Amid the loud and somewhat childish claims of "We're first," something important happened in the personal watercraft industry this summer — the four-stroke PWC was born. Both Yamaha and Bombardier introduced (simultaneously, no doubt) long awaited four-stroke models. (A promised Honda four-stroke watercraft has yet to be released.) The Sea-Doo and Yamaha models have their own strengths and weakness, but overall they answer the critics' screams for cleaner, quieter and more environmentally responsible watercraft.
They also raise a few new questions that only a day on the water with them can answer. Have the manufacturers solved the age-old power-to-weight dilemma? Has performance been compromised?
Inside the Ride
In late August, a select group of marine editors and writers got their hands on the GTX 4-TEC at the Port St. Lucie, Fla.-based Ralph Evinrude Engine Test facility recently acquired by Bombardier. While the others took their first rides, I spent some time with the engineers responsible for the new powerplant. Here's the "English" (for engineers speak a language all their own) version of what they told me.
The engine for the Sea-Doo 4-TEC is a 1,500cc, three-cylinder, four-stroke multi-port fuel injected powerhouse that delivers a respectable 155 horsepower. With 4-TEC weighing in at 785 pounds, it needs all the power it can muster.
The GTX 4-TEC also breaks new ground with an innovative cooling system. Bombardier introduced a closed-loop cooling system with a "cool" twist — a ride plate that acts as the radiator. In one of those, "Why didn't I think of that?" moments, it's easy to see the logic behind it but hard to figure out why no one had done it before. The closed-loop system also keeps saltwater out of the engine and should lead to a longer life through less wear and tear.
Hull of a Change
Although the GTX has been around since 1995, the model has received three complete hull redesigns and many tweaks over the years. The 2002 GTX received yet another complete overhaul, reportedly making it a more receptive platform for the four-stroke powerplant. Bombardier stretched the hull by 6 inches and increased the depth of the V-hull to 22.5 degrees from 17.5 degrees. Additionally, the Sea-Doo folks borrowed technology from the snow ski industry in adapting a parabolic shape to the hull that makes for easier turning, even with the increase hull length. Bombardier also rebuilt the deck of the watercraft resulting in more than 52 gallons of storage space — more than twice that of the classic GTX.
With a new engine, a new deck and a new hull, the only thing left to discover was how the GTX 4-TEC would perform. As I piloted the watercraft to the Intracoastal Waterway, it felt solid, immovable, sturdy, concrete — you get the picture. With two people on board and a consistent 2- to 3-foot chop, the Sea-Doo 4-TEC was a comfortable cruiser that ran smoothly at wide-open throttle.
In terms of standing-start acceleration, the GTX 4-TEC definitely loses a step to its direct-injected, two-stroke sibling, the GTX DI. However, it makes up for its relative lack of explosiveness out of the hole with consistent performance, a very dry ride and family appeal. The new hull is a great match for the 4-TEC engine creating one of the most stable three- passenger crafts on the water
A Safety Feature that Makes Sense
In addition to the four-stroke powerplant, the GTX 4-TEC comes standard with Sea-Doo's Off Power Assisted Steering system. (The system is standard on several 2002 Sea-Doo models.) O.P.A.S. is a rudder system that drops down below the watercraft in off-power and off-throttle situations. That's a substantial benefit for jet-powered watercraft that, at least traditionally, don't respond to steering inputs without throttle application.
At $9,899, the Sea-Doo 4-TEC is one of the most expensive watercraft out there, but in this case, you definitely get what you pay for. A high-tech engine, environmentally friendly features and classic performance make the 4-TEC a winner for families, friends and even the harshest of critics.
|Dry weight||785 pounds|
|Storage capacity||52.6 gallons|
|Fuel capacity||15 gallons|
|Engine||Four-stroke, three-cylinder Rotax SOHC w/multi-point fuel injection|
|Fuel type||Regular unleaded|
|Jet pump type||Axial flow, single-stage large hub with 10-vane stator|
|Transmission/trim||Direct drive with forward neutral and reverse|
|Hull type||Modified-V, fiberglass reinforced|
|Standard features||O.P.A.S. (Off Power Assisted Steering), Learning Key, D-Sea-Bel Sound reduction system|
For more information visit Sea-Doo.