If there is one thing we’ve seen the Yamaha Motor Company excel at over the other OE manufacturers is offering a runabout that is neither bare of amenities or swimming in top-of-the-line features. In recent years, Yamaha’s FX HO and FX HO Cruiser models have struck a chord with older buyers looking for a machine that is both mature in design and execution, all the while delivering big on three key attributes: fuel economy, smart storage and ride comfort.
A couple months ago, we had the opportunity to review Yamaha’s outgoing 2013 Yamaha FX HO and found it to be an apt solution to the consumer looking for a fun, spirited ride that wouldn’t drain the wallet. Yesterday, we boarded Yamaha’s 2014 entry in the next class up, the Cruiser.
The 2014 FX HO Cruiser retains its fuel-mileage friendly naturally aspirated 1,812cc four-cylinder four-stroke pushing its thrust through a slightly smaller 155mm than the SVHO’s race-ready 160mm pump, producing approximately 180-horsepower.
But do not be dissuaded, the HO Cruiser is no wilting flower. We had plenty of fun careening through the ins and outs of Kentucky Lake, the Cruiser’s big displacement plant sprinting through the serpentines without breathing heavy. Reaching a healthy 62mph top speed bests many naturally-aspirated models, particularly with a full tank (18.5 gallons) and a 220-pound rider.
The brand’s handlebar-mounted Cruise Assist and No Wake Mode are marked by large, easily accessed buttons that provide a gratefully audible acknowledgement when activated. Setting your speed is easily done with a second confirming press of the button and readily adjustable via the up/down toggles. We were a little dismayed that the Cruise Assist capped at 45mph, but shrugged it off as more evidence of Yamaha’s commitment to safe, enjoyable riding.
Many features, such as Yamaha’s high visibility rooster tail and right-hand reverse lever are more identifiers of Yamaha’s strides towards increased rider safety. The new reverse lever is a mechanical affair with a scrolling gear indicator in the grip itself announcing when the ski is engaged in “Neutral.” Other touches – such as Yamaha’s retractable Pull Up Cleats and twin watertight storage compartments are as underrated as they are understated.
With over 33 gallons of available storage, we discovered the specificity of Yamaha’s design: cell phones, wallets and keys fit snugly in the in-dash screw-top (and padded) bin, while gloves, drinks, sunscreen and GPS would fit in the glove box. Larger items like backpacks, dry bags and flipflops are best suited for the ample bow stowage as towels or a change of clothes belong in the other screw-top underseat container. Lastly, tow ropes, swim fins or goggles slide in place in the rearward deck bin.
For 2014, Yamaha really stepped up the classiness of the FX line with attractive two-tone traction mats and improving upon their already iconic tiered Cruiser seat. Standing at 6’2″, we found the forward-most seat bolster a little too close to the steering than we’re used to, but thoroughly enjoyed the cushy padding and lower back support.
We have to applaud Yamaha for what we consider possibly the most comfortable handgrip found on a production PWC today. The pistol-grip style contour of the grip and oblong shape fit naturally in the palm of your hand. It, like so many other features, are something you’d normally overlook unless we mentioned it, and we think you’ll agree too.
Aesthetically, the new FX HO Cruiser is strikingly handsome, angular and adult in its overall look. We have an unusual fondness for the Pure White paint but be warned, you’re going to want to wear sunglasses. Even on an overcast day, this ski reflects light with unmatched brilliance – so much so we wondered if was actually a safety feature!
The FX HO dashboard is spartan, with a single analog gauge that trades between RPM and MPH upon demand. Flanked by a single LCD screen, the available information includes fuel levels, speed and little else. If water temps, a depth gauge or compass heading are important to you, you’ll have to go elsewhere.
One major trait that we were very satisfied with was the Yamaha’s solidity. From the sturdy-feeling adjustable steering to the secured locking of each storage compartment, the FX HO feels stout without being cumbersome. At 825-pounds (dry weight), the Yamaha remains lightweight due in large part to its proprietary NanoXcel hull and deck material.
At speed – be it seated or standing – the Yamaha greedily sluiced through windblown chop with nary a rattle or chatter, it’s big plant thrumming beneath the seat. In fact, we paid close attention to the engine sound while riding. Without the staccato whine of a supercharger, the natural baritone of the 1.8-liter was a refreshing change of tune.
Priced at $13,399, the full-sized three-seater is no entry-level machine. But with gas prices where they are, the 110-plus-miles on a single tank of fuel that the HO Cruiser offers will quickly recoup the initial asking price. All in all, we find the FX HO Cruiser as a great solution for riders who are looking for the ideal balance of limited luxury, comfort, efficiency and fun.