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Yamaha left the FX SVHO pretty much alone for 2016. That’s okay, because the craft has gotten its fair share of attention for the last two years. In 2014, the craft came on the scene with the new SVHO engine, the most powerful Yamaha has offered to date. Last year, the company added RiDE to the mix, and drastically changed the way the boat maneuvered on the water.
This year, the FX SVHO pretty much gets to rest on its laurels as one of the best all-around flagships on the market.
As the name makes quite clear, the FX SVHO is powered by the most hardcore engine in the Yamaha arsenal, the 1.8-liter Super Vortex High Output. Based on the familiar 1,812cc platform, the SVHO version enjoys an improved supercharger and larger, more efficient intercooler, in addition to more efficient oil cooler compared to the SHO. What’s so special about lower oil temps? High temperatures choke power output. Larger fuel injectors and forged steel pistons round out the differences between the SVHO and SHO.
All totaled, the former provides 20% more power, or, in real world terms, the kind of speed necessary from a flagship in today’s market. In favorable conditions with my light fuel and test load, I easily toyed with the 67 mph mark that most flagships shoot for. In short, the FX SVHO can run with the best both Sea-Doo and Kawasaki have to offer.
COMPARISON: Read our review of the 2015 Sea-Doo GTX Limited iS 260
Of course, getting there is half the fun. Squeeze the throttle and the SVHO does not hesitate. Instead, it leaps from the water, making the most of its light weight (the SVHO enjoys the second generation NanoXcel material in hull, deck, and liner), extended ride plate, 160mm pump and top-loader scoop grate to reach 30 mph in as little as 1.5 seconds. Every inch of the way riders benefit from electric trim. A replacement to the old manual twist grip Yamaha clung to for years, it allows drivers to lower the bow for best acceleration, raise it for best top-end speed, and adjust it anywhere in between to compensate for conditions and passenger load. The electric trim also doesn’t require the driver to fight the pressure of water exiting the pump; a common complaint about the former manual version.
All of the above combine to provide some of the best, most intuitive handling I’ve ever experienced on a Yamaha craft. The FX SVHO is one of the few craft that inspire almost total confidence at full throttle. At nearly full speed I can carve the boat in and out of turns without worry of a surprise, unexpected chine walk, or other hiccup. Chines reward an intuitive inside lean, while sponsons ensure the stern will stay hooked to the water through even the most aggressive maneuvers. Of course, rough conditions also won’t make the SVHO flinch. In classic Yamaha fashion, it powers through the waves with utter predictability.
Enjoy The RiDE
And thanks to RiDE, that feeling continues beyond performance. The “dual throttle” concept introduced in 2015, RiDE essentially uses a newly designed reverse bucket to redirect thrust in certain situations. Want to stay stationary when you start your craft at the dock or launch ramp? RiDE deflects thrust to let the craft stay in a neutral position, much like a powerboat, before letting you choose forward or reverse via the appropriate lever. Your hands stay on the handlebars, your eyes stay focused on the water, and the learning curve is short. Should you want to slow your forward motion while underway at higher speeds, RiDE acts to redirect water forward and to the sides, rapidly slowing the craft’s speed. The direction of the redirected thrust keeps the boat level in the water, without any diving at the bow. The change between these forward, neutral and reverse settings is fluid, with no hesitation or feeling of clicking in and out of a gear.
COMPARISON: Read our review of the 2015 Kawasaki Jet Ski Ultra 310X
The only real caveat is the power available. In reverse, Yamaha lets the SVHO engine rev to 4500 rpm, which can feel like a lot of power until you’re used to it. Use it wisely and it can get you out of trouble fast, but use it in a tight area when you’re not used to its power and you might find yourself surprised. Just remember to spend a moment or two getting used to the response in open water and you’ll be fine.
With a big feature like RiDE, it’s easy to overlook the many other benefits that come with the FX platform. Cruise control and no-wake mode are two of the more obvious, allowing you to lock in a comfortable speed, pull a skier or wakeboarder, or navigate those extended slow-speed zones without wearing out your throttle finger or surging speed. Other Yamaha-specific amenities include an automotive-style key fob to activate a security mode or limit top RPM, a well-engineered spring-loaded boarding step with a flattened area that’s easier on bare feet, and a clever trunk behind the saddle for wet items like towropes. Don’t forget tilt steering and Hydro-Turf traction mats.
COMPARISON: Read our review of the 2015 Yamaha FX Cruiser SVHO
Niceties include Hydro-Turf traction mats, spring-loaded boarding step, and trunk behind the saddle.
If that sounds like a pretty well-rounded machine, that’s the idea. And at $15,199, it’s also one of the most affordable flagships on the market.
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