So I had 12 rides in total on Icon on Friday, and here's my review... I think we were all hoping this would be the coaster that would blow everything else in the UK out of the water. Finally a new world-class coaster in this country after so many years of mediocrity. We had Wicker Man, which we were all hoping would be our new world class themed experience coaster, and it absolutely delivered. We were then holding out hope that Icon would deliver the promise of being our new world class thrill coaster. And I think many of us, myself included, were somewhat disappointed after seeing off and on ride footage. The first launch has no kick to it at all, just a slow gradual acceleration, and generally the whole thing looks slow and boring. From reviews it seemed that they'd succeeded in creating a decent coaster that was up there with the best in the country, but not the world-class experience we were hoping for. And yes, after my first ride I was a little underwhelmed, thought it was good, up there among the best in the country but didn't really think it blew away the competition like we were hoping it would. An enjoyable smooth ride with a few nice pops of airtime, but a lot of dead space where it's just meandering about doing nothing with no real force or thrills to it. After my first ride I think I would've still rated Nemesis or Stealth higher in terms of the UK. However it turned out to be a coaster that really warms up throughout the day, that little extra speed it gains works wonders, and with each subsequent ride those dead spots got smaller and smaller until it was pretty much a solid coaster from start to finish. The only section that remained weak was just the last couple of bends before the brakes which still pretty much do nothing, but I'll let them off as the rest is fantastic. By the end of the day it had gone from being among the best coasters in the country, to being by far and away the best coaster in the country. And not only that but my personal new number one coaster overall! Addictively re-rideable too. Some coasters, Nemesis for example, even though they're really good, you still don't feel like doing more than a couple of times in a row. Icon on the other hand, I just wanted to keep going round and round. Even when it was raining and riding was becoming a bit painful with raindrops hitting you in the eyes, I still didn't want to stop. I remember I did one rainy ride on Blue Fire and didn't want to do it again until the rain stopped, for that reason. But with Icon I just didn't care, it was just too good!
So, onto the specifics. The first launch is, as we could all see from videos, very weak. No kick to it at all. I know it's an LSM and not a hydraulic cable launch so wasn't expecting it to be anything crazy, but even Blue Fire's launch has a bit of a kick to it (that being the only other one of these coasters I've done so I'll be referencing it a few times). I had low expectations for the launch but was at least expecting it to be comparable to Blue Fire, and it's not even as good as that. But you've just got to think of the launch as a means to an end - the way the coaster gets up to speed, an alternative to a lift hill. These Mack coasters aren't about the launch in the way an Intamin like Stealth is, they're more about the rest of the layout. And while I always wished they could've turned up those LSMs a notch to give the launch a bit more of a kick, after riding it I can now understand why they didn't. The airtime on this thing is absolutely mental in places, especially on the back row later in the day. If they sped it up any further, I reckon it would reach uncomfortable or even dangerous levels. So as much as I like a launch with a kick to it, it really wouldn't be necessary here.
Onto the rest of the layout - the first big airtime hill looks so slow off ride, it seems to be crawling over and you'd be forgiven for not expecting much airtime at all. But don't let that fool you. I was not prepared for the ridiculous airtime this thing delivers. On the front row you get a crazy burst of it as you're coming up into the hill, then it subsides as you go over the top, before getting another nice little burst coming down the other side. On the back it's the other way round, a little bit of floater coming into the hill and then a huge burst of ejector on the way down. The so-called "inclined loop" (but let's not kid ourselves, it's a slightly tilted helix) has a little bit of positive Gs but nothing special, it really just serves to give a nice flyover of the plaza below. After this, the meandering turns under Steeplechase is the second weakest portion of the ride (after the very end), but with a bit more speed towards the end of the day it becomes quite enjoyable. Then into the heartline roll - you don't get whipped around it quite like you do on Blue Fire's similar inversion as it goes round a bit slower, but that does mean you get more hangtime. Then you get this cracking little double-down into the second launch - the second of the two little hills is another great airtime moment, especially as you then dive straight into the mist tunnel.
The second launch again doesn't have a huge kick to it, again it's just about getting it back up to speed, but it's enhanced so much by the mist which really disorientates you, you don't really know where you are again until you're already halfway along the launch. Then we have the twisted immelman which is possibly my favourite single element of the coaster. It's genius how it's structured. They could've just made it a normal immelman but I can see why they didn't, this variant works so much better here. You essentially get the full spectrum of G-forces from one element. Nice positive Gs coming up into it, then a bit of floaty hangtime at the top, and then (especially at the back) actual airtime coming down out of it! And it's generally just a really great and satisfying post-launch element from a visual point of view, both on and off ride, the way it rises up into it, twisting to the highest point. This is followed by my favourite section, or run of elements, on the ride - after the immelmann there's this funky overbank - not really an overbanked turn as it's pretty much a straight bit of track but banked so that it throws you over to the right before flipping back over to the left before the absolutely fantastic little airtime hill. Doesn't look much off ride as its so small, but gives a crazy pop of ejector, especially at the back. The helix that immediately follows this is surprisingly intense, I was not expecting it to be as intense as it is. Later on in the day I'd even say it's up there with Nemesis's helix. By far the moment of the ride with the most positive Gs, must be at least 4. This left-hand helix is immediately followed by a right-hand turnaround, and there's a fantastically snappy transition between these, must be the snappiest transition of the ride. I haven't done Taron but I imagine it's basically that, but for the whole ride. The coaster starts losing its speed now but tries to make the most of what's left, as this turnaround is followed by another of my favourite elements which I never really noticed before actually riding because it seems so small and insignificant, but it's this great little outward-banked airtime hill, almost the sort of thing RMC like to do. The left seats get the best out of this element as they're on the outer/upper side of it, which is why back-left is my favourite seat on the coaster. After the final turnaround there's one last little snappy transition which gives a surprising little pop of airtime (for something that doesn't look like it should give any), but that's the last little trick the ride has up its sleeve, as I've said, the last couple of bends including the one over the Big Dipper (despite how cool it looks off ride) don't really do anything because it's lost all its speed at this point. However it doesn't detract from the otherwise fantastic ride.
Also got to hand it to the operations - it was running two trains and mostly getting them out with great efficiency. Earlier in the day there was a bit of faffing about with swapping seats, moving people to the back if they couldn't fit elsewhere, but they seemed to get the hang of smoothing out the process throughout the day. Never queued much longer than 10 minutes. Though the park was pretty much dead anyway which helped! The ride did go down once for a short period but it was back up and running in no time. Really put Wicker Man to shame there! Also the audio around the area, different variations in different places, and the classy styling of the ride really add to the experience. The entrance arch is beautiful, I love the big wooden doors (which also feature on the station and shop). Really gives the ride an extra bit of grandeur and gravitas. Less keen on the exit though, having to climb all those stairs every time! Got to give a special mention to The Notable Stranger for that soundtrack, and thanks to him for his praise and promotion of the piano cover
I did of the score!
So yes, best in the UK by far, and a new number one for me, though I've never done any of the coasters people usually rave about like Shambhala, Helix, Taron etc. so I'd love to one day do Helix or Taron since they seem to be like this but even better. Out of the two coasters of its type I've done, this is far better than Blue Fire, though that does have nicer theming. But the coaster itself, especially the amazing airtime, puts Icon far above Blue Fire which is actually quite a weak coaster, though it is smooth and enjoyable. But Icon is something else. As I say I wasn't sure at first, but it's a real grower and it seriously warms up throughout the day so if you try it early in the day and don't think much of it, try it again later in the day and then see what you think. Back row is the best place to sit but the very front is close second. Itching to get back on it again soon!