This Banana Splits: 2015 Yamaha FX SVHO WaveRunner


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It’s actually hard to remind oneself that it was only little over a year ago that Yamaha introduced their entire 2015 lineup with the new RiDE dual throttle brake and reverse system, thus replacing Yamaha’s often beleaguered right-hand reverse lever (we were probably the more guilty of giving the manufacturer grief than most). The change not only dramatically improved the whole product line’s ergonomic aesthetic, but added a whole new level of control and safety. Now, all RiDE-equipped units start in a static neutral position before being engaged in either forward (using the right-hand throttle) or reverse (using the left-hand throttle).

Having spent so much time testing 2015 and now 2016 WaveRunners, we’ve simply come to expect the dual throttle system whenever we ride. But it wasn’t very long ago that Sea-Doo was the only manufacturer with an intelligent braking system. The magic of forgetfulness helps dilute the frustration of monkeying with the manual reverse lever, no matter how intricately engineered. By designing an electronically-deployed reverse bucket to gradually slow a speeding watercraft (upon demand), Yamaha has joined Sea-Doo in developing some of the most advanced personal watercraft on the market – and consequently establishing a new standard for boating safety.

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The brake and reverse systems of the two manufacturers differ slightly, but not enough to confuse a rider hopping from one to the other. Yamaha boasts a “patented bucket design that forces water out the sides of the bucket, whereby acting as a virtual rudder” and does deliver exactly as promised. Maneuvering in reverse is so quick that it takes a little getting used to. And engaging the left-hand RiDE lever on one of Yamaha’s unofficial 260-horsepower, Super Vortex High Output-equipped WaveRunners is a strong indicator of the thrust you can expect when launching forward.

Prior to the implementation of RiDE, we had found plenty of reason to praise the then-current FX SVHO, but bemoaned the clunky reverse lever. In getting our grubby little hands on a new 2015 Yamaha FX SVHO WaveRunner, we needed very little time to recall our previous test ride. And although reviewing a 2015 model in the face of an influx of 2016 models may seem ill-timed, we argue that many units are still available at dealerships today, and for discounted prices, thus making them all the more attractive. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves…

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First and foremost, the FX is deceptive. From the outside, the FX is rather staid in its rakish design. Whether its a naturally-aspirated 180-horsepower HO model or a supercharged SVHO, the hull, deck and trim remains the same (apart of course, from some rather decadent automotive-grade coloring). Only by adding the Cruiser option does the FX “bump up” in any sort of extra trimmings like pop-up cleats and the high-backed scalloped seating. Otherwise, the FX SVHO could easily slip past as a regular ol’ HO.

To many, that’s the beauty of it. Void of audacious badging, a custom hood or fairings, Yamaha lets its 1,812cc centrifugally-supercharged SVHO engine and 160mm pump do all the talking. The plant is no stranger to the winner’s circle, as Yamaha claimed four of the five Pro Runabout championships at this year’s IJSBA World Finals. Slinging 8.5:1 compression forged pistons, the SVHO runs large 60-pound fuel injectors, and an increased intercooler (providing an impressive 22-percent increase in efficiency) over the previous SHO model.

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Putting all of that to work is a vacuous 86mm HKS supercharger with a 6-vein impeller pressing out 60-percent more boost over the SHO as well. Although the powertrain hadn’t changed since the 2014 introduction of the SVHO, the FX’s overall performance has improved nominally thanks to Yamaha’s all-new NanoXcel 2 hull and deck material. The new lightweight material shaves off just shy of 50 pounds from the FX platform (833 lbs. dry weight), optimizing the runabout’s power-to-weight ratio for quicker acceleration and throttle response.

And the weight savings are noticeable. When pinned, the FX SVHO’s race-inspired 8-vein pump (housing a 160mm impeller) produces enough thrust to leap to a full sprint from a standstill like a catapult, launching a single rider (with only a gallon or two of fuel in its 18.5 gallon tank) from 0-to-30 in 1.5 seconds, and up to 60mph just a hair past a second over that. Our bright yellow and black metallic test unit was well broken-in, and hit 69.2 mph on a cool Arizona desert morning (with the electronic trim programmed to a flat setting).

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The big three-seater’s 140.2-inch beam manages to perform admirably in both above moderate chop and in the corners, but not without the necessary rider input. In the rough stuff, be prepared to stand up, with the 5-position tilt steering all the way up. When aiming to cut a hairpin, drop those bars to their lowest setting, slide your butt half way off the seat, and plant your inside knee flat in the footwell. The FX SVHO responds masterfully to body english, so be prepared to move around.

For those looking to just enjoy Yamaha’s most powerful full-sized runabout under calmer conditions, the pistol grip-style handgrips are comfortable, and the single analog dial gauge (flanked by dual LCD screens) is easy to decipher at any speed. Forgiving charcoal gray Hydro-Turf mats stretch over the wide swim platform and footwells, with a folding swimstep that fits flush to the transom when vertical. Total storage is a blend of screw-top watertight bins in the dashboard and beneath the rear seat, a glove box, wet storage on the rear deck (ideal for ropes) and a sealed front stowage totaling 33.2 gallons.

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That being said, its difficult to contain our enthusiasm for this particular machine. Whether fooling around with friends, cruising the lake with family, or charging the buoys, the FX SVHO is more than capable. Yes, there are machines with more storage, more horsepower and more bells and whistles, and in most cases, you’re going to pay for those things too. Priced at $15,099, it comes in comparable to competing units. And it can run on the cheap stuff too (internal knock sensors detect low octane fuel and retard engine timing).

Of the full-sized runabouts to be offered for 2015, the FX SVHO manages to walk the line of versatility better than many others. The WaveRunner’s blend of ergonomic design, amenities, power delivery and economy makes it a performer that all members of the family can enjoy, and that makes it a winner in our book.

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Additional images courtesy of Alie Block’s Photos by Alie and are available for purchase HERE.

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Kevin Shaw

Editor-in-Chief – kevin.shaw@shawgroupmedia.com Kevin Shaw is a decade-long powersports and automotive journalist whose love for things that go too fast has led him to launching The Watercraft Journal. Almost always found with stained hands and dirt under his fingernails, Kevin has an eye for the technical while keeping a eye out for beautiful photography and a great story.

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