Iron Gwazi- A review
Well its been a long time since I did my Zadra review on this page. So what better way to make a return than with a review for yet another RMC hyper hybrid with Iron Gwazi??
So Gwazi originally opened in 1999 at Busch Gardens Tampa as a GCI dueling wooden coaster. During its opening few years it was quite well liked and proved somewhat popular with park goers until later on in its life it became notorious for offering a rough and unpleasant experience. Full disclosure, the originally Gwazi was actually my outright most hated coaster out of all the ones I have ridden. I found it completely unbearable to ride and just unspeakably rough to the point I was begging for a ride on Furius Baco. So as you could imagine, when RMC made their rise to prominence in the coaster community I was very much one of those hoping to the heavens that Gwazi would be getting the world famous conversion. Sure enough, in 2015 Gwazi finally shut for the last time and instantly the coaster community leaped on the rumours of RMC finally coming to town. Years went by with no activity on Gwazi and then finally in 2019, Iron Gwazi was announced by Busch Gardens. On opening it would become the fastest hybrid with a speed of 76MPH,steepest with a 91 degree drop and would tie with Zadra for the tallest at a height of 206 foot.
Originally booked for a 2020 opening, Iron Gwazi would be delayed due to the covid 19 pandemic which saw the entire Busch/Seaworld chain postpone all their new coaster additions across their parks back to 2021. In the midst of all this, reports stated that Busch still owed 9 million dollars to RMC for the construction of Iron Gwazi. So this further delayed the rides opening allegedly. Following a further delay, Iron Gwazi finally opened in the spring of 2022. It would open to rave reviews with many considering it the greatest coaster on the planet and the coaster to topple Steel Vengeance for RMCs finest work. So now I shall give my own thoughts on Iron Gwazi.
First impressions of Iron Gwazi are impressive. It is located right at the front of the park and as such is the first coaster you encounter on entering Busch Gardens. The large lift structure and drop making for one hell of a spectacle in front of you. For me personally it was a nice bonus to NOT have to trek right to the back of the park like you would have to do with Steel Vengeance and even more so with Zadra!!
On walking to the plaza area of Iron Gwazi, you are greeted to the massive purple tracked hybrid with its station building which maintains the same aesthetic of the original coaster in a nice tribute whilst also having the rides signature wave turn over station as a centre piece element for those joining the queue. All in all, Iron Gwazi makes for a good and dominating first impression
Queuing experiences and operations
The good news, Iron Gwazi will not make you walk for 7-8 minutes to reach the front of the queue line like its polish cousin Zadra does. The bad news?? Iron Gwazi utilises a “stereotypical American amusement park queue" of many switch backs that take you from the lower level of the station building, up a ramp which offers nice views of the prelift and lift hill before reaching the station which features more switch backs which slalom towards the airgates to board the ride. So Iron Gwazi has far from the most exciting queue design in the world. However, on reaching the station, the back of the station offers some wonderful views of the coaster in action for you to take in as you await your ride. One positive with the queue is the audio sountrack present. Iron Gwazi utilises a zoned audio system with three soundtracks playing that get more ominous the closer you get to riding. A very nice touch. Iron Gwazi also utilises a paid locker policy for any bags. You WILL need to put bags in the locker and this is quite strictly enforced. For those with smaller items however, Iron Gwazi features zipper pouches under your seat on the train.
Now, my negatives of Iron Gwazi are very limited. However one MEGA peeve I had with Iron Gwazi across both days I had at Busch Gardens was the operations. Now anyone who is familar with riding an RMC and have ridden either Zadra or Untamed will be familiar with the loading procedure of the rider puts JUST the seatbelt on and then the ride op does the bar. Well Iron Gwazi is an exception to the rule and allows the rider to do both. Sounds great right??. Wrong!! Once the rider puts his seatbelt on, they are made to await a recorded announcement to place the bar down.
This announcement comes AFTER the staff have checked the seatbelt and to top it off, by the time the announcement comes, the previously dispatched train has already concluded its ride and is now sat in the breaks. So in other words, the previous train has navigated the whole layout before the current loading train has even had the bars put down. So dispatches very regularly hit the 5 minute mark. So all in all, the operations on Iron Gwazi was pretty diabolical
The ride experience
So on boarding the wonderful looking crocodile themed train with its familiar RMC restraints with the lapbar and shinguard which may or may not cause discomfort depending on the body time (RMC restraints don’t seem to agree with larger riders whatsoever), you are dispatched out the station with dispatch audio blasting out to accompany the train out the station. Turning round to the left, the train swoops down a small hop which may catch riders towards the back offguard before heading up the 206 foot lift hill
The views from this lift are fantastic with riders able to see both out to the city of Tampa and across the park. As the train hits the top, it will slow down a little to build up some additional suspense before plummeting down the 91 degree drop which yes is the steepest on an RMC hybrid. This drop is sensational. Absolutely sensational!! If you are at the front you will get a nice moment of just hanging there before quickly building up speed and if you are at the back, you are absolutely pulled up and out of your seat. Now one difference the drop on Iron Gwazi has compared to Zadra and Steel Vengeance is that the drop banks out to the right a little towards the bottom of the drop whereas the other two come straight out. The twist at the bottom will slam riders back into their seat with some pretty strong positive G force whereas the straight out exit on the other two allows the rider to be out their seat for longer. So which drop is better will be down to your own preference but for me, the mixture of force on this drop and how it suddenly goes from negative to positive G force coupled with a pretty darn good headchopper towards the bottom with the support beams means Iron Gwazi has my favourite drop on an RMC.
