Intimidator 305 goes up, yup, 305 feet, making it one of the tallest and fastest coasters in the world. But instead of incorporating subsequent huge hills to deliver big pops of airtime, the groundbreaking ride mostly hugs the ground. Its incredible pent-up energy is instead used to intimidate riders by sending them tearing -- and I mean tearing -- through over-banked turns and other wild maneuvers like a NASCAR racer gone loco.
- Thrill Scale (0=Wimpy!, 10=Yikes!): 9
No inversions, but insane height, wild speed, and extreme positive G-forces. This is about as intense as it gets.
- Type of coaster: Giga-Coaster
- Height: 305 feet
- First drop angle: 85 degrees (just shy of straight down)
- First drop: 300 feet
- Top speed: 90 mph
- Track length: 5100 feet
- Ride time: 3:00
Intimidator 305 Gets a Trim
With its gleaming red lift hill piercing the Kings Dominion skyline and towering over the nearby Anaconda and Rebel Yell coasters, the mere sight of Intimidator 305 gets hearts, er, racing. Themed to the late NASCAR legend, Dale "the Intimidator" Earnhardt, the ride is designed more for speed than airtime. It may have been designed for a bit too much speed, actually.
Like Millennium Force, the original Giga-Coaster at sister park, Cedar Point, Intimidator 305 was supposed to reach a top speed of over 90 mph. When it debuted at the beginning of the 2010 season and hit 94 mph, however, there were reports of passengers "graying out" (nearly blacking out) from the ride's crushing positive G-forces.
Kings Dominion and the coaster's manufacturer, Intamin AG of Switzerland, subsequently installed trim brakes on the first drop and reportedly slowed the ride down to a more tolerable 79 mph. Some passengers, albeit a smaller number, still complain about a brief grayout experience even with the trims.
So, it was with some trepidation and, yes, intimidation, that I strode into the loading station for my first ride. (Note that since I published this review, Kings Dominion has modified the section of track after the first drop and eliminated the trim brakes. The top speed is 90 mph, and reports of grayouts have decreased.)
Typical of newer non-inverting steel coasters, the trains feature stripped-down, open cars that leave riders fairly exposed. When it debuted, Intimidator 305's over-the-shoulder restraints used a harder, more rigid material that caused head-banging moments during the ride's wild transitions. They have been swapped out for restraints that use more pliable straps. The combination lap bar/OTS restraints now keep passengers snug, but quite comfortable throughout the ride.
Gentlemen! Start Your Engines!
After the ride ops complete the safety check, a booming "Gentlemen! Start your engines," blares over the PA, followed by the sounds of revving racecars. The train tears out of the station, and, using an elevator cable rather than a more traditional chain lift, climbs the steep lift hill at a frantic pace. In mere seconds, before they have to time to process the insane height, riders are at the 305-foot apex of the intimidating monster staring down at a 300-foot, 85-degree drop.
As you might imagine, the descent is wildly intense. Although the trim brakes are plain to see (and fairly long), I did not experience any noticeable tug as the train barreled down the hill (unlike The Beast at Kings Island whose first drop trims suck the life out of the ride). It felt like a satisfying, out-of-control, EEEEEEYAHHHHH! drop.
When it hits the bottom of the 300-foot hill, Intimidator 305 takes a fairly abrupt banked turn to head back in the direction of the station. This is where grayouts have been plaguing passengers. As a seasoned coaster rider, I was surprised, chagrined, and, frankly, more than a bit freaked out the first time I felt like I might pass out on a thrill machine. The notorious double helix on Goliath at Six Flags Magic Mountain had me praying for the end of the ride.
The only other time I experienced a tinge of coaster grayout was at the bottom of Millennium Force's first drop. I'm happy to report that, for me anyways, the trim brakes on Intimidator 305 appear to have done their job. Despite multiple rides in different positions on the train at different times of the day, I never felt more than a minor hint of fogginess making the banked turn.
Intimidator 305: Surprisingly Smooth and Utterly Unique
Although the second hill on Intimidator 305 is taller than the lift hill of the neighboring Anaconda coaster, and riders come rocketing into it at face-melting speed, it does not deliver much in the way of airtime. After a long swoop down, the train begins a series of sudden, unexpected banking maneuvers. Still tearing along the track at runaway-train speed and relatively low to the ground, with the terrain rushing past, passengers are whipped to the left, then whomped to the right, then whipped to the left again to dizzying effect. Two small, but effective bunny hills finally provide some nice, if brief, bursts of airtime.
Intimidator 305 follows up with a few more quick-change banking elements. I suppose these high-speed, low-to-the-ground maneuvers are meant to replicate a NASCAR race experience. Whatever the intent, creating one of the world's tallest coasters only to keep it keep it close to terra firma and use its huge cache of energy to burn through tight elements makes for an utterly unique ride experience. Despite its are-you-kidding-me? speed and wacky track layout, Intimidator 305 is surprisingly smooth.
Intimidating? Sure. Intense to the point of graying out? For me, no. Wildly unique and incredibly fun? Yup. Gentlemen! (And ladies!) Start your engines and make tracks to Kings Dominion for Intimidator 305.