Over time we’ve come to understand the certain ways that each manufacturer has in developing and introducing new product. While some play things a little “fast and loose,” manufacturers – particularly Yamaha Motor Corp. USA – have a very methodological process wherein designs are proposed, planned, and tested (and studiously retested) before finally being executed. In the simplest of terms, when the tides of change roll in to shore, Yamaha doesn’t react, they respond. But even providing a measured response is only half of the story. Standing at the forefront is where everyone wants to be, and often that position rotates year in and year out.
That being understood, it could easily be said this year belongs to Yamaha. As The Watercraft Journal will show you, the unveiling of Yamaha’s 2017 WaveRunners is a one-two-three knockout combination of a first-strike, a counter-punch and a haymaker that hits harder, more boldly and as smart as we’ve seen the manufacturer be in years. In discourse with some of the best minds in our industry, the consensus was that we’re peering over the precipice of a very diverse marketplace in 2017. A marketplace that is rife with product more interest-specific, stylized and personalized than we’ve seen since the rise of the four-stroke.
Above: Yes, this is it, the 2017 Yamaha GP1800. Powered by the SVHO supercharged 1.8L four-stroke, it rides on a NanoXcel2 hull and deck, bringing this beast in nearly 20-pounds below the VXR.
The “Yamaha Way” as we’ve come to understand is one where there’s no such thing as “leaps of faith.” All future product is weighed against market demand and more importantly, how it’ll effect Yamaha’s already established reputation.”We found that reliability is the single most important attribute for all customer segments,” Product Manager Scott Watkins explained to The Watercraft Journal. “Of all the customers who considered buying another brand, a quarter of them chose Yamaha [over the rest] because of our reputation for reliability.” Within the rental market is this no more better exemplified, as Yamaha handily outsells all other brands.
Tantamount to Yamaha’s reliability is maintaining a level of top level consistency in its manufacturing. Watkins walked us through the hull materials and compression mold process: “All WaveRunners are manufactured in a High Compression Molding process [consisting of a two-part compression mold that uses heat and pressure to compress the “High SMC Compression FRP” into a hull – Ed]. That results in better fit and finish; a smooth, paintable finish (giving us those automotive-grade metallic finishes); controlled tolerances and consistent results each and every time. And the process creates no VOC emissions.”
Above: For 2017, Yamaha retired the SHO (Super High Output) engine, reducing the FX to either the naturally-aspirated HO or SVHO powerplants.
The process freed Yamaha to develop its NanoXcel and NanoXcel2 hulls and decks, which not only shave total weight, but also result in a stronger hull – one with a bond with a higher tensile strength than traditional, or common SMC composites. Durability, strength, quality of finish and lightweight all amount to Yamaha’s priming for 2017. With that, the OE manufacturer has introduced five new WaveRunners for the new year, including a new Full Sized Luxury FX, two new Mid Size Sport/Rec units, and an entirely new segment of machines: Compact Rec/Lite.
We like being surprised, and this year is when Yamaha truly caught us off guard. Well, sorta. Earlier this year, we published the revelation that the FZ series WaveRunners were going to be phased out in lieu of a sportier, more nimble runabout based upon the new-for-2015 VX series. In fact, we had an inkling to this back at the new VX’s introduction when Watkins hinted, “We made the new VX to accept all of our engines. We’ve even got one with a SVHO. It’s bad ass.” The hint was too much for us to shake and the idea of a SVHO-powered VXR was just too exciting.
Above: All VX models return 2017, except for the VXS as well as the entry-level V1 models.
When intel confirmed the return of the “GP” name, it didn’t take much imagination to speculate on the new Yamaha’s name: the GP1800. Before the Internet is sent abuzz with claims that it’s “just” a SVHO-packaged VXR, note that it is much, much more. The GP1800 ($13,999) rides on the same hull and deck mold as the VXR, but is made from Yamaha’s NanoXcel2 material, heavily dropping the weight below the standard VXR ($11,999). Moreover, the GP1800 comes with Yamaha’s electric trim system, the brand’s own RiDE brake and reverse system, a wide (and extended) reboarding step, low RPM mode and a bunch of other features.
