An aerial view of the Naperville test track. Image: City of Naperville, ILEnlarge Photo
If you live near Chicago, you may want to head down to Naperville, Illinois, the next time you’re in the market for a new or used car. We can’t tell you that you’ll get a better deal there, but we can tell you this: you’ll have access to your own dedicated test track, which beats trying to test drive
a car on traffic-and-pedestrian-clogged city streets or residential neighborhoods.
The Naperville facility
is one of the only municipal test track facilities in the country, and it was built for the express purpose of giving car buyers a place to test new vehicles out without disturbing residents. There are asphalt and cobblestone roadway sections, a railroad crossing, a simulated suburban driveway, a banked corner and a skid pad (with a sprinkler system) to test stability control
and anti-lock braking systems. If you’re buying an SUV or pickup, there’s even a hill climb and rough road section of the track.
Operating cost is split between ten local automobile dealerships, and gaining access requires you to be a customer of one of the participating dealerships (although the facility is occasionally used for special events). The overall facility is the size of a large parking lot, so drivers won’t get a feel for highway speeds on this particular test track. Still, the mixture of straights, curves and surface types will allow most drivers to get a good feel for the dynamics of the new car they’re driving.
Use of the facility isn’t mandatory, and customers wishing to drive on public roads can still do so. Since car dealerships are closed on Sunday, the facility is, too.
We think this is a great idea, and we’d love to see more municipalities embrace the concept. It gives drivers (and car salesman) an enclosed environment to work with while still allowing customers to get a feel for a vehicle’s capabilities. More progressive cities could even lease the site for events like organized autocrosses and teen driver training
, although we suppose insurance regulations would frown on such activities.