The title of this review might sound a little strange until you realize that’s how many years that the Kawasaki STX-15F is (with a major change being the change from a 1.2-liter to the larger 1.5L a decade ago). When Kawasaki built the STX back in 2003, the idea of it eventually becoming the brand’s entry level unit likely never crossed their mind. This was a ski built as Kawasaki’s flagship model at one time before the supercharged Ultras came along. Over time, it slowly fell down the ranks to an affordable entry level unit.
We recently picked up a new 2015 Kawasaki STX-15F and immediately went out to put a few hours on it. Honestly, after jumping off a supercharged Ultra to Kawsaki’s entry level ski with just over half the horsepower, we weren’t expecting a whole lot in the performance area. After a few hours of seat time, though, it’s safe to say this ski exceeded our expectations.
Propelled by a normally-aspirated 160 horsepower, 1498cc, DOHC 4-stroke, four-cylinder engine, the STX-15F features a 148mm jet pump, which puts the power to the water quite nicely. The ski itself is 122.8 inches long and 46.5 inches wide, with a curb weight listed at 845 pounds. This makes the STX shorter than the competing Sea-Doo GTI 155 SE and VX Deluxe, yet the heaviest of the three (131.5-inches and 769-pounds, and 132.6-inches and 790-pounds respectively).
The first thing we noticed was the 15F’s exceptional handling. This ski bit hard going into the turn. With a hull design that is over 13 years old, we weren’t really expecting it to handle as well as it did. It was extremely nimble and very easy to throw around, evidence to the Kawasaki’s long pedigree of regional, national and world championships racked up by some of the biggest names in runabout racing.
Once we got into a calmer slew, we pinned the throttle at first chance. The 1498cc engine roared up to a top speed of 67 mph on the speedometer. Because the STX still uses a paddle wheel speedometer, which are traditionally a little too “optimistic,” we needed a better confirmation. With a GPS on hand during a different day, we racked up a top speed just under 64 mph. Again, for a normally aspirated ski, we were very impressed with the straight line performance.
Next, we went out in the rough water. We were able to maintain a good speed between 45-to-50mph through the chop. Yet, in the really nasty chop, we were getting airborne a good bit, which was fun, but not exactly a pleasure ride. In the mild chop, though, this ski just cut right through it and stayed hooked up. It’s easy to understand why this hull has more championships than any other hull ever produced.
The 15F’s racy nature does take some getting used, but feels very safe and stable at most speeds, as one would expect an entry level unit should. Despite it’s big 1.5-liter plant, it runs on 87 octane. It has all the makings of an entry level unit, but offers something extra when you grab a fist full of throttle. It’s no supercharged rocket on water, but it does offer much better seat-of-the-pants excitement than one might expect out of an entry level ski.
Yet, it remains a family friendly ski. It seats three, has a spacious 23.5-gallon’s worth of storage (albeit offering less available storage than the aforementioned competitors), is capable (and legal) to tow a skier, and it also comes with a SLO (Smart Learning Operation) key, which limits the power output of the engine. It will fit most people’s watercraft wants and priced at $9,699, it’ll fit their budgets too, just fine.
It is worth noting that the STX-15F doesn’t come with a whole lot of features: no cruise control, electronic trim, water temp or air temp display, not to mention electronic trim, or even brakes (found again on the two mentioned competitor’s craft). In fact, the 15F remains so unchanged that the reverse lever still resides beneath the throttle.
There are still some nice features on the ski, though. Such as a Smart Learning Operation (SLO) key, which limits the power of the engine, and Kawasaki Smart Steering (KSS) that adds throttle when a rider tries to turn without adding power. We hope to see advancements found on current Ultras like fly-by-wire throttle control, improved oiling and internal engine cooling, and even cruise control and electronic trim find their way to the lowly STX-15F some time soon.
Either way, this is a ski that is certain put a smile on most faces. Whether you’re a performance enthusiast, thrill seeker, adventurer or cruiser, the Kawasaki STX-15F is a ski to consider next time you go shopping for a ski.