Rough Water Luxury: 2019 Yamaha FX Cruiser SVHO WaveRunner

The 2019 Yamaha FX Cruiser SVHO, while always at the pinnacle of Yamaha’s premium luxury WaveRunner lineup starting at $16,199, is completely new this year with a plethora of performance and rider comfort. On the performance side, the new 2019 FX lineup borrows hull design from Yamaha’s race-bred GP1800R as well as tried-and-true admirable aspects of previous FX models. The new FX Cruiser weighs in at 820 pounds dry. While still being the largest flagship model, it remains svelte using Yamaha’s NanoXcel2 composite technology which both lightens and strengthens the WaveRunner’s hull over traditional composite layup.

The 2019 model is 16-pounds lighter than the 2018 FX Cruiser SVHO while increasing dimensions slightly to 140.9-inches long, 50-inches wide, and 48.4-inches tall (not to mention adding storage from 33.2-gallons to 44-gallons). Yamaha’s relentless pursuit of producing a better power-to-weight ratio drives out unnecessary heft.

Speaking of power-to-weight, similarities with the GP1800R do not stop at the hull. The FX SVHO Cruiser shares the same supercharged high output 1,812cc four-stroke engine as the race-winning GP1800R. Your throttle hand will appreciate grunty bottom-end torque provided by an industry leading displacement. Hold on tight to those accent color-matched ergonomic grips, because once boost kicks in water flowing from the 160mm, eight vein pump will shove you back into the high-backed cruiser seat.

Moving to the 2019 FX Cruiser SVHO’s creature comforts, the “Cruiser” moniker originates from a stadium style (successive levels higher than the previous) three-tiered seat standard for Cruiser and SVHO Limited models. Wrapped in stitched material, the seat is both comfortable and effective at keeping riders planted even in the roughest conditions. Small grain embossing in the material limits slippage when damp. Redesigned bow ridges deflect spray to grant riders more control when to get wet. Watercraft riders of old would probably chuckle at the thought of choosing when to be splashed on a PWC. That is the world of luxury we currently reside in though, and the FX lineup is a premium example of melding performance with comfort.

Worthy of taking a flagship luxury role, other significant rider amenities in the cockpit of the 2019 FX Cruiser SVHO include a customizable RAM mount on the left, which can be interchanged with the right side Hydro-Turf lined cup holder. The RAM mount accepts a variety of mobile accessories including Yamaha’s optional speaker units ($299) and fish finder ($249), which are available standard on the 2019 FX Limited SVHO.

In between these two features is an industry first color touch screen boasting Yamaha’s “Connext” software. It grants total control to personalize the rider’s experience such as adjusting screen color and brightness, tracking maintenance schedules, or in the case of the Drive Control feature, adjust acceleration and speed curves for less experienced or overly ambitious riders. The FX’s controls are easily accessible with ergonomic color-matched grips on the handlebars, RiDE reverse traction control system and electronically adjustable trim on the left, five-way tilt under the steering, and No Wake Mode, Cruise Assist, and throttle on the right.

Premium cut Hydro-Turf lines the spacious footwells, deck, and reboarding step to keep slippage to a minimum. The FX Cruiser models include the addition of two pull-up cleats on each side for easy docking. Despite being the largest hull in the fleet, the new FX feels downright skinny compared to older models. This facet allows the rider to comfortably use their legs for grip in both a relaxed, leg-forward riding position and a knee-down, aggressive cornering body position. Get a little wild on the water or stuck on the boat lift in the rain? Never fear, Yamaha stepped up to the plate and have introduced a gravity drain in each footwell. Simple design, and as long as it is kept free of debris, allows for simple drainage to keep stagnant water out of the footwells.

The FX was put through a multitude of different riding situations from stormy, bulkheaded, angry lake chop to flat water closed-course buoy carving. A quick press of the start button fired the SVHO engine to life with a quiet, yet aggressive idle note. As we backed in on a narrow boat ramp the RiDE system immediately showed it’s true colors. Personal watercraft have been notorious for being difficult to handle in tight areas or docking due to water constantly flowing rearward, thus propelling the ski forward as the engine turns over. Not so on a RiDE-equipped craft.

The larger FX was perfectly composed dropping into the narrow single-vehicle neighborhood boat ramp. A touch on the left lever brought the FX smoothly in reverse off the trailer, letting go of both levers left the ski to idle in place while maintaining steering to turn in the narrow waterway, and light pressure on the right throttle lever nudged the FX out toward open water.

