It was good news either way you looked at it. The 2019 Yamaha VXR WaveRunner was either the top-of-the-line of Yamaha’s middle segment VX lineup, or it was the freshest entry to the brand’s race-ready Performance segment. Per Yamaha’s own website, the VXR is listed as the latter with the VX Cruiser HO claiming the top of the VX totem pole, which it rightly deserves. More so for 2019 than ever before, the VXR shares so much more in common with its GP1800R sibling that the similarities now outnumber the differences.
“We really wanted the ‘R’ to stand for something more,” Yamaha WaveRunner Product Manager Scott Watkins explained to The Watercraft Journal back in late July of 2018. “It was undefeated in the naturally-aspirated class [during the AquaX series in 2018]. For 2019, we really step up the VXR for the racer and performance enthusiast.” True to his word, changes made to the VXR are multiple and significant, all of which add up to lightweight, naturally-aspirated machine that acts like its supercharged.
Like the pocket rocket EXR, the 2019 VXR also benefits from the use of Yamaha’s proprietary NanoXcel2 lightweight bonding material for 2019. That shaved off a clean 28-pounds from the previous model, bringing the new VXR down to 739-pounds (dry weight). In doing so, it also made the VXR now share the identical hull and deck as the GP1800R (identical in both weight and design). Like the GP1800R, the VXR also employs the new larger, reinforced intake grate brackets that strengthen up the pump tunnel as well.
Speaking of which, Yamaha designed to benefit the VXR with the same louvered and extended, race-inspired ride plate, as well as the aggressive top-loader intake grate. These two additions alone account for both the GP1800R and VXR’s radically increased traction, reduced cavitation and predictable, rider-responsive maneuverability. A flick of the handlebars now communicates instantaneously with a racy inside-lean and snap-turn responsiveness. There’s no slop to be found here; if you’re looking for playful spinouts and slippery power slides, check out the EXR. The VXR is all business.
Beneath the racy cut-and-sew, high bolstered two-piece seat lies the VXR’s 1,812cc 4-cylinder High Output engine. At 180-horsepower, the 1.8-liter is the largest displacement, naturally-aspirated engine in the market today. The exhaust note is tuned to sound throaty without the tinniness of other machines. At wide-open-throttle you’ll love the howl it makes as the wind whips past your ears. Its orchestral. And the 1.8L is compliant with 87 or 93 octane, which is impressive given its 11:1 compression ratio.
Being naturally-aspirated, the VXR employs the same 155mm, 6-vein pump as the rest of the naturally-aspirated VX lineup. Additional carryovers from the VX series include its 131.9-inch beam, 18.5-gallon fuel capacity and 24.6-gallons of storage broken up between a large bow stowage, waterproof screw-top bin beneath the rear passenger’s seat, and a generous glove box with molded-in cup holders. The handlebars are fixed (no tilt or telescoping feature), and include Yamaha’s “automatic start” Start button, electronic trim control and of course, Yamaha’s RiDE brake and reverse system.
The dash is spartan and identical to that of the GP1800R; a simple LCD triangular screen reading off trim settings and fuel level in diagonal bars, a numerical speedometer, analog-style tachometer, and readouts for voltage and hours. Toggling between kilometers and miles is done via a combination of start/stop and trim buttons outlined in the owner’s manual. Other than that, it is what it is.
Other useful goodies include the standard folding swim step, static rear view mirrors, and tow hook. Being a three-seater with a rear grip rail that is nicely tucked in close to the seat for a rearward-facing passenger, the VXR can aptly be used as a tow vehicle for the kids’ towable or your club members’ broken down ski (there’s always that “one guy”). Available in either Torch Red Metallic with White or Azure Blue Metallic with White, either option comes with color-matched, two-tone, CNC-cut Hydro-Turf traction matting.
We had the opportunity to ride both color variants of the 2019 VXR and found ourselves longing for 2018’s stealthy black-and-blue livery. We opted to shoot our action photos with the Torch Red Metallic with White, and film our latest episode of The Watercraft Journal with the Azure Blue Metallic with White unit (as well as capture our still shots). With a 235-pound rider, we registered a consistent 67mph on the speedometer (slightly less on our GPS). That’s pretty on par with Sea-Doo’s supercharged 230-horsepower GTR and GTR-X models.
When compared to its $14,199 MSRP supercharged GP1800R sibling, the $1,900-more affordable 2019 Yamaha VXR – priced at $12,299 – suddenly becomes all the more attractive. Again, the flexibility of pouring 87 octane down its filler neck adds to the VXR’s appeal too. This is easily the raciest WaveRunner we could see a doting husband getting away with if the wife was pushing for a budget-friendly toy the whole family could enjoy. We’ve always enjoyed the VXR, but the recent changes have truly awoken this craft’s potential, and for it earns our praise.