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Not one to rest on its laurels, Yamaha continues to refine its range of WaveRunners, including the FX Cruiser SHO, writes Mark Bracks


Yamaha proved at the recent launch of the range of its 2009 Personal Water Craft (PWC) models at Sydney's International Regatta Centre at Penrith that it is not letting any doomsday prediction affect its campaign to capture more of the market share of which it already owns an impressive ratio.

This scenario is more pronounced in the cutthroat world of PWC's as it is a very small market compared to everything else, but that doesn't stop the evolution of the breed to gain any advantage in the intense competition for market share.
Part of the reason that they have such a healthy piece of the PWC pie is that over the years Yamaha have created a number of firsts in the PWC market, one of which was the first four-stroke powered craft in 2002. Originally utilising a marinised version of the Yamaha R1 sportsbike, the FX140 was introduced to replace the much maligned two-strokes in the new green age of the 21st century.
That particular powered model may have been discontinued but the FX model is now on a different level as the Japanese company, that is more famous for musical instruments and motorcycles, have upped the ante by introducing the largest capacity craft in the field with the range of 1.8-litre supercharged weapons for the water.


Pride of place of the four supercharged models in the PWC fleet is taken by the three-seater WaveRunner FX Cruiser SHO (Super High Output). It definitely has all the bells and whistles on it, but arguably on even ground is the equally impressive FX SHO sibling with just a couple of subtle differences that don't matter one iota to the overall performance of either craft.
The only notable differences are that the Cruiser features a plusher seat with a grabrail for the rear passenger and handy pop-up cleats. Also, each particular model is available in just one colour to easily identify each craft.
PWCs these days are beasts that the family can enjoy and are exceptional for enabling humans to do a decent impersonation of a mutt hanging out the back of a ute at 140kmh with your gums flapping and eyelids peeled back and as such, it is the way they do things and what features they have that tip the scales in the sales departments.
Yamaha have long realised this and over the years, innovation to the game has been a catchphrase and on first impressions this has been taken to another level as the FX SHO craft have bucket loads of temptations being reflected in the prestigious award of "2008 Watercraft of the Year" in the USA - so they definitely succeeded.


Besides the seductiveness of a four-cylinder, four-stroke DOHC supercharged engine with intercooler that is housed in a new updated 3.37m long and 1.2m wide NanoXcel hull with progressive stepper draft hull, there are plenty of other temptations.
First up, it has Cruise Assist for constant throttle, particularly when towing a skier or wakeboarder and easily engaged by a button on the right-hand handlebar. This is a handy feature to ease overuse of your index finger that governs the go-juice that can get a severe workout during a day on the water.
Other useful safety features include No Wake Mode that keeps the craft at a constant 8kmh for negotiating those tight spots like marinas and where people gather, and also a handy reverse traction control that is activated quickly and easily by a handle situated just below the handlebars.
One thing that takes a bit of getting used to for the uninitiated is that to navigate successfully, judicious blipping of the throttle is sometimes required for quick turns in tight spaces, but reverse gear is also easily engaged should things get a bit tense in the tight avenues.
As for the dash and craft information, there is a comprehensive analogue and digital range of instruments with a dual rpm and speedo along with fuel gauge, compass, as well as air, water and engine temperature monitors, and exclusive to the Cruiser model, a fuel consumption meter. The handlebars are adjustable so all sizes are catered for.
It also features a number or waterproof compartments, including an 80lt storage bin for lifejackets and the like, as well as a little space for phones and keys plus a handy water bottle holder.
Housed in the hull in front of the powerplant is the 70lt fuel tank that feeds the EFI water-cooled engine which runs on plain unleaded fuel with a wet sump designed not to have any oil starvation problems no matter how hard you push it. Thrust is attained through a 155mm axial flow pump.
All this adds up to a dry-weight 381kg craft that will bring out the boy in every bloke but at the same time, there is plenty that will encourage family interest. It shouldn't be too long before Dad is tired of hearing "take me for a ride again dad" but then, with its performance, he may well be asking for many volunteers so he can keep the fun factor spinning as there is plenty to be happy with the new supercharged WaveRunner.


