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You’ve got to admit, Sea-Doo loves to innovate. At a time when a lot of manufacturers couldn’t be blamed for circling the wagons, Sea-Doo brought us models with suspension, an innovative braking system, and clever twists on the possibilities provided by electronic throttle. Many of the brand’s craft showcase some of these features, but only one combines them all…and then some.
Meet Sea-Doo’s GTX Limited iS 260.
It’s Got The Goods
Where to start the hit list? Suspension is an obvious, as it likely does the most to set this boat apart from the rest. By now, the concept is almost old news. By separating the hull and the seat/handlebars/footwells into two separate entities, Sea-Doo is able to soften the blow of rough water to deliver a gentler ride. How engineers and designers accomplished that task is by linking the two areas via a twin-arm suspension, with a shock absorber and spring to cushion their movement. Cross a wake and the hull below may take the jolt, but it’s softened significantly before reaching the rider above.
It’s easy to see how the suspension works by simply climbing aboard and hopping up and down on the footwells. The entire rider pod – essentially the upper half of the craft – moves up and down within the hull as much as six inches, an amount of travel that is obvious by watching the edge of the footwells move against the adjacent hull side. The Limited’s onboard computer brain calculates how stiff to make the suspension based on how much weight is placed atop the seat at startup. Should you prefer to stiffen or soften those settings, a manual override allows the driver to dial things in to individual preference.
Don’t expect to float above the waves untouched. The suspension isn’t magic; it simply softens the ride. A wave that would formerly deliver a spine-jarring jolt now becomes something more like a gentler bounce. Passengers may, in fact, benefit most as they’re not always able to see a wave coming, nor have the same handholds to brace themselves.
COMPARISON: Read our review of the 2013 Sea-Doo GTI Limited 155
The other big feature is Intelligent Brake and Reverse, now a given across nearly the entire Sea-Doo line. Long story short, it uses a reworked reverse bucket to provide stopping power. When you see an obstacle or just want to rapidly slow down and you can squeeze a lever on the port-side grip, then quickly feel the stopping power of thrust that is now redirected against the direction of travel. That bucket handles the grunt work. When the driver applies the brake, that computer brain briefly interrupts the power, drops the bucket into position, and then reapplies the power so that the thrust is now redirected. Like a car, you can “slam on the brakes” or feather them to control how aggressively you slow. No, you won’t stop on a dime; that would launch the driver over the bow. Instead, it’s a controlled, firm stop that cuts about 100’ out of the normal stopping distance if you simply released the throttle.
As the name implies, the same system also works for reverse. At idle speeds, pull the lever and you simply go into reverse, all without taking your eyes off the water to find a console-mounted lever. Like all iBR-equipped models, the Limited also starts in neutral, nearly stationary at the dock or launch ramp. This allows the driver to shift into forward or reverse, much like they would in a traditional boat, eliminating those moments when a newbie driver may find himself surging toward a dock at startup or scrambling for a lever when trying to dock.
COMPARISON: Read our review of the 2013 Kawasaki Jet Ski Ultra 300LX
The remaining piece of gadgetry is electronic throttle. That it provides cruise control and a no-wake mode is a given, but Sea-Doo also allows the operator to choose how aggressively the craft accelerates. In Touring mode it’s rather gentle, in Sport mode it features the craft’s full stock power, and in ECO mode it allows the computer to govern the speed for improved fuel economy.
Flagship Power And Handling
Given all of the above, it’s easy to forget that power and handling still make or break any ride. The power is familiar, the same gutsy 1,494cc Rotax with a supercharger and intercooler found in other brand flagships. In Sport mode, it’s got strong acceleration; in either Sport or Touring it tops out at 65 mph. Most of my testing has actually seen around 67 mph with a single passenger and good water conditions.
The hull, despite its girth, is also surprisingly agile. Rail the craft into a corner and the suspension will actually begin to compress, lowering the driver’s center of gravity. The hull tracks with aggressive, though predictable manners that should comfort the casual rider, yet still thrill those looking for a more performance-oriented ride. It’s arguably one of Sea-Doo’s best designs in rough water, too.
Though it’s difficult not to focus on all the gadgets, the heart of the GTX Limited iS 260 is its powerful engine and agile hull.
Enhance the ride with a high-performance, electronic trim that allows the driver to preset favored positions (say for acceleration or top speed) and then quickly reach them with just a double tap of the handlebar-mounted button.
As To The Rest…
As to the rest of what makes the craft a “Limited,” here’s a brief summary of what you get if you buy the most expensive production watercraft currently on the market. Start with retractable dock lines built into the deck fore and aft. Add in things like a custom cover for storage, glovebox organizer to keep you organized, dry bag to keep things completely dry in your storage compartment, safety kit for emergencies and depthfinder added to the display.
Features that are more standard issue, but feel plush nonetheless include a hinged seat that raises on a pneumatic strut, tilt handlebars that include the info display so that it tilts with them, flip-down boarding step and Sea-Doo’s multiple lanyards. They are digititally encoded to act as theft prevention devices, but they’re also coded for speeds, meaning you can keep one that tones down the engine should you wish to govern the speed for particular riders.
COMPARISON: Read our review of the 2013 Yamaha FX Cruiser SHO
One not-so-luxurious shortcoming? Storage space. The suspension design limits the normally spacious bow tub, limiting it to only 16 gallons.
Overall, it’s a lot to offer, and naturally comes at a price to match. But if you’re the kind of person who lives by the “he who has the most toys wins” motto, this just may be the craft for you. If not, just try to finagle a ride on one. After all, below all the features it’s still a fast…and fun…personal watercraft.
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