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Knott's Jaguar!: A Mild Animal : Attraction review: The roller coaster, which opens today, won't thrill the hard core, but it's got enough pounce to bring a smile.

June 17, 1995|KENNETH WILLIAMS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

BUENA PARK — Far from being the "ferocious cat" it's been dubbed, Knott's Berry Farm's new Jaguar! roller coaster more closely resembles a feisty house cat than the feral cousin it was named for.

By cutting-edge standards, the 2,700-foot steel-railed coaster is more purr than howl. Hard-core thrill freaks will no doubt find the Boomerang and Montezooma's Revenge coasters more to their liking.

Lacking barrel roles, vertical loops, free falls and other similar devices, Jaguar! just doesn't deliver the goods for roller-coaster hounds who settle for nothing less than abject terror.

But for others, this cat's got enough spring in its pounce--and a style of its own--to bring a shout and a smile.

It's a long, loping romp that sails along playfully at one moment and pounces the next, sliding into curves and bursting into the straight-aways with giddy abandon.

Opening to the public today, the Mayan-themed ride (designed and built by the Zierer company of Dusseldorf, Germany) is an elegant mass of steel that snakes its way throughout one-sixth of the park's area on a heady half-mile jaunt that hits speeds up to 35 m.p.h.

The ancient-temple theme is extended throughout a courtyard area, where there are carnival games and a unique fountain in which park guests can use huge water cannons to manipulate pre-Columbian-looking kinetic sculptures.

Riders make their way through the cavernous Temple of the Jaguar, an authentically modeled ziggurat resembling pre-Columbian Mayan shrines and festooned with mysterious statuary, murals and human skulls.

*

The three-minute ride sets out from the temple, climbing 60 feet, then doubling back to plunge into a sharp corner and an ascent back to the top of the temple, where jets of fire and mist await.

From there, it's a gallop through a busy series of turns and straight stretches. Along the way it threads the 76-foot vertical loop of Montezooma's Revenge and careens dizzyingly close to the Timber Mountain Log Ride before sailing over the mirror pond and back to the temple.

When Knott's introduced its gut-wrenching Boomerang coaster five years ago, it was gleefully received by hard-core fans as the latest volley in an ongoing battle of thrill-ride one-upmanship that was burning up Southern California's amusement parks.

The firefight raged, as Magic Mountain unveiled its Batman coaster and Universal Studios followed suit with the Back to the Future virtual-reality ride.

When fans heard that Knott's was breaking ground on a new steel-railed mega-beast, they held their collective breath in anticipation of newer, even greater spine-tingling thrills.

Well, it's time to take a breath.

In spite of its ominous stylings, Jaguar!'s intensity factor is closer to the family-pleasing Gadget's Go-coaster found in Disneyland's Toontown than the terrifying romp the Knott's publicity machine is selling.

* The Jaguar! roller coaster opens today at Knott's Berry Farm, 8039 Beach Blvd., Buena Park. Park hours today: 9 a.m. to midnight. $18.50 to $28.50. (714) 220-5200.

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