Features

Yamaha retools popular FX line for 2012

‘Mechanical’ neutral allows WaveRunner to start motionless

By Jeff Hemmel
Contributing Writer

It’s not easy trying to remake an icon. Yamaha’s FX series not only held the distinction of being the first four-stroke platform available on the PWC market; it also paved the way for a variety of now taken-for-granted innovations, including cruise control, no-wake mode and the whole Cruiser concept. At its core, however, the FX offered a stable, predictable ride in any riding condition. That made it a hard machine to replace.

Retooling that icon, however, is just what Yamaha has done for 2012. And the company has done it by focusing on two key areas in which the FX was already strong — handling and ergonomics.

True inside lean
The new FX design is a full 7.5 inches longer than the previous year models. The lengthening was reportedly done to give the craft a longer, more comfortable seat, but it also has enhanced the performance of the hull, whether ridden solo or with passengers.

A full keel is designed to provide exceptional straight-line tracking, while similarly, full-length chines enhance the stability in the turns, particularly with multiple passengers. Sponson design and placement was critical. The ultimate goal? Give the boat a true, predictable inside lean, which wouldn’t require the driver to fight the boat in the turns, and, perhaps the greatest challenge, would perform equally regardless of the passenger load above.

Though the craft revealed to a few select media members in early August was still in the prototype stage, I was extremely impressed by its handling. Whereas the previous FX models tended to alternate between riding on the pad and falling onto the chine in a turn, giving the craft a slightly jerky feel, the 2012 models simply sweep in and out with aggressive, yet predictable manners that gave me total confidence in the boat within minutes. The change makes the new FX that much more fun to ride than its predecessor, while still allowing the hull to display the big-water handling strengths that were always its forte.

A better fit
Comfort, however, reportedly was key, and highlighting the ergonomic changes are several enhancements. On the popular Cruiser models (FX Cruiser HO and FX Cruiser SHO), the seat is now tiered movie-theater-style, giving each successive passenger a raised view over the occupant in front. The middle seat gains about six inches in height over the driver position; the aft seat rises another four inches. The seat is also clearly segmented into three individual positions with supportive bolsters, giving each passenger aboard a designated, secure spot to ride.

Behind the seat sits yet another ergonomic upgrade. Rather than the rounded reboarding bar of old, the entire FX line now features a wide, flattened bar that extends lower into the water. It’s easier to gain a foothold, and is complemented by an additional grab handle at platform level below the seat. Combined with the traditional grab handle above, it makes for easier boarding from deep water.

Even something as straightforward as the mode buttons for the LCD display have been improved. Previously, the driver had to awkwardly reach over the handlebars to reach buttons on the display face. Now, those buttons have been relocated to a position in front of the seat and below the handlebars. It’s a simple change, but one that will likely draw high praise from consumers.

Form and function
While the new FX resembles the previous model, the design has grown increasingly edgy. Much of that new styling is the result of additional, molded components that have been secured to the existing deck shape. Some enhance only the craft’s looks, but others, like a new bulked-up aft portion below the seat, are functional.

The piece in question allows the FX to now feature an aft “trunk” where items like towropes or a swim mask and snorkel can be easily stored. Clear attention to detail is found in the notch in the compartment door; it allows a towrope to stay secured to the ski tow eye while the rope is secured within. It may seem flimsy, but that’s by design. The flexible material won’t crack or break should a passenger step on it while the hatch lays open against the deck.

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Watertight canisters are now also found on the console as before, but also below the aft portion of the split seat.

One of the most interesting additions, however, is the integration of what Yamaha dubs a “mechanical” neutral. Unlike Sea-Doo, which has opted for an electronic solution via the iBR braking system, Yamaha has included a simple detent in the throw of the reverse lever. Situated about three-quarters of the way back in the lever’s travel, it positions the reverse bucket at an angle that essentially produces no significant forward or backward thrust. The sweet spot, marked by an “N” in a small viewing window on the lever, allows the boat to start relatively motionless at the dock or launch ramp, and then be directed into forward or reverse via the starboard, console-mounted lever.

All four models continue to be powered by Yamaha’s 1.8L engine. The SHO models feature a supercharger and intercooler to increase power, and the HO models are without, in part for better fuel economy. Retail prices are $14,599 for the FX Cruiser SHO, $13,999 for the FX SHO, $12,999 for the FX Cruiser HO and $12,499 for the FX HO. All FX models continue to operate on regular unleaded fuel.

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