Hot Wheels have been a fixture of play for more than 50 years. But the die-cast cars have, despite their many upgrades and tracks and play sets, always had a decidedly throwback sensibility. The brand new Hot Wheels id, however, thoroughly plants the toy brand into the 21st century. The high-tech update keeps the classic cars and tracks but features a deep connected play element that pairs with a tablet and phone app to adds a new level of fun. The new set maintains everything fun about playing with Hot Wheels — collecting, racing, jumping, crashing — while adding new element of virtual fun.
Hot Wheels id cars run for $7 and look nearly identical to the cars you had when you were a kid the same cars your own kid likes to send down into a maze of loops, steep curves, and crash-happy intersections. The only difference is that these new cars have an NFC (near-field communication) chip with a unique identifier on the bottom of each car that makes it trackable within the free Hot Wheels id app, available exclusively for iOS.
Tap a car on top of an iPhone or iPad running the Hot Wheels id app and it’s added to your digital garage. You can also pop it into the Race Portal, a Bluetooth-connected piece of track that can monitor how fast each car goes through it and time and count how many laps they’ve done. Stats are crunched and bragging rights are easily findable.
The $40 Race Portal is sold independently and can connect to existing Hot Wheels track pieces. Kids can simply connect it to an setup and measure precisely how fast their individual cars fly around the track. They’ll finally be able to say, once and for all, who has the fastest ride.
But for the ultimate Hot Wheels id experience, the $180 Smart Track is the way to go. It comes with two cars as well as a special Race Portal that includes a track booster — a big button kids can pump to spin wheels on either side of the track that fling the cars forward — and 14 teched-up track pieces that, when connected, create a 3D model of the assembled course within the app that shows the live locations and stats of the cars racing around it.
Speaking of stats, the smart track can, well, track additional information like the number of jumps landed and the loops and curves completed, in addition to the speed and lap information that the standalone race portal has. Because with Hot Wheels, stunts and speed have always had equal importance.
All of these features are valuable add-ons, but the physical play is only half the experience. As previously mentioned, by scanning Hot Wheels id cars kids can build a digital garage that mirrors the physical cars they own. Within the app, they can race those cars on 3D tracks, completing challenges, competing against friends, and even earning enhanced speed, acceleration, handling, and boost. There are similar challenges and competitions in the physical play section of the app — with the same virtual rewards — so the two play styles come together into an impressive cohesive whole. The entire play experience strikes a fine balance between the physical and the virtual.
The Hot Wheels id system is a smart, well-designed, and refreshing change of pace for Hot Wheels. Apple has exclusive rights to sell the sets and cars at for the next 30 days. After that it will be available at other retailers. The Hot Wheels id app is available on the App Store for free, and it is possible to play virtually even without any Hot Wheels id stuff.