TOP THRILL 2: An In-Depth Review of Cedar Point’s Newest Thrill Ride.


A roller coaster manufacturer known for its flat rides, family coasters, Wild Mice, and strange uncomfortable models; Zamperla is an easy target for the butt of all jokes. And now – they suddenly tackle a major overhaul of one of the most iconic roller coasters ever made.

Zamperla has now transformed one of the world’s most recognizable coasters, Top Thrill Dragster, into one of their own. The Cedar Point, Ohio ride would now utilize a new magnetic LSM launch, & instead of the impressive 0-120 mph launch, riders would traverse the same piece of track three times; once at 74mph, backward at 101mph, and then finally: the 120mph top speed during the final launch. 

The only unaltered track would be the huge 420-foot-tall Top Hat element; which, to be honest, was pretty much the entire ride before.  A large 420-foot spike would be added to the opposite end, changing the skyline forever.  They would face tough criticism the past couple of years for removing what many considered the best part of Top Thrill Dragster, the launch. The impressive mechanical sounds, the cables, the 0-120. They’re going all in on Top Thrill and now the public finally gets their first rides that they’ve been waiting years for.  Deep down we’re all rooting for them- but would the first days of operation be a success for the thousands that would line up for hours to ride?

Would you rather watch a video version that covers most points of this article? We’ve got you covered:

Let’s get right to the ride – you pull out of the station of Top Thrill and are met with a transfer track, it’s a bit unsettling that a moving piece of track is one that you’re about to travel 100mph over, but you quickly forget as it locks into the place and the ‘Ready To Go’ song is faintly heard in the background.  Gone are the dragster lights – the ride now has some F1 beep tones as you get set for lights out.

You launch 0-72 – it isn’t anything crazy, but you’re still really flying. The ride’s shakiness is felt a bit as you head up the 420-foot tower. It’s a good launch. You don’t reach quite vertical before you start to head back down, and now it’s time to hold on.  Getting up to 101mph is quite the rush, but the wind isn’t in your face. Holding your hands in the air isn’t really comfortable anymore as they’re pushed forward by the wind and with your body as you accelerate backward.

Many first riders talked about the backward launch being a high point of the ride – but I felt it to be one of the less enjoyable parts of the ride mentally. Sure, you can tell you’re traveling at 100, but I feel myself rather wanting to brace for the sudden positive G’s and slight roughness that is about to happen; it’s just more settling to hang on, keep your body upright, and let it happen. I mean maybe it’s that slight uneasiness that deep down actually has me enjoying this section?  You can tell you are going fast, and the G’s really are about to hit hard. Either way – it doesn’t take away from the ride or anything. 

The ‘roughness’ starts to come into play at this speed. It seems more prominent in some seats than others – but I can’t really put my finger on it. Row 9, Row 6, Row 4, all pretty rough. But then I found multiple rides after to all be very tolerable in the back and front. The positive G’s hit hard but they’re quick, no grey-out-moments are felt on this coaster at any point.

Sitting in the back car I decide to look backward at the track that is quickly coming to an end behind me. It’s pretty cool. Then I take in the views of Lake Erie, looking around and down at the top of Power Tower, you are really way up here – and it’s awesome – it lasts a good amount of time.  It’s a great moment of zen that is then interrupted by another bit of positive G’s; and you quickly notice you’re going really, really fast again.

Then: More LSM’s??!

You already feel like the speed you’re traveling at is pretty great – but the launch kicks in again, and it’s wild. You’re right back on Top Thrill Dragster and it feels just as good. I realize right now that I don’t even miss the launch because this final one feels just as crazy since you’re at this high speed for such a long time – and what is about to come – just got a whole lot better.  

What the hell!? I scream as we quickly twist to the right. And now. A quick pause in the ride experience here to talk about the Heartline:

Why did they cut into the support here? (Seen Below) It’s for extra clearance from the new trains.  The Heartline of a coaster is used to rotate the track around the rider’s chest to create a ride that humans can comfortably experience. This keeps the riders heart and head more in the middle of turns, and here is one of the first times that we see trains put on a track that they weren’t entirely designed for, trains that would usually call for a larger Heartline. Not only are riders sitting higher off the floor of this vehicle, those huge wheels also raise the height of the train off the track itself, and this upward 90° twist is the first moment you really notice this difference. The radius your body travels during the rotation is greater, and the turns are that much more amplified because of it.  Riders are whipped to the right & if you lean just a bit to the left: the feeling is even more amplified. 