It all starts at the hull with the new design Yamaha claims is the most innovative yet on a craft to combine all its attributes for remarkable handling and performance. Yamaha claims it is the lightest in the class stating in the blurb that it is down to the NanoXcel hull design.
Updated for '09, the design aids steering over the older version and can be tipped into the turn a lot harder than the previous model, holding its line a lot better than previously.
The most notable feature of everything has to be the noise ? or lack of it. Well gone are the days when PWCs were frowned upon as decibel monsters.
This was very evident in the confines of the Regatta Centre combined with the amount of craft that were zooming around all day with some close to where we were gathered. Conversations at a normal level could be carried out with little background disturbance, and many commented on the lack of intrusive and upsetting engine wail.
As for the ride, there are plenty of features to keep the smile dial on the redline. As expected with any turbo engine there is a bit of lag when squeezing the finger-operated throttle to get it out of the hole but beware. Once it wicks up, hang on and warn your passengers or else they will be locking onto your waist that would do the Neanderthals of world wrestling proud as they pull you off the back trying to hang on under acceleration. So some prudence is a virtue - especially if you don't want to scare future passengers away.
On the plane the FX offers a very smooth ride and with the hull well balanced in the water the ride has become more refined. Seating is pretty neutral and with the adjustable handlebars control is not an issue. As for the passengers, there is plenty of room for two to sit behind you on the pillions without feeling too cramped especially for the one in the middle.
When pushing hard in slalom turns the FX Cruiser can launch out of the water when giving it the full-on berries that is so much fun, but again be careful with passengers as they will exit stage right at a rapid rate. In normal cruising and riding you would be hard pressed to find a more suitable craft but with a full fuel load it has a tendency to "take the top off" the chop and give you a bit of a bath when pushed hard but who wants to stay dry?
It has to be pushed pretty hard in the turns for it to lose the rear but at the same time it can be fun when flicking from side to side. At the venue, we had the chance to try top speed runs and between trying to see without sunnies I peeked at the speedo to see I was motoring along at a brisk clip of 135kmh! That is some serious speed for a small craft and it doesn't take long to get there.


To get another opinion on the new craft <I>TrailerBoat<I> invited someone used to grabbing handlebars for a living with Broc Parkes the leading Yamaha rider in the 2008 Supersport World Championship who finished fourth overall in the hotly contested series.
After all, PWCs are basically motorbikes of the water and Broc certainly knows how to get the best out of anything with a motor. He was equally enamoured with the craft like everyone else there.
"These craft have certainly improved heaps since the last time I rode them. To look at them you would think they are big and bulky but once mobile they are extremely easy to control even in the tight places and close to shore," Parkes said.
"As for performance, they can certainly handle the punishment, as I found that you really had to push them to the end of the envelope to get them to become unsettled. It felt really light too and its performance doing the runs through the buoys showed how versatile and how good they are at manoeuvring as it felt really light and responsive to handlebar input and use of the throttle," he said.
With words like that, it might be time to go and get one as at $22,325 for the Cruiser and $21,225 for the FX SHO there is no better time to purchase one because the way the dollar is going price rises are assured to occur in the near future.



Specifications: Yamaha Waverunner FX Cruiser SHO

Price as tested: FX Cruiser SHO $22,395; FXSHO $21, 225 
Options fitted: Nil

Construction:   NanoXcel SMC (sheet moulded compound for fibreglass reinforced plastic) 
Material:    Fibreglass reinforced plastic
Length overall:    3.37m 
Beam:    1.23m 
Weight:    Cruiser 381kg; FX SHO 376kg

Fuel:     70lt (unleaded).
Oil:     4.3lt 
People:    1 to 3

Make:    Yamaha
Type:    Supercharged four-cylinder four-stroke DOHC
Displacement:   1812cc 

Yamaha Motor Australia
Phone: (07) 3906 7000


Originally published in TrailerBoat #240 

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