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The PWC power war ramps up




The PWCs you see here - and whenever possible we'll use the term "skis" if you don't mind; "PWC" is such a clumsy term - represent the best Sea-Doo has to offer in both the three-seater cruiser category and "race ready" sports vessels. These two have a lot in common as well, despite their different callings. The thing is, if you're a big fan who loves the idea of owning one of these missiles, but the huge range and all those acronyms are confusing the hell out of you - iCONTROL, iBR, iTC, S3, 4-TEC, VTS, OPAS - and so on and so forth, you'll need someone to explain all this fantastic gizmo-logy so you know what you're actually buying.

And that's where we come in. We spent a day riding the 2010 GTX 255 Limited iS (more acronyms) and the RXT 260 X RS. Admittedly, the RXT had some teething problems on the day, but the GTX nevertheless performed faultlessly all day and we were able to get an idea of what it's like as a flagship cruiser and all-round gruntmeister. The acceleration here is truly breathtaking, and so is the whiplash manoeuvrability, but we'll come back to that shortly.



PWCs aren't cheap but you get a lot for your money. The GTX 255 Limited iS retails for $27,700 and the RXT 260 X RS for $24,500. The difference in those prices is accounted for by the luxury features on the GTX, the suspension, retractable rear step, depthsounder, and so on. In either case, you could say that's a hell of a lot of money compared to what you'd pay for, say, a Yamaha R1 motorcycle, but the R1 doesn't have a 1500cc three-cylinder engine with supercharging and intercooling. And it doesn't float.



There's no such thing as a slow ski, and few vehicles available to the public are as technically advanced (that's why BRP's acronym department runs three shifts a day, it must be hell in there). But as I said, only the quickest road motorcycles and sports cars will blow your skirt up like one of these things will, and the miracle of it all is that Sea-Doo, in collaboration with the Austrian engine company it owns, Rotax, has produced a hyper ski that doesn't require frequent and expensive maintenance.

According to Phil Davidson, the man who delivered these vehicles unto the TrailerBoat tribe lined up around the block, the average family will ride their ski for about 50 hours a year, after which the first service is due, and unlike the first service on your average Italian or German sports car, which is likely to cost around $800, the 50-hour service on a GTX Limited will set you back about $300. There's no major work to be done either. They just check it to make sure you haven't busted anything, or left a family pet in the intake, and after that you can stow it for the winter.



I said skis (I mean PWCs) are technically advanced and that wasn't huff and puff. People who have the money to buy one of these also have an expectation that they're buying the best there is. They want plenty of power, they want it to look sharp, they want it to be comfortable for three people, they want it to pull two skiers out of the water, they want fancy digitised instrumentation, and they want all this to be family friendly - in so far as dad can fling it around as much he likes until mum tells him to get off.

But let's check out some of those Sea-Doo acronyms. There are far too many to go into in this small space so we'll limit our explanation to the more salient ones.

iBR: This stands for Intelligent Braking and Reverse. Yes that's right, now skis, or this one at any rate, have brakes. That doesn't mean a metal leg suddenly shoots out from the hull. That wouldn't be technically advanced. No, so what the GTX does is use "reverse thrust" to slow the machine, much as a jet aircraft uses reverse thrust to slow it after landing by redirecting airflow through the engine towards the front of the plane. When you squeeze the brake lever on the lefthand side of the bars, that shuts off control to the throttle computer and, depending on how hard you pull on that brake lever, the Sea-Doo's onboard brain applies the appropriate amount of reverse thrust.

Sea-Doo says the brake will stop the machine in one-third the distance that merely getting off the throttle will. And it does. When we hit the brake hard, the GTX's bow went down and spray cascaded over the front of the hull. That's how strong the brake is so it's a very useful safety feature. The Reverse part of this equation is important too. Being able to reverse on the throttle makes manoeuvring at low speed much easier, especially when you're bringing her into a wharf or aiming her at a waiting trailer, and a strong wind or tide makes it difficult to adjust your speed and direction.

iS: Here's another first for Sea-Doo, Intelligent Suspension. Because it's a cruising machine, the GTX has to be comfortable. Getting belted around by mild chop, even on a lake, doesn't go down well with family funsters and so Sea-Doo has effectively isolated the top deck from the hull with shock absorbers. These components are made by FOX Shox in the US, and they soak up a lot of that chop-induced impact. Anyone who has raced endurance events will appreciate the difference this suspension makes, not only to ride quality but for how long you can hang on at high speed while your arms turn to Jello.

Said one of our testers, a former endurance racer: "I wouldn't ride one of these without suspension now. It's amazing!" iS is programmable too. You can tune the degree of damping, or just set it to auto and let that onboard brain work it all out.

LEARNING KEY™: Several basic safety features have been on skis for a long time, like the lanyard system, which stops the machine dead in the water when you fall off. Another safety feature is the so-called "learning key" that's designed to make a novice's introduction to skis safer and more enjoyable.

The device works like this. When mum rides for the first time, dad gives her the green learner's lanyard and plugs it into the lanyard post. This green key limits engine revs while mum drags her big smile around the lake and gets used to all those acronyms. As her skills improve, dad gives her more revs (you can see where this is going can't you?) until mum either can't stand the excitement any more or she can safely handle speeds that will surely turn that smile into Yeeeeeeeeeh-haaaaaarrrrr… at which point dad hands over the coveted yellow lanyard and yells "Go for it!"




0 to 80kmh in 2.9sec. Yeah, that'll do it...

Short of strapping yourself naked to the handlebars of a Hell's Angel's chopper, there aren't many adrenaline rushes to match those a big-bore ski can deliver. What we have here is 1494cc of eyeball-flattening grunt. People who have never been on a PWC can't believe the acceleration. Some people who have been on one can't believe it either.

There is a caveat on all this though. These machines might be fast and unbelievably agile, but that's precisely why they deserve special attention on heavily populated waterways. Here are a few suggestions for beginners to make PWCing safer:


Ride where you won't annoy other boaties. Given their size and power, these Sea-Doos are remarkably quiet, but we all have to share the waterways so keep that in mind.



Take time to get used to the performance before you hit it up big time. If you're new to tow sports, use the Sea-Doo's green-learner's lanyard until you're comfortable and confident.



If you're riding with another ski, ALWAYS be aware of its position relative to you.



Don't start the ski or rev it hard in shallow water because mud and gunk on the bottom can be sucked in and damage a lot of shiny bits. Try to have at least one meter under you before starting her up, then idle into deeper water before nailing it.



If you're picking up a skier, idle in upwind so you're not blown onto him or her. And be careful not to suck the skirope into the pump.



The GTX iS will run on normal unleaded, because its engine management system can adjust the spark curve to match lower octane fuels, but use premium unleaded of you can get it.



Great performance

Big buzz to ride

Kids can't get enough




Awkward observer's position

Iffy lanyard connection



Specifications: Sea-Doo GTX Limited iS



Price as tested: $27,700


Length: 3.53m

Width: 1.22m

Height: 1.12m

Dry weight: 430kg

Fuel capacity: 70lt

Warranty: 12 months parts/labour


Type: Three-cylinder, direct-injection, four-stroke

Displacement: 1494cc.

Compression ratio: 8.4:1

Fuelling: Supercharged and intercooled

Cooling: Closed loop


Propulsion: Sea-Doo direct-drive

Jet pump: Axial flow, single stage,

large hub

Transmission: Electronic, iBR direct-drive

Impeller: Stainless steel


Sea-Doo Australia

238-246 Great Eastern Highway

Ascot, WA, 6104

Phone: (08) 9277 2844 / (08) 9277 8095




Originally published in TrailerBoat #255

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