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At first glance, buyers may mistake the 2017 GTX Limited 230 for the 2016 GTX Limited 215. They look identical, right down to the rich metallic paint scheme, and the contents of the Limited package haven’t varied one iota. Those three digits at the end of each name, however, reflect a significant difference between the model years – and a growing trend. Sea-Doo is phasing out their old engine technology in favor of the new ACE (Advanced Combustion Efficiency) platform.
The Rotax 1500 HO ACE brings more power to the recently renamed GTX Limited 230 for 2017, without increasing weight or size. Discriminating buyers will likely welcome the change.
Pumping out 15 more horsepower than the 215hp Rotax 1503 it replaced, the inline three-cylinder 1500 HO ACE uses the same Advanced Combustion Efficiency as the ACE 900 first unveiled for the Spark and the ACE 300 unveiled last year for flagship models. Like the latter, the 1500 HO replaces heavy cylinder sleeves in favor of a lightweight, proprietary plasma coating thermally sprayed directly onto the cylinder walls. According to Sea-Doo engineers, the coating offers much improved heat transfer, which boosts performance, as well as offers long-term durability. The ACE also features a four-valve-per-cylinder head design, new combustion chamber, updates to exhaust and intake porting, more efficient intercooler, and like the 300, a maintenance-free supercharger. It’s a lighter, more compact engine overall, a combo that tips the scales favorably in terms of horsepower-to-weight ratio. It’s also one optimized to run on regular fuel, meaning additional savings at the gas pump.
As to a boost in performance, I topped out a fraction below 67 mph in far-from-ideal conditions during summer’s heat on a choppy Tampa Bay, about a two mph improvement over what I was accustomed to on the previous GTX 215. Acceleration is plenty strong enough to please performance types, but also a good mix for skiing and wakeboarding duty. Sea-Doo continues to offer that power delivery in two levels of potency, a tamer Touring mode and the more aggressive Sport mode which enhances acceleration, settings that are easily swapped with a few taps of a button. A fuel-saving ECO mode also continues to be offered to plot the most fuel-efficient result.
Engine: Three-cylinder 1,494cc
Fuel Capacity: 15.9 gal.
Stowage Capacity: 42.8 gal.
Seating Capacity: 3
The new engine powers a familiar hull-and-deck combo. The hull, Sea-Doo’s S3, sports a deep-V, giving it a soft ride in rough conditions. Yet, its surprisingly agile in calmer waters, powering in and out of turns with a precise carve and no slippage at the stern. Above, stylish angles and facets keep the craft looking cutting edge. New last year was the ErgoLock saddle, a design that narrows under the driver’s thighs and allows the legs to “trap” the seat for greater confidence in rough water. The design also benefits in turns, as the slimness lets a rider use their stronger leg muscles for leverage, taking a good deal of the strain off the weaker upper body. Passengers get successive bolsters and theater-like tiering to position each slightly higher than the rider in front for better comfort and vision. The handlebars offer four positions of tilt adjustment to dial in the fit. When you need to access the engine, that saddle doesn’t need to be removed and set aside, as it’s hinged and raises on a pneumatic strut.
Familiar features are within easy reach. Cruise control and no-wake modes are a given, as now is Sea-Doo’s Intelligent Brake & Reverse (iBR). The latter mimics forward, neutral and reverse gearing by linking a modified reverse bucket setup to a lever on the left side of the handlebars similar to the throttle. The bucket deploys partially to keep the craft motionless at startup. You can put the craft into forward or reverse with the appropriate lever, all while your hands stay on the handlebars and eyes on the water. At speed, iBR also functions as a brake, rapidly slowing the craft by diverting thrust.
Additional features include a theft-prevention, radio-frequency lanyard, secondary lanyard to limit top speed when desired, fold-down boarding step, roughly 43 gallons of storage space, and “palm rest” grips that made their debut in 2016.
The Limited Edition options continue to be familiar. This is the same package Sea-Doo offered last year, consisting of numerous items that many buyers would likely purchase after they buy their craft, as well as a few that separate the boat from the norm.
The lone feature that truly enhances the ride is the high-performance version of Sea-Doo’s Variable Trim. Presets can easily be added for a rider’s favored up and down nozzle position, then quickly activated with a no-look-required “double tap” of the button. Beyond VTS, the remaining items are mostly of convenience. A depth finder, time/distance to empty, altitude indicator, and water temperature are added to the existing gauge functions; retractable mooring lines (“Speed Ties”) are mounted within easy reach for tie-ups at the dock; a safety kit, dry bag, and glove box organizer keep things safe and orderly; and a custom cover protects the craft when not in use. The craft also continues to come in an exclusive color scheme, the classy Jet Black Metallic/Deep Pewter Satin featured last season.
Yes, you may be able to assemble specific items you want for less at a marine supply store, but the Limited keeps you from going to the trouble. And yes, the craft may seem an awful lot like the 2016 version. But a modern engine package is a welcome addition, as are the few extra ponies it brings to the table.
If you like the finer things in life, take notice. The GTX Limited 230…just became a little more limited.
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