Make no mistake, Yamaha makes phenomenal products, from outboard engines to personal watercraft. But spunky and solid as they are, the jet boats from the Yamaha Watercraft Group always have been a little tough to take seriously relative to their traditional stern-drive, propeller-equipped runabout counterparts. Even the 20-foot-long LS2000 and LX2000, previously the largest offerings in the company's sport boat line seemed like oversized personal watercraft—even toy-like.
With the SR230, which the company introduced to members of the marine press August 22 in Destin, Fla., that perception could change. As in radically. The 23'-long, 8'6"-wide runabout is the real thing, an open-bow, jet-driven runabout that rides on a 20-degree deep-V hull and is powered by a pair of 140-hp engines. The new model, which Yamaha dubs a "sport boat," has all the features you could reasonably expect in a family-oriented runabout, and a few that are downright uncommon.
Most obvious among the boat's unusual attributes, of course, are its two MR-1 four-stroke engines, which are based off Yamaha's successful R-1 motorcycle engine and power Yamaha's FX140 and FX140 Cruiser personal watercraft. Few—as in zero—production-built stern-drive 23-footers have two engines. Plus, the motors are made of aluminum, so both engines combined are significantly lighter than one cast-iron small-block V-8.
The MR-1 engines put power to the water through jet drives, which present advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, a jet drive has an enclosed impeller, rather than the exposed and potentially dangerous propeller on a stern drive. On the minus side, a jet drive tends to be less efficient in some performance areas, such as top end, low-speed handling response and fuel economy, than a stern drive.
What enabled Yamaha to equip the SR230 with two engines is their compact, flat design. Because the MR-1 was created for personal watercraft, it's small; so small, in fact, that Yamaha's engineers were able to position both motors under the boat's U-shaped, center-walk-through rear bench seat. And that gave them an opportunity to create a truly unique integrated swim platform.
The crescent-shaped platform features four aft-facing molded seats, complete with back cushions, as well as an insert for a pedestal-mounted table. When the boat is stopped—and only when the boat is stopped for safety reasons—and its engines are shut down, passengers can sit in this area, dangle their feet off the edge of the platform and relax. It's innovative feature that addresses a real-world boating activity—simply floating and using the boat as an island. In addition, the platform's crescent-shape makes it ideal for securing a tube-style watertoy while the boat is underway.
More along the lines of a traditional runabout, the SR230's cockpit has two swiveling, adjustable bucket seats and a substantial U-shaped lounge. Combined with the open-bow lounges, that translates to seating for ten passengers, according to Yamaha's product literature.
Based on the model Yamaha presented at the press introduction, which was not just "a" prototype but "the" prototype (the only one in existence), ten people would be a cozy fit in the SR230. But for six or even eight people, space is more than ample. Also of note, both the open-bow lounges and the U-shaped lounge aft convert to sunpads with filler cushions.
When it comes to stowage options, the SR230 could be a class leader. The runabout has stowage lockers, port and starboard, in the gunwale "cheeks" on each side of the U-shaped lounge, as well as an in-sole ski locker. Both the driver's and co-sole feature large stowage spaces accessible through doors on the sides of the walk-through, and there also were lockers under lounge seats up front. Even the co-pilot's double glove box, with a CD stereo system in the upper section, is designed to maximize usable stowage space. In all, the boat has 14 stowage compartments.
Still a work in progress, the prototype's starboard helm station included a tilt steering wheel and complete instrumentation. The new model was outfitted with the same single-shifter and dual-throttle controls found in Yamaha's other jet boats, and it was located in a profoundly awkward position in a gunwale recess. That, according to product manager Scott Watkins, will change in production models to a more conventional twin-throttle/shifter mechanism in a more ergonomic position.
Traditional runabout features on the SR230 include a walk-through windshield and a hinged door in the walk-through for stopping the wind-tunnel effect. Other standard fare includes stainless-steel cleats, grab handles and a tow-eye for pulling water-skiers, wakeboarders and water toys.
Top speed for the SR230 is estimated to be in the 50-mph range, plenty high for a family-oriented runabout. Running wide-open, it still retains the lightly connected feel of a smaller jet boat, yet the rough-water ride, thanks to its deep-V hull, is infinitely smoother.
Retail price for the SR230, with a trailer, is $26,900. That's a serious bargain for a 23-footer these days, much less one with twin engines that reportedly exceed Environmental Protection Agency emissions standards for 2006.
As expected, the prototype SR230 was rough in spots. The model that arrives on your dealer's showroom floor in 2003 surely will be more refined. But make no mistake—the SR230 is a real runabout that deserves attention. It could change the way you think about family oriented sport boats.
Yamaha SR230 Specifications
|Dry weight||2,900 pounds|
|Engines||Twin 140-hp Yamaha MR-1 four-stroke|
|Jet pumps||Twin 155mm axial-flow single-stage with reverse|
|Transmissions||Twin direct-drives from engines|
|Impellers||Twin 17"-pitch three-blade stainless-steel|
|Fuel capacity||53 gallons|
|Oil capacity||1.32 gallons|
|Suggested retail price||$26,900|
For More Information
Yamaha Watercraft Group Company
1270 Chastain Road
Kennesaw, GA 30144