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Longtime PWC industry followers undoubtedly will remember Yamaha’s GP models. First came the GP1200 in 1997; next, the GP1200R in 2000. The last of the lineage was the the 2003 GP1300R. All were defined by their impressive power and exceptional turning ability, the key ingredients of what became known as a “musclecraft.” Alas, they were all two-strokes. Somewhere in the course of the shift to a four-stroke-only market, the GP name – and all that it embodied – was left to history.
Until now, that is. In 2017, Yamaha is reviving it. Why? Because, as reps are quick to point out, the new GP1800 is worthy of the title.
To be fair, the GP1800 is not radically new, but a combination and tweaking of existing parts. The hull/deck combo is essentially borrowed from the sporty VXR, meaning you’ll get that craft’s defined hull strakes, soft bow chines and race-proven keel. Below the saddle resides the potent 1.8-liter Super Vortex High Output (SVHO) featured in the (now departed) FZR. The engine offers the most torque of any Yamaha offering. That power comes into play once you look more closely at the materials list. Yamaha fabricated the GP hull and deck from the second generation of its proprietary NanoXcel hull material, meaning the combo has dropped significant weight. At 769 pounds, the GP1800R weighs in a full 22 pounds less than the FZR it replaces, while upping horsepower. And weight isn’t the only thing that got reduced. So, too, did price. Compared to the $14,799 list price on the outgoing FZR, the GP comes in at $13,999, a full $800 savings.
In short, Yamaha is giving performance consumers a craft with much improved power-to-weight ratio for less money.
And yes, the craft delivers performance worthy of its name. In less-than-ideal conditions on a hot, humid August day outside Atlanta, I noted yank-your-arms acceleration out of the hole, a beastly midrange and a GPS-verified top speed just shy of 69 mph. Sure, that was with my 155 pounds in the saddle and that speed may come down in final production, but I’m guessing it won’t drop by much. The familiar, supercharged SVHO engine with its high-performance intercooler funnels its power through a 160mm, eight-vane pump to deliver maximum thrust at the touch of the throttle. Both pump and inlet are new, with all of the pump “guts” – stator, nozzle, and deflector redesigned for the application. Horsepower has become a guessing game, but it’s safe to say the engine produces comparable power to competitive models (even if it’s technically rated in the neighborhood of 265 horsepower). Performance enthusiasts will also appreciate the news that most existing FZR/FZS performance parts will continue to work in the new model.
So it’s fast, but can it turn in a manner worthy of the GP moniker? The short answer is you better believe it. With the lightened hull and increased power, the hull literally bites into corners, snapping off precise turns with a ferocity that, at speed, will instantly put a grin on the face of experienced riders. Yamaha’s new EX series may be designed to spin or slide when desired, but the GP offers none of that silliness. Instead, it’s all business, taking corners like a slot car and darting this way and that the instant the pilot turns the handlebars. It’s impressive to say the least.
But, I’ll be the first to admit, it’s not for everybody. Yamaha agrees, noting the craft is “designed for closed-course racing and experienced high-performance enthusiasts.” Shorter riders like myself will note the saddle width mostly prevents the legs from getting into the act, which makes holding onto the craft in those hard turns mostly an exercise in upper body strength. And to be blunt, I need to hit the gym. The GP1800 offers exceptional handling, but it’s capable of turning much harder than I’m capable of hanging on. Hardcore riders (like Yamaha-sponsored Brian Baldwin who joined us at the press introduction) will rejoice, but those a notch down the totem pole better respect the craft’s handling.
One suggestion? Ride it a little bit old-school. The hull features more of a neutral lean that most recent models, so keep a small amount of weight to the outside of a turn to keep the hull slightly flatter in the water. I found the attitude produced the hardest cornering response, at least while my strength lasted.
As to those aforementioned features, the GP1800’s focus may be race-ready performance, but that doesn’t mean it falls short on creature comforts and low-speed maneuverability. Most notably the craft features RiDE, the brand’s dual-throttle control system for improved control in both forward and reverse. In the simplest terms, RiDE uses the normal righthand throttle to go forward, and the lefthand throttle for reverse. Release both and the craft assumes a neutral mode. RiDE offers precision low-speed handling in tight confines. The RiDE lever can also be used for rapid deceleration at speed, as it diverts water forward and to the sides via the reverse bucket.
As to the remaining details, the cut-and-sew construction seat is textured and features a pronounced bolster to anchor the rider in place. Pistol-style grips are color matched to the primary accent color. Underfoot, Hydro Turf traction mats now feature more intricate CNC-cut patterns. Aft, a spring-loaded boarding step makes reboarding the craft that much easier in deep water. Fuel capacity measures up at 18.5 gallons. You’ll also note 24.6 gallons of storage space, including Yamaha’s typical deep, convenient glovebox. Electric trim helps dial in the running angle for best acceleration/high-speed results.
Of course, the final takeaway includes none of the latter details. The news here is that the GP has returned, with all the might of its legendary predecessor and then some. Look for checkered flags – and just everyday guys who like to challenge you on the weekends – to start shaking in anticipation.
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