Whoa. That’s pretty much what we’ve got to say. Whoa. Leading up to the reveal of Sea-Doo’s 2018 lineup there was a lot of speculation, quite a lot of educated guessing, and well, a whole lot of whiffs through the batter’s box. The retirement of the S3 hull was the strongest of these, but then again, the eventual Polytec’ing of the GTI lineup made sense too. And of course, The Watercraft Journal made its fair share of predictions for what would be the 50th anniversary for the watercraft manufacturer and we can say that we fared OK. We’ll start by recounting our predictions (and a few from other folks) and then dive into the details.
First, what was being said? First, for whatever reason, people kept claiming Sea-Doo was going to build a standup using the Spark’s powertrain and Polytec hull. One source predicted a Polytec deck and 330-horsepower for the RXP-X. We had predicted that Polytec would replace all FMC fiberglass hulls in the Recreation line (GTS/GTI), including the 130 and 155-horsepower models. We also believed that CM-Tech, which debuted last year on the GTR-X 230, would also become the standard for all GTS/GTI/RXP units. Like others, we heard that Sea-Doo was well underway with a revised, more offshore-friendly full-sized hull with a deeper-V design. Lastly, we believed a performance-tuned Spark would finally see the light of day.
Well, we were half right. Debunking the standup rumor didn’t require a crystal ball, just common sense (and we’ll delve deeper into the whys in a later article). For 2018, CM-Tech has disappeared from the tech sheets completely, so we’re not sure what that means just yet. And while Polytec has indeed infiltrated the majority of the new lineup (more on that in a second), the proprietary material has not replaced the remainder of the hulls of all GTI-based watercraft, so many of you can breathe easy. Yes, a new hull has arrived and it’s pretty cool. And no, there’s no Spark-X, but there is a new performance Spark that is sure to be a hit.
So let’s start with what’s not changed. The Sea-Doo Spark has been the catalyst for literally thousands of new, first-time buyers to enter into the PWC market. The traditional 2 and 3-up seating arrangements remain in place as well as choices of the 60 and 90-horsepower ACE 900 engine tunes. Colors are carry-overs but with a twist: Now they come mixed-and-matched: Vanilla & Blueberry, Licorice & Mango, and Pineapple & Candy Blue. Equally, the insanely successful Spark Trixx returns with a choice of Orange Crush & Chili Pepper, or Bubblegum & Chili Pepper – as well as a 3-up option. That’s right, the single best-selling PWC of 2017 is now available in a 3-person configuration, so make sure to invite your friends.
In the same vein, the GTS, GTI and GTI SE all return with the 90-horsepower ACE 900 and Polytec hull for 2018. As a surprise to some, and not at all to others, the Spark-infused GTIs were Top 10 sellers this year, and thereby, received little in the way of changes apart from coloring: White & Reef Blue (GTS & GTI), Black & Sunrise Orange and Beach Blue Metallic & Lava Grey (GTI SE). The GTI SE (Special Edition) comes with a reboarding ladder, additional instrumentation functions, and VTS as before, and can be ordered with a traditional FMC hull and a choice of a 130 or 155-horsepower Rotax – the last remaining of the previous generation 4-tec engines.
Changes to the 2018 GTI Limited 155 are dramatic but purely aesthetic. Bathed in a glistening Liquid Grey Metallic and swaddled in Equestrian Brown, the luxury-equipped GTI suddenly launches into exquisite super sedan territory just by appearances alone. Of course, the Limited package throws in a king’s ransom of accessories including VTS, further gauge functions, a dry bag, a ski cover and additional safety equipment. The remaining runabouts to carry directly over from 2017 are the 230-horsepower supercharged GTR (in Octane Blue & Black) and Wake 155 (available in Teal Blue Metallic & Lava Red). Now on to the good stuff…
At first blush, the 300-horsepower RXP-X and the GTR-X (in California Green Metallic and Black) appear to have gone untouched as well – save for an option of two new liveries (Ice Metal & Lava Red and Neon Yellow & Lava Grey) on the RXP-X – but that is not so. As a bit of a surprise, the GTR-X and RXP-X feature a new racing handlebar setup with an adjustable riser – a direct takeoff from the ever-popular Trixx steering system. Simply loosen, adjust and re-tighten. Just as surprising is the redesign of the iControl function toggles from the traditional up-and-down buttons into legend-shaped pads that shuffle through the functions on the LCD screen. This new steering arrangement replaces the X-Steering system, as it were.
The big change for 2018 is for the RXT, GTX and Wake Pro models. As stated before, Sea-Doo’s S³ (a cute idiom meaning “stepped-cubed” or “three steps”) was a well-designed platform but fell short on a few key characteristics: stability and control. For 2018, Sea-Doo is introducing its new, deep-V ST³ hull. The platform itself is actually much more than just a mere hull redesign, but an integrated hull and modular, multi-component deck that sets the rider deeper into the well, providing a lower center of gravity, which raises rider confidence at high speeds (or while riding with a full quotient of passengers), superior cornering control, as well being far more rough-water capable.
