The Big Three

Published on Fri, 07/15/2016 - 8:00am

Personal Watercrafts

 What's new in PWCs for 2016

 "A boat is a hole in the water into which you pour your money."

 The above unattributable quote rings true to many current—and especially former—boat owners. In addition to very real hard costs like fuel, transportation, and the craft itself, boating often ends up being nearly as much hassle as it is fun. And with the exception of those who live on a body of water, many end up throwing in the towel after a few seasons and stick a "For Sale" sign on their former dreams of nautical adventure.

This may explain the growing popularity of personal watercraft, often shortened to "PWC." PWCs give you many of the same thrills and enjoyment of traditional boating, all with a lower cost of entry, easier transport to and from the lake or river, and lower fuel costs—not to mention ease of use once at your destination. If you've ever thrown a leg over a motorcycle or snowmobile, you'll immediately feel right at home. If not, a few minutes spent familiarizing yourself with the craft will land you in the same place.

In the past, PWC riders had to give up room for an additional passenger or two or the ability to tow a wakeboarder now and again. But today, PWC manufacturers have overcome these limitations, making it easy to enjoy your time on the water—without pouring your money anywhere you don't want to!

How Pump Jets Work

PWCs eschew propellers, instead using an internal combustion engine to power an "impeller," a small propeller contained within a tube that acts like a high-pressure water pump, or jet. Water is pulled in through a grate on the bottom of the craft's hull, then pushed out through the back, where a swivel is mounted on the end of the impeller, allowing the operator to control the direction of the craft.

Kawasaki Jet Ski

To celebrate 50 years in the U.S., Kawasaki unveiled new colorways on several models for the 2016 model year. All models are powered by Kawasaki's ZX-14 motorcycle-derived 1498cc four-cylinder DOHC engine, with the Ultra 310LX, 310R, and 310X series adding an Eaton twin vortices series (TVS) supercharger for even more get-up-and-go. You can even bring your music with you by way of the Jet Sound audio system and waterproof storage with USB port for your smartphone on the Ultra 310LX. If you have the soul of a dirt-biker, check out the Ultra 310R with its grippy seat and motocross-style handlebar with 12-position solid mount.

Starting prices range from $9699 for the STX-15F to $17,999 for the flagship Ultra 310LX.

Kawasaki Motors Corp., USA
Santa Ana, Calif.


Sea-doo splits their PWC offerings into five categories: the "affordable and fun" Rec Lite; "versatile and lively" Recreation line; "active and bold" Tow Sports category; "stylish and comfortable" Luxury line; and "fast and fearless" Performance machines. New for 2016 is the new 300hp Rotax 1630 ACE engine, giving 15-percent more oomph with only a 9-percent increase in displacement. Look for the new mill in the Performance models as well as the GTX Limited Luxury model.

Sea-doo is the only manufacturer to have a specific tow sports designation with their Wake Pro 215 and Wake 155 models. Look for retractable ski pylons with high two points to keep the rope out of the water when wakeboarding or wakeskating, S3 hull design for added stability for tow sports, ski mode and removable board rack, and—you guessed it—new colorways for 2016.

Prices start from $5199 for the Rec Line's Spark to $12,499 for the Luxury models.

BRP Sea-Doo
Valcourt, Que.

Yamaha Waverunner

Yamaha's big news for 2016 is the introduction of their new TR-1 HO engine, powering all V1 and VX models (with the exception of the VX Cruiser HO, a new model introduced this year, too). Offering 13 percent more power than the previous MR-1 engine, the TR-1 is 40 percent smaller and 20 percent lighter than its predecessor, giving you both better performance and better economy.

Two new models are added this year, too. The aforementioned VX Cruiser HO, relying on the same 1.8L normally-aspirated engine that has earned Yamaha four consecutive national racing titles, and the VX Limited that features the new TR-1 engine is touted as "the most deluxe VX model offered to date." Both models include no wake mode, cruise assist, and RIDE dual throttle handlebar controls, while the VX Limited adds four pull-up cleats, ski tow eye, and a 12-volt plug for electronics.

Prices range from $7899 for the V1 to $15, 899 for the FX Cruiser SVHO. Yamaha is also the only manufacturer to still offer a stand-up model: the Superjet, starting at $8499.

Yamaha Motor Corporation, USA
Cypress, Calif.