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Sea-Doo’s Spark introduced both a new hull material and a new engine to the PWC market several years ago. Now, the brand takes much of the Spark’s innovation and, for the first time, extends it into the GT series. But can the same formula that worked for the Spark carry over into larger models? Let’s take a closer look at the 2017 GTS.
The Spark’s most high-profile feature is likely its PolyTec hull and deck material, a composite formed from polypropylene reinforced with long strand glass fibers. It’s durable and it costs less to produce, all good things when budget is a primary consideration. It’s also light in weight. That material now makes its way up the food chain into the GTS’s hull. No, you won’t really notice it at first glance. Black in color, the PolyTec hull doesn’t jump out below the plastic bond rail, but almost blends in, broken up only by the pop of a Sea-Doo logo color-matched to the deck above. The conventional construction GTS deck is attached in similar fashion to the Spark, bolted in place around a sandwiched gasket to keep out water.
Worried about PolyTec’s durability? Sea-Doo knows competitors (and some consumers) will raise the issue, so they produced a video to prove the material’s worth. In it, a variety of tools, from sledge hammer to axe, are swung at both a PolyTec and conventional hull. PolyTec performs admirably, enduring the abuse, many times notably better than its counterpart.
“Poly” is not the only change for the GTS in ’17. To go with the hull’s now-lighter weight, Sea-Doo also borrowed the Spark’s lighter weight, lower horsepower engine. The Rotax 900 HO ACE is rated at 90hp, a notable drop from the GTS’s previous 130. But in a rethinking of the crafts positioning, Sea-Doo is willing to sacrifice a little top speed for greater affordability. I punched the throttle of the ’17 GTS and felt much the same acceleration as I did on its 2016-and-earlier counterpart. Credit a good chunk of that comparable acceleration to the engine’s 65-pound weight advantage and the hull’s 85-pound weight advantage over their previous counterparts. Top speed, however, is undeniably slower. I recorded only a 43.6 mph peak via GPS, a notable drop from the previous model’s peak speed that typically averaged closer to 52 mph.
So why slow down a model in today’s seemingly “faster is better” market? To place the focus on affordability and value. Sea-Doo claims the 900 HO engine offers a 30% improvement over Yamaha’s VX in terms of fuel economy. The engine and that PolyTec hull also combine to lower the craft’s price by $300. At $7,699, the company dubs the GTS the most affordable full-size watercraft on the market.
Beyond those two very significant changes, however, the GTS is still very much the same familiar model that many consumers have chosen over the years.
The hull still features the same, shallower-than-average 16-degree deadrise, meaning it’s every bit as playful as ever. Shift your weight and you can carve tight or slip loosely through turns. Load it up with passengers and you’ll still get the same confident, stable ride you get solo. It’s a fun, versatile combo that pleases a wide variety of audiences.
The GTS is also still quite stylish for a price-conscious model. The deck is the same faceted, trendy design that made the craft look less like a bargain model and more like its GTX brethren. It also still features the same cutting-edge ergonomic traits. Footwells slant inward to take strain off the knees, and slope, rather than bend, to keep a riders foot in constant contact with a grippy, solid surface. Above, the saddle is comfortably bolstered and tiered to give passengers the best forward view. A digital display, 29 gallons of storage, palm rest handle grips and Sea-Doo’s trademark dual safety lanyards (one acts as a speed governor) all continue to be present and accounted for.
Dual acceleration profiles also remain. Sea-Doo’s default Touring mode softens the engine’s response to never overwhelm the driver. Switching into Sport mode gives the power delivery a little more punch. Meanwhile, ECO mode chooses the most fuel-efficient power curve without guesswork.
Missing, however, are both any form of reverse and a boarding step. The latter may not be a big deal, and is cheap enough to add after the sale. The former, however, requires more caution and preparation when docking. It’s a valid reason to step up to the GTI, which likewise enjoys a $700 price cut for ’17.
Shaking things up is clearly a bold move for Sea-Doo, but we almost expected some of the Spark’s innovation to trickle “up” the line. What remains to be seen is if consumers are willing to sacrifice the top speed in favor of lower cost and greater fuel savings.
Give Sea-Doo credit for taking a chance. But give yourself a test drive before signing on the bottom line.
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