Stand-up’s back with all-new Jet Ski SX-R

By Dave McMahon

Kawasaki’s press ride in Long Beach reveals newest PWC model 

Based solely on the number of representatives from Kawasaki Heavy Industries headquarters in Japan who made the trek to Long Beach, California, for the 2017 Jet Ski SX-R press ride, it was easy to see that the launch at the Marine Stadium was a big deal, and then some. With several project leaders from Japan on hand to see the industry’s only four-stroke stand-up make its debut, the event provided an opportunity to learn more about the manufacturing process and innovations being brought to market with the launch of the SX-R. 

It’s important to note that much of the SX-R was developed at Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A. and is being built at Kawasaki Motors Manufacturing Corp. in Lincoln, Nebraska, alongside Mules, Teryxs, Brute Forces and other Jet Ski products.

And members of the enthusiast media from outlets such as Green Hulk,, The Watercraft Journal and only needed a few hours on the water with the SX-R to overwhelming offer a collective two thumbs up for the fuel-injected 1498cc 4-cylinder playful machine.

Kawasaki’s all-new SX-R Jet Ski received high marks from the enthusiast media for its playfulness on the water. Despite its 106-inch length and 30-inch width, the 4-stroke, 1498cc machine is plenty nimble and ready for racing.

The personal watercraft industry, of course, has been a sales tear over the last two years thanks mostly to innovative new products from Sea-Doo and Yamaha. It’s a good bet that Kawasaki will be added to that mix with expected strong sales of the SX-R in 2017.

“Dealers were blown away by it when we revealed it to them at our dealer meeting in November,” said Dave Oventhal, Kawasaki’s Off-Road and Watercraft product manager. “And the industry feedback was excellent when we showed it at Lake Havasu.”

Minoru Kanamori, the longtime Jet Ski employee who developed the SX-R and has spent more time on the product than anyone, showed his prowess on water, and gave the assembled media a look at the performance capabilities. A shootout with his wife Emi — who also knows her way around a stand-up — was testament to the machine’s race-friendliness.

“We do have a big team from Kawasaki here because this product is so important for us,” Oventhal said. “Everybody has been waiting for this. We developed it for beginner and experienced riders, and we’ve taken all our years of innovation and technology, especially from the old SX-R 800 and our current STX-15 to mold it into this.”

Kawasaki’s 50-state-ready SX-R Jet Ski retails for $9,999.

Ready for sale in all 50 states, the SX-R marks a return to the stand-up market for Kawasaki, which launched its first stand-up — the JS400 — in 1973. The SX-R 800 stand-up was brought to market in 2003, but was discontinued in 2011 thanks to deteriorating market conditions and federal and state regulations on 2-stroke engines that prevented its use on waterways in California, among other states.

Yamaha owns the current 1,000 annual units stand-up market with its 2-stroke Superjet, but it’s for closed course competition use only.

“We pretty much dominated the market until we got out,” Oventhal said. “It was us and Yamaha. They took the market share, and we’re going to take it back with this. We’re very confident in that, because it’s such an amazing machine.”

Dealers in states that sold the most SX-R 800 models in 2011 should be especially welcoming of the new product, which is a completely new and different model. Those states by sales ranking include Florida, Texas, California, Michigan, Arizona, Washington and Minnesota.

Developer Minoru Kanamori was at home aboard the Jet Ski SX-R at the Long Beach Marine Stadium in California.

“The team wanted to leapfrog the 800, and it’s what we achieved with the ease of riding and performance,” Oventhal said. “Performance-wise it’s a monster, but it’s also easy to ride, too.”

Oventhal said about 80 percent of buyers will use it recreationally, with 20 percent for racing.

“Our primary customers that are going to purchase it are experienced stand-up riders,” Oventhal said. “We’ve already heard that a lot of dealers have orders placed already. We see a correlation with experienced motocross riders also. You’re going to get the same excitement and thrill on the water as you did jumping doubles and triples on a KX.”

Secondary customers figure to be experienced runabout owners as well as new riders.

“We’re excited about bringing new people into the industry,” Oventhal said. “We know there’s been a lot of new riders coming into watercraft in general, from some of our competitor offerings the last few years, and we’re excited about the future of watercraft.”

Dave Oventhal, Kawasaki’s Off-Road and Watercraft product manager, describes the company’s re-entry into the stand-up marketplace with the SX-R.

Those new riders will experience an SX-R engine that comes from the STX-15F, and brings with it twice the performance of the old SX-R 800. That’s its legal and 50-state compliant is a step forward for stand-up.

The rider tray is larger than the old model, allowing for beginning riders to get on the machine easier. It’s also angled forward to allow for a more natural riding position.

“It also has showroom appeal,” Oventhal said. “It stands on a dealership showroom, and we want it to pop when customers come in. Part of that is the mats that we use from Hydro-Turf. Customers don’t have to worry about fading or the mats coming off. The rounded edges on the deck fins also gives it that performance look and adds showroom appeal.”

Aftermarket accessory companies have already started producing performance parts for the SX-R.

The ideal mix of comfort and convenience, performance and styling brings a $9,999 MSRP. 


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