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Yamaha touts the FZS as “engineered for competition, but made for the weekend.” It’s a fitting description. As we’ve seen from its sister-ship the FZR, at its core this is an aggressive, nimble performer reminiscent of the former GPR series. The trait that makes it “weekend-worthy” … and in the process replaces the R with an S in its name? A sleek, three-passenger-friendly seat, one that makes this performer ready for both touring and towing.
Yup, that’s it. But as you’ll see, that may just be enough.
Emphasis on Handling
The most alluring quality of the FZS is its handling personality, a lean-in, hard-cornering style that continues the tradition of the GPR. Like that two-seater, the FZS is nimble and quick, using full-length lifting strakes to get up and running at speed, and soft, rounded chines to roll easily into a corner. That combination makes the FZ series, along with the VXR, the most aggressive, playful members of the Yamaha lineup, craft that evoke the feeling of a street bike. When not carving up the corners with precision, the FZS can also run straight and true in tough conditions, a traditional Yamaha strength.
Enhancing these characteristics is a unique, telescoping steering column. Inspired by customers who noted they often preferred to stand while riding, it extends upward to give the rider a more comfortable feel when standing, eliminating the need to bend over and allowing riders to use their legs to absorb the shock of rough water. The position also arguably gives the rider more leverage over the craft.
Those bars also descend to a position far lower than the average, allowing a driver to get truly low and aggressive when carving on flat water. It’s a position I first regarded as a novelty, but came to truly enjoy with extended time in the saddle. Use the craft’s manual trim to drop the bow heading into a corner, and then barrel on through the turn. Raise the bow on exiting and you’ll trim up for maximum top speed. Just be aware that if you do often use trim, the manual system used by Yamaha can be difficult to adjust at high speed, if only because the force of water exiting the pump is so great it fights the pivoting of the nozzle.
While the handling and telescopic steering are the obvious selling points, so too is the craft’s presentation of power. For the FZS Yamaha relies on a potent one-two punch – a hull lightened by the use of the brand’s proprietary, nano-engineered NanoXcel hull material and the supercharged version of its 1.8-liter engine, with an intercooler to further enhance power delivery, and electronic throttle to heighten the response. Acceleration from 0-30 mph is as quick as a blistering 1.8 seconds in good conditions. Top speed is that magic 65 mph mark (maybe more), and without the need for premium fuel.
As performance is the primary mission, don’t expect extras like cruise control. The most techy feature is likely the keyfob security remote, which can lock the craft to prevent unauthorized use or be used to activate a low-speed mode that will tame top speeds for novice riders or when trying to save fuel. Beyond that you get the basics. There’s 21 gallons of storage divided between the bow tub and a dash glovebox (with cupholders), a flip-down boarding ladder, and a tow hook for skiing, tubing, or boarding.
And yes, that seat. Without significant bolsters, it makes it easy to play with passenger positioning (although to be honest, it’s best with two adults and a child) and proves comfortable for a rear-facing spotter when towing.
Let’s face it, many a buyer is torn between the family and solo pursuits when purchasing a craft. Most of the times the answer is a compromise of sorts. The FZS, however, is truly a performance ride. It handles, it’s lightweight, and it’s got a strong power-to-weight ratio. For 2012, it’s even got some fast-looking colors, a bold black with sharply contrasting yellow or green. That should keep the throttle junkie happy on the solo front.
But when those kids come down the dock hauling their toys, or that spouse wants to take a fun cruise, the FZS can handle the transition.
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