Someone says, “This was a bad idea.” Another rider says, “I think I can see Atlanta”. Meanwhile, Intimidator’s black and red NASCAR-themed train ascend further and further into the sky. I look over my left shoulder and I can see Charlotte’s cluster of skyscrapers in the distance. Most of the other riders are glued to their seats bracing for the ensuing plunge. Twenty stories below, people look like insects as the train finishes its climb and rolls over the 232 foot peak. Finally, the train plummets down the largest drop most riders have ever experienced.

Years of Anticipation
After more than a year of speculation and construction, I was riding Carowinds new roller coaster Intimidator. I had been hoping for a large new ride since the Carolina Cobra Media Day back in March of 2009. The log flume ride had been removed which kick started rumors of a new ride for 2010. Die hard Carowinds fans have been waiting much longer for a for a ride this big. The park hadn’t received a large new coaster since 2004’s Nighthawk (formerly BORG). After clues and hints both real and fake (White Lightning?) the official announcement was made in August. Carowinds is now home to the longest, fastest, and tallest roller coaster in the South East. Fittingly, for a North Carolina based-ride, the roller coaster has a NASCAR theme and it bears the nickname of possibly the most famous stock car driver of all time, Dale Earnhardt “The Intimidator”.

Start Your Engines: Loading & the NASCAR-themed Trains
As I approached Intimidator’s queue I was happy to find a single rider line. Guests who enter this separate line for the ride can expect to have their wait time cut in half. The only downside is that you won’t be able to ride with your group. Intimidator’s black Chevy Monte Carlo-themed trains seat four guests in each row. When guests from the main queueboard in a group of three, one person from the single rider line is added to their row. This assures that the trains are fully loaded, which in turn helps to keep the lines moving. I waited about twenty minutes on my four rides. I asked people from the main queue and they said their wait was about 40 minutes or more. The comfortable bucket seats are elevated so your feet can swing freely and there are no walls surrounding the cars. On B&M hyper coasters like Intimidator, you’re basically riding in an elevated chair with nothing around you. The comfortable contoured lap bars have handles on them for those who wish to brace themselves. The enthusiastic ride op asked everyone if they were ready. After an excited response, he dispatched us as a voice over the speakers exclaimed: “Start Your Engines!”.

Intimidator’s Course
After the 40-plus second climb to the top, the train dove down 211 feet reaching over 75 miles per hour. As I expected there’s some air on the way down that 74 degree drop. Almost immediately, we climbed the second hill which has a turn at the top and some interesting banking. The train travels back down and then back up again for a traditional parabola shaped hill. Each time the train traveled close to the ground, the speed seemed even more intense.

Next up, is the hammerhead at the far end of the ride’s course near the South Entrance and Top Gun/Afterburn. As the train rises up, it banks slightly to the right and then left again as it pushes skyward into a heavily banked u-turn a hundred feet in the air. Coaster enthusiasts will recognize this element from Nitro at Six Flags Great Adventure. I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve seen this element before, but it wasn’t as much fun as I expected.

On the way back to the station, the train flies through two more textbook camelback shaped hills. Near the lift hill, the train enters a brake run that briefly slows the train before it drops down a small hill. Intimidator’s finale is a pretty force-less, pretzel-shaped, downward helix followed by another small hill. The final magnetic brakes gave riders quite a jolt. Trains returned with applause and riders eager to jump back in line. The guests enthusiasm was fun to see as I’m sure many had never ridden a hyper coaster.

Seating Is Key: The Air Up There
Seating for Intimidator is assigned by a ride op as you enter the station. While this helps to keep the line moving, itwon’t allow you to make sure that you experience the ride from every row. Guests basically have to “gamble” and hope they get lucky by being placed in an area of the train that they haven’t ridden in yet. How important is where you sit? While Intimidator doesn’t disappoint from any seat, the airtime (moments when you’re lifted out of your seat) varied greatly. On my first two rides I was placed in the 5th car and the 6th car and I was unimpressed by the little air that I experienced. There was only a little floater air while the train descended the hills. A ride in the second to last car seemed to produce even less air than the middle.

Luckily, I got to experience Intimidator in the very front car, right center seat. Surprisingly, the air in the front was of the ejector variety. I was being lifted pretty forcefully on nearly every hill right at the crest, starting with a surprising lift at the top of that cool banked second hill. Again, airtime is abundant in the front of the train and minimal in the middle and back. I’m not typically a big fan of the front seat, but the airtime and the added effects of the view and the wind in your face, make the front seat of Intimidator one of the best seats in the country.

My Take
I put Intimidator on par with the other top-notch hyper coasters that I’ve ridden. It has height, speed, a smooth comfortable ride and abundant airtime (in some seats). I’m a bit perplexed by the airtime discrepancy towards the back and I’d love to hear from others who have ridden Diamonback at Kings Island or Behemoth at Canada’s Wonderland as those two coasters also have B&M’s new trains. Still, Intimidator is a solid ride with no real flaws, it just doesn’t blow away the competition. Which, for a long-time enthusiast is pretty stiff. Final Rating – 9.0 (Excellent)

Here’s a professional Intimidator POV video:


Note – This video was filmed by professionals with permission from the park. For safety reasons, please DO NOT take a camera on a roller coaster.

