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Color – whether it’s a deep metallic blue or a show-stopping fluorescent green – has become the norm in the PWC market. That’s why, when I first spotted the Yamaha FX Cruiser SHO on a crowded beach, it literally stood out from the pack. Its brilliant white is reminiscent of a movie star’s smile, with only subtle splashes of grey and red. It’s a combo that, at least on paper, would seem typical of an inexpensive model destined for rental duty. But in person it literally shines, giving the craft a completely opposite feel – an upscale, classy vibe.
And in this case, you can definitely judge a book by its cover.
Below that impeccable paint is one of Yamaha’s most iconic models, a one-time flagship that, while no longer at the top of Yamaha’s lineup, still offers a potent mix of horsepower, handling and amenities.
Horsepower comes from the proven 1.8-liter, Super High Output engine, which boosts power with the classic combination of supercharger and intercooler. Grab a handful of throttle and the boat will leap forward with gusto, topping out at 65 mph. That’s power that will thrill those that like speed, but also satisfy buyers looking for a versatile craft more than capable of pulling a wakeboarder, tuber, or water skier.
The FX hull also earns high marks. It’s always been a favorite in rough water, as it holds a straight and true line through the waves without getting knocked from its course and inspires utter confidence in its pilot. It also, however, stands out in calm conditions, carving turns with a predictable inside lean. Enhance the manners with electric trim by putting more of the bow down into the water as you corner and then raising it when you reach the straightaways. Or, just find your sweet spot and endlessly carve a glassy waterway like a slalom water skier, leaving a perfect S pattern in your wake.
Those same mannerisms also help the FX Cruiser SHO excel at touring, or cruising. Cruisers especially will appreciate the saddle, which features notable tiers to not only separate riders but also position each slightly higher than the one in front for a better forward view. Bolsters provide low-back support on those longer journeys, as well as lock the driver in when getting aggressive. The aft third of the saddle lifts away to reveal a container for dry storage below; a small wet-storage trunk compartment is located below the rear grab handle, and with its notched lid, perfect for securing a watersports towrope when not in use.
Cruise control and no-wake mode make those journeys or tows far more pleasant. Use cruise to lock in the speed you desire, then fully squeeze the trigger to eliminate finger fatigue and fluctuating speeds. Small adjustments can be made via up/down buttons adjacent to the cruise activation. No-wake mode requires no throttle input, so works well for slow, 5 mph zones.
The feature that truly stands out, however, is RiDE, Yamaha’s dual-throttle control system. RiDE adds a second throttle on the left side of the handlebars, and uses it to provide thrust in reverse. You can apply that thrust at speed to rapidly slow the craft, or you can apply it during docking, launching and loading, or other close-quarters, slow-speed maneuvering for dramatically enhanced, precise control. When the RiDE lever is applied it overrides the conventional throttle. When both throttle and RiDE lever are released together, the craft goes into a neutral mode, with the reverse bucket directing thrust just enough so that motion is essentially stopped.
RiDE isn’t as much like a set of gears as it is just a smooth flow between opposing motions. Power is available the second you touch either throttle lever. RiDE does have considerable power in reverse, however, meaning you do need to spend a few minutes getting used to the quick response before putting yourself into any really tight situations.
RiDE also stands out for its characteristics during high-speed deceleration. As water is diverted to the sides of the reverse bucket, the craft resists the tendency to dive at the bow and stays surprisingly level.
Many other amenities impress on the FX Cruiser SHO. Yamaha includes a spring-loaded boarding step as you might expect, but the bottom bar of the step is flattened, making it far easier to stand on, especially in bare feet. Locking the ignition comes via an automotive-style key fob remote, which can also be used to activate a speed-governed mode. Tuck it in a screw-top bow storage container when underway. The Cruiser also gets pull-up cleats, which prove quite handy when tying up at the dock, the tilt steering all FX models share, and that classy Pure White paint scheme.
No, the Cruiser SHO is no longer a flagship. But that doesn’t mean it’s lost any of its appeal, especially with the added advantages that now come with RiDE technology…
…and a paint job that makes every ride feel like SHO-time.
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