly. It was also notorious for closures due to ride breakdowns. After a 7 month refurbishment starting in April 2012, the attraction re-opened in its current form. Along with a new interactive queue , the attraction received much needed maintenance and a fresh coat of paint. GM as a whole dropped its sponsorship, with subsidiary brand Chevrolet picking up the financial slack.
The Cynical Experience:
When first approaching the Test Track building, I am struck by how short the line is outside. This, of course, is bullshit. The actual queue indoors is so long that you’re fooled into thinking you can hop on the stand-by line without too bad of a wait. Once inside, guests are greeted by a blast of air conditioning, but the queue is a seemingly never ending tunnel that keeps the smells of guests trapped in a tube. Don’t fart is what I’m saying. We’ll know it’s you.
Guests are handed a card or use their magic band to design their own unique vehicle to test. This sort of interactivity was novel when it first debuted, but now feels like an unnecessary delay from the attraction. Plus, I have no idea what I’m doing designing cars. After a time limit to design the car, your design is saved to your magic band and you’re put back in line before finally hopping into your car!
Guests ride the Tron-looking convertibles in two rows of three, making things awkward. Most guests are in groups of two or four, with the occasional solo traveler or Duggar family bucking the trend. Because they tend to seat the pairs of guests together and the cars have rows of three, it’s usually little Timmy, the youngest child, that I’m forced to sit next to. Why I ride in the middle seat at my size is beyond me, but oh well. Once everyone is buckled in, and prove it to multiple cast members, our car heads off to get tested!
Your car connects to On Star (#ProductPlacement) before sending riders and their designs to be put through four different categories of tests:
First, your car is put through the harrowing experience of having a teenager drive in the rain for the first time. The vehicle skids “out of control” as lightning bolts strike nearby, reminding us all that we should make peace with our respective makers before sending children out on the road in less than perfect conditions. Each group/guests design gets scored and you get to see who’s better at arbitrarily designing cars.
It’s been made clear by eco-terrorists that in this age all that matters is the vehicles efficiency. To prove the effeciency, your vehicles are put through three bullshit tests: 1. A scanning for “Optimum Eco-Efficiency”, 2. An aerodynamic wind tunnel test, and 3. A “Hyper-Spectrum Imaging”. I can only tell what one of those things is, and that’s the wind tunnel. Sure, scanning a vehicle makes sense, but none of it is actually explained why it’s more efficient. Also, they just shine lights on you. Guests cars are again scored, and since this seems like nonsense, I have no faith in the scoring system.
Then we actually get to start having a little fun in the car. You’re put through a series of hair pin turns; and because it’s apparently the Tron universe, the fake trees of old are replaced with laser projected ones. After this James Bond style of driving, a sudden 18-wheeler appears with it’s lights on and our car avoids a head on collision. Once again we’re scored on our designs performance, this time it relates to whether you die or not.
Ok, I have to go off on a tangent for a second about giant trucks. I drive a lot for my real job, and the vehicle I’ve been provided is a low to the ground hybrid. Great gas mileage, but I also am in fear of my life when on an open highway. Not even because these trucks are gigantic in reference to my tiny car, although that too. No, it’s these damn spikes that the trucks have on the front wheels. It’s some Mad Max bullshit that I’m no ok with. Do you really need spikes? The answer is no, you don’t. You’re either wanting to make your car look awesome (which it does) or wanting to murder a little commie with your tire. Though I loathe the their views, I can’t endorse vehicular homicide. I don’t want a law against them, but I do wish truckers would come to their senses. Then again, they have their shitty hats, and that hasn’t changed in years. I’ll be hoping for a while it would seem.
Once you’ve avoided death by meth-fueled trucker, your vehicle is put through your final test, though not before a fake out. Of course an impact test would be important, so they act like they’re going to crash your car into a wall. That said, it’s Disney World, and because they don’t want it to be Bobby’s World, at the last second the barrier is revealed to be a door. Your car speeds out onto a an outdoor track (for testing). Cars first make a sharp right turn before doing its best NASCAR impression and doing a left hand lap around a 270 degree banked turn and topping out at 64.7 mph.
All of this would be SUPER impressive if not for the fact that this is basically my daily commute….only slower. Sure, I don’t drive in a convertible. So that’s different. If you drive to Disney though, make this an attraction you do in the middle of your vacation. Certainly not the first ride.
Test Track is one of the most popular rides on property, and for good reason. It’s a great marriage of theme and execution. It’s not my favorite ride at Epcot though, because ultimately I just drove 20-ish mph faster on the Turnpike getting there. I also feel like the Tron-like update diminished the authenticity of the attraction to an extent. Yes, all this testing is done in real life, but it’s also done more often by computer. I kind of prefer seeing crash test dummies getting jacked up. None of that changes Test Track as a “Must Do” while at Disney, and if you don’t believe me, just ask Stacey.
Feel free to let me know what I got wrong in the comments below. I’m also welcoming suggestions for attractions and resorts you’d like me to review! Tweet us or let us know on Facebook! Until next time!
-The Disney Cynic
“I’m all beers!”