by Jeff Hemmel
Officials at Yamaha Motors Corporation have made no secret about the fact they consider a low-priced four-stroke the key to truly expanding the PWC industry. With the retail prices of new watercraft averaging nearly $9000 in 2003, those same Yamaha pundits argue that many potential buyers are being alienated, whether they be complete newcomers to the sport or those looking to trade up to the newest technology. Says Yamaha’s Mark Speaks of the trend toward ever-higher price tags: “The price of personal watercraft has far outstripped the rate of inflation.”
With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that not just one, but two of the flagship vehicles in the company’s 2005 lineup are just that — attractively priced, four-stroke powered alternatives that are almost certain to catch consumer’s attention with their aggressively low price tags.
Dealers, as well as select members of the press, were recently shown the new VX110 Sport and VX110 Deluxe, two completely new models that, although they share a similar look to the previous FX line, borrow nothing from past models. Nothing that is, except the decision to use environmentally friendly and fuel-efficient four-stroke power. “Four-strokes have really claimed a big share of the market,” says Speaks. “The market is hungry for four-strokes.”
HUNGRY LIKE THE WOLF
Hungry enough, in fact, that Yamaha felt justified investing in a revamped version of their current four-stroke platform. Both models are powered by a new, four-cylinder, four-stroke engine based on the previous MR-1 mill. The 1052cc four-cylinder, five-valve-per-cylinder powerplant pumps out 110 hp. It also has a new throttle body. The power is transferred to a new high-pressure pump that Yamaha says is more efficient, and offers better “hook up, acceleration and speed.” A new driveline and reverse mechanism were also designed. The familiar star emissions ratings were not determined at press time, but count on the engines being Two Star compliant at minimum, and possibly even Three Star compliant.
That thrifty engine is also housed in a new hull design that borrows nothing from previous models. “We wanted an innovative, new look,” explained Yamaha Product Manager Scott Watkins, “something you’d look at and say, ‘Wow, that is different.’” The bow of the craft have more curve to the design, resulting in a slightly more aggressive look, while the stern has been shaped to include an extended rear boarding platform. According to Watkins, the hull is more stable on the water than the FX hull style, and locates the driver four inches further forward. The seat is also contoured for each passenger, and features grab handles aft. Perhaps the best feature, however, is that the vehicle is not stripped to achieve its low price point, expected to be in the neighborhood of $7000. A speedometer, hourmeter, fuel gauge, off-throttle steering, and an insulated cup holder are all standard issue on both machines, along with a 15.9-gallon fuel capacity and 17.2-gallon storage limit. The Deluxe version packs in a few more features, including rearview mirrors, a security system with remote transmitter, a low-RPM mode, and security lock. The Deluxe also offers a choice of a red or blue-colored deck.
Judging from the prototype shown to PSB during the Yamaha media introduction in Kennesaw, Georgia, the VX110 Sport and Deluxe should prove popular on the consumer level. The rider position is comfortable and supportive, and the hull tracks exceptionally well in a variety of water conditions while keeping spray down to a bare minimum. Estimates on top speed are in the 50-55 mph range, with a linear power delivery and solid acceleration. Storage suffers slightly when compared to the FX hull’s 26.4 gallon total capacity, but overall the line appears a nice blend of traits that should please both the experienced owner looking to modernize, as well as entice the newcomer who to this point has been scared away by the till-now intimidating price of four-stroke technology. For those who want to get a second PWC at an affordable price for their wife or family, and for the recreational rider who wants a good-looking, all-around performer, the VX could be the perfect fit.
It’s interesting to note that the VX110 Sport and 110 Deluxe are the first Yamaha watercraft to be designed and built in the United States. In 2001, Yamaha moved all of its design and business operations to the United States. Yamaha officials say this is one of the reasons the company has been able to offer a PWC at a lower-than-average price.
“We wanted to deliver a full-featured PWC at a good price point,” said Speaks. Indeed, if Yamaha does deliver the Sport for around the $7000 mark that we have been led to expect, it could be the lowest priced four-stroke on the market for 2005. The planned lower price might make some think the watercraft are aimed at entry-level riders. However, Yamaha says that while the PWC will appeal to novices, the boats will also cater to a wide variety of enthusiasts, including first-time buyers, return buyers , price-conscience enthusiasts, families, people in environmentally sensitive areas, rental operators and more. Much of the reason is that the craft boast many of the features of higher-priced models, while retaining the performance level of higher-priced craft. psb
YAMAHA VX110 SPORT/DELUXE
Engine Platform 1052cc, four-cylinder,
Bore x Stroke 76x58mm
Fuel Delivery Electronic fuel injection
Estimated Horsepower 110
Star Rating N/A
Estimated Dry Weight 715 lbs.
Storage Capacity 17.2 gals.
Fuel Capacity 15.9 gals.
Number Of Passengers Three