And for the most part they didn’t. This is the same innovative, suspension-equipped, brake-ready, electronic throttle-controlled machine we saw last year, just with the typical graphics and color combination refresh. But apparently Sea-Doo couldn’t resist tweaking that engine to keep it at least tied at the top of the horsepower chain.
What’s that leave us with? The GTX Limited iS 260.
Gaining five horses isn’t a matter of retooling the engine. It’s just a little tinkering with the craft’s electronic brain, a remapping of the Electronic Control Unit that provides a subtle nudge to the existing 1,494cc, supercharged/intercooled engine. Top speed, at least theoretically, should still be limited to 67 mph by the craft’s GPS-based speedometer. How fast you get there is dependent upon which mode you choose.
Yes, also new this year are two “modes”, touring and sport. Start the boat and it defaults to the tamer touring mode, essentially a more gently mapped acceleration curve that is designed to not intimidate the family. Opt out for Sport mode and the engine’s full fury is ready to be tapped.
But now, back to our regularly scheduled program...
For those not intimately familiar with last year’s iS, here’s a quick refresher course. The iS stands for intelligent suspension. Essentially the entire rider area — seat, console, footwells — is suspended above the deck and hull. A twin-arm suspension links it to the craft below, using a center-mounted spring and shock absorber to soften the ride in rough water. There’s about six inches of total travel to the system. The boat’s iControl computer sets a level of shock-absorption when the driver fires up the boat. Hit a button and you can take things manual, softening or stiffening the ride to preference on a 1-9 scale.
I’ve ridden iS boats for over a year now, and I like them more and more with every ride. This is no magic carpet by any means, but it just softens the normal jarring of rough water. The system is perhaps best for passengers. Normally the number two and three slots aren’t too fun in rough conditions, but the iS not only makes rough water tolerable, but fun. Take your significant other for a test ride and they’ll soon become the salesman’s best ally.
The suspension isn’t the only thing softening the ride. Sea-Doo introduced a new hull in ’09, a stepped design popped from a closed-mold that handles rough water as well as any Sea-Doo model I’ve ever ridden. (And I’ve ridden them all.) It’s designed to reduce drag and improve speed and cornering. I like how you can feel the suspension compress as you dive into a turn, and the hull corners quite well. The only downside may be a slightly higher center of gravity in normal riding, which can actually make the boat feel a little tippy at slow speeds. Still, once you put in a little seat time, the handling will impress. Enhancing that personality is a variable trim system, which can jump back and forth between presets at the touch of a button to keep the bow down for cornering, or up for fastest speed.
A Brake...and More
The other “big” news on the boat is Intelligent Brake and Reverse” a system that uses the computer to control the reverse bucket to provide braking and forward/reverse action.
Despite all its complexity, the brake concept is actually quite simple. Squeeze the left-hand brake lever and the computer stops thrust for a microsecond, dropping the reverse bucket and then reapplying a controlled level of thrust to stop the boat’s forward motion. No, you won’t go over the handlebars. Braking is controlled, and the driver can vary the stopping force by how far they squeeze the lever, even “feather” the brakes like one would do in a car coming to a stoplight. The system stops the boat in about half the distance achieved by simply releasing the throttle. It also may change the way you drive, as riders quickly learn they can use limited brake in certain instances to change direction more quickly.
I still, however, think the practical benefits of the system are the real game changers. Start the average PWC and it instantly moves forward. Start the Limited iS and the boat stays put at the dock or ramp, the bucket redirecting thrust to prevent any forward or backward movement. Squeeze the reverse lever and you “shift” into reverse, squeeze the throttle and you “shift” into forward. I love how an iBR-equipped boat behaves around tight dock areas or launch ramps, and can also vouch for the fact that it gives newcomers a lot of confidence. It’s an excellent, intuitive solution that keeps hands on the bars and eyes on the water.
There’s a lot more to talk about on Sea-Doo’s flagship model.
Electronic throttle is one more enhancement. It enables features like cruise control, which allows you to find your speed, set it with just the push of a button, and then fully squeeze the throttle for the most comfortable ride. Release the throttle and the system disengages. Once set, speeds can be increased or decreased in 1mph increments with the tap of a button. A “no-wake” mode doesn’t require any pressure on the throttle, and will hold the craft at anywhere from 1-7 mph, which is great for those lengthy slow-speed zones.
Other touches are classic examples of “enthusiast-like” thinking. Tilt the handlebars up or down and the information display pivots with it, meaning you can always see things like speed and fuel level whether sitting or standing. The seat is hinged forward, and opens on a pneumatic strut. No more worrying about where to put the seat, or whether you’ll damage the cover, during maintenance. The fuel-fill pops open for quick access, and Sea-Doo’s Learning Key lanyard (which doubles as a theft-prevention key) can now be programmed to an owner’s speed of choice.
And then there are all the little touches that come with the Limited designation, like retractable mooring lines, a removable watertight glove box organizer for cell phones and keys, custom cover, depth finder, sand bag anchor, removable dry bag, and safety kit.
I’m tempted to say the biggest drawback is the price. This display of technology doesn’t come cheap. Retail price is $16,499, more than any other personal watercraft on the market. I’d also point out that storage is just-over 16 gallons of stowage space. That’s puny by today’s flagship standards.
The reality, however, is that the Limited buyer probably isn’t preoccupied with how much the boat costs, or whether he or she will have to leave some stuff at the dock. They simply want the most luxurious, feature-packed machine on the water.
At least for the foreseeable future, that only describes the GTX Limited iS 260.
|Sea-Doo GTX Limited iS 260 Specs|
|Dry Weight||980 lbs|
|Engine||Three-cylinder EFI, Supercharged/Intercooled|
|Bore and Stroke||100mm x 63.4mm|
|Fuel Capacity||18.6 gal.|
|Combined Stowage Capacity||16.4 gal.|
|Colors||Topaz Mist Metallic|