2021 Yamaha GP1800R HO Review

A naturally aspirated performance craft that impresses

Fast Facts

Engine: 1,812cc four-cylinder naturally aspirated

Fuel Capacity: 18.5 gallons

Storage Capacity: 28.4 gallons

Seating Capacity: 3

MSRP: $12,549

The legend of Yamaha’s GP WaveRunners is pretty well known. Manufacturer makes a series of hot two-passenger musclecraft that excite performance fans and win a lot of races, later retires the moniker, only to bring it back many years later and, yes, once again excite performance fans. And win a lot of races. Don’t expect the story to change with the 2021 Yamaha GP1800R HO.

The more recreational performance, naturally aspirated, non-supercharged variant of the now two-model GP1800R series, it promises to continue to build upon the craft’s legendary status…while offering consumers a compelling reason to upgrade.

Seeing Is Believing

2021 Yamaha GP1800R HO Front

To say the 2021 Yamaha GP1800R is ALL new would be a stretch. After all, not that long ago this craft was the VXR, only to be rebranded in 2020. The craft is certainly new, however, in the areas that count.

Let’s start with the items obvious to the eye. The top deck has been redesigned, most notably with a new race-inspired saddle, aftermarket-style handlebars, and improved ergonomics. That narrower saddle feels more comfortable on the thighs but also allows riders to use their stronger leg muscles for a more locked-in feel, especially when powering through the aggressive turns the GP hull is famous for. A pronounced bolster further locks the pilot in place. Deeper, wider, self-draining footwells change up the rider position for the better, as do those sleek-looking handlebars that adjust to accommodate both riders of varying size at the controls as well as those who prefer to stand and absorb waves or sit low and get aggressive. The aft platform is also wider and features a wider, spring-loaded boarding step.

2021 Yamaha GP1800R HO Seat

Poke around for a minute and other changes on the 2021 Yamaha GP1800R HO become apparent. Storage is improved by 15%, most notably in a larger front storage area with bigger opening, designated spot for carry-on cooler, larger glovebox and even bigger under-seat, water-resistant bucket below the aft section of the saddle. More fun additions include Yamaha’s multi-mount system for accessories like action camera or GPS, the option of factory-installed Bluetooth marine audio with speakers neatly integrated on each side of the console, and the Connext display. A multifunction, multicolor LCD display controlled via touchpad on the console, Connext offers a clear, easy-to-see display, replaces the former key fob with a digital pin code security system, and includes Drive Control, enabling a driver to set top speed limits and choose from one of two acceleration profiles.

2021 Yamaha GP1800R HO Speakers

Feel The Performance

Less obvious details, however, arguably make the greatest impact on the craft’s on-water performance.

Like Auto Trim. Separate from the traditional trim adjustment, still located on the handlebars, Auto Trim provides two distinct features. Cornering Control automatically trims the bow down when decelerating as you come into a tight corner, putting more hull in the water and providing a more aggressive response before once again trimming up to the previous setting as you exit the turn. Launch Control likewise trims the bow down but during aggressive holeshots, trimming the bow back up to achieve the optimum running profile when underway and on plane.

2021 Yamaha GP1800R HO Action

You’ll also find changes to the driveline. A new top- loader intake grate design promises to reduce cavitation while an upgraded jet pump reduces turbulence and stabilizes water flow. Add in Yamaha’s lightest weight construction material, NanoXcel 2 (which trims almost a fifth off the hull’s weight) and you’ve got improved performance and an impressive power-to-weight ratio.

And then there’s the notable difference that is the result of a redesigned inner hull liner. It changes the craft’s center of gravity by moving the weight of the 18.5-gallon fuel tank three inches to the rear and about a half-inch lower in the hull. The on-water result is a craft that corners more aggressively and just feels more agile overall, with the pivot point now solidly underneath the rider.

No Change Needed

2021 Yamaha GP1800R HO Pair

Returning unchanged to the 2021 Yamaha GP1800R HO is Yamaha’s reliable, proven 1.8-liter marine engine, sans the supercharger in the HO version. It still boasts the largest stock displacement in the personal watercraft market — 180 horsepower — and thanks to the weight shavings, pump mods and center of gravity distribution, plenty of low-end and mid-range grunt. The actual hull also returns much the same, still offering Yamaha’s trademark stability in rough conditions and the ability to corner on the proverbial rails, whether on an actual closed course or just for fun.

RiDE likewise remains a key component. Yamaha’s dual-throttle system, it pairs the traditional righthand throttle for forward motion with a lefthand throttle for reverse and puts the craft into neutral should you release both. It’s arguably the most intuitive setup on the market and a game-changer for low-speed maneuvering around tight areas like a marina, restaurant or launch ramp. Yamaha doesn’t like to call RiDE a brake but it does also offer rapid deceleration when applied at speed.

Another thing unchanged is the competition. Sea-Doo’s GTR ($12,599) is not quite as aggressive in the handling department, but it’s a close match in price and offers a 230hp supercharged engine. Like Yamaha, Sea-Doo offers Bluetooth audio as a nicely integrated option. The GTR also includes a choice of riding modes, Intelligent Brake & Reverse, a surprisingly large aft platform and the LinQ attachment system to anchor useful accessories like a fuel caddy, cooler or storage option.