With so much technology for families to get wrapped up in these days, unwrapping a Carrera Digital slot car set this Christmas is the perfect way for families to unplug. How so you ask?
As you know there are smart phones, tablets, e-readers, gaming consoles, and more, that kids as well as their parents are deeply rooted to. We are more concerned about checking our social media pages to see what the Jones’s are up to than we are at spending time as a family. We just can’t seem to put the gadgets aside these days. Gone are the days, for most, where families sit around the kitchen table and play cards or board games. It seems that unless there is a computer chip of some sort coupled with an LCD screen to look at, we’re just not interested.
What is this slot car set that I mentioned? To keep the answer simple I’ll offer you this. A slot car is an electric powered toy car that runs on a plastic track that resembles a road. The car is guided around the track by a ‘guide’ or ‘guide flag’ in the bottom of the car which rides in a slot within the track. So that’s the simple version. A digital slot car track works the same way except that the cars, with help from special track sections, have the ability to switch lanes.
Let me tell you about that Carrera Digital 132 slot car set that recently made its way into our home. The set is called D132 (which is short for Digital 132) Hybrid Power Race Set and comes with everything you need to play. Two of my kids, both girls, saw the set and liked the cars that were in the set, a Porsche 918 Spyder and a Ferrari LaFerrari. Yeah, they have expensive taste in cars, but no matter, the toy versions are very affordable.
When the set arrived, we began unpacking the parts, laying them in piles respective to what they were. While the package contains lots of parts, they are all easily identifiable and assemble simply. As they unpacked the parts, they made their way to the cars that they had seen in the catalog and online. Katelyn, 11, picked up the Ferrari LaFerrari, looked at it a bit and said, “These cars are really detailed.” While Kelsey, 8, grabbed the Porsche and exclaimed, “I like the stripes!” As with all the newest offerings of cars from Carrera, the detail on the cars is impressive, especially considering their low cost. There is lots of value in those little toy cars when it comes to quality and fun.
As we finished unpacking the box of parts, Katelyn said, “Man! How big is this track?” The Hybrid race set comes with twenty eight feet of track that sets up in a 10’ by 6’ area. We began putting the track pieces together making sure to use the interlocking red clips that help to ensure that the track stays together. We found that inserting the clips into the last piece of track and then adding the next piece of track was the easiest way to install them.
We worked our way around the track piece by piece which brought us to the first digital section of track. The girls liked the set when they saw it because of the cars that were in it. Once I explained to them that the set was digital and the cars could change lanes, they were really excited! So I showed them the lane change pieces and explained to them how they worked as we assembled them. We continued putting the rest of the track together as indicated in the instructions, which included another lane change section, the power base and the controller charging station.
Controller charging station? Yep, that’s right, the controllers use rechargeable batteries (included) and charge on a special piece of track border. Not only are the controllers battery operated, they are wireless. What does that mean? It means that there are no cords to get tangled up and that racers can move about the track to find their ideal viewing position. The controllers feature 2.4 GHz technology and are good up to a range of about ten feet or so. Not only will our family be unplugged from all the distractions to race cars, but our controllers will be ‘unplugged’ as well. Upon seeing that the controllers were wireless, Katelyn asked, “Are these controllers cordless? Awesome!” So not only was I excited to know that kids wouldn’t be getting tangled up in cords any longer, the kids were excited too. Once we began playing with the set, they each found a spot that they liked and sat and raced their cars. Another great benefit to the wireless controllers, is that parents can separate the little ones a bit to keep some of the ‘drama in the race pits’ from getting out of control. Of course, if dad and mom get a little too competitive, the kids can put them in separate corners to race as well.
Included in the set are sections of ‘guardrail’ that can be installed in key turns around the track. These barriers help to keep the cars from getting too far off the track should the racing become a little heated. When the racing is side by side, racers tend to push the car to it’s limits causing the car to deslot from time to time. The barriers are held into place with clips which snap onto the edge of the track. Then the barrier slides into the clips which can then be adjusted left to right as necessary.
Now that the girls and I had the track assembled, we were ready to start playing. The set came with a very nice operating manual that went into every detail of the set and how it operated. However, that manual is very lengthy for parents with kids who are eager to race, so thankfully, Carrera included a ‘Quick Start Guide’ with the set. The ‘Quick Start Guide’ covers all the necessary steps to get everyone ready for playing quickly. For a little better understanding of what digital racing is about, I’d like to go over the things that you can do with the set and cars before I tell you about the experience that my daughters and I had playing with the set.
Digital racing from Carrera offers a nice selection of things that can be adjusted to help you and your fellow racers enjoy the experience. Aside from each controller being assigned to a car, the control unit, which is like the brain of the set, has various functions that you can control. These items include programming the maximum speed allowed, the amount of braking, the lights of each car, and fuel tank capacity. In addition, a pace car can be programmed so that one can race against the control unit if racing alone, or as many as 6 cars, either 6 racers or 5 racers and a pace car, can race at once on the same track.
The speed control allows the user to set the maximum percentage of speed that a car can go. For instance, if you set the car to use 100% of the available speed and you press the throttle and don’t let go, the car will fly off the track when you approach a turn. If the maximum speed is set to only 10% of the available speed, the car is much easier to control when entering a turn.
The braking effect, also in increments of 10%, determines how quickly the car stops when a racer lets off of the throttle. At a low setting, the car will coast a bit when the throttle is depressed, at a high setting the car will stop almost instantly.
Using the fuel capacity forces the racer to stop his car for a ‘virtual’ fill up of fuel. This can be set, also in increments of 10%, to ‘Off’ as well, so that no fuel stops are required. Use of the fuel feature does require Carrera Pit Stop 30356, which can be purchased from the Carrera dealer where you purchased your set.
Also, the lights on each car can be turned off or on. This is a neat feature when the fun of racing during the day goes into the night. Most Carrera digital cars come with both headlights and tail lights. The tail lights double as brake lights while racing. When the throttle is depressed, the tail lights will become brighter indicating braking is underway.
With that overview of the set and how some of the parts function, let me get back to why slot car racing is a perfect gift for under the Christmas tree. It is all about F-U-N! That is a simple three letter word that is sometimes easy to forget exists these days. My daughters and I, after setting everything up, enjoyed lots of racing. What is great though, is that while we were having fun racing, we were also talking to one another and interacting in ways that families should. When someone would drive too fast into a corner and deslot, we’d all laugh and joke about it. Sure, there is a time for serious racing and if you want to do that, this set, as well as the others offered by Carrera can provide that, but more often than not, it is all about the fun. With fun comes great memories and an environment where families can break free from the chaos of life and just smile and relax.
My kids will tell you just how much fun racing slot cars is if you ask them. Guess what? So will my wife. Slot car racing is something that the whole family can enjoy. While there technically can be one winner, after only a few laps, it will be easy for you to see that everyone is a winner by nothing more than the smiles on the faces of each racer, or even those just watching. So add a slot car race set from Carrera to your wish list or buy one as a gift for a family that could use some ‘unplugged’ time. While socks, ties, and candy are nice, there is nothing like the fun that a slot car set brings to a family. Merry Christmas!
Jeremy ‘bibbster’ Bibbee