Could You Handle Xcelerator, the Knott's Berry Farm Coaster?

Hold on Tight. This Is One Crazy-Fast Ride

Xcelerator coaster at Knotts Berry Farm
Cedar Fair Entertainment Company

Like the rest of Knott's Berry Farm, Xcelerator is a curious blend of the old and the new. While the park melds its Old-West Ghost Town with high-tech rides, the thrill machine blends a mid-century motif with a new-age coaster experience.

Using a sophisticated hydraulic launch system, the train positively screams out of the station; if your hair wasn't slicked back into a 50's Elvis-like do before you boarded the coaster, it will be about 2.3 seconds after the ride begins and you're Xcelerating 82 mph towards a 205-foot tower.

  • Thrill Scale (0=Wimpy!, 10=Yikes!): 7.5 for its incredible launch, acceleration, speed and height, plus a 90-degree descent
  • Coaster type: Hydraulic launch
  • Top speed: 82 mph
  • Minimum height to ride: 52 inches
  • Height: 205 feet
  • Drop: 205 feet
  • Ride time: 1 minute, 2 seconds

Mayhem Ensues

As with most launched coasters, Xcelerator is all about the launch—and what a launch! With trains tricked out like '57 Chevys, this baby peels rubber and accelerates on a straight section of track from O to 82 mph in 2.3 seconds. Nothing can quite prepare you for the extreme launch (although the ominous "PLACE YOUR HEAD AGAINST HEADREST" sign in the station does hint at the mayhem that's about to ensue).

Before you have a chance to catch your breath, you're soaring straight up a 205-foot "top hat" tower (so named because with its 90-degree incline and decline connected by a short arc at the top, it resembles the narrow, tall hats that were once in favor). There is some airtime as the coaster nears the top of the tower. The train takes a barely-there respite at it rounds the apex and then it's straight down—and we mean literally 90-degrees straight down—205 feet for a wild adrenaline rush.

Up to this point, and we're talking a matter of seconds, Xcelerator is a coaster for the ages. But, after the thrilling launch and top hat cruising, the ride is kind of nondescript. It includes a couple of highly overbanked turns (but no actual upside-down inversions). Despite the incredible pent-up energy, the coaster doesn't incorporate any bunny hills or other elements to deliver any significant additional airtime. 62 seconds after you blasted out of the station, you're in the brake run and wondering what the heck just happened. It's a short, but, yes, sweet ride.

Xcelerator, manufactured by Intamin AG of Switzerland, was the first coaster to use the ride manufacturer’s innovative hydraulic launch system. It uses a catch car that is powered by powerful hydraulic motors and attached to the chassis of the trains to send passengers tearing out of the station.

Since its debut, both Top Thrill Dragster at Ohio's Cedar Point and Kingda Ka at New Jersey's Six Flags Great Adventure, two similar hydraulic launch coasters, have eclipsed the Knott's coaster in speed and height. At a staggering 425 feet, Kingda Ka reigns as the world’s tallest roller coaster. Formula Rossa at Ferrari World in the United Arab Emirates, which also uses Intamin’s launch system, clocks in at 149 mph and is the fastest coaster in the world.

In 2017, Intamin built Red Force at Ferrari Land, part of Port Aventura in Salou, Spain. While the coaster looks similar to Xcelerator and other hydraulic launch coasters, it features electro-magnetic propulsion to get it up to speed. LSM motors launch Red Force up a 367-foot top hat tower at 112 mph.

A coaster that climbs 205 feet and hits 82 mph is nothing to sneeze at and is plenty thrilling. But there are other coasters that rise much higher and reach considerably faster speeds than Xcelerator. See the 10 tallest roller coasters in the world and the world's 10 fastest roller coasters. And while Xcelerator pours on the thrills, it doesn't make the list of the scariest roller coasters. Other wild coasters at Knott's include the wooden Ghost Rider, the inverted Silver Bullet, and HangTime, an Infinity coaster that features a long pause at the top of the lift hill before it drops.