There are two paths to increase PWC performance in waterbikes like those in the WaveRunner VX series: add power or reduce weight. For 2014 Yamaha takes the latter route with its best-selling the VX, which sheds 65 significant pounds – a reduction of almost nine percent – through the use of NanoXcel, the material Yamaha has put to work in the hulls and decks of its other WaveRunner models since 2008. The new, lighter VX accelerates more briskly, planes off at 500 to 1000 fewer rpm, and delivers 23 percent better peak fuel economy. Fuel capacity is increased from 15.9 to 18.5 gallons, and Yamaha says that if you can hold the throttle at 5000 rpm, which is just planing speed, the VX will squeeze 155 miles of range from the new tank.
Yamaha NanoXcel is a proprietary SMC (sheet molding compound) material used as an alternative to fiberglass composite. SMC has been around for a long time, and is formed into shape under heat and 3,000 tons of pressure in large steel dies. SMC consists of resin, fiberglass strands and a filler material, typically calcium carbonate, which has the consistency of clay. The fiberglass gives the material strength, the resin holds the glass together, and the filler adds bulk and carries the glass as it flows in the mold. The raw material comes on rolls and looks like greasy tar paper. Rather than calcium carbonate, the filler in NanoXcel SMC is exfoliated clay, which is created by changing the molecular structure of the clay. Here’s a greatly simplified explanation: At the molecular level, clay has a layered structure. The molecules of the previous filler look like balls, or grains of sand, and join together in a “butt joint.” The molecules of the exfoliated clay, however, are wide and flat and layer together like bricks, in a “lap sheer” arrangement that’s a much stronger structure. As a result, the NanoXcel SMC requires much less filler to achieve the same strength. As one Yamaha engineer explains, “I used to need a bucket of calcium carbonate, but it only takes a handful of exfoliated clay.”
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While a part formed with standard SMC is significantly heavier than the same part in fiberglass, NanoXcel components weigh the same as a fiberglass part, and are stronger and have a better finish than standard SMC. Using NanoXcel SMC, Yamaha can create a WaveRunner hull in about six minutes in its manufacturing facility in suburban Atlanta—with no VOC emissions, which are a troublesome by-product of open-mold fiberglass production.
NanoXcel also is more expensive than regular SMC, one reason Yamaha has not previously used it in its entry-level VX series. The base VX Sport model ($7,999 at the time of this publication, reduced from $8,399 in 2013) is still made with the regular SMC. But the VX Deluxe ($9,499) and the VX Cruiser ($9,799) get the NanoXcel upgrade for 2014. All three VX models are rated for three passengers and are powered by the same 1052cc Yamaha Marine four-cylinder engine, which makes about 110 horsepower and will push these craft to a top speed of about 50 mph. The VX Sport is pretty bare-bones, with minimal graphics, no reverse thrust, and no security system. The VX Deluxe adds reverse, a remote key fob to manage the security system and a Low RPM Mode, a two-tone seat, a reboarding step, and cup holders in the glove box. To all of those features the VX Cruiser adds a deeply bolstered Cruiser touring seat.
It was the 2014 VX Cruiser I got to demo a few weeks ago, and after spending the previous few hours riding the 875-pound, 250-horsepower WaverRunner FX models, the VX seemed diminutive by comparison; the baby brother to the big FX. This is not a bad thing, especially for general family use. The sheer size and power of the FX models can easily overwhelm the more casual rider, in my opinion. The VX, however, offers enough power to tow a tube, zips right up to speed, and feels light and nimble on the water. The VX has no vices. It tracks well in all water conditions, won’t spin out in even the hardest turns, and delivers a reasonably soft ride. The handlebars are not adjustable so taller riders may find the grips a little low when standing, but that’s my only criticism of this refined craft. And although this is an “entry level” model, the fit-and-finish is outstanding. The VX does not look or feel like it’s built to a price point and in my opinion, the $300 upgrade to the supportive Cruiser seat is a good investment.
|Fuel capacity||18.5 gal.|
Lacking a 2013 VX model for on-the-spot comparison, it was hard to gauge the impact of a 65-pound weight reduction. To dramatize it, Yamaha brought 65 pounds of gym weights to the sea trial. Put in that context the reduction is significant. It’s like losing half a passenger. And while you may not be interested in riding 155 miles on a VX, the added fuel economy and larger tank will stretch the interval between fill-ups, a convenience especially if there’s no fuel service on your lake.
The size, economy, and price of the WaveRunner VX makes it an outstanding choice for the family looking for a PWC to keep at the lake, one that will typically be ridden by multiple riders in 20-minute segments. This is a lot of fun in a small package.
For more information, visit Yamaha WaveRunners.
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