Conventional wisdom would have you thinking that in order to compete with Sea-Doo’s Spark that Yamaha would need to build an equally-compact, lightweight runabout priced below $5,000. Surprisingly, such is not the case. Although the highest selling watercraft for 2015 was (thus far) the Spark, it wasn’t the base model, but the high output (90-horsepower HO) Sea-Doo Spark 3-up with iBR version.
What does that tell you? It means that families want a compact three-seater with enough features to make it enjoyable, yet at a value enough to not break the budget. This gave Yamaha the mission to not only surpass the fully-loaded Spark’s perceived value by customers, but exceed it in every other facet imaginable (power-to-weight, storage, stability, and “fun factor”).
For the family looking to not only enter into the world of personal watercraft ownership, but to wring out of it the most fun and enjoyable experiences possible, Yamaha’s all-new 2016 VX Limited WaveRunner is an ideal fit. In addition to the purchase of the vehicle itself, owners are bathed in a cascade of additional offerings, making it one of the most heavily-optioned personal watercraft under $11,000 that we have ever had the joy of testing riding.
Let’s begin with the unit itself: The Limited boasts the all-new TR-1 1,049cc (1-liter) 3-cylinder 4-stroke powerplant announced last month. Replacing the heavier 4-cylinder MR-1, the new TR-1 shares much of its design with a similar 3-cylinder used in the brand’s snowmobile division. Moreover, the new plant is 40-percent smaller, 20-percent lighter, and cranks out 13-percent more power.
Set further back in the now far more vacuous VX engine compartment, the TR-1 takes full advantage of the Limited’s NanoXcel lightweight hull and deck material and delivers significant gains in throttle response, and packs all the punch of the outgoing 4-cylinder and more. During our testing, we were pleased to find a strong torque curve (without lulls or “flat spots”) that carried upward in a linear band.
Even on a hot and humid day in Kennesaw, Georgia, we fetched a top speed of 55.5 miles per hour, even with a single 230-pound rider. Weighing nearly 40-pounds less and producing an unofficial 125-horsepower, this new 3-cylinder power plant not only improves the overall performance of the Limited, but rightly cements Yamaha’s place as an engine manufacturer first, and a boat builder a close second.
And since the Limited is based upon the same Swiss Army knife VX hull used by the entry-level VX Sport, all the way up to the National Championship-winning VXR, the Limited’s ride is both controlled and sporty, able to happily lean in and cut a tight turn as easily as it tracks through mild lake chop. Snapping donuts is loose and playful when positioned right, ensuring that everyone will have a blast.
The Limited is swaddled in Yamaha’s Torch Red Metallic that glistens in direct sunlight, with jazzy black and white highlights, most prominently on the Cruiser-style tiered seat. The Limited also comes equipped with a king’s ransom of options including the increasingly popular RiDE dual-throttle braking and reverse system (which, responds famously with the new TR-1, far better than it ever did with the MR-1), Cruise Assist and No Wake Mode.
The Limited also includes possibly our favorite feature for which we pray becomes an industry standard, a 12-volt socket in the glove box. Ideal for charging a cell phone, GPS or VHF radio, the plug was incorporated to power an electric air pump (more on that in a second). The Limited is also adorned with four pop-up cleats and chromed “Yamaha” badging, as well as watertight storage beneath the rear passenger’s seat.
But, wait! That’s not all. Yamaha wanted the Limited to not only meet family’s needs but exceed their expectations. That is why the Limited includes a whole host of other accessories: a specially-made one-passenger towable raft and tow rope (all color matched to the Limited), a true ski tow eye, a special rope bag that attaches to the helm, folding reboarding step, a dry bag, and the aforementioned 12V pump to inflate the tube while out on the water.
Oh, and there’s one more thing: not only does the Limited come with its own special edition ski cover with a zipper access door to the glove box, but a hard case solar panel and trickle charger to maintain battery life while stored alongside or behind the house. In our view, the VX Limited is truly the best “family fun starter pack” we could ever see coming from a manufacturer.
Priced at $10,899, the Limited exceeds the VX Cruiser’s asking price by $400. In a quick web search, we found the total retail price of the included accessories nearly double the added cost over the Cruiser. And combining the 18.5 gallons of fuel capacity and the TR-1’s super-efficient fuel consumption rate, the VX Limited promises hours of fun on the water long before a pit stop is ever needed. Frankly, we think the Limited more than delivers on total value and definitely comes through in the fun department, and that should be enough to make up anyone’s mind.