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It’s been a big couple of years for the Yamaha FX SVHO, arguably the brand’s premier flagship. Last year, the model introduced a long-awaited, powerful new engine to the Yamaha line. This year, it takes that potent performer and gives it a few new tricks up its sleeve.
The end result is, once again, quite possibly the finest all-around personal watercraft Yamaha has ever produced.
Old News is Still Good News
The news of 2014 bears repeating. Yamaha introduced a new engine, the Super Vortex High Output (SVHO), and instantly became a contender for top speed bragging rights. Though it’s based on the existing 1.8-liter platform, the SVHO benefits from a new supercharger design and larger, more efficient intercooler. The oil cooler also boasts a huge jump in efficiency, meaning that power-robbing heat is dramatically reduced. A few more tweaks to the formula, including stronger forged-steel pistons and larger fuel injectors to keep that engine fed, and you’ve got an engine Yamaha promises to deliver 20% more power and a heck of a lot more boost compared to the previous SHO.
It’s a bump that Yamaha arguably needed to compete at the top echelon of the sport. You won’t get horsepower numbers out of anyone anymore, but a little digging reveals the SVHO to be over 250 hp. The performance numbers almost make you suspect more. Peg the throttle and you’ll easily run the boat up to 65 mph and then some. I’ve recorded 70 mph in ideal conditions. Acceleration from a dead start is brutally strong, and more than enough for racing, towing, or just free riding. Along with the obvious engine, credit some of that result to a larger 160mm pump, top-loader scoop grate, extended rideplate, and lightweight NanoXcel hull material. The latter makes its debut in a second-generation formulation for 2015 and, according to Yamaha, sheds an additional 46 pounds from the hull, deck, and liner.
COMPARISON: Read our review of the 2015 Sea-Doo RXT 260
The hull beautifully handles the newfound power. The design hasn’t dramatically changed over the last three years, but well-designed sponsons and chines encourage the boat to roll effortlessly into a turn with an inside lean, and stay hooked tenaciously until the exit. For 2015 that characteristic is made even better by the first of several improvements; electric trim.
But New News is Great
Yes, rejoice those of you who longed for the quick-and-easy response of electric trim. It’s now standard issue, enabling drivers to quickly drop the bow and put plenty of hull in the water during corners, and then get that bow back up and out of the water for high-speed runs. Playing with trim is one of the best ways to truly squeeze the best performance out of the hull, but it also can be used to produce a better ride with a full passenger load. Eliminating the manual twist lever means you’ll no longer fight the force of the pump thrust at speed.
The coolest news, however, is the inclusion of Yamaha’s RiDE system. RiDE’s ins and outs have been the subject of multiple reviews this season, but here’s yet another recap. RiDE introduces a second throttle on the left side of the handlebars to control reverse thrust. At slow speeds it’s simple – squeeze the throttle to go forward, squeeze the RiDE lever to back up, release both and you sit stationary. There’s no shifting of gears or momentary lag; each lever instantly translates into thrust in the appropriate direction. Key components in the system are obviously the craft’s electronic control unit and reverse bucket. The latter pivots into the flow of water exiting the pump to produce the desired result. Yamaha also adds a Boat Control Unit, tailored for the weight and response of each individual craft, to fine tune the response and make sure it’s matched to the craft in question.
COMPARISON: Read our review of the 2015 Kawasaki Jet Ski Ultra 310X Review
RiDE works great, and completely changes the situation when docking or trailering. My only word of caution? Yamaha allows the engine to rev up to 4500 rpm in reverse, so be prepared for the actual amount of power on tap, as it’s likely more than you initially expect.
At speed, Yamaha avoids calling the RiDE lever a brake, but it will notably slow the craft when pulled. As thrust is diverted to the side, the FX SVHO stays nice and level, with no feeling of the driver being pitched forward. Since there’s no shifting between modes, you can pull the RiDE lever and switch back to throttle with nary a pause.
I can’t overlook the other amenities that come standard issue on the FX SVHO. No, you won’t get the cushy Cruiser seat (that’s the FX Cruiser SVHO), but you do get tilt steering, Yamaha’s familiar remote security key fob, cruise control and no-wake mode, buttons for the info display that are within easy reach just in front of the saddle tip, Hydro-Turf mats, and a truly great spring-loaded boarding step that features a flattened step to avoid killing bare feet. I also continue to like such simple extras as the aft trunk that’s just big enough to accommodate a wet towrope and handle, or maybe a mask and fins.
COMPARISON: Read our review of the 2015 Yamaha FX SHO
Whether you want a race-ready craft or just a fun craft that handles beautifully, the 2015 Yamaha FX SVHO has you covered.
Most people, however, will buy the FX SVHO for the reasons mentioned higher up in this article. It’s flagship fast and handles like a dream. Just remember that it now adds RiDE and electric trim to the features list, without that much of a jump in price.
And that’s a combo that makes the craft all the more compelling.
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