Renaissance Man: 2014 Yamaha FX SVHO WaveRunner

The deep blue and rich black metallic hues of the FX SVHO drew the attention of passersby as we blasted down the muddy waters of Sycamore Creek, TN.

A couple of years back, Yamaha performed a few modifications to the hull of the brand’s existing full-sized three-seater runabout, the FX series. By extending the keel the length of the ski, sharpening the chines and a few other tweaks, Yamaha hoped to infuse a little more excitement into its top-of-the-line segment.

Although fine machines in their own right, the FX’s couldn’t shake the reputation as a somewhat staid craft, particularly when lined up against the very excitable FZ two-seaters (even when equipped with the unofficial 218-horsepower SHO plant). Despite the revisions made to the ski’s belly and sponsons, the FX SHO failed to catch fire with the performance crowd the way it ought to.

If this review serves any purpose at all, we hope it grabs you by the ears and violently shakes you out of it. The newly minted 2014 Yamaha FX Super Vortex High Output (SVHO) WaveRunner is more than a regular ol’ three-seater with a hot supercharged plant. This is a Lamborghini Superleggera with a backseat. Sure, you can toss a friend or two in behind you, but you’re gonna scare the bejeezus out of them…if they can hang on long enough.

New for 2014, Yamaha amped up their lineups with some very sharp cosmetic touches. Our personal favorite is the electric blue-on-black two-tone Hydro-Turf traction mats. The rear swim platform is wide and deep featuring a broad, flat-edged folding swimstep and deck storage.

The 1.8L SVHO benefits from 8.5:1 forged pistons, larger 60lbs. injectors, a larger, more efficient HKS supercharger producing 60-percent more boost, improved oiling and a larger intercooler.

Building upon the aforementioned Super High Output 1,812cc four-cylinder four-stroke, Yamaha’s laboratory of mad scientists threw caution to the wind and built the SVHO (or Super Vortex High Output).

The new engine benefits from stronger 8.5:1 compression forged pistons, larger 60-pound fuel injectors (over the previous 42-pound sprayers), a larger and 22-percent-more efficient intercooler, a redesigned oil cooler providing 110-percent improved efficiency, and a larger (86mm versus 82mm) HKS supercharger pushing 60-percent more boost thanks in no small part to a new 6-vein impeller.

Processing all of that power is a larger performance-bred 8-vein pump spinning a 160mm impeller. Unfortunately, the FX SVHO retains the same 5-degree 87mm nozzle unlike the FZR series’ new 3-degree nozzle with cast-in diffuser veins and tighter 85mm exit diameter. Likewise, the SVHO shares the same knife-edged tiered sponsons, a ride plate, and a steep-angled intake grate as the previous year SHO’s impressive handling package.

The dashboard of the FX SVHO is delightfully uncomplicated. High visibility lights and an easy-to-read single analogue gauge reads off speed (or RPM) with a very clear hour counter and fuel gauge.

The command to “hang on tight” has never been easier thanks to Yamaha’s pistol grip-style handlebars. Oblong, contoured and well-placed, we wouldn’t change a thing even if we could.

To get the most out of this new powertrain, Yamaha not only employed its proprietary NanoXcel material laying process for the hull but the deck as well, plummeting the runabout’s heft down to a featherweight 873-pounds. (All without sacrificing an ample 33.2-gallon total storage capacity.)

Producing more boost, more compression, greater fuel efficiency, lower internal engine temperatures (heat soak), more thrust, better hookup and improving the power-to-weight ratio, the SVHO erupts out of the gate with a neck-snapping 1.5-second 0-to-30, and reportedly, when piloted with a lightweight rider and laden with a gallon or two of fuel, can tickle 71mph (but don’t tell the USCG).

For our test, we scantly reached a top speed of 67 miles per hour, which is understandable given that we had a heavier pilot, a full tank of fuel (18.5-gallons) and less than the required 5-to-10 hours of sufficient break-in time on the hour meter. Nevertheless, throttle response is razor sharp, leaping at the flick of the trigger. In fact, the immediacy in which the SVHO pulls through its sturdy mid-range to top end is enough to quiet naysayers.

Yamaha’s Cruise Assist controls and No Wake Mode buttons are well within reach, but could benefit from a little quicker response when activated.

The glove box features a removable Styrofoam insert with two integrated cup holders (in addition to the in-dash cup holder), ensuring that riders never dehydrate.

Without taking away from the FX SVHO, the bliss provided by the new powertrain can be had in both of Yamaha’s FZ units, the FZR and FZS. What truly makes the FX SVHO is its full exploitation of the previously mentioned redesigned hull. The SVHO package simply produces the power and hookup that reveals the brilliance in the NanoXcel FX hull that the SHO couldn’t.

Now, the FX can confidently roll into a turn without backing off the gas. With the trim set down a notch or two, the bow digs in, bites hard and rolls into the turn like a craft two thirds its size. Through chop, the FX behaves like an angrier version of the naturally-aspirated versions we’ve reviewed here before, tracking straight and true.

We managed to snap the tail loose a time or two, but racked that up to setting the trim down to its maximum and refusing to lay off the fun trigger. When careening through the tight serpentine turns of the muddy-brown Sycamore Creek or the open, windblown waters of the Cumberland River, we couldn’t get enough out of the FX SVHO.

Whether sluicing through windblown chop or the still waters of a quiet creek, the FX SVHO can handle it with ease – and speed! We were impressed with the ski’s good nature in the rough and impressed with how greedily it cuts a turn.

Bow storage is plentiful, but when combined with the glovebox, rear deck bin and watertight storage under the rear passenger seat, the Yamaha’s 33-plus-gallons is more than enough.

The dashboard is spartan, with a single analog gauge and simple LCD screen to the left reading off RPM, speed, fuel and other necessities. The tilt steering is sturdy with no noticeable play. And as we’ve said before, Yamaha has got the best hand grips on the market today. The pistol grip design allows for comfortable reach of the No Wake mode, Cruise Control toggles and ignition switch.

Being an FX, the three-seater SVHO provides plenty of room for riders and gear, including the “wet storage” bin beneath the third passenger. The craft’s most aesthetically pleasing addition is a large swim step covered in two-toned Hydro-Turf traction matting. The long two-part bench seat is equally hued, but it’s in the paint job where Yamaha shines. Adorned in Yamaha’s Deep Blue and Black Metallic paint, our test subject caught the eyes of passersby even before we reached the launch ramp.

All in all, the 2014 FX SVHO is something to behold. Providing all of the refinement and civility of the FX lineup but the brutish power and catlike reflexes of the FZ runabouts, the FX SVHO is a do-it-all performer that will surprise a lot of disbelievers who think they can’t get the performance they crave from a full-sized three-seater. We know because we were one of them.

And for those of you looking at tweaking and tuning a new Yamaha, will find the FX superior for top speed numbers than the FX and its large, wide-mouth pump intake.

Special thanks to Pat Moeller who let us break in his new toy, and George Rinehart who nearly got me eaten alive by snapping turtles and water moccasins. 

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Kevin Shaw

Editor-in-Chief – Kevin Shaw is a decade-long powersports and automotive journalist whose love for things that go too fast has led him to launching The Watercraft Journal. Almost always found with stained hands and dirt under his fingernails, Kevin has an eye for the technical while keeping a eye out for beautiful photography and a great story.

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