No more playing second…or even third…fiddle for Sea-Doo in the recreational, first-timer market. The brand’s all-new GTI 130 showcases a complete new look for 2011, and with it, an impressive array of features for a craft retailing below $9,000.
The competition had better watch its back.
Sea-Doo is frank about that competition. They – namely Yamaha’s VX — have been kicking the ‘Doo out of the Canadian manufacturer’s offerings for years now. To compete, Sea-Doo obviously had to step up its game.
The company has done so in dramatic fashion. The looks are obvious, but let’s take a moment to consider the features. The GTI 130 offers Sea-Doo’s full Intelligent Brake & Reverse (iBR) system. Squeeze the port handlegrip lever and the reverse bucket drops over the jet nozzle, redirecting that thrust forward to stop the craft’s motion in about 80-100’ less than the “competition” at a 30mph cruise. (To prove it, Sea-Doo trotted out, what else, a VX at the press intro.) A computer controls the action to avoid pitching the rider over the nose. It briefly interrupts thrust as it drops the bucket, then reengages that same thrust to provide stopping power. The rider can also feather the brake to provide just the right amount of force. Yes, off-throttle steering can often produce better avoidance results in tight situations, but for novice riders it’s an intuitive solution that will be much appreciated.
As will its side benefits. That same mechanism allows a GTI to start in neutral (thrust being directed downward to produce no forward or back motion) at the dock or launch ramp. No more surging forward, or constantly manipulating a reverse lever to maintain a position. The craft just fires up and stays stationary. To “shift” into forward, squeeze the throttle. To “shift” into reverse, pull the combination reverse/brake lever. After about 30 seconds of practice it will become so second nature that even a novice will be confident taking a GTI into the most congested of marinas. Eyes stay on the water, and hands remain on the handlebar. This is unprecedented control in an entry-level model.
Elements of throttle control also make their way down the line. Thanks to drive-by-wire throttle, the GTI offers both Touring and Sport modes, different mappings of the acceleration curve that tame, or unleash, the engine’s power. Touring is chosen by default. It provides a gentler dose of throttle. Sport can be manually selected to get the engine’s full potential, which translates to a more thrilling acceleration curve. My lone complaint? It would be nice to be able to choose Sport as the default setting, rather than always select it manually.
House Of Style
Now, let’s get back to those looks. Previous GTIs were kind of, well, stodgy. They looked old school in design, sometimes felt a little cheap in materials, and basically did little to excite the consumer. Boy, have times changed. The new models are cutting-edge, rivaling the GTX line for looks. Yes, there’s a familiarity between the models, but the GTI also goes its own way, with flowing, yet angular lines that I found very appealing. Fit and finish has also been taken up several notches. This boat feels upscale rather than a bargain model.
The overall profile is shorter, lowering the boat’s center of gravity. The saddle is broad for support, but narrows forward to ease pressure on the knees, as well as allow a rider to stand comfortably. Footwells flow in smooth arcs, rather than feature sharp bends, to keep a rider’s foot in constant contact, and cant slightly inward to alleviate pressure on knees and ankles. Mirrors are wide-angle to allow you to see what’s really going on in your wake. Even the instrument display has been located more forward on the cowl to allow riders to see it whether seated or standing. One noticeable oversight? For all that attention to detail, the handlebar does not tilt. Even a 5’8” rider like me found it slightly low when standing.
Though you’d likely never guess it with the new makeover up top, the relatively shallow, 16-degree deadrise hull below remains essentially the GTI of old, with a few subtle tweaks. There’s a little more length at the bow, where you’ll find spray-reducing chines, and a little more at the stern to increase the size of the boarding platform and add buoyancy. Sea-Doo notes the basic hull design was the one thing about the old boat that didn’t need changing. It tracks well in most conditions, but also allows a level of playfulness often missing in today’s market, skidding just enough when desired, or spinning a 180 with the right shift in weight. I like it, but caution that looser feeling may make the bow seem like its occasionally hunting for position in turbulent waters.
The engine also remains the same 130hp, 1,494cc Rotax that powered the previous model. It topped out just shy of 55 mph in my test runs, and delivered peppy acceleration in Sport mode. It also delivers enough oomph for towing duties.
A Shot Across The Bow
Obviously, I was impressed. The looks are great, the quality has been raised, and Sea-Doo is throwing a lot of features at the competition in this price point. Whether the GTI can loosen the VX’s stranglehold on the top sales slot remains to be seen.
But with all it has going for it in 2011, I’d say it’s a very strong contender.
|2011 Sea-Doo GTX 155 Specs|
|Dry Weight||745 lbs|
|Engine||Naturally aspirated three-cylinder EFI|
|Bore and Stroke||100mm x 63.4mm|
|Fuel Capacity||15.9 gal.|
|Combined Stowage Capacity||30.8 gal.|
|Color||Black and White|