It’s been a great year for the personal watercraft industry across the board. For the first time in years, the entire boating market was up 11-percent, and within that the PWC market boomed. Sea-Doo picked up 6-percent in sales, Yamaha experienced a whopping 18-percent gain, and Kawasaki nabbed an impressive 11-percent. That bump was in no small part attributed directly to the introduction of its 4-stroke SX-R JetSki, which was, by all measures, the single-most anticipated reveal in several years. Early projections have sales of the new JetSki at “right around 1,000 units” sold, with the full production line already claimed and purchased by dealers early in the season. Kawasaki also reported a strong 38-percent in first-time buyer sales, which is a phenomenal number to report.
So by all intents and purposes, Kawasaki has much to celebrate. And as the SX-R makes its racing debut at this year’s IJSBA World Finals as an homologated craft, we’re certain to see a swathe of racers taking a strong look at the potential of this machine. Because of the newest of the craft, nothing has changed between its late-year introduction and the 2018 model – colors and decals remain the same. For the rest of the lineup, only the aesthetics receive any sort of attention, which has been the summation of the Kawasaki lineup for several years. Because so much of the lineup are direct carry-overs, we won’t dedicate too much space here reviewing the particulars, as they remain unchanged since last year (or the year before, or the year before that, or…).
Above: The ’18 Kawasaki SX-R ($9,999) returns exactly as it appeared in 2017, including the same 1,498cc naturally-aspirated, throttle-cable operated powerplant found in the STX-15F and Ultra LX.
Above left: The Kawasaki Ultra 310LX ($17,999) returns as the industry’s single-most expensive luxury-segment runabout – also boasting the most horsepower (310HP). It returns in Ebony/Candy Lime Green for 2018. Above right: Personal favorite of The Watercraft Journal, the 310X SE (Special Edition) is only sold in the US, and returns in Ebony/Candy Burnt Orange for 2018 ($15,799).
Yet, we will note that the door is closing fast on Kawasaki’s runabouts to recognize the threat looming above their head. In 2014, Kawasaki wowed many with its innovative Jetsounds on board PWC sound system. Jetsounds’ pair of aft-facing, 30-watt waterproof speakers (powered by two 20-watt amplifiers) is controlled by a Jensen-built head unit that’s integrated into the handlebar pad. Of course, the music comes from either your smartphone or MP3 player (stored within the glove box in either a waterproof bag with a standard 3.5 mm headphone jack), or USB memory stick (stored in a sealed aluminum cylinder). For 2018, Jetsounds is no longer the only game in town with the introduction of BRP’s Premium Audio package; a fully-integrated, waterproof 100-watt stereo.
Featuring the world’s first Bluetooth compatibility, BRP Premium Audio requires no head unit, just an external key pad for external playback controls that allows you to toggle through your song list while at speed or simply lounging around. Moreover, innovations like on-water brakes-and-reverse from both Sea-Doo and Yamaha, drop-in cleats, watertight storage compartments, ECO and fuel-saving programmable tunes also elevate the competition in the forms of technology and economics. While this article is not the space to outline our thoughts pertaining to market segments that the current Kawasaki lineup is missing, it is worth noting comparatively priced or audience-focused groups and the competition that Kawasaki has before it, which we have done in many of the captions here.
Above: The Ultra 310R JetSki ($16,299) receives an Ebony/Metallic Stardust White color scheme for 2018. Otherwise, the Eaton TVS-supercharged offshore darling remains unchanged, down to its green sponsons.
Above left: The base Ultra 310X strikes us as the most radical color change in Ebony/Metallic Surf Blue ($15,299). Above right: Wrapped in Ebony/Metallic Phantom Silver, the naturally-aspirated Ultra LX ($11,199) again, remains unchanged and void of cruise, trim or other electronically-manipulated programming found on the supercharged Ultras.