Also, you can see more images on my Facebook Page. If you become a fan, you’ll know as soon as I upload new images. Go here for more images of Intimidator.

Intense Roller Coasters - For Adventurous RidersIntimidator is rated ‘IN’ for Intense. It’s a 4 out of 5 on my Thrill Scale for of its height and speed.

What’s Your Take?
Have you ridden Intimidator at Carowinds? What’d you think? Do you agree with my rating? Leave a comment below.

39 Responses

  1. Mike

    Love the pics and great to hear your anticipated review. I'm taking the wife TO Kings Dominion this weekend for her 1st ride on Intimidator 305. Hopefully you'll get to KD sometime in the next few years to experience that one!!

    Reply
  2. Prof. BAM

    A Hammerhead is an element that I so wish to ride. As for removing the log Flume, good riddance. I hate Log Flumes in general. Last time I rode a log Flume, I was behind my sister and her friends. on the one big drop, I hit my head so hard on her shoulder that she thought it was my teeth. ten minutes later I found a little blood in my hair from the contact. Log Flumes pretend to be coasters. Waste of money. You could read War and Peace while waiting in an average flume line, and then again while riding it, before the halfway point.

    Reply
    • Judy P in Pgh

      Hey, Prof., you may want to rethink that if you get the chance to ride with a girlfriend!

      Reply
      • Tom

        I've only ridden two, but to me, Hammerheads are kind of boring. When I rode Nitro, (which was my first coaster with a Hammerhead), I thought it would be a lot more than what it was. 🙁

        P.S. CC, I think you might have made a mistake. You said you rated it thrilling, but the picture says intense.

  3. Judy P in Pgh

    This hammerhead was much slower than the ones on Nitro or Goliath. My favorite part of Intimidator was the 2nd hill. It is a unique feeling to crest the hill and turn to the right at the same time. Neither of my rides were near the front, so I didn't get the airtime that Joel mentioned. The seats are comfy, just like Diamondback, but it sure felt like Diamondback packed a lot more speed. I will say that the Intimidator crew did a good job of working the crowd, especially on the last runs of the evening!

    Reply
  4. Kevin

    Agreed. The airtime in the front is much more noticeable than in the back of the train — much more difference than I would have expected. The length of the ride and the number of hills provide plenty of time to experience the sensation of being pulled from your seat. The seat design definitely leaves you feeling vulnerable as you push up against the lap restraint from the crest of each hill down to the bottom. This was my first "Hammerhead", and I'll say it looked much more thrilling in the CG previews than it was in reality. This coaster is a great compliment to the others @ Carowinds, of which there are numerous different types (Afterburn remains my favorite).

    Reply
  5. CFC

    Hey CC, is this ride in your top 10 steel coasters? I ask this since three of the rides in that list have the same rating as Intimidator, and Afterburn is considered an Honorable Mention. Is it? Because it is #1 all time in my book!

    Reply
  6. Coasterluva97

    why does this one look so much slower on the lift hill then the one in VA?

    Reply
    • The Coaster Critic

      Good question. They're different roller coasters made by different companies. Kings Dominion's Intimidator 305 is taller so the makers (Intamin) gave it a faster lift hill so it wouldn't take forever to reach the top.

      Reply
  7. Gearhart

    Just got back from a southern coaster trip that focused around seeing Intimidator and I don't know if it's always been like this, but going over the first hill after the hammerhead turn around, the trim brakes SIGNIFICANTLY slowed the train down. It was almost to the point that it made the second half borderline boring. It was still a great ride, but Goliath and Apollo's Chariot put it to shame.

    Reply
  8. CoasterDude

    After my three rides (in row 3 "second car first row", in row 8 "fourth car second row, and in row 16 "the last row of the train"), I can see that this ride gives varying experiences. The front of the train gives the ejector air cresting the hills. The middle of the train gives floating air as the train glides over the hills. The back gives pretty intense air on the way down the hills, and pretty strong positive g's in the valleys. While I will say that the other B&M hypers of the south (Apollo's and Goliath) do have more air, Intimidator is more intense than those two, especially in the back. I can't help but think this has everything to do with the new trains, as I imagine the longer the train, the more varying of experiences from front to back. The trims, like Gearhart states, do kick in pretty hard, but may be something Carowinds adjusts in the future. IMO, they didn't take away from the ride too much, but I could imagine some people thinking otherwise.

    Reply
  9. Nick

    I've ridden Diamondback 18 times in the front, back, and middle. No matter where you sit, there is tons of airtime. In the front you get a great view but a little less airtime. In the back seat it's a little rough on the bottom parts of hills, but if you aren't at the very bottom of hills you get massive airtime. On the first hill the front is neat because you hang over the edge for a few seconds. The back is good on the first hill because you get thrown over it with massive airtime. In the splashdown finale the back is neat because you can turn backwards and see all the water coming up. Over all, Diamondback is an outstanding ride.

