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Sea-Doo has toyed with the concept of suspension since the 1995 HX, reasoning that if you can cushion the rider in the saddle and isolate them from the waves and wakes they’re crossing, the ride will be more enjoyable and easier on the body. The concept didn’t truly catch on, however, until Intelligent Suspension made its debut in 2008. A component of the highest-end GTX model, iS was cool but came with one big drawback. It was expensive, prohibitively expensive for many consumers. A lot of computerized hardware behind the scenes pushed the price to the top of the scale, making the boat ultimately the target of only upscale consumers. The GTX S 155 is an attempt to bring that technology more into the reach of a mass audience by eliminating the automation of the suspension, while keeping the basic concept and hardware.
Like Intelligent Suspension, the S model’s manual suspension is accomplished by separating the hull from much of the deck above (footwells, saddle, and handlebars) and linking them via a twin-arm suspension and centrally mounted spring and shock absorber. The design lets the upper half of the craft compress into the hull to absorb some of the jolt of crossing rough water and wakes. The easiest way to see it in action is to simply jump up and down in the footwells while the boat is on the trailer. You can actually see the upper move just shy of six inches into the lower hull. Riders can set the stiffness of the spring manually; just take a socket to the bolt exposed below the saddle and tighten, or loosen, to stiffen or soften the ride to match conditions or passenger load.
Why would you want to make adjustments? Bigger wave conditions, or heavier riders in the saddle may cause the suspension to “bottom out” at the limit of its travel. Conversely, lighter riders may prefer a little more spring to reduce the stiffness of the ride.
Aside from the suspension, the core of the GTX S 155 remains classic GTX. The hull is a deep-V that slices its way through the waves with finesse, delivering a soft and mostly dry ride. For a big craft, it’s quite agile. Rail into a corner and you’ll appreciate the craft’s nimble handling and performance-minded ride.
Below the saddle the power is given away in the name. In another nod to affordability, Sea-Doo chose the 155hp version of the versatile 1,494cc Rotax 4-TEC engine, avoiding the supercharger which ups the cost and has a greater thirst for fuel. Toggle the electric trim and you can keep the bow down for strong acceleration out of the hole; pivot it up and you can raise the bow for greater top speed. In my testing that’s usually been around the 55-56 mph mark, which is definitely off the pace of flagship models but more than enough for most mainstream consumers, whether you’re into touring, towing, or just having fun.
Low-speed control is enhanced by Sea-Doo’s Intelligent Brake & Reverse (iBR). The technology allows the boat to maintain a neutral position at startup, and then easily be switched between forward, neutral and reverse settings via the throttle or iBR lever on the handlebars. iBR simplifies docking, and should take most of the stress out of maneuvering the craft by using deflected thrust to allow precision control. At speed, iBR also functions as a brake. Pull it and that deflected water rapidly decelerates the boat in a far shorter distance than you’d experience simply releasing the throttle.
The S 155 offers differing acceleration profiles – Touring, Sport and ECO – to tailor the engine’s response to tame the ride, give it the engine’s full stock potential, or tweak power delivery to stretch your fuel load as far as possible. Other standouts on the feature list include a pair of engine safety lanyards that double as theft prevention measures (or dramatically govern speed for beginners), tilt steering, a touring-friendly bolstered saddle that receives elements of Sea-Doo’s ErgoLock concept (trim the shape and get the legs into the equation to provide better control and lessen the strain on the upper body), and spring-loaded boarding step.
The only real drawback on the craft is storage capacity. Because of the real estate occupied by the suspension’s inner workings, storage capacity is limited to only 16.4 gallons – far, far below the industry norm. It’s a trade off for the more comfortable ride.
Unlike many of Sea-Doo’s other innovations, competitors haven’t jumped on the suspension bandwagon. That’s not to say it’s just a gimmick, however…take a test ride, head for some chop, and you’ll appreciate the cushioning the suspension provides. Over a long ride, that could make a big difference for those of us with achy backs or just a desire to not get pounded continually by rough water. Going the manual route takes away some horsepower and techno-wizardry, but it maintains the basic benefits of the concept.
Looking for the deciding vote? Maybe ask your passengers. Without the handlebars to brace against, they’re often the ones getting the roughest, most unpleasant ride in rough waters. Taking a little of the jolt out of the ride just may keep them coming back for more.
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