Thursday, June 3, 2010

Yamaha Waverunner FX SHO


Cool Tech

It was Yamaha that introduced us to electronic throttle two seasons back, and the features that it makes possible. Cruise control is probably the biggest draw. Yamaha’s Cruise Assist enables the driver to lock in any speed with the push of a button, and then simply squeeze the throttle to maintain it. Speed doesn’t fluctuate, your trigger finger doesn’t grow weary on extended rides, and tasks like towing become far more enjoyable for the parties at both ends of the towrope.

Yamaha's Cruise Assist is a welcome feature on the FX SHO.

Release the throttle and the system disengages, returning control to the driver. Fine-tuning the speed is a matter of bumping up/down arrows on the handlebar; you can increase or decrease speed roughly five miles an hour up and down from your set cruising speed.

A twist on the cruise-control theme is No Wake Mode. This feature allowed me to push a button in those long no-wake zones, and then simply steer as the boat settles in at a nice 5 mph cruise. No pressure on the throttle is required. It’s a nice convenience, especially if you live with no-wake zones on a regular basis.

A further techno-infusion can be found in Yamaha’s hull makeup. By using nanotechnology — tinkering with matter on a molecular scale — the manufacturer was able to noticeably lighten its hull, while actually gaining strength. Sheet Molding Compound (SMC) is still the material of choice, but a different filler material in the mix allowed engineers to use less filler, and create a different kind of bond between the particles. The end result is a light, strong material that shaves about 25-percent of the weight off the previous hull.

Big Displacement

That weight advantage is fully exploited by the largest displacement engine in the industry, a 1.8-liter, inline four cylinder that employs a supercharger and intercooler to pack an explosive punch out of the hole. I edged over 67 mph in straight-line drag runs, and noted a 0-30mph acceleration time just beyond the 2.0-second mark.

With 1,812 cc on tap, the supercharged FX SHO will get you moving in a hurry.

Handling is impressive, but as in previous years the boat’s personality takes a short time to get used to

Rough-water tracking is typical Yamaha, with an exacting presence that simply mows its way over the waves without any quirks. The FX SHO is predictable and solid, maybe throwing a jar or two the driver’s way when really pounding over the waves, but never proving unpredictable. Cornering ability is top notch, but be prepared for a small quirk. It feels almost like a slight roll along the boat’s lengthwise axis, as the boat hooks up aggressively, then seems to briefly release. Control is never affected; it’s simply a slight rocking that takes a few passes to get used to. Pre-NanoXCel models didn’t seem to exhibit the same tendency, so I almost wonder if it’s just the lighter weight hull now sitting higher atop the water.

In The Details

Yamaha continues to use a manual trim system to drop the jet nozzle, allowing the pilot to drop the bow in the corners or trim up for speed. It’s got pluses and minuses. The plus is that it’s a manual system that doesn’t require the driver keep track of a gauge. The minus is that a manual trim can be difficult to move when so much thrust is moving through the pump at high speeds.

A flip-down boarding step is standard on the FX SHO.

Yamaha continues to feature a starboard-located reverse handle. Personally I think even Yamaha execs would rather have the handle on the left hand side of the cowl, but it remains on the right, where those legal types say it prevents a driver from employing reverse while also using the throttle. Like so many other boats that use this setup, we say let adults be responsible for their safety, and make it easier to maneuver around the dock by allowing the control of both throttle and reverse positioning simultaneously.

Nice extras include a flip-down boarding step for deep water boarding, a car-like remote that can disable the craft for security or be used to put it into a novice-friendly, or gas-saving low RPM mode, and adjustable handlebar tilt to dial in the ergonomics to fit the rider. Storage is divided between a front bow tub, deep glovebox with cupholders, and a watertight, canister-like compartment on the steering console.

I continue to applaud Yamaha for designing its engines to run to their full potential on 87-octane pump gas.

Let’s Cruise

So what have we overlooked? What makes the boat a cruiser by definition — the plush, bolstered touring seat that offers tremendous lower-back support and allows drivers to kick back in comfort on long rides. Yamaha notes the boat has a three-point contact system for drivers. The seat, foot chocks, and handlebars all combine to increase the driver’s comfort. I know a few hardcore cruisers and they love the laid-back style. The cruiser package also means you get a fuel-flow meter to help plan fuel stops on long trips.

