At first blush, it’s almost too much to take in. High reaching fender flares jut out at aggressive angles. A broad trapezoidal grille gapes open like a hungry maw. The footwells are deep enough to use as park benches and the wide tail could be mistaken for that of a small sport coupe if driven on the highway. On land, it stands 53-inches tall with over eight-and-a-half inches of ground clearance.
Dwarfing any personal watercraft available today, the 2015 Quadski XL is humongous. Built by Gibbs Sports Amphibians out of Auburn Hills, Michigan, the massive 140.2-inch long two-seater ATV/runabout bests its smaller one-seater sibling – the Quadski – by a full 12-inches, and is only outsized by Yamaha’s legendarily-massive 151.6-inch-long SUV 1200. Oh, and the Quadski is wide too, 62.5-inches wide in fact.
Whether shifted through a sequential, electronically-controlled gearbox with a centrifugal clutch (with an electronically-operated land reverse gear), or propelled by a proprietary lightweight jet drive pushing thrust through an 11-vane stator via a stainless steel 5-blade impeller, the BMW’s 140-horsepower K1300 (1293cc) water-cooled 4-stroke in-line 4-cylinder brings the Quadski to a maximum of 45mph, be it on land or at sea.
On terra firma, the Quadski XL is manageable, handily responding to inputs given through the wide, fixed steering. Controls are a blend of traditional ATV and PWC, which are both familiar and a little confounding, only because you find yourself forgetting that this machine is both. In fact, Gibbs instructs that the Quadski be registered as both an all-terrain vehicle and a personal watercraft.
Gas is applied through a thumb throttle, and while on land, brakes are applied through a traditional left-hand lever. Gear shifts (be them up or down) are inputted through a yellow toggle switch (very similar to current Kawasaki Ultra models’ trim control), and ignition is sparked by first turning the key to “On” in the center console, and then pressing the green start button.
As mentioned above, an electric reverse wakens the starter and propels the Quadski backwards, but only for short 10-to-15 second internals. The toggle for the driving lights are found to the left of the keyed ignition tumbler, with the High Speed Amphibian (HSA) switch to retract and deploy the suspension to the right of it (more on that in a minute).
Both the Quadski and two-seater XL ride on 12-inch-tall aluminum four-spoke rims with 25x8x12 all-terrain nobbies, halted by four-wheel disc brakes and suspended on independent coil springs and hydraulic dampeners. More so than anything else, the Quadski’s innovative and entirely unique suspension is what makes this duplicitous machine so extraordinary.
We at The Watercraft Journal were honored with the opportunity to be the first to review the newly unveiled Quadski XL. Provided to us by RIVA Motorsports, the leading Quadski dealer in the US, as well as the only licensed distributor for the Southeast, we were given unprecedented access to this incredible machine. Between waves of springtime rainfall in southern Florida, we pushed this near $48,000 vehicle as far as we could.
Somewhat limited by it’s RWD platform and heft (an astounding 1,437lbs.), many have found the Quadski to be less than adept for off-road. We find this somewhat subjective as lifeguards and emergency services employing the Quadski regularly traverse obstacles without incident. Nevertheless, the BMW’s 87 ft. lbs. of torque adequately pulled us up the launch ramp and out of the water every time.
Our time ashore was limited to the parking lot and launch ramp (with a little bit of driving on the lawn, but don’t tell the superintendent), but once we hit the water, the lake was all ours. Our initial fears of submarining the nose down the ramp were staved by a slow initial decent. The BMW breathes through a baffled air box (similar to a Jeep snorkel), making it incredibly difficult to swamp the motor.
Even while on land, the prop never disengages from the gear-driven transmission, making launches instantaneous. The Quadski wades out into the lake naturally, but won’t engage full throttle until the suspension is fully retracted. Pressing the two-way toggle to “wheels up” takes 4-to-5 seconds, a chime pinging until the conversion is complete. Likewise, once the transmission is shifted to 1st gear, the Quadski is ready to rip.
With the wheels neatly tucked in beneath the fenders, the Quadski XL quickly rises to plane. Responsiveness to throttle and cornering is muted, requiring a much more coaxing than what modern sportier watercraft provide – but again, that is to be understood given the Quadski’s bulk, weight and dual-action abilities. The ride is a wet one, and sacrifices all playfulness for Rock-of-Gibraltar steadiness.
The slightly tiered seat is wide and rigid, and is split covering a deep storage tub in front and conservative engine access behind. Rearward of the seat is a secondary storage compartment also housing the battery and fire extinguisher. Below the left-hand grip is a long-throw reverse lever that we found is better that keeping the Quadski stationary than actually reversing.
We noted some of the hull’s design to be reminiscent of previous Yamaha hulls in some degree, but wondered if the larger, deep-V of a Kawasaki might be better suited. The Quadski rode predictably and never wandered, but could benefit from a little more pep in its step. Large stainless steel sponsons are found behind the back wheels, and planted the tail firmly in a corner.
Ultimately, the Quadski XL is meant to traverse both land and water and it does so admirably well. According to our Garmin GPS, we ticked a maximum of 41mph with a 225lbs. rider and a full tank of fuel, pushing the XL’s overall weight closer to 1,800lbs. All things considered, that’s pretty dang good. Of course, the audience for this craft aren’t interested in cutting buoys or reaching break-neck top speeds, but something else entirely:
“The people who buy [the Quadski] don’t worry about the price,” RIVA Racing’s Marcos Smith explained. “[They] want to sail to the Bahamas, launch from their yacht and drive up the beach and back.” That might make several bristle with budgetary envy; yet even at close to $50,000 a piece, RIVA Motorsports manages to sell nearly two units a month. There’s a market for the Quadski and they love it. Frankly, we did too and see this culmination of engineering and ingenuity have created an impressive product.