How Does the Legendary Magnum XL-200 Coaster Compare Today?

Cedar Point’s Groundbreaking Ride

Magnum XL-200 at Cedar Point

Cedar Fair Entertainment Company

This is the coaster that started the modern-day coaster wars. When it debuted in 1989, Magnum XL-200 broke the once-inconceivable 200-foot height barrier for roller coasters. In a class of its own at the time, Cedar Point coined the term, "hypercoaster," for its new ride. Today, hypercoasters refer generically to rides that, like Magnum, climb between 200 and 300 feet and are designed for height, speed, acceleration, and lots of airtime, but not inversions. 

  • Thrill Scale (0=Wimpy!, 10=Yikes!): 7
    • Extreme height and speed, lots of airtime
  • Coaster type: Steel out-and-back hypercoaster
  • Top speed: 72 mph
  • Height restriction: 48 inches
  • Height: 205 feet
  • First drop: 195 feet
  • Ride time: 2 minutes, 45 seconds

No Longer the Epitome of a Thrilling Coaster

As we were assigning the "thrill scale" for Magnum, it occurred to us how odd it is that the legendary coaster "only" merits a 7 out of 10 possible points. When it first scaled its massive 205-foot lift hill, Magnum was the tallest roller coaster in the world, and was epitome of a white-knuckle thrill ride. It had adrenaline junkies salivating for a hypercoaster fix.

While it still delivers incredible thrills, Magnum has been eclipsed many times over (including coasters at Cedar Point itself) and is no longer as audacious as it once was. As Magnum crashed the 200-foot threshold, it raised coaster fans' thrill threshold. By today's standards, it could almost (with an emphasis on almost) be considered quaint.

The ride is fairly simple. It climbs 205 feet, drops a hair-raising 195 feet, and delivers a wallop of airtime as it climbs and then drops into a second huge hill. (Interestingly, it’s really the drop, and not the height of a coaster that should determine its status; because Magnum’s first drop is 195 feet, it technically falls five feet short of qualifying as a hypercoaster.) At the bottom of the second hill, it soars into a covered tunnel, makes a sweeping turnaround, and navigates a series of bunny hills that deliver constant bursts of airtime all the way back to the station.

Its location along the banks of Lake Erie adds to the drama. With the lake's blue water sparkling, the view as Magnum climbs its lift hill, drops, and careens into its turnaround is breathtaking. (Granted, the Lake Erie views figure prominently into virtually every major coaster at Cedar Point.) And a couple of other covered sections of track, including one near the end of the ride, keep the suspense going.

First hill and drop of Magnum XL-200 coaster
Andrew Borgen/Flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0 

Magnum Earns its Stars

But Magnum has lost more than its thrill cachet. It hasn't aged gracefully and can be rough in spots–especially compared to some newer, super-smooth coasters like Cedar Point's own Maverick.

Depending on the time of day and other conditions, a ride on the steel Magnum can almost feel like a more rickety wooden coaster. Its train roars over a hill knocking its passengers side-to-side, goes airborne, and thuds as the upstop wheels engage, and then– kerplunk!–slams down as the positive G-forces kick in. Because of its comparative roughness, Magnum can't really compare to some of the more refined hypercoasters that followed it such as Apollo's Chariot at Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Mako at SeaWorld Orlando.

But there is no denying that Magnum occupies an important place in coaster history. In addition to its height records, it was the fastest and steepest coaster when it debuted as well. There might not be any silky smooth hypercoasters were it not for the pioneering Magnum. In 2004, American Coaster Enthusiasts honored the ride’s historical importance with the organization’s ACE Roller Coaster Landmark award

And it holds an important place in Cedar Point history as well. Magnum set a park trend for record-breaking coasters. In 2000, Cedar Point unleashed Millennium Force, the tallest (310 feet) and fastest (93 mph) full-circuit coaster in the world at that time. Three years later, it debuted Top Thrill Dragster, which, at 420 feet and 120 mph, again made Cedar Point home of the tallest and fastest roller coaster in the world (at least until it was later eclipsed in both categories).