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There’s no real candy-coating it; superchargers are thirsty for fuel. They also add a significant amount to a craft’s bottom-line price. But in today’s world of speedy PWC, you need them for true performance.
Or do you? That’s the question…and the challenge…presented by Yamaha’s VXS.
Bigger Is Better
Certainly superchargers have their place, but on the VXS, Yamaha also proves that a big, powerful engine without the supercharger is capable of some pretty impressive performance, especially when it’s paired with a lightweight hull. Sound familiar? Yup, we’re talking horsepower-to-weight ratio again, the same concept featured in several recent craft. It’s a surprisingly simple idea, but it works. And by not requiring a supercharger, it saves you a bundle of money in the process…both when buying your craft and when filling it up at the gas pump.
The engine that powers the VXS is Yamaha’s workhorse 1.8-liter, still the biggest displacement powerplant in the industry. It churns out about 180 horsepower. On a lightweight hull like the VXS (thanks to Yamaha’s NanoXcel hull construction the craft weighs only 721 pounds), it’s enough to achieve a 1.8-second 0-30 mph time and a flagship-like top speed of 65 mph. And all for just $11,399, or about $1,500-4,000 less than the brand’s pricier models that hit similar top speeds.
COMPARISON: Read our review of the 2014 Yamaha VXR
For those of you who suspect the “VX” in the name will hold the craft back, you’re wrong. Quite wrong. Yes, this is the same basic design that powers Yamaha’s entry-level models, but with the right touch of power, it’s a surprisingly agile, performance-minded hull. In fact, complemented by performance-minded sponsons and a race-style rideplate, it’s downright aggressive.
The power and light weight demand the driver learn its personality. I find the best results come from shifting your weight back, weighting the outside foot in a turn, and even chopping the throttle ever so briefly as you enter a turn to plant the bow, then quickly snapping that power back on to rail through a corner. In that manner you’ll carve alongside some of the most agile craft on the market. Get careless, however, and that power and light weight may just send you for a ride of your own. In short, take a few minutes to get used to the aggressive, powerful feel, and then once you’ve gotten a feel for it, go ahead and tear up the water.
Who Needs Extras?
The simplistic approach is reflected in all elements of the VXS, not just its power and hull. So now, here’s where those flagships and the VXS really begin to differ.
Perhaps the most noticeable omission is electronic throttle. Without it, you won’t get cruise control or a no-wake mode, something we’ve become accustomed to on other models that hit these speeds. You also won’t get trim, another reason to get used to shifting your weight around in the turns. The handlebars are also in a fixed position, so don’t expect to raise or lower them to match your riding style.
COMPARISON: Read our review of the 2013 Sea-Doo GTR 215
Still, you get the true, functional basics you’ll most appreciate. Reverse, thankfully, is included, giving you added maneuverability at the dock or launch ramp. Yes, it’s on the right, but this is a Yamaha, so that’s to be expected. The VXS also includes Yamaha’s remote transmitter to lock the ignition, as well as activate a low-RPM mode. Toss in mirrors to keep tabs on what’s happening behind you and a basic tow hook to make possible skiing, boarding, and tubing, and you’ve got the tools to get the job done.
The saddle? It differs from the two-seater VXR in that it doesn’t feature one, deep bolster to secure the driver, but instead two smaller, lower-profile bolsters to facilitate three passengers, or a rear-facing spotter. Like the VXR, however, it is nicely textured to provide grip.
A race machine that can haul the family and toys when necessary? Yes. A family-oriented three-seater that showcases surprising performance? Absolutely. The VXS is all of those things. But at its heart it’s a throwback to the days when performance and ride ranked higher than bells and whistles.
COMPARISON: Read our review of the 2014 Kawasaki Jet Ski Ultra LX
And price wouldn’t immediately rule out half its audience.
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