Which Is Better: Intamin or Bolliger & Mabillard?

May 4, 2020, 3:30 PM · When fans talk about the world's best steel roller coasters, they're almost always talking about a model from one of two Swiss companies: Intamin and Bolliger & Mabillard. These two coaster designers dominate our list of the world's top coasters, along with hybrid manufacturer Rocky Mountain Construction. But because our "which is better" question has room for only two choices, we will stick with the Swiss today.

So, for you as a coaster fan, which is better: Intamin or B&M?

Intamin builds the fastest and tallest roller coasters in the world, including world-record holders Formula Rossa and Kingda Ka. But Bolliger & Mabillard is known for the symphony of its elements - the drops, twists, and inversions that thrill beyond height and pure speed. Yet Intamin does not fail to deliver on that front, either, with some of the most innovative layouts in the world.

This year, B&M was preparing an impressive trio of new coasters for U.S. coaster fans, with Kings Island's Orion, Hersheypark's Candymonium, and SeaWorld San Diego's Emperor. Intamin's 2020 slate included Pantheon at Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Sandy’s Blasting Bronco at the new Nickelodeon Universe in New Jersey, following last year's hit Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure at Universal Orlando's Islands of Adventure.

Let's ride along with a couple of our top videos that illustrate some of the strengths of each manufacturer, starting with the pure speed of the world's fastest roller coaster, Intamin's Formula Rossa from Ferrari World Abu Dhabi.

Then let's enjoy the bliss of a wild ride through the woods on Bolliger & Mabillard's Thunderbird, from Holiday World in Santa Claus, Indiana.

Do you prefer the accelerator, blitz, impulse, indoor, family, and mega coasters from Intamin, including classics such as Maverick, Millennium Force and Intimidator 305? Or do you choose the dive, floorless, flying, inverted, wing, and hypers from Bolliger & Mabillard, including Manta, Mako, and Fury 325?

Make the case for your favorite in the comments.

Replies (9)

May 4, 2020 at 3:50 PM

I'm not one of those enthusiasts who hates B&M or anything; many of their 90s creations in particular are inspired, forceful designs, and I really like or love just about all of their speed coasters. Outside of the early stand-ups when they were still finding their legs, it's hard to find a B&M that's even below average.

But give me Intamin any day. Despite their consistency and overall quality, B&M rarely creates anything truly surprising or interesting. B&M's idea of innovation is to make the same floorless coaster, but with the seats outside the track. Intamin's is not only to move the seats outside the track, but use their accelerator model to launch it to 84 mph, and then keep the layout less than 30 feet above the ground (love you, Furius Baco). They can produce insanely varied experiences within the same model, such as Millennium Force and Intimidator 305. They continuously push boundaries, even if it risks failure.

Intamin has more duds than B&M for sure, and they've roiled companies like Cedar Fair and Hershey with unreliable products and deliveries that don't always meet what's asked (looking at you, Skyrush). But they still lead the market in groundbreaking innovation and risk-taking, and as long as that is true, they will be the manufacturer that perks my interest the most. I'm thrilled to see them coming back into the U.S. market through Universal and the Seaworld chain, and I can only hope these new installations are the beginning of a full-fledged return of Intamin coasters to American parks.

May 4, 2020 at 6:59 PM

Surprised to see B&M leading by such a margin. The highs of Intamin are higher than B&M even if the lows are lower. I guess I'm one of those jaded enthusiasts that doesn't really get "thrill" out of B&M creations so much as "general enjoyment" unless it's the first drop of Fury 325. I don't hold some insane wait-times and unreliability against Intamin so long as I get thrashed about sufficiently, which they tend to do. Even the abhorred Green Lantern which destroyed my phone in my pocket the very fist time I rode, I give points for at the very least being extreme enough to inspire genuine dread. I don't know how many times I've told people visiting my home park at SFMM to ride Tatsu and then just pick one out of B:TR, Scream, or Riddler's Revenge and that's pretty adequate. The experiences are a little redundant! But that's just me.