The FX SHO is also offered in a non-cruiser model, without the seat and fuel-flow package. It’s essentially the same, save for different color packages. The Cruiser is featured in either a dark blue or platinum metallic; the sportier-minded FX SHO is offered in black or red metallics.

Yamaha Waverunner SuperJet


Equipped with a hull developed by a racing team, the new Yamaha SuperJet is made for racing whether in closed course, surf riding or freestyle.

When Yamaha introduced its new range of personal watercraft last summer, the company made a big deal about its new supercharged runabout (the FX SHO); however, it seemed that nobody had noticed that the SuperJet was given a major overhaul. While the engine remained the same, the SuperJet was equipped with a brand new hull that was originally designed and developed by Rius Racing.

Hull Characteristics

Rius Racing originally developed the new hull for the European GP Ski class. The hull features specially designed built-in front sponsons that increased the width of the front section. Additionally, the stern is narrower and the strakes are deeper. The pump was moved backwards 50mm and the ride plate length was increased in order to create a longer waterline length.

The new hull provides better stability when the rider approaches the buoy.

Additionally, Yamaha engineers enhanced rider ergonomics by putting in a shorter handle pole, which provides a lean-forward posture, ideal for racing use. The handle pole was also equipped with a harder spring that ensures less rider fatigue. The Hyper-Flow jet pump accommodates a new stainless steel impeller and an adjustable steering nozzle.

Race-Course Oriented

Note the new built-in front sponsons that come straight from Rius’s GP Ski.  The intake shape has been altered in order to suck more water

Having ridden Rius’s carbon hull power valve engine SuperJet only four days prior to testing the new stock SuperJet gave me an idea of what I could expect to feel when I climbed aboard the Yamaha. The actual test was carried out on Lake Havasu in Arizona by using part of the official race course. World famous freestyle rider, Canadian Rick Roy, also demanded to ride the SuperJet, a will that Yamaha WaveRunner product manager Scott Watkins fulfilled since he has a great respect for the pioneer of the new Freestyle generation.

Freestyler Rick Roy tested the new SuperJet on Lake Havasu.

What surprised me most on the new, improved SuperJet was how it steered round the buoy. The 2009 SuperJet turns sharply and aggressively. The hull design enabled me to grade it in the curve rather than keep it flat on the water surface. The harder I was pushing it round the buoy the sharper it was turning. It was a unique feeling that no other SuperJet had given me in the past except the Rius Racing GP Ski.

Undoubtedly the team had done a great job. The steering was precise, accurate and less forgiving in comparison to its predecessor. The lightweight feel of the Yamaha has remained unchanged and the new riding position provids a better overall mass distribution. The new hull gave me a better feeling and enhanced information of how the hull was gripping, so when I was pushing it to its limits, it responded well by providing predictable handling. Also noticeable was the fact that there was less nose hopping at top speed in comparison to the previous model.

High speed turns are not an issue for the new SuperJet.

Having ridden Rius’s SuperJet just four days prior to riding Yamaha’s factory model, another thing that really stood out was the stock engine’s performance. There is no doubt that the Yamaha OEM engine needs some updating. It has been in the market successfully for 10 years, but the market demands have changed. Though it still provides good bottom end acceleration and linear power delivery from midrange, I believe that Yamaha could have improved the overall package with off the shelve parts. On the other hand, I was already informed that the Japanese department did not want to raise the overall cost of the particular model since the market demand is substantially lower in the stand-up class. For the time being the aftermarket will have to be relied upon for engine improvements.

Nothing has changed inside the engine compartment.

Most WaveRunner fans were expecting Yamaha to launch a new 4-stroke stand up, though the Japanese firm kept the same recipe under the hood of the Super Jet. Scott Watkins assured me that Yamaha has been extensively testing 4-stroke packages for the SuperJet. Yamaha has tried single cylinder, two cylinder and even four cylinder options. Water is bound to get into the engine compartment no how much you try to avoid it and that gives Yamaha some concern about the 4-stroke project.

