Here's the plain truth about the Yamaha AR210 jet boat: Advanced wakeboarders won't find much to like about it. The boat doesn't jack up monster wakes with a fancy integrated ballast system, and it doesn't produce the endless torque and agility of a V-drive. About the only thing the twin-engine, jet-propelled AR210 has in common with a hardcore wakeboard tow-boat is its brushed aluminum tower, and even that feature is relatively no-frills. The tower doesn't flip forward for trailer and garage storage and its doesn't come with huge stereo speakers.
That's the bad news. The good news is that for the majority of wakeboarding and watersports lovers, who fall squarely into the beginner and intermediate categories, the 20'11"-long, 8'-wide AR210 is all the tow boat they'll ever need. The boat delivers a strong pull in deep-water starts, ample wakes at boarding speeds and smaller crests at slalom-ski speeds. Plus, it's pretty well loaded with features.
The boat also comes with what is, relative to purpose-built wakeboard boats, a tiny sticker price. Suggested retail price for the new model is $22,999, and that includes a trailer, a CD stereo system, removable Berber carpet and a Bimini top. Research the V- or direct-drive wakeboard boat world and you'll quickly find that $23,000 won't get you far. Of course, you'll be looking at a completely different class of boat.
The people at Yamaha know this and, to their credit, they are not marketing the AR210 as a "serious" wakeboard boat. Instead, they're targeting families with a wide-range of watersports interests, from wakeboarding to tubing. That's not just an honest approach — it's smart, because that's exactly where the boat best fits.
Having spent my share of time being dragged behind under-powered personal watercraft and jet boats, I was skeptical about the pulling strength of the AR210 Yamaha presented to the marine press at its August 20 new-model introduction in Destin, Fla. I'm an intermediate wakeboarder (on good days) weighing 175 pounds (on better days), and I do most of my riding behind a direct-drive American Skier tow boat with a 10-Foot Pole pylon. That's not a state-of-the-art setup, but it's light-years ahead of any jet boat or personal watercraft I've been pulled behind.
At least it was. While the AR210 didn't generate the wakes of my usual tow boat and it didn't have quite the pop in deep-water starts, it had plenty of pull that, combined with the tower, made coming up effortless. Without question, it is the best jet-powered tow-boat I have ridden behind. (In all fairness to Sea-Doo, I haven't had the opportunity to test its wakeboard-specific model.)
Credit for that belongs to the boat's twin 135-hp engines, which made steady power (especially for carbureted two-strokes) and the brushed aluminum tower.
Advanced boarders like towers for their high line-connection point — when they launch off the wakes, the boat and line don't pull them back toward the water. Intermediate riders consistently clearing the wakes also appreciate this benefit, but what they tend to forget is how the tower, again with its high line-connection point, actually helps pull them up in deep-water starts. For beginners, the difference between being pulled up on line connected to a tower rather than a low transom tow-eye, is nothing short of a revelation. It's that much easier.
The AR210's extended swim platform, with notches to hold a wakeboard in place while a rider slides into the board's bindings, was an especially welcome feature. It added usable space in an area where such space often is in short supply. Plus, the water-level platform with a telescoping ladder made reboarding easier.
Another marine editor drove for me while I wakeboarded, and he had trouble maintaining a consistent speed. At 2,500 rpm, the two-stroke motors see a jump in their power output, so maintaining an 18- to 23-mph wakeboarding speed (which roughly corresponds to the 2,500 rpm engine speed) can be tricky. Going past that speed and then backing off the throttle before settling in worked best for me when I drove with a boarder in tow. In fact, using that tactic I had no trouble holding a steady speed.
About the only thing I didn't like about driving the AR210, a prototype, was its excessive steering-wheel torque. With or without a boarder in tow, the boat tracked fairly well, but it turned far more easily to the left than to the right, lightly a result of engine- and impeller-rotation. Rest assured, the finished product you'll find in dealer showrooms in 2003 will be better.
Top speed for the AR210, as recorded on a handheld GPS unit was 50 mph. At middle and high speeds, the new model delivered the best of twin-engine jet-boat agility, meaning it felt light and easily carved hard turns — without sliding. Low-speed maneuverability at the docks was predictably sluggish, as compared to that of a V-drive, direct-drive or even a stern-drive model. But the boat's twin engines, with separate throttle controls, helped compensate for the lack of quick low-speed steering response.
The AR210 did include an in-sole wakeboard/ski locker as one of its 12 stowage compartments. However, the aluminum tower likely could be fitted with aftermarket wakeboard racks (and stereo speakers, per the breed), and that would open up the wakeboard locker for vests and other items, perhaps even a water-ballast bladder to increase wake height. Like the board rack, a bladder such as a Fat Sack would be a worthy addition to the AR210. The boat certainly has the power to handle ballast within its rated weight capacity.
Seating accommodations in the AR210 included two lounges in the bow and twin bucket seats and a bench in the cockpit. The portside bucket swiveled 360 degrees, meaning 180 degrees from forward it could be used a watersports observer's seat. To make watching behind-the-boat action easier, not to mention making the AR210 a "legal" tow boat, the boat had dual mirrors.
The helm station to starboard featured two 4"-inch diameter tachometers and a 4"-inch speedometer, as well as a fuel-level gauge and an assortment of engine-monitoring instruments. The manufacturer did well not to block any of the gauges with the rim of steering wheel, and the throttles and shifter were set in a comfortable position on the starboard gunwale.
Sum of the Whole
The Yamaha AR210 is an affordable, all-around family watersports boat that doesn't pretend to be anything else. Everything about the boat, save for the vinyl tape-applied flames (unnecessary pretense in an unpretentious model) on the hull sides, makes sense — even more so given the price. Yamaha's designers set out to create something to get a family started in watersports and even carry them along for several years, and they succeeded.
You can spend a whole lot more on a dedicated tow boat and, frankly, get a whole lot more. But for the money, you'll have a tough time beating the AR210
Yamaha AR210 Specifications
|Dry weight||2,150 pounds|
|Engines||Twin 135-hp three-cylinder two-stroke|
|Fuel capacity||42 gallons|
|Oil capacity||3 gallons|
|Passenger capacity||7 passengers/1,300 pounds|
|Suggested retail price||$22,999|
For More Information
Yamaha Watercraft Group Company
1270 Chastain Road
Kennesaw, GA 30144