Mattel's biggest launch of the year includes better track, cooler cars, and a way for kids to blend video games with IRL play.

By Jessica Hartshorn
June 14, 2019
hot wheels id
Credit: Courtesy Mattel

June 14, 2019

The number-one-selling toy in the world by units is Hot Wheels cars, so it's not like they were pressed to improve. But for years, a Mattel team has been working behind-the-scenes to make the cars even more engaging for today's data-obsessed kids.

And now Hot Wheels ID is launching at the Apple Store, meaning the classic race cars have a digital upgrade. The new Hot Wheels toy is part video game, part IRL play, and a whole lot of fun.

Each car in the new series has a computer chip inside identifying it, kids can scan each car ID into the Hot Wheels ID app to see its details, log when they got the car, and store it in an electronic "garage" in addition to their physical collection.

hot wheels id
Credit: Courtesy Mattel

Hot Wheels ID track is more sturdy and substantial than the traditional thin, flexible orange track that's on the market. Cars go seriously fast! The digital portal track piece speeds or slows the cars and, most interestingly, tracks each one. The portal connects via Bluetooth to a phone or tablet (Apple only for now, no Android yet) so you can use the app to view each car's top speed, number of laps, and scale miles driven. It's kind of like a FitBit for Hot Wheels cars! And you don't need the Bluetooth to constantly be on; the portal will save stats and download all the info whenever you get around to activating Bluetooth.

The app gives kids bragging rights (they can prove that their car is the fastest!) but also helps kids go deeper into play. Challenges and games through the app work simultaneously IRL and virtually. For instance, in one challenge you can set a car in the portal and launch it physically through the air (for real). But on the screen of your device you'll also see a picture of that car flying through virtual hoops and you can keep working to get your car on just the right trajectory.

Credit: Mattel

Mattel will launch 51 Hot Wheels ID vehicles in 2019; the initial 8 include my favorite, the Shark Hammer 2.0 (I love when the cars are crossed with animals!). An entire starter kit—new premium track, portal, and two cars—costs $180. Additional cars are $7 each and if you want to skip the track and just get a portal for scanning and tracking cars, a portal by itself is $40.

Also, to be clear, Hot Wheels ID cars can race on the traditional orange track—they really are just like the old Hot Wheels cars, just with a chip. Similarly, you can race your old cars on the new track, it's just that the old cars have no chips so they won't be "read" by the portal.

The system is now in Apple Stores. It will go on Amazon in time for Prime Day on July 8, and be at Target for holiday shopping starting in October. It's age-graded 8+ since it involves the app but younger kids will love racing the cars too.

Entertainment Editor Jessica Hartshorn has a soft spot for Hot Wheels cars and projects personalities on them; she's pleased to learn that kids do the same.