Personal watercraft manufacturers stopped providing horsepower ratings several years back, mostly due to the feeling that manufacturers weren’t making apples-to-apples comparisons. Still, it was no secret that Yamaha’s flagship FX Cruiser SHO lagged behind its competitors’ models. With the new-for-’14 FX Cruiser SVHO, that’s no longer the case. The addition of the V to the suffix is because Yamaha revamped the existing 1.8-liter, SHO engine. A new, larger six-vane supercharger produces 60 percent more boost. The intercooler, used to cool the air that supercharger takes in, also gets upsized and, according to Yamaha, increases efficiency by 22 percent. Additional upgrades include stronger, forged pistons, a vastly more efficient oil cooler and larger fuel injectors. With the increased power, Yamaha also addressed the jet pump. It is upsized to 160 mm, features a larger exit diameter, and, for the first time ever in a Yamaha watercraft, is fed by a performance-style, top-loading scoop grate. The ride plate has also been extended similar to those on aftermarket offerings.
The result? When combined with Yamaha’s lightweight NanoXcel hull, it adds up to eye-opening acceleration and top speed. Yamaha says the SVHO produces 20 percent more total power than the SHO. Though the boat I rode was technically still a prototype, it leapt to 30 mph in an arm-pumping 1.5 seconds and topped out at 71.5 mph in glassy conditions with minimal fuel and 155-pound me aboard. Even if that power is tamed slightly in production, it’s clear the SVHO should easily run with its competitors from Kawasaki and Sea-Doo.
Though thrilling, power isn’t the only thing on the agenda. Yamaha lengthened the FX platform in 2012, and again modified the sponsons for 2014. The result is a boat that delivers a shockingly comfortable, utterly predictable ride at speed. I dove in and out of high-speed corners without a hitch, the hull rolling into the turns with an intuitive inside lean, and charged across chop enjoying a Yamaha’s typical rough-water prowess. As you would expect on a flagship, amenities also deliver. The boat offers both cruise control and a no-wake mode, the latter perfect for navigating lengthy low-speed zones. You also get a bolstered, theater-style, three-passenger touring saddle and a remote transmitter to activate a speed-governing mode or lock the ignition against theft.
Comparable model: Kawasaki Ultra 300 LX