In the next few years 4-stroke Skis will rise to the market from the Japanese constructors, though they will make sure that these Skis have superb performance, excellent reliability.

Yamaha Waverunner FZR


Championship Pedigree

Yamaha has a long track record with performance two-seaters. The GP (later GPR) series was a runaway favorite for years, sporting an aggressive handling personality and rocket-ship acceleration that thrilled both racer and wannabe alike. The death of the two-stroke ultimately sent that craft off into the sunset, but its spirit unquestionably lives on in the FZR.

2010 Yamaha FZR

The FZR is almost identical in size to the FX line, but the FZ series (yes, it’s got a fraternal twin, the three-passenger FZS) is actually shorter in running surface, and features lifting strakes that run virtually the full length of the hull to improve top speed. It also features a GP-reminiscent dihedral keel shape, along with its own unique softly rounded chines. Moving away from a sharp chine edge allows this boat to roll more easily into the turns with an inside lean, giving the boat a quick, edgy personality.

A larger pump design than the FX funnels more water into the pump, enhancing acceleration. Providing that acceleration is the same 1.8-liter supercharged/intercooled engine found in the FX SHO, an 87-octane friendly combination that here pushes a craft weighing just over 800 pounds. In that way, the FZR is again like the GPs of old – it has a very favorable power-to-weight ratio. While the company no longer publishes horsepower numbers, it’s pegged at over 200 hp, but runs with machines rated much higher. Depending on conditions, I’ve reached anywhere from 66-68 mph on the top end, and rocketed to 30 mph in as little as 1.9 seconds.

Throttle response is delightfully crisp. The FZR uses Yamaha’s electronic throttle technology, meaning you’re no longer pulling a wire to send your intentions to the throttle body. Pin the lever and the craft leaps forward with authority. That hull shaves some of its weight through nanotechnology. Yamaha engineers introduced a new form of SMC a few years back, and it’s lighter, yet stronger, than the company’s former lay-up.

New Attitude

The telescoping steering column offers three different positions.

The craft’s personality differs depending on where you’ve set the aforementioned steering column. Most of the early hype seemed to center on the fully stretched out position, which locates the bars high enough that most riders can comfortably stand and absorb some rough-water shock with their legs. Bending over awkwardly is now a thing of the past. Pull the lever and extend the bars upward and you’re comfortable standing for long periods of time. Mission accomplished.

I think the boat’s real thrill, however, is in the opposite position. As much as the bars can extend beyond the norm, they can also lower below the average. In this setting, the driver feels ultra-aggressive and close to the water, railing through corners like the pilot of a souped-up street bike. Especially in calm water, the hull holds tenaciously, resulting in a high-speed carvefest for those who appreciate pure handling. It’s also a classic Yamaha design, in that it rides stable and predictable through the rough stuff.

Lowered all the way, the steering column helps the FZR become agile and aggressive in the corners.

I only wish that the boat offered some form of electronic trim. Yamaha’s manual trim position has been around forever, and seems like a great idea as you don’t need to take your eyes off the water. Shifting on the fly, however, is not always realistic, as the force of water exiting the pump often fights your ability to force the nozzle downwards entering a turn.

Extra, Extra

Boats today need extras, and the FZR complies. A keyfob-style remote can be used to lock the craft for security. It also doubles as a speed-governing device for those times you want to turn the controls over to a newcomer or youngster, or save on fuel. There are also cup holders located in the glovebox, one element of the total 21.3-gallon storage capacity. The sloping back deck design doesn’t always make for easy reboarding (easy to get on, but often easy to slip back off as well) but it suits the craft. Reverse is tempered by the electronic throttle, meaning it won’t over-rev and lose traction.

Thankfully, Yamaha resisted the temptation to juice up the dash display. Instead of high tech digital mania, you’ll find dual, red-trimmed analog gauges, just right in my opinion for this type of performance slant. Add in the red deck/black hull design, and you’ve got a craft that looks the part.

In that way, you can definitely judge this book by its cover.