Being enclosed in a large river lock with several other Sea-Doo power-skis is not what I had in mind when I first heard of Sea-Doo’s 2016 model launch. But, then again, I’d never ridden a Sea-Doo on Nashville’s Cumberland River before either.
Sea-Doo was conducting the world-wide launch of its new model line-up and, like many things the innovative Canadian company does, it chose the Tennessee city because it was “different”, according to one of the company’s representatives.
We were given two days in the famous country and western city to evaluate the new models on the Cumberland River and on Old Hickory Lake a few kilometres out of town.
The ride up the river was intriguing as we passed by stately old homes and the historic General Jackson paddle-steamer, which was moored awaiting the arrival of a new load of river cruisers. It was an incongruous and almost surreal experience, given we were riding past this iconic river craft from two centuries ago on 300hp, state-of-the-art power-skis.
ON THE LEVEL
To get to the lake we had to traverse Old Hickory Lock, which was a memorable first for me.
I’d estimate the lake to be around 20m above the river, so, after one of the Sea-Doo staff initially tugged on a line dangling near the massive lock entrance to alert the operator to open the large lock doors, we then had to tether our individual Sea-Doos to sliding docking points that rise with the water level as it fills.
The whole process took around 20 minutes and then we were out onto Old Hickory Lake, where we were based for the remainder of the launch.
The big news for Sea-Doo for 2016 is power – engine power and stopping power. Maximum horsepower for its performance craft has been hiked from 260 to 300hp with the release of an updated and beefed-up 300hp supercharged and intercooled 1630cc Rotax ACE three-cylinder, four-stroke engine.
The new engine powers the Sea-Doo RXT-X 300, RXP-X 300 and GTX Limited 300 models and boasts a capacity increase of nine per cent over the existing 1503cc unit via a longer stroke. Improvements in thermal efficiency and friction reduction, plus a new supercharger, have contributed to the boost in power. There is also a new plasma coating cylinder bore process, which replaces the relatively heavy pressed-in steel cylinder liners.
The new supercharger has a faster-spinning, 32-blade wheel (double the blades of the previous version) producing 30 per cent more intake boost. It’s also claimed to be maintenance-free.
Further refinements include a new larger intercooler that provides a more dense air charge, plus larger fuel injectors.
Performance-wise, Sea-Doo claims the new RXP-X 300 sets a new standard with the industry’s best power-to-weight ratio.
The other major development in terms of technology is the application of a second-generation of Sea-Doo’s innovative iBR braking system, which applies to all braked models for 2016.
The new iBR allows riders to stop up to 48.75m quicker than non-braked models, says SeaDoo. The Sea-Doo iBR system is the first and only PWC braking system recognised by the US Coast Guard for contributing to recreational boating safety and is now even better, with a stronger gear drive motor and larger, re-engineered brake gate.
In other developments, Sea-Doo has expanded the fitment of the Ergolock seat from its RXP-X performance model to more models for 2016. The Ergolock seat is optimised to fit a variety of riders and utilises a narrower, slimmer profile between the legs, including body-moulded knee pockets that allow riders to sit in a more natural position and use leg leverage to grip and manoeuvre the watercraft. It also allows the rider to connect with the watercraft better and use the entire body to hold on rather than only the upper-body, thus improving comfort, confidence and reducing upper-body fatigue. The 2016 SeaDoo RXT-X 300 receives the full Ergolock system.
The WAKE PRO 215, non-suspension RXT and GTX models with the Ergolock seat also have wet storage under Sea-Doo’s exclusive removable watertight storage bin for over three times more total storage capacity than the previous generation at 162lt, plus a new larger glovebox.
Other new developments across the range include new handlebar grips that feature a flared surface which acts as a palm rest, making for a better ergonomic fit for the hand, plus more support during hard braking and added comfort for extended riding.
Sea-Doo GTX luxury models also boast programmable power delivery through the exclusive Sea-Doo Intelligent Throttle Control (iTC) system, which allows riders to program throttle response across Touring, Sport, and ECO modes, along with Cruise Control and Slow mode. Sea-Doo says the GTX models, comprising GTX Limited 300, Limited iS 260, Limited 215 and 155/S155, ride on the exclusive S3 hull (Stepped, Stable, Strong) that provides better wave penetration for a more stable ride and also offers the industry’s only suspension option on selected models for a more comfortable ride.
In performance terms, the RXT-X 300 sits on pole position, with the new 300 ACE engine also delivering more torque and mid-range power, as well as improved throttle response.
The RXT-X 300’s narrower, body-moulded seat, Adjustable Ergonomic Steering (AES) handlebar and angled footwell wedges aid in aggressive cornering, as well as providing more direct rider feedback, says Sea-Doo.
Handling is complemented by the race-proven RXT-X’s hull and adjustable rear sponsons, while performance features include a digital info-centre with integrated lap timer and boost indicator, and high-performance Variable Trim System (VTS).
Just one notch down in outright performance terms is the RXP-X, which boasts a new T3 hull design allowing it to turn more aggressively and penetrate chop more effectively than any of its two-seater counterparts, says Sea-Doo. T3 stands for ‘Tight-turning T-hull’ and uses an advanced, dual running surface hull design with a unique combination of soft and hard chines, adjustable rear sponsons and performance trim tabs. According to Sea-Doo, the T3 hull, combined with the Ergolock seat system, allows the rider to lean further into corners, using more of the available power, with greater confidence and less effort to turn tighter and faster.
At the more affordable end of the range, SeaDoo says its Spark has contributed to a 20 per cent PWC market growth in its introduction year and returns in 2up and 3up models, powered by 900 ACE or 900 HO ACE engine packages. More colour options are also available.
On the water there’s no doubting the impressive performance on offer from the new 300hp powerplant. In Sport mode, throttle response and acceleration are electrifying, with a strong surge of forward momentum right throughout the rev range. They definitely felt a notch or two quicker than the 260hp models they replaced. Top speed is electronically capped at around 72mph (115km/h), which is at the outer limits of what most riders would be comfortable with anyway. And throttle control is precise and predictable.
Equally impressive, though, is how well Sea-Doo’s updated iBR braking system brings everything to a halt. Even at flat-out throttle, all high-performance models I rode braked extremely quickly. Braking action initially was relatively gentle and progressive, but as the craft slowed, braking G-forces increased substantially. Stability during all stages of braking was excellent, with the craft maintaining a flat, level and straight attitude at all times. An already impressive and clever system made even better. Full marks Sea-Doo.
Steering and handling in the light to medium chop we encountered on the lake were excellent, especially so on the RXP-X, with its new T3 hull. It felt rock-steady at higher speeds and the only limitation to turning agility was the ability of the rider to hang on.
We weren’t able to evaluate all the models in the 2016 line-up, but I’d predict the 300 ACE-powered craft we did ride are likely to win fans when they arrive in Australasian showrooms some time in December.
For more information and pricing, check with your nearest Sea-Doo dealer or go to: brp.com.au.