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Yamaha’s FX SHO is nothing radically new. The current version, a onetime flagship, has been around since 2012 and continues to be one of the most popular PWC on the market.
Two significant changes, however, greatly enhance the boat for 2015 and make it a much-improved model.
The changes referred to are the arrival of two new technologies – Yamaha’s RiDE system and a long-awaited electronic trim.
RiDE is clearly a game changer. The system introduces a second throttle to the left side of the handlebar to essentially control reverse thrust. That throttle is linked to the boat’s onboard computer, as well as a Yamaha Boat Control Unit (YBCU) specifically dialed in for the weight and performance of each individual craft.
Yamaha Introduces Dual-Lever “RIDE” Controls
Pulling the lever while underway drops the reverse bucket into the flow of water exiting the pump, redirecting it out and to the sides. In this way it provides stopping power, rapidly slowing the craft while maintaining a consistent level attitude in the water. Keep the RiDE lever pulled and the craft will ultimately stop and segue right into reverse if desired. Grab the normal righthand throttle and you’re almost immediately back underway. RiDE doesn’t so much shift between gears as it flows uninterrupted between motions. As you would expect, the RiDE lever takes precedence. When it’s applied, input overrides any normal throttle input. Release both levers and the craft assumes a neutral mode.
RiDE eliminates the forward surge normally associated with starting a PWC. Start the RiDE-equipped FX SHO and it sits patiently, waiting for the driver to apply forward or reverse throttle. As up to 4500 rpm is available in RiDE mode, the SHO has surprisingly strong response in reverse. Thanks to the added power, it’s also amazingly agile. Just get used to it before putting yourself in a tight situation. That same power that can quickly get you out of trouble can also get you into it until you familiarize yourself with the power of the response.
COMPARISON: Read our review of the 2015 Sea-Doo GTR 215
Electronic trim almost gets lost in the shuffle with such a major advancement, but it’s certainly welcome. Prior to 2015 the brand stuck with a manual trim system, which was certainly effective but could prove harder to activate at speed. Now, a push of the up or down trim buttons rapidly repositions the nozzle to lower or raise the bow, enhancing acceleration, squeaking the most speed out of the boat in straight-line gallops, or simply adjusting to the wave conditions or passenger weight aboard.
Handling and Performance
Apart from those significant upgrades, the FX SHO is quite familiar. Carrying the load is the hull and deck, updated in 2012. That hull deftly handles both rough and calm conditions, tracking straight and true through chop and carving aggressive, slalom-inspired turns in calmer conditions. Again, remember the trim, as well as an intuitive, inside lean. Both will significantly enhance the handling.
The deck above is comfortable and roomy. The saddle reflects the boat’s sportier stance, with a sculpted dip for the driver, but only a minimal raise for passengers. Foregoing the individual, Cruiser-style tiers allows an aggressive rider to move around more on the craft, rather than feel locked in to one position. The removable aft section reveals a lift-out dry storage compartment. A clever nook below the aft end makes a great spot to stow wet items like a ski rope. Peer below the bond line and you’ll note a flip-down boarding step, with a flattened, rather than round, step area for more comfort on bare feet.
At the controls I continue to give high marks for Yamaha’s pistol-style grips. They simply feel better than rounded grips, and arguably offer greater control. Info display modes are toggled via a cluster of buttons within easy reach just in front of the seat. The entire steering column pivots to accommodate individual rider’s height and riding style. Yamaha’s trademark security remotes lock the engine against unauthorized use, or engage a slower top speed to tame the boat for newcomers or save fuel.
COMPARISON: Read our review of the 2014 Kawasaki Jet Ski Ultra LX Review
As to power, it’s the always reliable SHO version of Yamaha’s 1.8-liter engine, boosted by a supercharger and intercooler to produce the required performance. It accelerates powerfully from idle, and continues smoothly to the 65 mph mark. That’s enough power to deliver thrills for solo or three-up riding, but also pull skiers, tubes, and wakeboarders across the water with minimal struggle.
An already good craft that has gotten that much better for ’15? It’s an obvious yes given the addition of RiDE and electronic trim. Each significantly enhances the overall experience on an already impressive craft.
And should your tastes run more toward a leisurely ride, the same craft still comes in a Cruiser version.
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