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I think it’s fair to say Sea-Doo shook up the introductory market with the debut of the GTI 130 several years back. Far from a stripped down rental craft, it featured the looks and finish of a high-end model, well thought out ergonomics, and cutting-edge features not seen before at this price point. The competition has since followed, but the GTI remains a solid contender.
The GTI hull differs from the standard runabout of the modern era. It features a much shallower deadrise (the “V” in the hull), giving the boat the looser, more playful feel of early PWC. That equates to more fun in a lot of respects, as riders can actually skid, slide, or even spin the craft if they get their weight in just the right position. A shallow deadrise also makes the hull exceptionally stable for beginners.
Those that want a more precise, hard-cornering craft won’t be left disappointed. Again, it’s all about the weight. Place it correctly, keep the stern anchored with a trailing outside foot, and you can shred the turns like a racer. The hull also handles rough water with ease. In fact, I’ve seen some experienced riders choose it over flagship models for ocean riding. There’s no electric trim, an addition found in the step up to the GTI SE 130. It’s reason to consider the SE’s $700 price addition, but its omission doesn’t hurt the boat’s appeal.
COMPARISON: Read our review of the 2015 Sea-Doo GTI SE 130
The deck above scores high marks. It’s fit & finish is a step up from the GTIs of old, and the design features the company’s familiar edgy angles and lines. It’s a look that’s not at all out of place next to a flagship on the trailer. In fact, unless you knew which model cost $10,000 and which cost $17,000 you might not be able to readily tell the difference.
Slide into the saddle and you’ll notice several features. One, the saddle narrows hourglass-style to not force your legs wide and allow you to take some of the stress off the upper body. The driver gets a lumbar bolster for support; passengers get a raised platform for a better forward view. Wedges in the footwells provide leverage in turns, and keep your knees in a more natural line. Footwells themselves feature no abrupt angles so that your feet are always in constant contact.
Extra point for 2016? Check out the palm rests on the grips. They really do enhance comfort and leverage when riding aggressively.
The secret sauce, however, is the boat’s level of electronic control. Start with Touring and Sport modes, differing acceleration profiles that a rider can choose at any time. Touring tames the engine’s response for those seeking a more mellow ride, Sport puts the engine’s full potential on display. Both are easily selected via handlebar button. You can also choose to go the best fuel economy route with ECO mode. The craft’s radio-frequency lanyard also prevents theft, and can also activate a lower-RPM mode.
COMPARISON: Read our review of the 2016 Yamaha V1 Sport
The star player, however, is clearly Intelligent Brake & Reverse. By now it’s nothing radically new, so we’ll go with the short version. iBR uses a modified reverse bucket to redirect water flow. At slow speeds, redirecting that flow gives the craft the feel and response of forward, neutral and reverse gears. Shift in and out of “gear” with the iBR lever. Count on the boat to start up and stay stationary when you first fire it up at the dock or ramp. iBR also works as a brake when underway at speed. Pull the lever and the bucket drops below the hull, acting almost like a parachute to rapidly slow the craft. At lower speeds, thrust kicks in to add further stopping power. I recently tested the GTI 130 using a GPS-based tracking system. It showed the boat trimmed about 100 feet off its normal coasting distance when the brake was applied at 50 mph.
Power – and Appeal
So what about power? At about 130hp, it falls directly in the middle of its competition. The engine is the same 1,494cc Rotax used elsewhere, but without a supercharger. Top speed comes close to the 55 mph mark, and low-end grunt is satisfying enough for the performance-minded and powerful enough to handle towing duties on tube, board or ski.
COMPARISON: Read our review of the 2016 Kawasaki Jet Ski STX-15F Review
Other features? Try just shy of 31 gallons of storage in the bow tub, but don’t count on tilt steering or boarding ladder. Again, they’re items found on the next-step SE.
The lasting impression, however, remains that of a recreational model that looks and feels anything but introductory. The GTI 130 raised the bar in that aspect years back…and it remains a boat to measure the competition by.
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