Normally, this article springs up somewhere closer to the beginning of the calendar year, primarily because the manufacturers are prone to let slip a few tasty morsels of information that almost completely reveals what they’ve got coming down the pike. Such was the case with Sea-Doo while attending this past 2018 new product introduction back in early October 2017, which we promptly spilled back in December (and will re-iterate here below). Others, such as Yamaha, have been impressively quiet about what they’re cooking up, and what we’re going to share in today’s article may be coming further in the future than just a few months away. Nevertheless, we’re letting it all hang out.
Now, as a bit of a backgrounder, we have to pat ourselves on the back for rightly predicting Sea-Doo making major changes to its entire GTI lineup, more specifically, converting all decks to CM-Tech and furthering the use of Polytech as a suitable hull material. Certainly there are some traditional FMC hulls still available, but not for long (wink, wink). Moreover, we also called Sea-Doo’s use of Polytech for the larger-output 155-horsepower Rotax-powered GTI’s – it just so happens to be the Wake 155 to get it first. This may sound like small potatoes, but as is with changes like these, a harbinger of things to come. With the new ST³ units being entirely CM-Tech, be warned that Sea-Doo’s abandonment of traditional FMC is as sure a thing as the sun rising in the east.
Lastly, it’s worth admitting that some of today’s predictions are closer to speculation than others. Most of you will clearly recognize the differences. Others will not. That’s OK by us because it makes for good chatter among the forums and social media circles, and people talking about the industry is always a good thing. So with the foreplay out of the way, let’s get to the good stuff:
As of right now, all of Kawasaki’s proverbial eggs are still in the SX-R’s basket. It was voiced to The Watercraft Journal back in late 2016 that Kawasaki hoped to sell close to 2,500 units in the standup’s first year. According to our sources, nearly half of that number moved across dealer floors in 2017. With recent rule changes to so many different ski classes making the SX-R almost mandatory equipment, sales have remained steady – and have rightly buoyed Kawasaki’s market share as of late. Equally, a burgeoning aftermarket has aptly adopted the SX-R 1500, offering a variety handling and performance components. Add to it continual non-racer interest, and the new stand-up has been a solid addition to the brand’s lineup.
Thus far, any motion towards Kawasaki offering a Rec Lite-segment (Spark, EX) runabout remains clandestine. Back in April 2017, The Watercraft Journal questioned Kawasaki’s Off-Road and Watercraft Product Manager Dave Oventhal, “Trust me, we’re not ignoring them.” Oventhal then began to question – quite thoroughly – our feelings towards Sea-Doo and Yamaha’s on board brake-and-reverse systems, respectively. Yes, corporate interest is there, but to this date, we have still heard or seen nothing to make us believe that little more than BNG (Bold New Graphics) are on the way for the Kawasaki JetSki offerings in 2019. If we are wrong, and the Big K comes out of the gate with something new, we’ll be the first to share our surprise.
People are pretty friggin’ excited about the new ST³ machines (RXT 230, RXT-X 300, GTX 155, GTX Limited 230 and 300). The markedly smoother ride, increased stability, and lower, more centralized rider position have all elevated the new full-sized Sea-Doos to new heights. Yet, Sea-Doo’s decisive focus on touring and “adventuring” on the new skis has only highlighted a major failing that Sea-Doo enthusiasts have been bemoaning for years: a larger fuel tank. The 15.8-gallon fuel cell is simply insufficient for the big, thirsty ACE 300 models, even despite the new ST³’s lighter weight and ECO mode. Thankfully, below the ST³’s Direct Access Front Storage bin is a surprising amount of room remaining – and where we believe a large capacity tank will reside. We’ve heard upwards to 20-gallons of fuel. Other sources say closer to 18.5.
Next, we know that Sea-Doo will be rolling out an all-new, full-color digital instrument panel either this year or the following. And it already exists. While Sea-Doo was drawing back the curtain on the new 2018 lineup, BRP was revealing its new Spyder lineup with the full-color, all-digital dash. To quote a previous article of ours, “Both the Spyder and Sea-Doo ST³ machines also received BRP’s new Premium Audio systems both featuring Bluetooth connectivity for enabled mobile devices. Riders can access a navigation application, play content, and listen to music directly. The ST³ and Spyder both [already] share the same Bluetooth connectivity for the Premium Audio System via mobile devices, and even the standardized protective phone case on all of the new watercraft all speaks to the inevitability of the new dashboard.”
For the Spyder, a thumb-operated joystick on the left handgrip navigates a pair of large 4.3-inch screens (the dual screens provide optimal viewing from all angles), offering up live data like fuel level and speed perpetually on the left, and display-compatible apps on the right, like: Genius Maps: advanced GPS navigation platform that requires no internet connection; Music: sort easily through personal music libraries for the perfect playlist; and AccuWeather: be prepared for the elements and pack accordingly with real-time weather information. We suspect most of this technology will find its way on to the GTX Limiteds first and as an option on lesser-equipped models. Oh yeah, and all of the GTIs will soon be riding on Polytech hulls. It’s happening. Just accept it. (The GTR and GTR-X will get CM-Tech hulls – the RXP-X will get a full redesign in a few years.)
This one was the toughest nut to crack. Tracking Yamaha’s behavior led us to realize that 2019 will bring us a completely redesigned FX platform. How so? Because the FX is 9-years-old, and that means it’s time to be rotated out. We made the same call for the FZ platform a few months before the reveal of the GP1800 and we weren’t wrong then, either. The decision is not an emotional one either. The current FX is an absolutely successful platform; stable, comfortable, smooth, and when properly equipped, and a force to be reckoned with in the rough stuff. Expectations for the new FX will include a redesigned bench seat that is more tapered at the knees, a far more ergonomically-friendly cockpit, and increased storage. But what else?
We have strong reason to believe that Yamaha could be introducing infotainment to its WaveRunner lineup as well. For 2018, Yamaha rocked fans of its top-of-the-line ski boats and Star motorcycle line (particularly the all-new Star Venture) with intuitive display systems. Albeit slightly different in their respective applications (Yamaha boats have a 12-inch touchscreen, button array and joystick – dubbed Yamaha Connext – that replaces all analog instrumentation, while the Star Venture employs both a 7-inch full-color LCD display flanked by analog gauges and is controlled either by a handlebar-mounted joystick, touchscreen or voice command), the functionality is almost identical, giving the rider access to live vehicle data, a range of audio sources and wireless Bluetooth usage.
Clearly, the inclusion of Yamaha’s industry-leading infotainment system directly implies the addition of an on board sound system. This of course, would bring Yamaha back into contention with Kawasaki and Sea-Doo, who both offer factory-installed audio systems with their top tier watercraft. For both aforementioned control systems, riders are able to play from their own smartphone’s song list either via a USB port or Bluetooth, or access music through SiriusXM’s 150-plus channels, as well as to SiriusXM Travel Link for satellite weather. Carrying over functions like way-point navigation, a GPS speedometer and a depth sounder could contribute handily to the new Yamaha WaveRunners FX series’ class leadership.