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As their name would suggest, flagship models like Yamaha’s popular FX Cruiser SHO have to offer, well, everything. Or at least, everything the high-end personal watercraft consumer would expect.
Powerful engine? Check. Nimble handling? You got it. Long-distance cruising comfort? Yup. And let’s not forget about cool features that make its operation all the more simple and enjoyable.
The trick is to do all of the above in a way that stands out from the crowd. That was Yamaha’s goal in retooling the entire FX line in 2012. In 2013, the FX Cruiser SHO returns as arguably the most popular flagship currently on the market.
Obviously, Yamaha is doing something right.
First Things First
Notice I ticked off “power” as one of the first items on the checklist? Hey, it’s important, not just to offer the thrills solo, but also to haul skiers, wakeboarders or tubers, or power you through the waves when conditions turn nasty. Here, Yamaha relies on the biggest displacement engine in the business, a 1.8-liter Yamaha marine engine that’s boosted further with the addition of a supercharger and intercooler. It hits the required 65 mph mark, but also jumps nicely out of the hole en route, as well as keeps plenty of punch for those midrange accelerations. Somewhat surprisingly, it also runs on 87 octane very comfortably, meaning you’ll save a little money at the pump.
That engine is nothing new, but the hull it’s placed within now handles a little better than before. Thanks in part to an additional seven inches in length, and in part to newly configured sponsons, the FX hull now carves more predictably than the previous generation. In the past, I noted a tendency to fall on and off the hull’s pad and onto the chines in a turn, something that could result in a slight jerky feeling to the handling. Now, however, the hull rolls smoothly and predictably into a turn, and stays that way through the corner, with the driver utilizing an intuitive inside lean. Find yourself a stretch of flat water and you can carve it up like a slalom water skier.
Enhance that behavior with the manual trim system. The setup allows you to drop or raise the bow to one of five settings. Dive it down in the corner for better response, then raise the bow to coax the last few miles an hour of top speed out of the hull. Just plan your adjustments accordingly. Though I praise the trim system for its ability to let the driver find trim positions quickly and without searching for a display to show the current angle, I have to note that it can be hard to manually change the nozzle angle when the full force of water is exiting the pump.
Change Is Good
As mentioned, Yamaha retooled the entire FX line in 2012, and one of the primary focuses was on improving overall rider and, in particular, passenger comfort.
The Cruiser SHO has actually been stretched 7.5 inches longer than its pre-2012 counterpart. About three of those inches were added to a new saddle, which is tiered into three individual levels, each of which is bolstered with back support. The idea? To elevate each successive passenger over the passenger in front in order to give them a more pleasant view forward, rather than stick them staring into the back of the passenger in front’s head. The middle passenger gets a full 6” in elevation over the driver; the third passenger an additional 4”. Load up and your crew will appreciate the setup for obvious reasons. Ride solo and you’ll still benefit from the bolster, as it provides not only more support for long-distance cruising, but also a secure perch when railing around the corners.
Yamaha used the remaining 4” in yet another spot that should benefit users, the aft boarding area. More space is a clear advantage, but that space has been complemented by an additional grab handle at platform height, along with a deeper, spring-loaded boarding step that, rather than round in shape, features a nice flat platform to step upon. The overall idea is that rather than “haul” yourself back aboard, a rider can now more easily access that deeper step, and then use the multiple handholds (platform-height and saddle height) to climb up the back of the craft. That flatter step is far easier on bare feet, as well as much less slippery than the former tubular approach.
Another welcome improvement is the craft’s clever mechanical reverse. Give credit to Sea-Doo for demonstrating the appeal of starting in a neutral mode, and being able to “shift” into forward or reverse. But rather than an electronic solution, Yamaha chose to keep things much simpler. A detent has been added to the throw of the reverse lever. It stops in a position that lowers the reverse bucket just enough to deflect thrust so that it pushes the craft neither forward nor back. You’ll know when you’re in the right position. As well as the detent in the movement, there’s also an N that appears in a small window on the lever handle. The only caveat is that the lever remains on the starboard side, making it quite difficult to work throttle and reverse simultaneously.
The Complete Package
A wet storage area on the platform is big enough to your towrope and other essentials.
There’s more to appreciate on the craft. The use of electronic throttle makes possible both cruise control and a no-wake mode. Locking in a cruise speed makes it far easier to travel long distances, as well as makes anyone a better driver when it comes time to tow those skiers and boarders. No-wake mode is a savior for the driver’s throttle finger in extended slow-speed zones.
All the pertinent speed and engine info is displayed on an easy-to-see screen forward of the handlebars. One of the 2012 tweaks was to add fuel consumption readouts, along with a compass. Yamaha also wisely chose to relocate the formerly hard-to-access mode buttons. They’re now grouped in a cluster behind the handlebars, just forward of the tip of the saddle.
Overall style got a little edgier last year as well. It didn’t require a wholesale change to the deck mold. Instead, Yamaha literally bolted on some extra style pieces to give the craft a more angular, updated look. Some of those pieces bring with them new features. A portion below the tail end of the saddle, for instance, now makes possible a handy wet storage area for towropes and the like. There’s even a notch in the door so that a towrope can stay connected to the craft’s tow eye when the rope is stored.
What else do you require in a flagship? Yamaha answers with one obvious – tilt steering – but goes beyond with another, pull-up cleats. They make tying up at the dock far easier. Dealers have even been adding the handy cleats to other models by popular demand. There’s also Yamaha’s remote for activating and deactivating the ignition, as well as putting the engine into a limited-rpm mode.
Overall, the right formula for a flagship? Customers seem to think so…and that’s about the best endorsement you can get.
Related Reading2013 Yamaha VX Cruiser Review2013 Yamaha FZR Review2012 Yamaha FX SHO Review2012 Yamaha FX Cruiser HO Review2012 Sea-Doo GTX Limited iS 260 Review2012 Kawasaki Jet Ski Ultra 300LX Review
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