Hydraulic launch coasters belong in a category by themselves. On my first visit to Cedar Point last year, someone who struck up a conversation with me said he thought that Top Thrill Dragster was better than Kingda Ka. Having now ridden both, I wouldn’t necessarily agree or disagree. The two coasters are so similar in design and the ride experience is so parallel that it’s a toss-up – although the fact that Kingda Ka has the additional element of a 100-foot hill after the descent from the top would tend to give it a slight edge. Anyway, Dragster is not a ride for the faint of heart. The acceleration from 0 to 120 mph in a matter of seconds is enough to shock you almost senseless or give you a heart in the throat sensation along with a huge rush of adrenaline. It’s a feeling of omigod, here we go and it happens so fast that you don’t even have time to think about it. Before you know it, you’re rocketing up the 420-foot hill, twisting 90 degrees before reaching the top. Then it’s back down with another twist and you cross the finish line. It’s over in a flash; according to official stats, the ride time is only 17 seconds. But it’s a very, very intense 17 seconds and quite an experience.
Given the extreme height and speed of Dragster, I was surprised to find that unlike Kingda Ka, which uses over the shoulder harnesses, Dragster uses only a lap bar and seat belt as a restraint. But it works - except that I found my elbows getting knocked about whereas this didn’t happen on Kingda Ka because of the harness. One thing I particularly liked about this ride is that it’s wide out in the open and even has a grandstand where people can sit and observe, like a real drag race. In terms of theming, Dragster has it all over Kingda Ka but the theming doesn’t necessarily make for a better ride experience. The general consensus would appear to be that TTD is better than KK although I am inclined to think otherwise. One thing I didn’t like about the ride is that apart from the spectacular launch, nothing really happens, so that I didn’t find it to be as satisfying a ride experience as Millennium or Maverick. 3 ½ out of 5 stars. For more information about rides at Cedar Point, visit www.cedarpoint.com/ Photographs courtesy of www.coasterimage.com/ and Flickr.