Tropical storm blowoff was rolling on this particular day with wind gusts at 15 to 25 mph – a perfect testbed for rough-water riding on an already usually choppy, bulkheaded lake. A quick check in the cavernous watertight glovebox confirmed cell phone, keys, and wallet were safe and sound. The new stretchable molded rubber latch was preferable over the older catch style that could, albeit rarely, come open during hard riding.

Straight line handling over heavy chop was impressive. GP1800R-esque dual cove hull design planed over frequent, deep troughs and high wave crests with surprising composure. Handlebar feel around center was not nervous or darty no matter what angle waves were impacted. Like riding on a motorcycle with suspension to absorb bumps, the FX broke through waves without significant transfer of energy to the rider almost as if floating above them. Don’t get me wrong, even the best-designed hull cannot stop a good jostling from hitting a wave at 65 miles an hour, so good judgment is imperative.

Sustained 60-plus mph was possible on significant chop due to Yamaha’s top loader intake grate efficiently funneling water into a 160mm pump. The undeniable seat-of-your-pants power created by the SVHO engine completed an impressive package of speed and handling. Keep in mind, big speed and acceleration mean you’ll be cracking open your wallet as much as you crack open that throttle!

Straight line speed was fun, but the real joy of riding the FX started to bloom when carving corners. Having ridden motorcycles from dirt bikes to superbikes for many years, the turn-in feel of the FX was very akin to riding a sportbike on the road. Steering at center was stable and predictable. With a confident turn of the bars the hull gracefully broke to the indicated side and held a firm line under throttle. Personally, riding PWCs has taken precedence over motorcycles in recent years because of the ability to push the boundaries of the machine farther on the water than the street. All of that with similar performance and fewer consequences, you can see why more and more personal watercraft are turning up in you and your neighbor’s driveways.

Pure confidence in the FX came a split second after the entire WaveRunner took to the sky mid-corner, having launched off the backside of some aggressive chop, only to land and keep the same line without any hint of sliding, catching, or high-siding. The Cruiser seat kept rider and machine together comfortably and confidently as you can tell from the photo. Being marginally longer and two inches wider than the previous model did not affect how nimble the 2019 FX felt swapping bond rail to bond rail. The width did, however, allow for rider comfort due to almost infinite foot placement and riding positions in even the bulkiest of shoes.

One of the new features for the 2019 FX, among other Yamaha WaveRunner models, is the touch screen display. At first, we were skeptical. We wondered how was a touch screen supposed to work when soaked with water? On our tests in some of the roughest, wettest conditions the touch screen never had an issue responding to user input. Truly impressed with the brightness and responsiveness of Yamaha’s Connext software. No complaints whatsoever!

A storm and descending darkness cut the adrenaline-filled lake test short, but that’s not the end of the story. A 2019 FX Cruiser SVHO was available to ride at the June Cycle Shack North Yamaha Demo Day at 3 Palms Extreme Sports Park. Everyone who attended got the opportunity to experience the FX’s confident riding style in completely opposite conditions – flat water and high-speed carving.

Flat water can be a great proving ground for finding faults in a machine since all movement is generated by the machine rather than waves, so irregularities in performance are isolated. Everything was butter smooth as the FX dove in and out of the zig-zag buoy course. All of the previously mentioned stellar handling aspects were noted. Initial confident turn in followed by a glue-like grip on the water with no nervousness when the FX tracked over other wakes.

The FX definitely gave the mighty race-bred GP1800R a run for its lunch money on the buoy course while being incredibly predictable, comfortable, and luxurious on both rough and flat water conditions – further solidifying the FX Series WaveRunners at the top of Yamaha’s 2019 lineup. They combined sleek styling wrapped around a tremendous power plant, almost limitless personalization from an interactive touch screen and genuine Yamaha accessories, with comfort for spirited riders or the whole family out for a day on the lake.

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Ashley Haude

Ashley "chixwithtrix" Haude is an avid motorsports enthusiast who loves to share the stoke with fellow riders. After years of riding sport bikes, drift cars and dirt bikes - stand up jet skis became a life passion from racing to freeride in 2015. You can find Ashley on the water most weekends, or in the garage during the week working on her skis.

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