Just when you thought they couldn’t come up with anything new in the world of Personal Watercraft, they … well, Sea-Doo at least, does.
The location was Tampa, on Florida’s Gulf of Mexico coast. The sun was shining, the water was glistening and the 2017 model Sea-Doos were parked on the beach and ready for action.
The night before we had been briefed on the new line-up, focusing on the innovative Canadian company’s latest take on waterborne fun.
Introduced in 2014, the Sea-Doo Rec Lite Spark range was intended to provide a cheap entry point into the PWC sector and has proven to be one of the company’s major success stories.
Launched with a sub-$8000 base price, the Spark has introduced a lot of people to the SeaDoo brand – and for 2017 there’s a new model to add even more appeal to the range.
In Sea-Doo’s own colourful words, the 2017 Sea-Doo Spark TRIXX “not only changes the game, it helps invent new ones.”
Utilising the same lightweight Polytec hull as the rest of the Spark line-up, the 160kg TRIXX has a trick or two – pardon the pun – up its sleeve in the form of a new jet nozzle that allows it to perform ‘tail stands’, the on-water equivalent of a motorcycle ‘wheelie’. The nozzle has twice the working arc of the standard Spark unit, which, when set in the full up position, allows the rider to stand the TRIXX on its rear. Aiding the effort is an adjustable handlebar and moulded footrests at the rear so that the rider can use their weight and the throttle to lift the TRIXX and maintain the tail stand indefinitely.
In the hands of first-time TRIXX-sters the new Spark proved entertaining – especially for shore-bound observers, as riders initially found new and innovative ways to catapult themselves into the water, myself included. But within a few minutes, just about everyone was showing off, popping tail stands and generally coming to grips with the fun-focused new power-ski.
As I became more familiar with the TRIXX, it was relatively easy to keep the tail stand going, using the throttle and handlebar leverage and even doing turns while keeping the nose pointed to the sky. It certainly adds a new and novel dimension to the PWC stunt repertoire.
Powering the TRIXX is the uprated Rotax 900 HO ACE three-cylinder, four-stroke engine capable of around 80km/h in Sport mode, while the base Spark engine remains the 900 ACE, which can propel the rest of the range to around 65km/h. Both engines employ Sea-Doo’s exclusive Closed-Loop Cooling System for improved longevity and ease of maintenance.
While the TRIXX comes standard with SeaDoo’s excellent iBR braking and reversing system, plus the Extended Range Variable Trim System (VTS), buyers can option-up their standard Sparks with iBR, a Convenience Package that includes a front storage bin, a reboarding step and an anti-theft Digitally Encoded Security System. Buyers can also specify whether they want two- or three-up configurations.
There is also an expanded range of Spark accessories available, including a Tow Pro package, Chill Shade and Side Protectors.
What the TRIXX – and the Spark range as a whole – lack in outright power and speed, they make up for with their nimble handling and sheer ‘fun factor’. With their lightweight and responsive hull, they can be thrown around with a level of ease that makes them ideal for PWC novices. Indeed, I’m told by the Sea-Doo people that since the Spark was launched, it has “re-energised” the PWC sector, with more than 50 per cent of buyers being first-timers, which has to be a good thing.
For the more athletic, I’m confident we’ll see a whole new catalogue of manoeuvres added to the TRIXX bag of tricks over coming months.
Spark recommended retail pricing ranges from $7599 for the base Spark 2up 60 to the range-topping TRIXX 2up 90 at $10,099.
In other new developments for the 2017 range, Sea-Doo says its versatile GTS and GTI family-focused models are now the lightest and most fuel-efficient of any full-size PWCs on the market, with new weight-reducing Polytec hulls powered by the 900 HO ACE engine. Fuel savings of up to 30 per cent are quoted.
And speaking of engines, the company unveiled a new Rotax 1500 HO ACE engine. The 1500 HO ACE offers more mid-range performance, produces 15 more horsepower than the previous generation and is optimised for regular ULP. A new low-maintenance supercharger provides the extra oomph for the new engine, which powers the GTR-X 230, GTR 230, WAKE PRO 230 and GTX Limited 230 models.
The GTR-X 230 also extends the brand’s X-package offering to a new model and includes the exclusive Ergolock system, with scalloped flanks that allow riders to hang on with less effort in tighter turns.
Based on my experience with the TRIXX, I’m predicting we’ll be seeing a lot of them entertaining beachgoers this summer. My only concern would be that riders will need to be acutely aware of their surroundings, especially on more crowded waterways, where swimmers are nearby. With PWCs already vulnerable to bad press, it’s important to ensure that riders behave responsibly near other water users, especially for the young or inexperienced.
Meanwhile, the 2017 models will be arriving at Sea-Doo dealers from October. Recommended pricing ranges from the base GTI 90 at $12,999 to $23,799 for the performance-focused RXT 300X.
For a complete view of the 2017 Sea-Doo watercraft line-up, go to sea-doo.com.