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Last year Yamaha wisely offered a shot of adrenaline to its midrange models, the FX HO and FX Cruiser HO. That shot came in the form of a new engine, the same top-of-the-line 1.8 liter shared by the SHO flagship, just minus the addition of the supercharger/intercooler combo. The end result was an engine that most estimates put around 180hp, weighed less than the former 160hp, 998cc mill it replaced, and revved at a more modest 7500 rpm.
Oh, and that real end result? Expect between 63-64 mph on the top end, and an acceleration time of just over two seconds, all from a package that costs $11,799 and runs on cheap 87-octane gasoline.
Obviously this middle child has no intention of getting overlooked.
With the addition of that engine also comes the addition of the electronic throttle introduced on the SHO. That means the midrange HO now enjoys cruise control. Reach your desired speed, push the Cruise Assist button, and you can simply squeeze the throttle fully and hang on, the right hand mirroring the left’s position and grip. Cruise Assist makes a big difference on long-distance rides, as well as proves a boon for towing duties. With a driver able to keep a steady speed, the ride at the end of the towrope is vastly improved for skiers and wakeboarders. Small up-and-down adjustments can be made with a tap of arrow buttons.
I’ve always felt utterly safe with Cruise Assist activated simply because to deactivate it all you do is release the throttle. It’s how things should be — intuitive — and Yamaha deserves kudos for originally introducing the technology to the market.
A second function of the HO’s throttle control is No Wake Mode. Again activated with just the push of a button, No Wake acts like Cruise Assist, keeping the boat moving forward at around 5 mph. The primary difference is that, at this speed, Yamaha doesn’t require that pressure on the throttle. Where I live in Florida, it’s a welcome solution for those lengthy no-wake zones.
Guess that’s how they came up with the name…
Apart from that new engine and the electronic throttle enhancements it has made possible, the HO remains familiar.
Driver and passenger ergonomics are good, perhaps even more so on the Cruiser ($600 more), which adds Yamaha’s luxurious touring saddle, as well as a slightly taller handlebar to keep everyone cruising in comfort. The Cruiser model also adds a fuel-consumption display to better plan those long-distance journeys, and handy pop-up cleats for tying up along the way.
Both models feature an adjustable handlebar to dial in an individual rider’s fit, or to change with the type of riding. You’ll find a deep glovebox ready to handle drink bottles directly in front of the seat, a watertight canister atop the console for wallet and important papers, and a large front tub ready to handle the majority of the gear you bring along for the ride. Total storage capacity is 27 gallons.
Yamaha continues to handle security with a keyfob remote, and that same remote is used to activate a lower RPM, fuel-saving mode that can be used for novice riders or to get yourself back to the dock in a pinch should you find the nearest gas station closed. A handy boarding step is standard on both models.
My biggest complaints continue to center around the reverse lever — it’s situated in an awkward, starboard-side position that’s designed to make the driver release the throttle to activate. Great in legal terms I’m sure, but just not at all practical for most docking maneuvers. Once you get over that fact, however, it functions well. Yamaha uses traction control, a method of limiting RPM in reverse, to reduce cavitation. My only other feature complaint is the simple U-bolt offered up for towing duties. It seems cheap on a boat in this range. Smaller details all, but little details that you may notice during regular usage.
For all the performance and gadgets, I contend the make-or-break aspect of any boat is its handling. Here, the FX continues to mostly shine, adhering to the Yamaha tradition of utter predictability and straight-ahead tracking in rough water, and rock-solid stability in nearly all conditions. Take it offshore and it never wavers in its line. Throw it into a corner and it responds well to driver input, carving an aggressive arc that will satisfy the most hardcore purist.
And with that newfound power, the handling is just awakened that much more. This is a fun, lively boat that is fun to rail around the water, no matter if you’re riding area is glassy calm or big-water rough.
No, it’s not perfect. I’ve noted ever since Yamaha introduced the lightweight NanoXcel hull that a few quirks arise. As I stated last year, my guess is that the hull just rides a little bit higher in the water with the combined weight savings of hull and engine, leading to a little bit of a side-to-side looseness as the hull speeds across the water. I’m also mixed on Yamaha’s manual trim system, which is good in theory, but hard to adjust at high speeds as water pushes against the jet nozzle.
In the end, however, the Yamaha FX HO and Cruiser HO both shine, as always. They’re solid, reliable machines, made that much more fun by some hand-me down horsepower.
Related Reading2010 Yamaha WaveRunner Lineup Preview2010 Yamaha FX Cruiser SHO/FX SHO Review2009 Yamaha FX HO/FX Cruiser HO ReviewAll Things Yamaha on PersonalWatercraft.com
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