The ST³ is also wider (from 48.2-inches to 49.4-inches), providing wider footwells and a massive, flat reboarding platform. Sea-Doo also notes that the wider footprint adds “for worry-free re-boarding and movement around the watercraft.” Also incredibly unique to the ST³ platform is its central cargo compartment; gone are the days of leaning up and over your handlebars to reach inside the front bin, now access can be had from where you are. Simply raise the latch and the entire top deck (including the gauge cluster and tilt-handlebars) pivots up on a gas shock. Inside is 27-gallons of lockable storage. With the hinged deck in place, a small glove compartment remains allowing for watertight (and shockproof) storage of your phone and wallet, with an optional USB port for a phone charger.
We did note that this new storage arrangement dramatically reduces Sea-Doo’s total storage, from 42.8 gallons to 27 gallons, which is even less storage than the Recreation segment GTS/GTI models. To counter this drop in storage, Sea-Doo offers its new LinQ Attachment System, a modular rack system permitting the attachment of either a 4-gallon fuel caddy (in an “easy-to-pour” canister); a semi-rigid, 5.5-gallon storage bag that can stack on top of the fuel caddy; or a rigid, durable and weather-resistant 4.2-gallon cooler that can also serve as a table between reconfigured seats for on-water picnics. (Each sold separately through Sea-Doo’s accessory line.) As mentioned, the ST³ is 1.2-inches wider, but it’s also significantly shorter: down from 139.2-inches to 135.9-inches. Fuel capacity for all ST³-based units remain identical to outgoing S³ models at 15.9 gallons.
Oh, and there’s one more thing: the Ergolock seats are modular. That means that the reconfigurable rear seat can be removed, rotated and slid back rearward. As Sea-Doo writes, “Riders can quickly change from a 3-seat configuration to a flat lounge area when stopped to enjoy the surroundings. Two riders can face each other for a picnic lunch, or when removed, the larger, flatter rear deck makes re-boarding and prep for tow sports easier and more stable.” Take a closer look at the pictures provided to The Watercraft Journal when you get a chance, and you can see all the different configurations. Notably absent is any imagery showing how easy (or not) access to the engine compartment is. The filler cap and neck is accessed directly under the glove box, beneath the articulated deck.
Standard for the GTX Limited 230 and 300 models and optional on all other ST³-based models is Sea-Doo’s BRP Audio Premium sound system. The thumping 100-watt stereo is the world’s first Bluetooth, fully-integrated waterproof watercraft audio system, built to withstand harsh all-weather environments, features Bluetooth connectivity, and external playback controls that allows you to toggle through your song list while at speed or simply lounging around. The speaker pods are integrated into the forward footwells and can be controlled by a soft-touch control pad above the left speaker or through your device’s audio system. Both ST³-based Limited units come in the same striking Liquid Grey Metallic & Equestrian Brown coloring.
And if you didn’t notice earlier, there’s now a GTX Limited 230 package for 2018. There’s even another new GTX unit to join the standard GTX 155, a new-for-2018 non-Limited GTX 230. Both engine packages of the GTX (155 or 230) come in Beach Blue Metallic & Lava Grey and missing are the ornate chrome accents and finer accoutrements of the Limited packages. It’s also noteworthy that the GTX 155 weighs in at 768-pounds, the GTX 230 at 805-pounds, and the GTX Limited 230 and 300 weigh 824 and 847-pounds respectively. Again, the employment of Polytec for the top deck dramatically saves weight from these machines, particularly as the outgoing GTX Limited 300 tipped the scales at 909-pounds.
Lastly, the 2018 RXT 230 and RXT-X 300: Gone is the RXT 260, replaced with the torquey 230-horsepower ACE 1500. Available in Black & Octane Blue, the RXT 230 enjoys the benefit of the ST³ platform, both in its superior rough water/open ocean prowess, and its weight savings, hacking the weight down to 805-pounds, literally 16-pounds less than the GTR-X 230. The RXT-X 300 is only slightly heavier at 828-pounds. Completely gone is the X-Steering system. The tilt-steering neck remains, incorporating the redesigned gauge cluster (dubbed “X-Gauge”), as well as the angled foot wedges. Finally is the exciting addition of Launch Control, a handlebar-operated launch control system that “automatically adjusts the pump angle to provide perfectly controlled acceleration—every time.” The RXT-X 300 comes in either Ice Metal & Lava Red or Neon Yellow & Lava Grey.
The final addition of ST³-based machines is the Wake Pro 230. Awash in Teal Blue Metallic & Lava Red and striking Wake Pro graphics, the ‘Pro 230 comes with the telescoping LinQ Retractable Ski Pylon, removable wake board rack, high-performance VTS and Speed-Based Ski Modes, which work great to allows the driver to adjust the hardness of the launch for different rider’s skill levels. When properly equipped it weighs in at 815-pounds. Alas, a final testament to the weight savings earned by the new ST³ platform. One final bit is that Sea-Doo updated the design of its iBR on-water brake for a third iteration. And again, The Watercraft Journal has yet to have any face time with these machines as they are only being unveiled to dealers as we speak. Once we can get our grubby hands all over them, you’ll see much more pictures, articles and videos!