May 5, 2020 at 12:27 AM

As someone that's been working in the business 20+ years I can tell you buying an Intamin is kind of like buying a Lamborghini - extremely sleek, marketable, fast, cool, etc

But once you get it...instant regret lol. There is a reason their business in the USA has dropped off a cliff, there is an entire generation of managers who are extremely skeptical of Intamin products after all the nightmares they had to live through with the last generation of them. Hagrid definitely did not help their cause. It really sucks running a business and having to deal with tens of thousands of angry customers on a daily basis because the new ride is either delayed, broken, or constantly breaking down. Especially for a park like Universal where people travel from all over the world. Mr. Intamin fanboi himself Dick Kinzel even said Top Thrill Dragster was unquestionably the worst investment he's ever made as CEO (then proceeded to build Maverick and Shoot the Rapids because Sandor Kernacs kept throwing big discounts his way as an apology for messing up...and ironically both those rides had major design flaws and downtimes as well). It's a huge problem.

May 5, 2020 at 1:47 PM

This is like choosing your favorite child/parent. Both do things that are amazing and thrilling while both can frustrate you beyond belief.

Even with that said, I'm definitely a B&M guy. There are plenty of Intamins that are solidly in my top 10 favorite coasters of all time (Intimidator 305, Maverick, and El Toro), but I find B&M's far more accessible and more re-rideable. I can (and have) ridden on B&Ms dozens of times in a row, but when it comes to Intamin, there's a limit to what the human body can endure. Intamins always tight rope the line between thrilling and terrifying by pushing the limits of physics and what riders are willing to tolerate. Too often, Intamin pushes the envelope too far, occasionally in expensive and disastrous ways. B&M tends to play things on the safer side, sacrificing intensity in many instances for comfort and reliability.

I like the_man's comparison to a Lamborghini, though I've always though of the 2 manufacturers like this...

When you ride a B&M, you get off and say, "Wow, that was fun, I want to do it again".

When you ride an Intamin, you get off and say "Wow, that was CRAZY. I need a moment to collect my thoughts..."

May 5, 2020 at 4:35 PM

Of all the coasters I've ridden, my favorite is El Toro, which is one of the reasons I'm going with Intamin. (Other favorites include Intimidator 305, Storm Runner and the now defunct Volcano.) The other is that I find Intamin coasters much more interesting than B&M coasters. Intamin is a genius at thinking outside the box. Yes, there are consistency issues and some major design failures (the aforementioned Skyrush, which actually features a brilliant layout) but when I get on an Intamin coaster I can be pretty certain that it will meet or exceed expectations. There are plenty of B&M coasters of which I hold a high opinion and one area in which that company has the edge over Intamin is the restraints. I don't know whom Intamin had in mind when designing the restraints but it certainly wasn't the average American. I wish I had a nickel for every time I've seen someone turned away from El Toro due to inability to fit into the restraint. Only once have I seen someone turned away from Nitro for that reason.

May 6, 2020 at 6:21 AM

It’s really hard to rank my favorite roller coasters, but there is one that stands on its own as my absolute favorite, and that would be Maverick at a Cedar Point. So with that said, I have to give the nod to Intamin.

May 6, 2020 at 10:01 AM

Yeah this one is tough. Both are great manufacturers. Differences yes. But can a park go wrong with either choice no. The fact is I am in lock down. I really do not care which I get on next. As long as next occurs....

May 7, 2020 at 9:23 AM

I am kidding. B&M, fast, tall, airtime...but always smooth.

May 8, 2020 at 12:14 PM

Nothing against Intamin, but B&M hypers are easily my favorite coasters out there. Sure, maybe they're not as innovative as Intamin coasters, but I will take that airtime and those tiny lap bars holding me in every time. It feels like I'm flying.

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