Kings Dominion’s Intense NASCAR-Themed Giga Coaster Doesn’t Dissapoint
The train rockets around the final turn. Guests waiting in the queue hear it roar by and into the final brakes. Somehow the short stretch of magnetic brakes slow the charging train to a crawl. Immediately, the train erupts with adrenaline-fueled applause and laughter as Intimidator 305 has just delivered another thrilling, world-class ride. But how did this impressive giga coaster end up at Kings Dominion? Let’s take a look.
Kings Dominion’s Giga Coaster – Intimidator 305
In the Spring of 2009, there were the usual rumors of another roller coaster in the works for Kings Dominion. This year, one of the rumors making the rounds was for an Intamin Giga Coaster (roller coasters 300 to 399 feet tall). To me, it sounded like no more than a silly pipe dream from the Kings Dominion faithful. A hyper coaster seemed unlikely to me, but a giga coaster sounded like an impossibility as there was only one other Intamin Giga in existence (Millennium Force at Cedar Point). But, sure enough, June rolled around and Clint from KDFansite had the first images of massive red track that started showing up in the park’s parking lot. Apparently, Cedar Fair felt that Kings Dominion was in line for a new signature roller coaster and the Dale Earnhardt/NASCAR-themed giga coaster was going to be it. Intimidator 305 is the sixth tallest roller coaster on the planet and nearly a mile long at 5,100 feet.
The NASCAR/Earnhardht Theming & Trains
Intimidator 305’s station and plaza are similar to the other ride that bears the same theme, Intimidator at Carowinds. There’s a Chevy Monte Carlo #3 replica like the car Earnhardt raced, billboards that tout his accomplishments, a large picture of him on the side of the gift shop, and the front cars have the Monte Carlo’s hood. The similarities pretty much end there. The rides delivered by the two coasters couldn’t be more different. I’ll have a full Roller Coaster Showdown post up soon that’ll pit the rides against each other. There was a large queue area, but thanks to an on and off rainy day, it was mostly empty. As I entered the station, I noticed the Intamin-designed trains. The seats were much more upright and stiff than the open bucket seats found on the B&M-designed Intimidator. The new over-the-shoulder straps have been seen in European coasters, but are making their debut in America on this ride. The restraints may inhibit airtime a bit, but overall they’re comfortable and preferred to the hard horse collar-like restraints that were on the ride when it opened.
Gentlemen, Start Your Engines!
“Gentlemen, Start Your Engines!”, echoed throughout the station just before the train was quickly pulled out of the station and immediately up the steep (for a lift hill) 45-degree 300-foot peak. The climb is very fast and quiet as the rest of the park’s roller coaster hills quickly shrink to little mounds far below. If you sit on the right side of train you feel very exposed and get a great view of the seemingly small hills of Anaconda and Rebel Yell. I remember riding Anaconda as a kid and thinking that the ride’s 144-foot climb seemed so high. Then, as we approached the crest, the train seemed to speed up a bit as we began a steep 85 degree, 300 foot dive. I was briefly lifted out of my seat before the train returned to Earth and immediately entered a wide, high-speed, banked turn that hugged the ground. The g-forces are intense! Yet the ride remains smooth and pain free. People had been reporting that this was where they were graying out or blacking out. Thankfully, I didn’t experience anything more than a bit of lightheadedness on one of my six rides.
The train flew up and into a 150-foot tall hill that’s taller than most roller coaster’s lift hills. This hill produced more airtime towards the front of the train than the back, but very little air overall. Then, in a mini-preview of the madness to come the train banked to the left, flattened out, and then banked to the left again before entering another turn.
Attack of The Twisties!
Nothing Intimidator 305 had delivered so far had been all that special or unique. Sure, it was tall and fast, but things really got interesting at about the midway point. The train traversed a number of sharp transitional twists. They looked like simple changes in banking in the videos that I had seen, but they really don’t do them justice. The twists or twisties as Robb Alvey dubbed them in his POV video (below) forcefully tossed riders from one side to another. They weren’t violent or painful in anyway, just a heck of a lot of fun! After three of these insane high speed twists, the train traversed two back-to-back camel back hills providing some good, but not great airtime. The last of the two hills dropped the train into it’s final turn and twisted transition. The train was still charging down the track with plenty of speed and intensity as it climbed up and flattened out for the final brakes.
Intimidator 305 has been one of the toughest roller coasters in recent memory for me to rate. On one hand, the first half of the ride is exhilarating, but really nothing all that amazing. I’ve experienced many a high speed turn before and the drop didn’t feel as high as I thought it would. I honestly feel like I might have enjoyed Intimidator at Carowinds’ first drop (in the back seat) just as much. But, those transitional twists or twisties are very unique. They really help set Intimidator 305 a part from any of its hyper or giga coaster peers. They’re a new kind of thrill that some reported they got a short bit of airtime from. In fact, on Kings Dominion’s bobsled coaster Avalanche, you do get a bit of air on those transitions although at a much slower pace.
Thanks to the unique experience provided by the twisted elements, the ride’s overall intensity, and the agoraphobia-inducing experience offered by a sky-scraping Giga coaster, I award Intimidator 305 with a 9.0. It’s clearly not a 10, as 10’s blow me away. And it’s not just a notch below (9.5) as it’s more than an element or two away from a perfect. Final Rating – 9.0 (Excellent)
Here’s an onride video from Robb Alvey at Theme Park Review:
Note – This video was filmed by a professional with permission from the park.
For safety reasons, please DO NOT take a camera on a roller coaster.
Intimidator 305 is rated ‘IN’ for Intense. It’s a 4 out of 5 on my Thrill Scale for of its extreme height and speed.
Trims, Restraints, & Enthusiasts Complaints
I feel the need to set the record straight and give my take on a few things. From reading and watching the early reviews of Intimidator 305 by Robb Alvey and others, it was pretty clear that quite a few people were blacking out or graying out from the intensity of the ride. I’ve experienced this myself on Goliath at Six Flags Magic Mountain. While I enjoy an intense ride, I’d rather not experience something that serious. Since the complaints, Kings Dominion has adjusted the trim brakes to slow the trains slightly. Some enthusiasts have noted that they’ve felt trims and complained that the ride isn’t as intense as it was before.
Well, that’s the point. To me it’s common sense. Kings Dominion doesn’t want guests complaining about what many would consider “scary experiences” from their new signature ride. If you feel that the ride was better before, then please hold those rides dear, but you’re wasting your time by complaining. They have to build these mega attractions so that they suit the general public, not just the thrill junkies out there. For 99.99% of people, blacking out on a roller coaster is not a desired state. No matter if the airtime is better. And, for the record, I barely noticed the trims. On a few rides I realized that the trains speed was remaining constant when it probably should have been increasing. But, I never felt that the intensity was sapped out of the ride or that it was neutered in any way.
Early reports were that Intimidator 305 would have over-the-shoulder straps, not hard restraints like those found on looping coasters. I learned during the Q&A with park officials that due to a mix-up with Intamin the trains arrived with those hard horse collar-like restraints. They have since been swapped out for the straps and they are pretty comfortable and produced zero headbanging.
What’s Your Take?
What do you think about Intimidator 305 at Kings Dominion? Do you agree with my review? Leave a comment below. Image 5 courtesy of CoasterImage.