It’s excellent. 

Over the Top Hat you’re out of your seat the entire time, every row experiences really nice negative G’s here that go on for the whole length of the element. The entry is super strong in the front of the train, the pull is heavy in the back, and the middle seats get the full ejector negatives throughout. (It appears the ride has unfortunately been slowed down since the first two weekends of operation)

Now, the downward spiral, one of the craziest moments of the new attraction and one that I really just found o.k. on the previous “Dragster.”

The small Heartline again has you flying closer to supports, whipping around at high speed that gets crazier and crazier as gravity has you gaining more and more speed.  The left side of the train is where I will always prefer to sit because of these spirals that try to throw you to the side and out of the train. The back row is insane here too.

You can even spot that notched-out support on the way down. 

The final pull-up and into the finish. Damn, that Top Hat was incredible – I’m thinking to myself. Braking is smooth and everyone is just as excited at how good the ride still is.

The older gentleman next to me says “I don’t remember the twist being that crazy!” but follows it up with a “Man, I thought it would be smoother,” with a slightly disappointed undertone, hinting at the fact that he wouldn’t be getting back in line; it was maybe just a bit too much for him. 

Me? I immediately I find it an improvement over the previous Dragster before the train even comes to a stop. The whole ride is there; it’s a complete ride.  It’s no longer a one-trick pony. It has portions that will spark conversations.People will now have opinions on which parts are the best; which seats are the best; what launch is their favorite. 

It is a little rough, not in a jackhammering type of way – but a shake. Sure, it takes away from the ride for me, but it isn’t too major. Many will find it plenty smooth. If you’ve been on Red Force at Port Aventura, this is a rougher ride. But they can make adjustments, and maybe we’ll see an improvement over time.

It’s a success.

The few first operating days of the ride are met with claps, hoots, and hollers as the trains pull back into the station. Zamperla should be extremely proud. 

When reviewing I like to break down the ride into 5 categories I feel are vital to making the perfect attraction:

Technicals: The length is improved, but the ride could be smoother; the throughput isn’t incredible. The trains are comfortable but maybe the higher seating adds to the shakiness. The lap-bars lock into place which gives extra comfort and no thigh-crushing.

Excitement. The adrenaline you get at 120mph speaks for itself, and they’ve added to it with the backward spike. It’s intense on the pull-ups yet still enjoyable. 

Pacing.  The pacing is fine, the ride continues to get better as it goes on, truly. Every element just kept getting more and more fun. 

Theming.  Because of the previous accident, queuing for the ride is met with high walls on either side of you instead of a view of the ride, so it’s quite the long and boring wait with the annoying Cedar Fair TVs that are just painful to watch and listen to. Everything is refreshed but it is very concrete and minimal. The music around the ride area is excellent, but the sound design is bad, with areas of silence when you aren’t standing directly next to a speaker.

I also thought that the large displays on either side of the entrance sign would be screens, but they look extremely tacky with these sticker graphics. No huge upgrade.

Uniqueness. It’s not the most unique ride, I mean come on, there’s 1 top hat that has been there 20 years, and a backward spike, but, it’s HUGE, so it works; and it’s awesome.

Many questioned why the spike is just a straight piece of track – it doesn’t twist? And: why doesn’t the launch have an airhill during it? Or: why didn’t they just launch it straight over the Top Hat?

I think this design is perfect, the ride is about speed and they knocked it out of the park, all of these questions are answered once you ride. 

The moments of straight tracks are unbelievable and it would’ve taken away from the ride to add an airhill during the launch; or a twist during the spike. It takes away the Positive forces, the Lateral forces – it just focuses your mind on the sheer speed at which you are traveling. I’ve been saying it for years: More rides need straight track.

Cedar Point has a winner on their hands, again. Top Thrill 2 is a top 3 coaster in the park; and the theme park has one of the best top-three lineups in the World, the Intamin of Maverick, the RMC of Steel Vengeance, and now, the Zamperla of Top Thrill 2. 

Austin is the owner of "AmusementInsider" and joined the Behind The Thrills team in 2020. The Social Media & YouTube-based outlet is one of the most recognizable names in the industry for all-things roller coasters, with unique videos & peeks into future attractions. Follow him on: Instagram and YouTube