Flagship speed without flagship cost

Flagship speeds cost. If you want to hit that magic 65 mph mark, count on spending some cash, both at the time of purchase and in more frequent fill-ups at the gas pump. Or at least that’s the conventional wisdom. Years back, however, Yamaha unveiled a craft that didn’t follow the formula. The Yamaha VXR didn’t use a pricey supercharger and intercooler, but instead followed another path to performance – horsepower-to-weight ratio.

The Yamaha VXR was an almost instant hit…and returns for 2017.

Mix and Match

Fast Facts

Engine: Four-cylinder 1,812cc

Fuel Capacity: 18.5 gal.

Stowage Capacity: 24.6 gal.

Seating Capacity: 3

MSRP: $11,999

Yamaha didn’t have to look far to source the parts that make up the VXR.

Without a supercharger/intercooler combo, displacement was essential. Fortunately for the brand, it had the largest displacement engine in the industry, a four-cylinder with 1,812cc. It packs a potent punch even without the forced air, with strong acceleration and the ability to push into the mid 60-mph range if the rest of the package is light enough.

Yamaha found the rest of that package in what was previously an entry-level hull design, the VX. Fabricated from the company’s proprietary NanoXcel hull material, it combines with the engine to weigh in at a mere 767 pounds. Do the math, or better yet, just take it for a ride and you’ll note a craft that can get to the 30mph acceleration benchmark in about 1.8 seconds and, in my testing, routinely hit the 65 mph mark.

2017 Yamaha VXR Action Front

All in a craft that cost less than $12,000, a substantial savings off the price tag of a supercharged model, and burns far less fuel to boot.

If you heard introductory hull design and thought poor handling, again, rearrange your thinking. Turns out that introductory VX hid a surprisingly aggressive hull once it had enough power at its disposal. A 2015 makeover further improved its handling prowess. The keel was reshaped, as too were the strakes. The overall dimensions were also upsized, with the hull growing both longer and wider, and pump intake and ride plate tweaked. Lastly, the chines were softened up forward, enhancing the boat’s ability to lean into a turn. The hull, now three years into its redesign, leans smartly into a corner with intuitive manners and displays equal prowess on the straightaways. Electronic trim allows the driver to drop the bow lower in the water when carving those turns; raise the bow upon exit for greater speed on the straights.

2017 Yamaha VXR Cornering

Keeping it Simple

Like the original iteration, the current VXR has a notable performance focus. As such, bells and whistles are mostly done away with. The exception is the inclusion of RiDE, Yamaha’s dual throttle system for forward, reverse, and deceleration. The righthand throttle handles acceleration and speed in the forward direction; the lefthand RiDE throttle does likewise in reverse. Release both and the craft goes into a neutral mode, using the reverse bucket to redirect thrust and prevent any forward or backward movement. Pull the same lever at speed and the effect is rapid deceleration, as the bucket redirects pump thrust forward and to the sides, slowing the boat while maintaining a level attitude. RiDE has a brief learning curve, but greatly enhances a rider’s control of the boat, both at high speeds and low, where the improved control pays big dividends around the dock, ramp, etc.

2017 Yamaha VXR Front Right

Beyond RiDE and the aforementioned electronic trim, Yamaha includes its remote security transmitter (use it to both “lock” the craft and activate a low RPM mode to satisfy beginners or save fuel), a bolstered saddle with a more tacky finish to prevent slipping during aggressive riding, HydroTurf traction mats, and LCD dash display. Storage is split between the bow tub, glovebox, and screw-top canister below the seat. Fuel capacity is 18.5 gallons, no premium necessary. Not so simple is the paint job. This year the VXR stands out in a pearly Carbon Metallic and choice of either a bright Lava (red) or Electric Green.

Speed Freaks Rejoice

The VXR isn’t for everyone. Even without a supercharger, this is one potent, fast machine, one with an aggressive hull and ultra-responsive manners. Casual riders may find it overpowering.

2017 Yamaha VXR Front Left

For the experienced rider with a singular focus, however, it makes sense, especially if you’re trying to get your champagne speeds on a beer budget.