In less than 24 hours from the moment of this writing, The Watercraft Journal will have hard confirmation whether its predictions for Yamaha’s 2017 lineup will have been true or not, as we will be at the private media introduction of the newest batch of WaveRunners. Of course, we’ll also have a comprehensive review of the entire lineup first, both with more detail and pictures than any other resource in the personal watercraft industry – but that’s not the purpose of today’s edition of “Vicious Rumors and Vile Gossip.” No sir. In fact, it’s all about the brand’s biggest competitor and current market share leader, Sea-Doo.
Thus far, chatter concerning the brand’s newest batch of watercraft has remained reasonably quiet. All but our earliest predictions from the first of the year, that is. We wrote, “we do predict the dissemination of the new ACE 300 engine – in a non-supercharged format – throughout the rest of the current Sea-Doo lineup for 2017. Rotax engineers dedicated quite a bit of time, effort and resources in improving the outgoing 1503 Rotax 4-tec three-cylinder, and it’s clearly evident in the new ACE 300. Even without the service-free supercharger, the innovations put into the new ACE stands to provide power and efficiency gains for all levels of Sea-Doo PWC – from the GTI 130 to the GTX 155.”
And all of what little noise we’ve heard from our sources have echoed the same. Because of the level of investment that BRP has poured into the two ACE engines (ACE 900 and ACE 300), the manufacturer looks primed to focus specifically on these two powerplants and finally phase out the lingering 1503 1.5-liter Rotax 4-tec engine. With the latest crop of 300-series Sea-Doos (GTX Limited, RXT-X and RXP-X) earning rave reviews both from the media and message boards, the new 1630cc ACE engine has proven a reliable and reasonably trouble-free replacement to the outgoing powerplant; a significant achievement considering the amount of re-engineering poured into its revised “service-free” supercharger and new drive shaft (riding on two composite bearing packs at either end of a near inch-thick shaft, engaged by 8 steel clutch washers).
Of course, most applications of the new ACE 1630 won’t require the supercharger as most will operate strictly naturally-aspirated. The 9-percent added displacement is certain to account for increased bottom-end performance for all of Sea-Doo’s lineup, although top-end horsepower will likely retain the same ratings (130, 155, 215, 260, 300, etc.). Apart from this phasing out of the 14-year-old Rotax with the new larger-displacement 3-cylinder, not much else is expected change with the current machines. On the other hand, a whole new unit is rumored to be introduced to “fulfill a gap in the market,” from what we’ve been told. Initially, we hoped this would be a dedicated fishing PWC, but that seems unlikely…for now.
Rather, the mystery runabout will either be the much anticipated 110-horsepower Spark X, or a particularly optioned GTI or GTX model. Yes, that sounds vague. We know. Yet, considering how well Yamaha has managed to specifically equip certain VX and FX models to appeal to particular market segments, Sea-Doo will be following close behind. Personally, we’d love to see a Limited GTI that comes with a dowry of accessories similar to Yamaha’s family fun starter pack VX Limited (raft, tow rope, storage bag, cover and solar-powered battery charger, and 12-volt USB port in the glove box); but we’ll have to wait and see.
Regarding the aforementioned Spark X, talk of this craft has been circling for over two years now. Aftermarket tuners have shown how apt the ACE 900cc engine is to a reflash, immediately opening up to a dyno proven 110-horsepower (over the stock 90-horsepower). Whether the Spark X will manifest itself in the “blue sky” apparition with adjustable sponsons, X-Series steering and foot wedges/locks is somewhat dubious, particularly as the 90-horsepower HO editions already have enthusiasts pushing PolyTec to its limits, and Sea-Doo is not interested in rehashing the tired argument whether the material is sturdy enough to last the roughest of circumstances. Rather, we understand that Sea-Doo will unveil a new avenue to take in revitalizing the 4-year-old craft’s mass market appeal.
All in all, the rumors we’ve heard are minimal: the brand-wide application of the 1630 ACE engine across all 1503-equipped units; the introduction of a new mid-segment PWC (via creative optioning); and the possible introduction of the Spark X or other Spark option. Of course, Sea-Doo has a way of even making “bold new colors & graphics” pretty big news, so don’t be surprised if Sea-Doo ends up doing something surprising.