As personal-watercraft enthusiasts demand more and more from their rides, manufacturers increasingly rely on sophisticated technologies to boost performance, improve durability and lavish boaters with more creature comforts. It's a high-tech revolution — and proof positive that builders have moved their thinking well outside the traditional fiberglass box. The flagship craft on the following pages sport computer brains, space-age hull materials and new-age performance tweaks. And yet, they haven't forgotten what is by far the most important element: fun. In fact, the tech-driven makeovers allow these machines to tour, tow or just beat a buddy across the lake a little better than ever.
Sea-Doo GTX Limited iS
Sea-Doo has brought true independent suspension to the PWC market. They did it by separating the hull and passenger area into two separate components. Barrel through the chop, and your spine won't suffer the consequences. Instead, the seat, handlebars and even the footwells move within the hull (as much as 6 inches) to absorb much of the shock. Aluminum arms, fore and aft, control the travel. A center-mounted spring and shock absorber provide the cushion. Hydraulics automatically adjust to load and water conditions. Switch to manual and you can control the level of cushioning, opting for a firmer ride for performance or a cushier one for cruising.
That's cool enough, but it's the brakes, and what the technology enables, that truly stand out. By mating the reverse bucket to the craft's computer brain, Sea-Doo has enabled the iS to dramatically arrest its forward motion. Squeeze the brake lever and the computer briefly reduces water flow to the pump, allowing the bucket to drop into position. A split second later the thrust resumes, with the computer gauging the amount of water to deliver based on the craft's speed and how firmly the driver is squeezing the handle. The result is a controlled stop in about half the distance normally required.
The same system also allows the iS to do the most unlikely of PWC maneuvers — start in neutral. Hit the start button and the craft comes to life and holds a stationary position, thanks to a partial deployment of the reverse bucket. Squeeze the throttle and you move into forward. Apply reverse and you'll back away in control. It's a completely intuitive solution that will change the way a PWC handles around a tight launch ramp or marina.
Bonus Tip: Going on a longer cruising ride? Don a wetsuit or a pair of neoprene shorts instead of a swimsuit or boardshorts. The tight fit will prevent chafing and prove far more comfortable.
• Smart tilt: Many tilt steering systems cover the gauge array. Sea-Doo wisely links the instrument cluster to the handlebars, allowing them to pivot in unison.
• Versatile Speed Control: Drive-by-wire throttle, linked to a GPS speedometer, allows for both a no-wake mode and cruise control.
• Performance: GPS-based speedometer will limit speeds in excess of 65 mph; expect 0-30 acceleration in less than two seconds.
- Numerically Speaking
- Length: 139.2"
- Beam: 48.19"
- Dry Weight: 948 lb.
- Engine: 1494CC, Supercharged/Intercooled 4-cylinder, 4-stroke
- Fuel Capacity: 18.6 gal.
- Storage Capacity: 16.4 gal.
- MSRP: $16,499