Since 1990, the Texas Giant roller coaster at Six Flags Over Texas has been a somewhat divisive experience. For years, it remained on numerous coaster fans' top-10 list; but for many, the ride was a beast.
Until 2009, the Giant was a traditional wooden roller coaster with wood-layered tracks and steel rails. It was a rough, fast and sometimes jarring ride that coaster aficionados loved.
The last trip on the "original" Texas Giant occurred at the end of the '09 season. At that time, Six Flags announced a season-long closure and complete re-design of the 19-year-old attraction.
During the 2010 season, the original tracks were removed and replaced with red steel rails. The drops were steepened and the curves were newly banked. New, more modern trains were also added; and some portions of the ride layout were removed and completely changed.
At a special event on Thursday, Six Flags unveiled the new thriller to the media and to a few selected VIPs. WFAA.com got a chance to be one of the first to ride.
Forget every preconception you have about the Texas Giant, this new coaster is completely different.
For starters, the seats are incredibly comfortable. They're bucket-like, roomy and accompanied by a simple padded lap bar that keeps you snug and secure without crushing your legs.
Slightly unnerving, but ultimately thrilling, are the front sections of each coaster car. They're completely open... you can see down to the track and wheels. During a ride, if your brain allows, it's quite spectacular to look down and see the track rushing beneath you.
The traditional boxy vehicles are gone. The coaster cars are now... cars. Cadillacs to be precise. Each train takes the form of a long red, blue or black classic car. Riders at Thursday's event were claiming the black train to be the best, but WFAA.com can neither confirm or deny this.
Once you're securely seated and headed out of the loading station, riders of the "old" Giant will be shocked at the smoothness of the new ride. It's not just "kind of" smooth, it's glass-smooth... like riding in an opulent luxury car. It feels more like gliding than coasting. It's that good.
After quickly climbing the first hill, you're immediately plunged into an incredibly steep 79-degree drop. Riding in the back of the train makes the angle feel even greater as you're pulled over the top of the lift at incredible speed.
What follows the initial dive is almost hard to comprehend on the first few rides. The New Giant absolutely doesn't let up for the next two minutes.
Riders experience a ridiculous amount of what enthusiasts call "airtime" or those "out-of-your-seat" floating moments that punctuate every great roller coaster. If you're in the front portions of the train, you'll "float" over almost every hilltop for the rest of the journey. It's a tummy tickler, especially the surprisingly lively drop underneath the lift-hill
And then there are the turns... some over-banked at 90-plus degrees. That's practically upside-down. This is unusual for a wooden coaster, but the New Giant's unique hybrid of traditional lumber mixed with modern steel makes this possible. As you turn, everything feels graceful and precise, like how you'd imagine a ride in a fighter jet. There's not a lot of side-to-side jostling that was common in the corners of the old ride.
The final 20 seconds of the pre-2011 Giant were arguably its best moments. Three new tunnels cover this updated portion of the ride and make for a completely different sensory experience. Where the old coaster actually felt as if it were mysteriously accelerating towards the end, the New Texas Giant is already blasting into these final bunny hops at tremendous speed. You get "airtime," darkness, flashing lights, glimpses of daylight and camera flashes as you bounce into the ending brakes. It's hilarious overload.
So how does the New Texas Giant compare to the rest of the coasters at Six Flags Over Texas? It's arguably the best one yet. As a matter of fact, it's one of the best roller coasters I've ever ridden (I've got several hundred rides under my belt).
There's surely to be continuing controversy among the coaster "obsessives" about whether the New Texas Giant is a wooden roller coaster or a steel coaster. Six Flags Over Texas calls it a "hybrid" coaster. For all coaster fans, one ride should convince them it doesn't matter how the New Giant is classified, because it can only be described as "awesome." And "incredible". And "amazing." And a whole lot of other glowing, gushing and happy words.
The New Texas Giant is now open to the public at Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington, Texas.
Let us know what you thought of the ride in the comments below.