Busch Gardens Europe’s Griffon Soars Busch Gardens Europe has unveiled their first new roller coaster since 1999. The long-awaited addition, introduces America’s second dive coaster. With SheiKra, at sister park Busch Gardens Africa, being the first. I rode SheiKra not long after it opened in 2005 and I was a little underwhelmed. So, I was nervous when my favorite park announced it was installing its own dive coaster that was to be very similar to SheiKra. Luckily, BGE has pulled through once again with a great roller coaster.
As usual Busch Gardens has done an excellent job integrating the new roller coaster into the park. You wouldn’t know that Griffon had only opened about a month ago. When I visited, the station, landscaping, and shops of New France were all complete. I arrived at the park as it was opening on a Tuesday morning. My first ride was in the farthest to the right seat of the second of the three 10 seat rows. I only waited about 10 minutes. I boarded the floorless trains, that boasted stadium-style seating so riders in the second and third rows had improved views.
The steep climb was slow and foreboding. The view was amazing. A large body of water I didn’t remember seeing from other lifts was easily visible in the distance. As was Alpengeist’s ridiculously high peak, down below! The train crept around the tall summit and then came to an abrupt halt. Then it slowly pulled over the edge and locked in place. Riders screamed in fear at the sight of the ground 20-some stories below. After a long five seconds, the train was released and the ensuing drop was enormous. (I found it fun in the middle row, but much better in the back row.) The train plummeted down 205 feet at 90-degrees offering a lift of air on the way down. Onlookers offered “oohs”,”aahs”, and all kinds of expletives as they watched the strange-looking mass of 30 screaming riders take the ultra-steep plunge. At the bottom of the drop, the train dove into a trench that passed under a walking bridge packed with people gawking at the sight.
On the other side, the train climbs up an immelmann. It’s a kind of inversion or loop. I prefer SheiKra’s extra-large 145′ immelmann, but Griffon’s is still fun. After leaving the loop, the train screeched around a corner and up into the brake run. After passing through the short brake run and the train crept towards the second 90-degree drop. It’s much shorter (140′), but still fun and offers a little bit of air. The following immelmann is smaller and tighter than the first and is more like the fighter jet maneuver the inversion was named after.
After exiting the loop a short bunny hill offers some good floater air as the train charges into the water splash section. It’s very cool to look at as a bystander, but it has little effect on the actual ride, other than slowing the trains down. Riders in the back may get sprinkled lightly, but that’s about it. Kids love waiting in the nearby walking path so they can be soaked by the resulting deluge of water. After the splash, there’s a banked turn to the left followed by another bunny hill. This short hill offers a last moment of air as riders face an structure that creates a headchopper effect. After safely passing under the structure, the train enters the station brakes and the ride is over.
All-in-all Griffon is a great addition to Busch Gardens Europe’s already stellar lineup. It’s not the Second Coming, but it does meet the high standard of the park’s other world-class roller coasters. Even if it is on the short side. Final Rating – 8.5 (Great Approaching Excellent)
Griffon is rated ‘IN’ for Intense. It’s a 4 out of 5 on my Thrill Scale for of its steep drop, loops, height, and speed.
What’s Your Take? Have you ridden Griffon? What did you think? Leave a comment below.