Amusement Parks: X2 ‘ Thrilling As Ever, Almost To A Fault

Recently, John Hogg and I spent a sweltering Sunday morning taking a couple of spins a�� pun intended a�� on the revamped X2 at Six Flags Magic Mountain amusement park. Briefly, it is probably as intense as I ever want a thrill ride to get.

To judge the overall success of the coaster’s recent multi-million dollar makeover based on that visit would be unfair. The mist and fireball effects were not working, so we got sort of an “X1.5” experience. But we certainly bore the brunt of X2’s raw power.

A quick recap of this coaster’s history: In late 2001, Magic Mountain debuted X, the world’s first “Fourth Dimension” roller coaster, an Arrow-designed monster with seats that rotated forward and backward, a 200-plus-foot-tall vertical drop and a top speed of 76 miles per hour.  Over the next few years, this massive prototype operated only sporadically, and when it did, its hours-long lines moved very slowly, due to the long and arduous train-loading procedure.

Finally, during the 2007 season, the park announced it was shutting down the coaster for a $10 million revamp, including a new paint job, redesigned trains with onboard audio, and the addition of some effects along the course. Over time, the park announced that the highlight of those effects would be a blast of flames to be shot out over the train. Very rock and roll.

The new look is a definite improvement. X’s former yellow and pink colors were, to put it kindly, unorthodox, and the new charcoal grey and blood-red scheme is much more in the grain of this ride’s badass nature. And the new, lighter trains have certainly improved through-put.  All three trains were running and the ride ops got them in and out of the station at a reasonable clip.

The on-board audio we both found to be a bit of a mixed bag. You can certainly enjoy it on the lift hill, but once over the top, the only sounds I can recall are the roar of the vehicles and my incessant screaming.

My greatest hope, although one the park has stressed was not a sure-fire outcome, was that the ride itself would be a tad less brutal with the lighter trains. That, we both agree, was not the case. A ride in the outer seats is at the far limit of what I’d consider acceptable, and I would not recommend it for newbies. The inner seats, closest to the wheel-base, are better, but still way up on the intensity scale.

All in all, though, X2 is still one of the most amazing roller coasters ever built and there are very, very few rides that offer an equal amount of gut-tightening horror. As the trains begin to spill over the initial vertical drop and the vehicles slowly rotate, tipping us face-down, and then completely inverting as we fall… that is some serious business. And the rest of the course is non-stop chaos. In total, I’ve probably ridden X/X2 about a dozen times, and I still can’t fully describe exactly what happens from start to finish.

Would I call it “fun?” In a sick way, yes. But this is not a ride I’d choose for a marathon. Once it’s over, I need some time to make sure all my internal organs are still where they should be.

But I’ll definitely be back to get flame-broiled.