2008 Yamaha FX SHO Review

Plenty of science in Yamaha’s high-end craft

The new Yamaha WaveRunner SHO combines brains with brawn, and a little science, to deliver a great combination of high performance, comfort and convenience. This three-passenger model will be offered as a standard SHO model, and as a touring-oriented SHO Cruiser.

Let’s start with the science. Yamaha calls its new SMC (sheet molding compound) material NanoXcel, and it’s used to form the hull, hull liner and deck. Yamaha uses SMC, rather than hand-laid fiberglass, to build its PWC. Raw SMC looks kind of like thick tar paper It comes on a big roll and consists of fiberglass strands, resin and a filler material. It’s cut and laid over a steel mold, which is then placed under pressure and heat in a 3,000-ton press. In a few minutes, the press opens and you’ve got a smooth, hard piece.

The advantages of the SMC process include manufacturing precision and efficiency, and its low VOC emissions. The downside has been that an SMC part had to be thicker and heavier than a fiberglass part of equal strength. Yamaha says NanoXcel solves the weight problem with a proprietary filler, created using nano-molecular technology. The resulting parts are stronger and thinner than previous Yamaha SMC product and weigh 25% less. This shaves about 55 pounds off the overall weight of the FX SHO, which has a published dry weight of 827 pounds. For comparison, the Kawasaki Jet Ski Ultra 250X ($11,499) weighs 904 pounds. The Sea-Doo RXT X ($13,299), which has a fiberglass hull and deck, weighs 818 pounds.

To give the SHO some brawn, Yamaha created an all-new, dedicated marine engine, its first four-stroke mill not based on a motorcycle engine. Displacement is a very generous 1.8 liters, and its power is boosted by a gear-driven supercharger and an intercooler. Unlike the previous M1 engines, which peaked at a screaming 10,000 rpm, this new motor tops out at a relaxed 7500 rpm. The engine makes 211 horsepower, which looks bad on the spec chart in a class that includes the 250-hp Kawasaki Ultra 250X and the 255-hp Sea-Doo RXT-X, but there’s more to performance than pure horsepower. With about 15 gallons of fuel on board, I clocked the SHO at 67.4 mph on GPS, and zoomed from zero-to-30 in 2.02 seconds. This boat will hang right in there with the Ultra and RXT-X.

For its weight, the SHO is pretty nimble, but its handling can be rather abrupt and unpredictable. Turn-in is instant, and the hull often – but not always – hooks up hard, maybe too hard for some situations. Remind your passenger to hang on.
The brains of the SHO are attached to its engine. A drive-by-wire throttle enables two speed-control features. Push-button No Wake Mode electronically holds boat speed at 5 mph. Yamaha Cruise Assist is an rpm-based speed control that can be set at any speed. To activate this feature, you throttle up to your desired speed, hold down the button under your right thumb, and the squeeze the throttle to wide-open and hold it there. Instead of accelerating, the boat will just hold this set speed as long as you hold the throttle. Let go and Cruise Assist is instantly deactivated. You may fine-tune your speed in 350-rpm increments using a toggle switch on the handlebars.

I think Cruise Assist has two big benefits. First, you can set the SHO to run long distances at a very fuel-efficient speed and not have to think about it. Second, by using Cruise Assist when towing a wakeboard rider or tubers, you can stay focused on the action behind you and the water ahead, instead of constantly watching the speedometer.

The FX SHO ($11,999) comes with adjustable handlebars, adjustable drive trim, a remote transmitter that controls the low-speed mode and anti-theft ignition lock, and a standard boarding ladder. There’s room for a ski line in the aft under-seat stowage, and a really dry stowage tube under the cowl. A huge glove box holds water, camera and sunscreen. The FX SHO Cruiser ($12,799) adds a fuel-flow meter, a scooped-out touring seat, and handlebars that are four inches higher than those on the standard FX SHO model.

Yamaha WaveRunner FX SHO Specs
Length 132.7 inches
Beam 8.4 inches
Dry Weight 827 lbs
Engine Four-cylinder DOHC EFI, Supercharged/Intercooled
Displacement 1,812 cc
Bore and Stroke 86mm x 78mm
Compression Ratio 8.6:1
Rated Horsepower 211
Fuel Capacity 18.5 gal.
Combined Stowage Capacity 26.4 gal.
Colors Stealth Black; Metallic Midnight Blue
Price $11,999