On exiting the drop, the train flies up into the rides outerbank turn. Comparions with the outerbank on Steel Vengeance are inevitable here. Now, whilst I personally prefer the Steel Vengeance outerbank, the violent side to side action you get on this one can not be sniffed at and it is a very good moment of airtime offered in both front and back rows. On exiting the outerbank the train goes through another moment of strong positive G force before heading up into the rides signature element and what I personally regard as the best inversion on the planet (sorry Velocicoaster and the Mosasaurus roll!!), the death roll!!
The death roll is absolute amazing. With you leaning one way, the death roll whips you VERY STRONGLY in the other direction down a barrel roll drop which is both disorientating and incredibly violent. If you are in the back row, you are really going to get whipped through this violently it is simply the best inversion I have encountered.
Following the death roll, the ride goes into its “second" inversion which is a cutback/overbanked turn (whichever you want to call it) which again offers a nice moment of airtime on the exit of the element as the train is pulled down towards ground level. This is one of the three advertised inversions that RMC and busch say the ride features. It is very much another inclined loop on the swarm style ones in regards to if you do or do not consider it an actual inversion. Nonetheless another good element before the train whizzes from this into another great element which is the wave turn over the station.
This wave turn is manys favourite element on the ride and with good reason, the riders are suddenly thrown to the right with some amazingly strong sideways airtime before having yet another cool near miss with the rides lift hill. This is a much better wave turn than the one found on Zadra as its more sustained and allows riders to take it in a little more whereas the Zadra equivalent ends before you can really take it in. Another strong airtime moment follows as does another wave turn in the other direction before the train enters a zero g stall. This zero g stall whilst the least picturesque out of this,Zadra and wildfire is actually my favourite stall on an RMC with how it rides. The train still takes the element quite fast whilst also offering a really nice hangtime moment which personally I found a pretty weird but awesome combination.
On exiting the stall, the train navigates a series of very strong airtime pops before taking a turn with yet more good positive G force before finishing with a bang as the train enters arguably its strongest airtime moment as it navigates a final airtime hop through yet another incredible headchopper before slamming into the breaks to conclude your ride on Iron Gwazi. Whilst it would have been nice to end with an inversion like Zadra or Untamed, I still thought this finale was a nice way to cap of the experience. Each airtime moment delivered with each getting stronger before the final one which was incredibly strong. So your ride on Iron Gwazi has ended. The train will then go past a nice tribute to the original Gwazi with the car fronts hanging on the wall of the shed on the right of the rider. After a long wait due to the ops, you return to the station to offload and go back round again...because why wouldnt you want to ride this incredible coaster as often as possible!?
I really don’t think any compliment I can pay Iron Gwazi will do the ride its full justice. It is a pure elite level coaster. It is fast,intense,airtime filled and relentless from start to finish. Every element flows so well from one to the other with each element offering a different sensation from the last. It is most definitely the most violent and intense coaster out of the RMC I have done and yet also manages to be the most rerideable of them.
In regards to front row or back row. Honestly?? They are both as good as each other. Where Steel Vengeance is definitely a back row coaster and Zadra is a front row coaster, Iron Gwazi is every bit as amazing regardless of front or back. The front row offers the greater sensations of speed and intensity where the back offers the more whippier and stronger airtime experience. Iron Gwazi offers front and back seperate queues so it is easy to get your desired row if you are willing to wait longer and I definitely recommend trying both.
The use of headchoppers and near misses on this ride also massively add to the experience. It is simply one thing that RMC have perfected in their coaster designs. The drop and wave turn offer arguably the best headchoppers on the ride and when you have hands up, you do genuinely feel you are inches away from smashing them off the supports. This coupled with the rides ferocious 76mph speeds really does make for some incredible moments.
Even though the drop to break duration is around 45 seconds, Iron Gwazi by no means feels short when you ride it. A lot of shorter duration coasters can somewhat leave you feeling short changed when you hit the breaks. Iron Gwazi is certainly not one of those coasters. You very much do feel you have got great value out of the coaster when it concludes.
There are two big questions that often associate with Iron Gwazi. Is it the best RMC and is it the best coaster in Florida?? For as great as Iron Gwazi is, the answer to both is no. Velocicoaster for the sheer package offered with that to go with the already immense coaster means I lean more towards Velocicoaster for Floridas finest. That being said, Iron Gwazi joins Velocicoaster and to a certain extent Mako at seaworld in making a trio of elite coasters to be found on any Florida outing
Now in regards to best RMC, the sheer length and amount of airtime found on Steel Vengeance still means that remains my top coaster. However, Iron Gwazi compares VERY favourably against the similar Zadra.
Does Zadra have a better drop than Iron Gwazi? – No
Is Zadra more intense than Iron Gwazi? – no
Does Zadra have better airtime? – no
Are the inversions on Zadra better? – no
Is the wave turn better on Zadra? – no
So all of these means that to me whilst Zadra is also an amazing coaster, it is completely outgunned by Iron Gwazi. That being said, all three of the RMC hyper hybrids offer an amazing ride and despite all having similar height and speeds, excel in their own area. Steel Vengeance brings the airtime and length, Zadra brings the speed and pace and Iron Gwazi brings the intensity and variety. They are amazing coasters and no matter which one you prefer, the others will also amaze.
So awful operations aside, Iron Gwazi definitely lives up to its hype and is an absolute must with any visit to Florida!! It takes its place as my third favourite coaster behind Steel Vengeance and Velocicoaster and will likely be a top three for a long long time!!