September 3, 2007 – Performance minded PWCs

As Yamaha National Sales Manager Brian Ceti explains, the company’s attention to the low-priced, family friendly four-stroke has paid big dividends. At least one member of its VX line has been the No. 1 selling watercraft since its introduction, plus the company has had multiple VX models in the top five.
Many would argue that success, however, has come at the price of the performance segment, an area where Yamaha has offered nothing higher than 160hp, at a time when its major competitors have expanded to 215hp and beyond. Says Ceti: “If we’re not moving forward into the performance segment, we’re losing an area where we could grow our business.”
To that end, the company recently unveiled the largest displacement engine the PWC market has seen, an 1812cc (Yamaha is calling it a 1.8-liter), supercharged four-stroke that promises to put Yamaha back among the industry’s performance leaders.
No Replacement For Displacement
While the company is following a new policy of not sharing a horsepower rating (citing the fact that not all manufacturers measure horsepower equally), reps confirm the engine is comfortably above the 200hp threshold. It will make its debut in two new models based on the existing FX series, the FX Super High Output and Super High Output Cruiser.
That large engine is also surprisingly streamlined. Yamaha designed this powerplant from the ground up for a PWC application, and it’s notably compact. Informal radar and GPS testing show it to achieve that magic 65 mph mark, at least in prototype form, and boast acceleration numbers that will put it among the market’s top performers. More impressive is that it does so on 87-octane pump fuel, and with a CARB Three Star emissions rating.
Yamaha has taken advantage of the SHO powerplant to debut a collection of new features. Standouts include electronic throttle, which brings with it such possibilities as cruise control, in this case dubbed Yamaha Cruise Assist. The feature allows the rider to find a comfortable speed, and then set that speed with the push of a button. After that, all that remains is to simply keep the throttle squeezed to some degree to maintain the pre-set speed. Release the throttle and the Cruise Assist disengages. Up and Down buttons allow you to adjust the speed in 1 mph increments within a 5 mph range above and below the current setting.
Yamaha also has brought over the No Wake mode featured on its jet boat line. Again, a push of a button locks in the craft’s speed at around 5 mph, in this case requiring no other pressure on the throttle to keep the speed established. The company also makes use of Traction Control in reverse, which basically prevents the engine from being overrevved. In conjunction with an all-new reverse gate, the SHO craft display a predictable and nimble nature in reverse displayed on very few PWC.
New Hull Technology
That new engine will boast an impressive power-to-weight ratio thanks to another Yamaha innovation for 2008, the use of nanotechnology. What Yamaha has done with this technology is reformulate the Sheet Molding Compound (SMC), the material it uses to mold its hulls, decks and liners.
Previously, all Yamaha’s SMC was formulated with three ingredients — resin, fiberglass and a filler material, calcium carbonate (CaCO3). The ingredients are formed into a sheet, known as a “charge pattern,” which is laid inside a mold, bombarded with heat and pressure, and ultimately formed into the makings of a PWC. With the previous CaCO3, molecules formed weaker “butt” joints, smacking up against each other like gumballs in a vending machine. As a result, they took up more space and their bulk resulted in added weight. Using nanotechnology, Yamaha has replaced this filler with clay, which can be exfoliated into layers at a molecular level. The material can then be layered like thin, interlocking bricks, forming stronger “lap” or “shear” joints thanks to the increased surface area. The result is the same FX hull now weighs 25 percent less, upping the power-to-weight ratio and allowing it to accelerate harder, burn less fuel and display new handling characteristics.
Yamaha calls the new material NanoXcel, and it will be featured on the hulls, decks and liners of the FX Super High Output and Super High Output Cruiser, in addition to the existing FX high Output and FX High Output Cruiser. In a side-by-side comparison between the 2007 HO and 2008 HO, the difference is obvious. With NanoXcel, the ’08 model is more than 50 pounds lighter. It also produces a smoother finish than the former SMC compound.
SuperJet Makeover
Yet another announcement concerned the long-standing SuperJet. While the company failed to deliver the added horsepower or four-stroke makeover predicted by many Internet chat sites, it did dramatically change the boat’s handling by updating the craft’s hull design. Like the Kawasaki Jet Ski, the SuperJet now offers large side sponsons forward, which widens the hull’s footprint and increases the wetted surface of the hull. Coupled with a slimmed down aft section, deeper chines and a pump that has been set back approximately two inches, the boat now handles with a much more intuitive lean-in style.
A minor retooling? Perhaps. But one that pays big dividends overall. And one that just solidifies the overall impression that Yamaha is back in the performance business. psb

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