LAKE HAVASU CITY, Ariz. – American Honda is making good on its promise to deliver a new model in time for summer. In late April, select press were invited to Lake Havasu to ride the much-speculated-about F-15X, a craft that had been introduced in the fall of ’07, but one that, until now, was little more than a paper tiger. Now a real machine that press could feel and touch, the 15X will reportedly reach Honda dealerships in May and June.
Designed from the ground up to be a completely new model, rather than a twist on Honda’s former F-12X, the F-15X will follow the industry trend toward greater horsepower. Unlike some manufacturers that now elect not to publish actual horsepower numbers, Honda is specific: 197.3hp for the F-15X. That’s a significant boost over the F-12X powerplant.
Honda says the engine is also smarter. The oil thermostat matches the oil’s heat to different environments, a plus when running in cold water or at low-speeds over long distances. The Engine Control Module (ECM) also incorporates digital 3D fuel-injection maps for each cylinder, creating the ideal mixture and spark-advance settings for varying conditions. The ECM monitors atmospheric pressure, boost pressure, engine speed, oil and water temperature, intake-air temperature and incorporates an engine knock sensor to manage the waste gate valve that controls the boost of the turbocharger.
Honda remains the lone manufacturer to pursue turbocharging. Kawasaki, Sea-Doo and Yamaha all turn to supercharging to get their performance gains. Previous Honda machines have been criticized for some degree of turbo “lag,” a feeling the company has addressed on the F-15X. With the larger, 1470cc engine, turbo pressure begins building at 2,500 rpm. At least on the craft tested by the press, lag seemed nonexistent.
The engine is matched to an all-new hull, which is a full eight inches longer than the previous F-12 and has a decidedly deeper, 23-degree deadrise angle. Handling is responsive and predictable, arguably better than the well-received F-12 models. Sweeping corners were graceful, while the afternoon chop demonstrated the rough-water characteristics of the deep-V hull. A new winged intake grate enhances that handling ability and is reported to create a smoother flow of water to the impeller, which in turn also reduces vibration. A significantly larger ride plate is shaped for top-end speed. Top speeds recorded during the event on GPS were in the range of 67 mph, a number that, if it holds in production, will position the craft among the most elite performance models. Like most manufacturers keeping an eye on that Coast Guard-suggested speed cap, Honda reports top speed should be in the neighborhood of 65 mph.
With the new hull, Honda also paid attention to customers’ demands for both a drier, plusher ride than previous offerings. On the 15X, designers raised the bond line to knock down spray. The new bondline position also helps protect the PWC from dings around the dock. Seating is slightly more cushioned and plush than the F-12, although the gauge display is similar.
One notable display addition is a welcome industry-first – the ability to see how much riding time remains on the current fuel load. Honda also will offer the GPS-equipped package, like the F-12X GPScape, this summer.
Initial pricing reflects Honda’s positioning as a premier brand. The F-15X will retail for $13,299. The GPScape model, which adds a rear boarding ladder in addition to the display GPS, will retail for $14,299. psb
Copyright 2008 Powersports Business