I recently discovered that my ageing body doesn’t bounce anywhere near as well as it used to. In fact, it has all the bouncing ability of an 80kg brick. And purely from a visual perspective, it has developed a tendency to bruise that is truly spectacular – as I can still demonstrate even weeks after the event. Up until the launch of the 2006 Sea-Doo range at the Couran Cove resort on Queensland’s South Stradbroke Island, I never would have believed the human body could exhibit so many shades of colour simply from colliding with water at speed.
Let me set the scene… At the time I was coming to grips with a 215hp, 110km/h Sea-Doo RXP – although ‘not coming to grips’ would be a more apt description. The company famous for building some of the world’s most exciting personal watercraft had an arsenal of new machines on hand, plus a pair of its Sport Boats. It was the assembled journalists’ task to test these craft to their limits – and in one or two cases, a little beyond. But before covering the antics of the testers, we first need to see what’s new in the Sea-Doo line-up.
The entry-level GTI range boasts two new models: the GTI 4-TEC SE and GTI 4-TEC, both of which feature a new detuned 130hp derivative of the Rotax 4-TEC, 1494cc, three-cylinder engine, which powers the rest of the range, except for the 3D series. The GTIs have been thoroughly redesigned, with an entirely new deck and hull design for a sleek, stable and smooth ride for up to three passengers, says See-Doo. They also incorporate a new watertight removable storage bin that is designed to carry drinks and snacks and fits under the craft’s forward hood. The GTI 4-TEC SE has upgraded features, including retractable reboarding step, dual wide-angle mirrors, footwell carpets and a ‘ski eye’. Accessories, such as watercraft covers, a retractable ski pylon, and other Sea-Doo options can be added to the base GTI to customise the craft for each owner.
The 3D DI sports model has been repowered for 2006 with Sea-Doo’s own in-house, twin-cylinder Rotax two-stroke engine. Previously, the company used an outside engine supplier, but has boosted both capacity (951cc – up from 782cc) and power (130hp – up from 110hp). The new engine also boasts Orbital Direct Injection and is good for about another 12km/h in all-out speed, says Sea-Doo. As with last year, the 3D comes standard with three basic configurations – Moto, Kart and Vert – and can be accessorised to offer both Shoq and Knee pilot layouts.
Returning stars of the Sea-Doo line are the super charged and inter cooled 215hp two-passenger RXP and the sales-leading RXT three-passenger performance machines, as well as the identically-powered, upmarket Luxury Performance GTX Limited and 155hp GTX. The Wake is also back in the Sport line-up for 2006 and, according to Sea-Doo, remains the industry’s only watercraft specifically designed for towing and boardsports.
Across-the-range changes include a new Digital Information Center, which is not fitted to the 3D. It’s basically a new dash layout, which incorporates easy-to-read gauges that feature a wealth of info that can be scrolled through in a fully digital display.
Other standard features include Sea-Doo’s own closed-loop cooling system (available on all four-stroke models), which uses its own on-board, fresh water cooling process to prevent corrosion and blockage issues associated with other non-enclosed cooling systems.
All Sea-Doos also boast the company’s Learning Key option, designed to allow learners to get the hang of their machines using limited power and speed, while the Digitally Encoded Security System is a great anti-theft feature that prevents unauthorised use of the craft.
The Off-Power Assisted Steering System (OPAS) is designed to assist maneuverability in both off-power and off-throttle situations. When the system cuts in, side vanes automatically deploy to provide additional steering assistance. OPAS actually increases the deceleration of the watercraft as the driver turns, according to Sea-Doo.
The Off-Throttle Assisted Steering System (OTAS) on the 3D provides additional maneuverability in off-throttle situations. OTAS is electronically activated when the driver initiates a full turn under a pre-programmed engine speed.
One important aspect of the Sea-Doo range in these environmentally sensitive times is the company’s Sound Reduction System. Every craft in the range uses Sea-Doo’s patented sound reducing system, which employs a combination of resonators, acoustical foam, and vibration-absorbing components to keep engine noise to a minimum.
The gymnast-like qualities of the 3D machines are enhanced by a three-position handlebar assembly that allows greater flexibility to fit individual ergonomic needs. The handlebars can be rotated forward, vertically, or aft, offering both thumb and finger throttle positions as well as two separate start/stop button locations.
PUT TO THE TEST
But while it’s all very fine to ponder the range’s impressive technical credentials, it’s out on the water where it all really counts. And so with that in mind, we were set loose on a course in sight of the Couran Cove resort, where we could put the various models through their paces in relatively calm and benign conditions. Or so I thought.
The first time I thumbed the throttle to the stop on the mightily powerful RXP, my adrenalin gland went into overdrive. By the third lap of the course, I saw 112kp/h on the dial and as if to join in my revelry, a small, startled ray leapt free of the water directly in front of me. By the time our brains registered each other’s presence, we were both headed in opposite directions at a fairly serious pace – at least in my case.
On flat water, it is truly amazing how hard and fast these machines can be muscled through a turn. In fact, their ability to turn well and truly exceeded my ability to hang onto the handlebars. Not long into my first test session, I came upon the wake of another machine as I carved into a tight turn. The result was two airborne objects – one Sea-Doo and one flailing journo. Re-entry was both sudden and painful. But then again, as I resurfaced, winded and soaked, I couldn’t help but crack a laugh. And with my errant machine bobbing a few metres away, it was only a moment or two before we were back in action again. A minute or two later, though, I was again flying through the air with the greatest of ease – only to slam back into the briny a bit harder second time around. This time, it took a little longer to clamber back into the driver’s seat and parts of the body were starting to protest. But while I felt a little tender around the ribs, and needed a few minutes on the beach to recover, it wasn’t long before the adrenalin gland sent word that it was in need of another workout.
And that’s the essence of the Sea-Doo experience. Once you open the throttle on any of the machines, I defy anyone not to break into a wide grin as you experience the rush of acceleration and blast of wind and water. Sometimes it might end up hurting – at least if you’re a relatively inexperienced and unfit PWC pilot like yours truly – but the sheer exhilaration and sense of freedom and speed on the water is more than adequate compensation.
Pricing on the PWC line-up ranges from $12,990 recommended retail for the 3D, to $13,690 for the GTI 4-TEC, $16,990 for the GTX and $23,290 for the top-of-the-range GTX Ltd.
Enhancing our experience on the day were two new Sea-Doo Sport Boats, the 4.67-metre Sportster and twin-engined, 6m Speedster. We were given the opportunity to sit in the passenger seat of both machines as they were put through their paces by experienced drivers. While we were given relatively short test rides, I can say that both machines impressed with their agility and performance. In particular, the 430hp Speedster – powered by two 215hp supercharged engines lifted from the PWC range – was an impressively swift boat. It burbled like a hairy-chested V8 as we headed out onto the test course and in an instant was rampaging down the waterway at scenery-blurring speed. Both boats were also extraordinarily agile, courtesy of their jet-drives, and turned almost in their own lengths at high speed. Obviously dedicated sports boats, they were nevertheless exceedingly civilised when being flung about and handled moderate wakes without fuss.
The base-model Sportster comes with a recommended retail of $32,999, while the Speedster starts at $55,999 and maxes out at $62,999 for the Speedster 200 SCIC Wake.
These boats almost blur the distinction between PWCs and more conventional craft and Sea-Doo is hoping that they will stake a niche in the Australian market as more people sample their agility and performance.
For more information, contact your nearest Sea-Doo dealer or race to: www.brp.com.