Kawasaki Jet Ski Ultra 300X

Acceleration is dizzying and maneuverability is tops.

In the seesaw battle for horsepower supremacy, Kawasaki’s Ultra once again reigns supreme. A new Eaton supercharger promises to deliver a more continuous flow of air and more substantial boost pressure — 17.3 psi compared with 11 psi in the Ultra 260. Add in greater thrust from an enlarged 160 mm (6.3-inch) pump and slightly reduced jet nozzle, along with a new impeller, top-loading scoop grate and lighter hull, and the Ultra can hit 65 mph and generate dizzying acceleration.

The power is phenomenal, but I was most impressed with the boat’s newfound handling prowess. Once a rough-water specialist that knocked down waves with aplomb but tended to drift through sharp turns, the Ultra now turns aggressively. Electric trim on the Ultra deserves some credit and allows the driver to drop the bow to carve sharper turns. A 20 mm (3/4-inch) shorter steering nozzle also enhances the craft’s reaction time.

While previous Ultras were somewhat minimal on features, the 300X adopts the electronic-throttle capabilities found on competitors like Yamaha’s FX SHO. Both no-wake and cruise-control modes are handy and controlled via handlebar buttons. Cruise can be adjusted almost throughout the entire power band. A new “eco” mode reduces fuel consumption by up to 15 percent, but unlike other eco-minded solutions, it maintained a surprisingly strong power delivery in my test. Design improvements include a redesigned reverse lever, which offers better control in tight quarters, and a new information display with large mode buttons that are easily manipulated with a gloved finger. For more luxury, opt for the Ultra 300LX, which features a more bolstered, supportive seat and a GPS socket for handheld navigators — all that and a more spiffy chrome scheme too.

Comparable model: Yamaha FX SHO