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What’s missing from today’s personal watercraft market? Arguably a little bit of old-school fun factor. Sure today’s models carve on the proverbial dime and reach dizzying top speeds, but in the process they’ve lost a little bit of that freewheeling playfulness. Riders used to have fun spinning the craft out into a 180 or power sliding them through a corner. Now, those types of maneuvers are mostly a memory as hulls hook with tenacity and favor precision over playtime.
Playfulness, however, is coming back into vogue. Sea-Doo likely started the trend with the GTI, and more recently, the SPARK. But no model has taken playtime to the extreme like the 2017 SPARK TRIXX.
Based on a two-passenger SPARK with the 90hp 900 ACE HO engine, the TRIXX is distinguished by a trio of features designed to work together to bring out the craft’s freestyle potential. Most intriguing is a revamped VTS (Variable Trim System), which now features greater range. In stock form, the SPARK’s VTS trims the nozzle between 7 degrees up and -4.5 degrees down. On the TRIXX, that range increases to 17 degrees in the upward position and -6 degrees in the downward position. That enhanced range upwards effectively powers the bow up into the air with minimal throttle, making tricks like tailstands much easier to perform. A familiar “double-tap” of the VTS trim button on the handlebars allows riders to quickly switch between two pre-programmed positions.
Enhancing the potential offered by the greater VTS angles is a new handlebar setup featuring an adjustable aluminum riser. Designed to offer the rider greater leverage over the craft, the bar position can be changed on the fly by opening and closing a bicycle-style skewer located on the front of the handlebar column. Positions range from a base setting 3” higher than the normal Spark position, to 6” higher fully extended. The final component of the TRIXX system is a set of wedges added at the rear of the footwells. Angled at 60 degrees, the 7.5” x 4.5” blocks give the rider a secure footing when riding bow high, as well as make it easier to position your weight over the stern on the craft.
So is the SPARK more fun doing TRIXX? The consensus from most of the press on hand at the brand’s media launch was yes. With handlebars up and trim high, it’s surprisingly easy to pull the craft into a tailstand. With practice, you can hold that position, turn it into a rotating tailspin, or perform tail hops with relative ease. For more aggressive riders, the enhanced leverage and nozzle angle also makes it possible to pull off old-school “nose stabs” or bronco-style leaps out of the water, although beware the return to earth can be a little jarring if you don’t land it just right. With the enhanced nozzle range, I also found it easier than before to spin the craft out into power slides or surface 180s. Keep in mind many of these are tricks few people have ever accomplished on a PWC, let alone a runabout. Sea-Doo envisions family and friends trying to one up each other inventing new moves, and bragging about it on social media to further fuel the TRIXX’s fire.
But what about when you get bored by these maneuvers, or like me, just plain tired out after hours of TRIXX play? A standard SPARK still lurks within.
I’ll rehash the story for those out of the loop. The SPARK made waves upon its introduction for a low base price ($4,999, now increased to $5,299 for ’17), revolutionary hull and deck construction method (polypropylene with long-strand glass fibers rather than SMC), and, given the weight savings the latter provided, lower horsepower engine. In the TRIXX, that’s the aforementioned 90 hp 900 ACE HO, capable of powering the craft to an average 48 mph top speed. On the TRIXX, as on all HO engines, riders have the option to choose between the gentler acceleration curve provided by Touring mode, or the more aggressive power delivery of Sport mode. Ninety horses may be minimal horsepower given what’s available at the opposite end of the spectrum, but on a small, lightweight craft such as the SPARK, it’s enough and surprisingly fun. As is the hull, which when not spinning out or tailstanding, can be ridden with relative precision through the corners.
Sea-Doo continues to distinguish the SPARK with bold colors and eye-popping graphic kits. The TRIXX combines both, with a black hull, Candy Blue (think teal) accent panels on the deck, and Chili Pepper red seat. Chili Pepper is carried over into graphics on the forward half of the hull, as well as the handle grips (which continue to incorporate the palm rest designed introduced in ’16). Intelligent Brake & Reverse, which gives the craft exceptional forward, neutral and reverse manners around the dock as well as braking power at speed, is also a standard component of the TRIXX package.
The primary parts can also be retrofitted to previous SPARK models.
As to shortcomings, one that I immediately noticed was the lack of a standard reboarding step. When learning tricks it’s a given you’ll fall, and a step (available as an option) would make reboarding much easier. I’d also like to see some form of padding forward of the saddle to cushion the inside of the knees and upper calf. Getting tricky can produce the occasional bump and bruise. And like all SPARKs, storage amounts to a small glovebox. If you want more, you’ll need to add the optional 7-gallon forward compartment, and lose a little of that cool, skeletal look.
But overall, I like the the fact that the TRIXX brings back a little fun factor to what have become relatively precision rides. During Sea-Doo’s two-day press intro, I never took the TRIXX further than 100 yards from the beach, and probably didn’t go much faster than 10 mph much of the time.
That I still had a heck of a lot of fun was probably the TRIXX’s biggest trick of all.
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