    Reply
  10. CaliforniaGurl

    I grew up between Magic Mountain & Knotts Berry Farm and was a seasoned rider/thrill seeker- Sadly I haven't ridden any coaster since 1994—-then I moved to G'Ville NC in '09—-and I am hooked—- giga mega hyper and hammerheads aside— the Intimidator has ignited a my old passion for the ride…I giggled like a teenager with a crush all the way home…I am all giggles writing this comment…

    KD's next on my list unless anyone suggests other wise, and that I-305 ride looks at lot more forceful than the smooth pillow tease of Carowinds.

    Reply
  11. CaliforniaGurl

    I forgot to mention- as I was on the lift( for the Intimidator)- the fireworks shows around SC/NC are had just begun—it was surreal and just what I needed after a 15 year riding hiatus!

    Reply
  12. PhantomGremlin

    The Intimidator has since changed many of its policies since it opened. I went this morning and happily rode 5 times in about a 30 minute span with a group of two.

    Reply
  13. CFC

    Well, CC, you rode the Intimidator again yesterday. Was it any better this time than the first day you rode it.

    Reply
    • The Coaster Critic

      It actually was a bit better. Like many coasters, Intimidator runs faster at night so that may have had something to do with it. The 6 night rides were really cool. My three rides in the back seat had more air than I remember. Also, the pull that you get going down the first drop felt much stronger (from the back seat). You get to experience all 211' of that drop with some great air! The middle had minimal air, but the front was just as good as I remember. Like I said in my review, it's very important where you site on Initmidator.

      I'll have a number of posts about the event up soon.

      Reply
      • Mike

        Wife and I rode it 15 times this past weekend. We were lucky enough to be assigned to the either the back or front a couple of times each. I thought both the front and back provided great airtime especially forceful ejector air unlike any B&M hyper I've rode before(AC and Nitro) and were essentially equal. For that reason Intimidator is my favorite Hyper and one of my new favorite coasters. A few commenters mentioned trims and I've seen that mentioned on other forums also so it seems that makes a difference (of course) in the ride experience.

      • The Coaster Critic

        Mike, glad that you came down here and got to ride Intimidator. It's definitely a great ride. Did you experience that pop of airtime at the top of the second hill? That was pretty unusual to me.

      • Mike

        Most definitely I did and that is one reason I don't feel B&M's are as "cookiecutter" as a lot of people think. Nothing like the feeling of being dumped out the side of a coaster! I don't know the dimensions of the ride but it seemed like the inclines were steeper than what I'm used to on Hypers. Maybe it was just my perception. The airtime on the 3rd and 5th hills(i think) were just unbelievable. I mentioned in another comment but this was the first time I counted the seconds of airtime and two of those hills were at least 6 seconds of continous airtime which felt like ejector into floater. That just blew me away. I don't think the last part of the ride is bad but it doesn't live up to say Apollo's last few hills. I was impressed with the park and I'm jealous you live so close.

      • Mike

        Yep looking forward to it and the new one at Hersheypark!

  14. NC-Mike

    My sons and I pride ourselves in riding world class coasters. We have traveled several times to Parks and have ridden Goliath (Ga.), Millenium Force, Maverick, Magnum XL, Top Thrill Dragster (Oh.), Apollo's Chariott, Griffon (Busch Gar. Va.), The Hulk, Dueling Dragons, RIP Hollywood (Universal, Fl.) Montu, Kumba, and Shreikra (Busch Gar. Fl.)

    Today we rode the Intimidator at Carowinds numerous times. As stated earlier, similar to Apollo's Chariott, the front seat ride significantly enhances the expereince. While the first drop is dramatic, the exhillerating experience was excellerating through the crest of several peaks as you rise in your seat. Smoother than all other speed coasters except Millenium Force. I rate this coaster 2nd behind only Mellinium Force for the overall experience because of length and speed.

    Reply
    • CFC

      So, you say this is the best B&M coaster you've ever ridden, since MF is Intamin?

      Reply
  15. Cameron

    This is a great ride. However I believe I got more air and a better experience on the "dinosaur" of hypers in AC.. I will admit I am biased towards AC, but I honestly believe it is a better ride. Not to say this isn't good.. Its actually very good. Coming in 2nd to AC in my book is very good.. What do you think TheCC? Does this stand up to AC in your mind?

    Reply
    • Mike

      Hey Cameron. I rode Intimidator 15 times this past weekend for the first time and I've had probably over 30 rides on AC and I liked Intimidator better. I felt the air was better because it seemed to be more ejector air into floater air at times while AC just seemed to be floater.

      Reply
    • The Coaster Critic

      They have a similar overall feel as they're made by the same company, but Raging Bull's layout is tighter and more compact while Intimidator's layout is out and back. RB's got more twists and turns, while Intimidator is hillier.

      Reply
  16. Riley

    BEST COASTER EVER!!!! I dont like looped rides but this one is so awesome! The front is the best to me. The very back sure does sling you over the hills and makes it as if you were "floating"!

    Reply
  17. Surya

    Having ridden this one a couple of times when I was at the park in 2011, I can confirm that the first 2 rows are the best for this coaster. Great airtime, very enjoyable and endlessly rerideable!

    Reply

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