Of course, the big news is the application of the Super Vortex High Output (SVHO) supercharged, intercooled four-stroke. Privately dyno-tested, yet unofficially rated at 260-to-265 brake horsepower, the SVHO presses all of that thrust through a 160mm, 8-vein impeller mounted in a 75mm hub. No modifications were needed to be made to either the engine or intercooler to fit the SVHO into the GP1800 hull, and a scalloped and narrowed “cut-and-sew” race-inspired seat saddles the engine compartment. The steering remains fixed (like the current VXR) and is adorned with color-matched pistol-inspired hand grips, as there are two color varieties to choose from; and new CNC-cut Marine Mat traction mats cover the tray and swim platform.
As the GP1800 replaces the FZR and FZS, gone too is the VXS and the final SHO-powered FX models, the 9-year-old engine being retired. Other returning favorites include the perennial SuperJet ($8,499); the complete VX lineup, including the base VX ($9,599), VX Deluxe ($10,299), VX Cruiser ($10,599) and VX Cruiser HO ($11,199); the full-sized FX HO ($13,199) and FX Cruiser HO ($13,699), as well as the FX SVHO ($15,299) and FX Cruiser SVHO ($15,999).
Joining the ranks of the full-sized Luxury FX units is the new FX Cruiser Limited SVHO ($16,899). Taking a page from last year’s wildly popular VX Limited ($10,999), the “family fun starter pack” packaging has been applied to the Luxury class, giving a FX Cruiser SVHO all of the amenities included with the smaller Limited, including four pop-up cleats, a waterproof phone bag and full-sized dry bag, a tow hook and color-matched rope as well as a color-matched inflatable tube, a 12v outlet and electric tube inflator, as well as a custom-made PWC cover with a solar panel battery charger.
Above: Enjoying massive success with the VX Limited, Yamaha applied the same buyer-takes-all packaging and put it towards the FX SVHO, creating the FX Cruiser SVHO Limited.
Yet, the biggest addition to Yamaha’s WaveRunner family is the one that surprised us the most: the EX Series. Consisting of the base EX ($6,599), the EX Sport ($7,599) and EX Deluxe ($8,599), the EX units are a careful, measured response to Sea-Doo’s Spark. As the introduction of the Spark revealed a whole new segment of the PWC market that had gone previously untapped, Yamaha’s research uncovered that 62-perent of new PWC sold in the 2015 were Value/Economy models, the single-highest percentile since they began tracking PWC sales. Additionally, the recent uptick in sales these past two years was due (in large part) to an increase in first-time buyers.
With these persons in mind, Yamaha chose to provide them with a low price point watercraft that still maintained Yamaha’s commitment to reliability, durability and fun without sacrificing dependability. In designing the EX, Yamaha minimized the amount of body parts (fairings, panels, etc.) by incorporating much of the styling cues into the body itself. Equally, Yamaha developed a separate lower seat base (reminiscent of the once Honda R-12X) allowing for easy engine service when called for. The EX features a reduced and simplified instrument cluster, generous glove box storage (with wet bow stowage), and wide swim step.
Above: The EX models still ride on SMC fiberglass hulls (and decks) with a lower seat base that cradles the special EX-edition TR-1 3-cylinder four-stroke engine making 100-horsepower.
Powering the EX models is a slightly detuned 100-horsepower EX TR-1, based off of the same Marine TR-1 engine that received the 2016 NMMA Innovation Award. The changes to the engine are subtle, primarily in the form of a lightened flywheel and redesigned exhaust manifold and muffler. Reducing more weight is the EX’s unique jet pump. Compared to the MY16 V1 pump, the EX pump weighs 1.8kg less (14kg vs. 15.8kg), a redesigned shaft bearing, and features a combined pump and impeller piece. With a full-sized fuel tank, the EX also touts 14-percent superior fuel consumption than Sea-Doo’s Spark with 47-percent longer range (in Yamaha’s private testing).
Not only has Yamaha tightened up its selection of WaveRunners, but has added more excitement, fun and value to a lineup already teaming with such. Assuredly, Yamaha will continue its march towards racing gold with the GP1800 machines, and we’re certain the new EX models will be a hit with entry level riders and first-time buyers, as well as rental outlets and vacation spots. Yamaha’s latest crop of WaveRunners leaves no one behind and we’re certain there is something to fit your taste – if not, they just might surprise you next year.