It’s been four model years since American Honda truly introduced an all-new PWC. With 2008 on the horizon and very little word out of the company’s California headquarters, some industry observers were expecting that number to increase to five and another year of Honda’s now very familiar lineup.
Worse, more critical observers on the Internet’s infamous message boards suggested the company might have even lost interest in the PWC market altogether.
On Sept. 5, Honda silenced all with two surprise answers to those questions — the radically new AquaTrax F-15X and F-15X GPScape.
Built around an all-new engine offering from Honda and encased within an aggressive new hull design, the F-15X models instantly catapult the company back into the waters shared by the industry’s elite, high-horsepower players. And in the process, reassures anyone who doubted Honda’s commitment to the industry.
“Our first boats were designed to have a long production life,” said Honda’s Tim Patnode when asked about the lengthy time span between models, “based on application of the first purpose-built PWC four-stroke engine. The R-12X two passenger model was introduced in ’03 and the R12 in ’04. In 2005, the F-12 was updated to increase power output. The 1200s have been lauded as the ‘most athletic’, ‘maneuverable’ and ‘fun to ride’ PWC on the market. However, we found there are Honda customers who desire an even drier ride and some who want more engine performance. The AquaTrax F-15 was designed with these customers in mind.
“This market-based approach is working well for us. AquaTrax sales have grown every year since introduction, and we expect sales to increase again this year.”
Power on the F-15X models is provided by a 1470cc, dual overhead cam 16-valve turbocharged four-cylinder engine. It features a single piece upper crankcase and cylinder block. A water-cooled turbocharger with intercooler provides a maximum boost of 10psi, using a denser intake charge for maximum power and combustion efficiency. Horsepower, measured in brake horsepower (bhp), comes in right at the 200 mark. Power is transferred to the water via a 155mm axial-flow, single-stage jet pump.
Unique features new to the F-15X include a multifunction display that now indicates the approximate time a rider has remaining on the current amount of fuel, measured in minutes. The Honda Ignition Control System (ICS) also is designed to protect the engine from “abnormal” operating conditions by allowing the rider to operate the craft in a reduced power mode.
While what’s below the seat is certainly worthy of attention, it’s the new F-15 hull and deck design that drew immediate attention when the craft was unveiled on Honda’s Web site. The F-15X design is noticeably more aggressive than the F-12 designs that have defined Honda up to this point. The bow is a mix of sharp angles flowing from a central point at the nose. Like the F-12 design, the craft features a pronounced raise in the bond line as you move forward. Even the graphics seem far bolder.
Honda officials, however, seem surprised by the characterization.
“Our initial colors, especially red, and the Honda graphic are designed to establish us in the category,” continued Patnode. “Combined with our unique raised bond line, it ensures our boats are easily recognizable, even from a distance.
“With the 15X we wanted some differentiation while still retaining the clean, bold look vs. a ‘flavor-of-the-month’ graphics approach.”
Graphics and colors aside, the function of the boat’s lines promise to give the F-15X models a solid presence on the water, an aggressive handling nature and the prerequisite dry ride. The hull is made from familiar Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic and is nearly 134 inches in length, 49 inches wide and just more than 42 inches tall. It offers a 18.5-gallon fuel capacity and 23.1 gallons of stowage. Seat length is 49 inches. With a full tank of fuel, the craft tips the scales at 961 pounds. Contrast that with the F-12 platform’s dimensions at 125.9-inch-by-49-inch-by-41.7-inch, and you’ll see the increase is primarily in length alone, with the new boat featuring close to a foot more and weighing nearly 170 pounds more than its older sibling.
Distinguishing the two models is the addition of Honda’s onboard GPS system, integrated into the multi-function dash display. As of press time, pricing had yet to be established. psb
Copyright 2007 Powersports Business