Slight of hand is the name of the game for Sea-Doo in 2017. While the wild and rowdy Spark Trixx is grabbing up all of the attention in the public eye, the brass at Sea-Doo slipped in two major changes into their runabout lineup that have gone predominantly unnoticed [except of course, by us – Ed], although their implementation are far more significant than what many would suspect. The first of those changes was the introduction of BRP’s all-new CM-Tech top deck process and material, found exclusively on the 2017 Sea-Doo GTR-X 230, which The Watercraft Journal was first to review late last month. The process is being tested through a limited run this year (hence the exclusivity particular to the GTR-X 230), and will be quickly be disseminated throughout the GTI lineup in the coming year(s).
CM-Tech is unique in that unlike traditional SMC, CM-Tech (Closed Mold Technology) is a molding process that reverses the goal coat process, as well as other key features. Sea-Doo Watercraft Global Product Manager James Heintz explained to The Watercraft Journal, “The main procedural difference is that instead of applying gel coat to the mold before injection, multi-layer thermoformed sheets of Acrylic and ABS are placed into the mold before the fiberglass is injected. This accelerates the process and also improves quality thus reducing the number of rejects. In effect, this creates a high gloss acrylic finish on the top deck that is more resistant to chipping and cracking due to the flexible nature of the acrylic sheets. In addition, the inside of the deck is now smooth, with no protruding sharp pieces of epoxy or fiberglass matting.”
This new process not only streamlines the manufacturing process, but reduces waste and produces a superior final result, being both smooth to the touch on the inside and leaving a high gloss, significantly more durable finish on the outside. Another aesthetic bonus to CM-Tech is Sea-Doo’s ability to lay down rich metallic paints on its surface. While visible in most photography, the GTR-X has an luminescent pearl beneath its California Green Metallic hue that shimmers in the sun.
The second addition to Sea-Doo’s lineup is the very peculiar decision to make all base model GTS, GTI and GTI SE runabouts not only share the ACE 900 powertrain from the Spark, but a new Polytec hull as well. Made from “a recyclable, low density and high-impact composite material that includes polypropylene and long glass fiber reinforcements,” as per Sea-Doo’s own website; in the case of the 2017 Sea-Doo GTI SE, the move to a 90HP ACE and Polytec hull shaves off 150-pounds, dropping the machine from 790 to 640-pounds.
And like the Spark, the GTI top deck is attached to (or removed from) the Polytec hull via a series of 6-point star-shaped torx head screws found beneath the rubberized bond rail. We queried whether the differing rate of flex between the Polytec and FMC deck would place considerable strain on the seal between the two, but Sea-Doo officials felt confident that Polytec was up for the challenge. Of course, in the unique case of the GTI SE, a Polytec hull is merely an option, as are three engine options.
With the selection of the available 90HP ACE 900, the particular unit is equipped with a Polytec hull. Otherwise, if either of the carryover 130HP Rotax 1503 or a 155HP Rotax 1503 engines are selected, the GTI SE will ride on a traditional fiberglass hull. For now, the only engine that the Polytec hull is paired with is the ACE 900. Yet, it is difficult for us not to speculate whether this pairing doesn’t speak to the future of both Polytec and the rest of the Sea-Doo lineup.
For this review, we eagerly selected the Polytec-equipped 90-horsepower ACE HO-powered GTI SE. Above of hull and powertrain, much of the GTI SE remains the same as before: stellar lines, a long Coke bottle-shaped single-piece saddle, well-placed instrumentation and adequate storage found both in the bow and in the glovebox (equaling a combined total of 30.8 gallons). This year offers the machine in either Black and White, or the eye-catching Sunrise Orange and White, which we absolutely loved and wished was the livery of choice for the entire X-Series.
And of course, the GTI SE offers additional rider inputs in the form of a thickly-padded folding swim step, ergonomic “palm rest” hand grips, iControl toggles for Touring, Sport and Eco modes, as well as Sea-Doo’s electronic VTS (Variable Trim System) and scrolling through the various options on the LCD dash screen. Steering is fixed but well placed, and the footwells are deep and angled for reclined, seated or upright riding.
But the big changes to the GTI SE come from radically dropping so much weight. Although the design of the GTI remains identical to traditional FMC hull, the strakes, chines and lines remaining the same, the GTI SE rides higher on its keel without being tipsy or unsteady. We did find the GTI SE far more reactive to the water’s surface, as its lightweight releases it from impact-absorbing heft it once had. The ACE 900 is well intended and gives its all (particularly when engaged in Sport mode), but even then feels taxed. Throttle response is immediate, but again, just not enough to retain the playfulness of the 130 or 155-horsepower options. We eked out a top speed of 49mph, but did so under admittedly lousy conditions. Wind, chop and sweltering temperatures were far more to blame than the GTI’s powerplant. We pushed the GTI SE through a four-corner buoy course and still found ourselves grinning with glee, so there’s still plenty of fun to be found.
The 2017 Sea-Doo GTI SE isn’t significant because of its power or performance, but because of what it does to the manufacturer’s lineup. The GTI SE is less of a lower-end GTI, but a graduated, top-of-the-line Spark. For families looking for the lightweight and entry-level price point of a Spark (MSRP $9,599), but the comfort, stability and storage of a Recreation class runabout, the GTI SE bridges that gap expertly. Yet to us, the integration of so much Spark DNA into a full-sized runabout speaks to the manufacturer’s intent towards its lineup and the future. Although visions of supercharged 300-horsepower Polytec-hulled RXP-Xs seem afar off, remember this is Sea-Doo we’re talking about – and when they set their mind to something, it usually happens. The GTI SE might not be the ideal fit for you, but the innovation found here might just be found in all future watercraft from BRP.